Spin the wheel: These sister Center City restaurants offer a ‘bar crawl within a bar’

We checked out Porta and Brickwall Tavern’s weekly “Twice Is Right” promotion.

Porta Cocktails
Briana Sposato for Smith
monicazorrilla

Most of the restaurants and bars in the busy 13th Street cluster that calls itself Midtown Village are relatively small. Inside narrow buildings originally designed as row houses, tables bump up against one another, and long bars get quickly packed.

But as the scene creeps east toward the rising East Market complex, the scale begins to expand. Case in point: Recently-opened upscale pizzeria Porta and casual Brickwall Tavern.

The sister restaurants, located back-to-back inside a cavernous former furniture store that stretches from Chestnut to Sansom on the 1200-block, comprise a massive 44,000 square feet. They have a combined capacity to seat a whopping 600 guests across two-and-a-half floors and four separate bars.

What to do with all that space? And how to lure folks away from the gazillion seasonal beer gardens to come inside for a drink — or four?

The proprietors at the woman-owned Smith restaurant group came up with what was really the only logical conclusion: a bar crawl…within a bar. They call it “The Twice Is Right.”

No discounts, but yes prizes

How does a bar crawl within a bar even work? And is it worthwhile?

Every Tuesday evening, starting at 5 p.m. and going until closing, willing participants are invited to grab a cocktail, a beer or a shot at each of the four bars.

These are formally known as Porta Fancy Bar, Porta Classic Bar, BW Bar and Annex Bar. Each has the same drinks and menu available from their respective restaurant, but all four have somewhat different vibes.

One disappointment: there is no special menu or pricing deal. On average, cocktails are priced at $10 to $13, beers are priced at $6 to $9 and wines by the glass go for $8 to $12, so the hit to the wallet isn’t all that bad — and the promotion does offer prizes.

At whichever bar you start, just ask for a punch card and make sure the bartenders fill it up as you go along. Once you have punches from all four, head to the prize wheel and hand it over. You’ll get a spin, and everyone wins.

Prizes include gift cards up to $50 to use at either establishment, free drink tickets, free pizza tickets, merch and other surprises.

Here’s what you can expect at each stop during The Twice Is Right bar crawl.

Fancy Bar

Located near the Chestnut Street entrance of Porta, the mood at Fancy Bar is set by wannabe-street-art wallpaper and huge columns rising to vaulted ceilings. It’s like someone went 12 Monkeys on the space. Maybe a little forced? But it ends up feeling chic and relaxed.

Also, the “Fancy” neon sign here is perfect for pre-crawl/pre-alcohol flush photo ops.

Cocktails tried here were both very strong and somewhat sweet, but not overwhelmingly: The Red Door (Grand Marnier, triple sec, pineapple juice, red wine topped with prosecco; $10) and the Old Blue (Old Forester bourbon, lemon juice, vanilla syrup, fresh blueberries; $12).

This bar is also next to the wood-fired pizzerias, which come in versions that are meat-loaded, vegetarian, vegan and even gluten-free.

Porta Classic Bar

Shift over to the other side of Porta to get to the Classic Bar, which feels a bit grungier, in a good way. There are a bunch of old, reclaimed doors hanging all over the place (porta means door in Italian), and twinkly lights stretching over communal picnic tables.

The ambiance begins to get a little livelier, though it still feels cute and even romantic, in a we-enjoy-boozing-together kind of way. The whole “Love opens all doors” slogan fits.

More cocktails to recommend: The Carpineto Toscana Dogajolo Rosato (vibrant floral aromas, hints of apple, cherries and fruit; $12) and the Messicano (Espolòn Reposado tequila, pineapple juice, lemon juice, Angostura bitters, agave; $13).

BW Bar

There’s a 20-second walk from Porta to Brickwall, but the different vibe is apparent the moment you cross over.

The color scheme and ornamentation is darker and grittier. In no way is this a dive, but there’s a general “divey” feel. Also: Quizzo!

This is the kind of bar for beers, and the bartenders are knowledgeable. Sample anything you want, then opt for one of the locaI options on tap.

Annex Bar

Even if you’re already tipsy, the Annex Bar will jolt you back to life. It’s full of bar games, including the prize wheel. If you need to (like this reporter), complete your punchcard by downing a double shot of spiced rum, then wobble over for a spin.

Then top off the night with a round of deck shuffleboard or hook and ring toss. There are also dart boards and cornhole to play with.

Verdict

The bar crawl within a bar concept is ideal for:

  • Coworkers who want to get a little rowdy on a weeknight, but need to find a venue that’ll allow them to bring their kids if the babysitter isn’t available.
  • Acquaintances who want to catch up over drinks in an atmosphere that is boozy and fun, but quiet enough for quality conversation.
  • People who feel suffocated by small, cramped spaces.
  • Reunions and birthdays (though maybe not for a wild bachelorette or bachelor party).
  • People who are too lazy or exhausted to bar hop, but in spite of it all, still want to socialize. We’ve all been there.

The entrance to Porta is located at 1216 Chestnut St., with varying hours of operation throughout the week. The entrance to Brickwall Tavern & Dining Room is at 1213 Sansom St. — directly behind it — open from 11 to 2 a.m. daily. Note that Porta closes on Tuesdays three hours before Brickwall (plan accordingly).

Thanks for reading all the way

Seems you’re the kind of person who really digs in. Want more? Get an update direct to your inbox each morning, with everything you need to stay on top of Philly news.

Billy Penn runs on reader support

Like the story above, everything we publish is powered by people like you. If our work helps you learn about and enjoy Philadelphia, we’d love to count you as a member.

What’s the good word?

Our quick morning newsletter packed with info and events exists thanks to your support. Know someone who might enjoy it?

Send them an invite to subscribe now.

Spread the love

Billy Penn members like you are the reason our newsroom keeps going. Know someone who might want to support our work? Send them a note — they just might join the local journalism fight.

Tagged

Smith, Porta, Booze