Neighborhood bars: German Village/Merion Village/Brewery District

  • Photo by Tessa Berg
From the April 19, 2012 edition

High Beck Tavern

564 S. High St., German Village


High Beck might be best known for the free pizza it serves on Mondays, but regulars know the barbecue and barbecued brisket should be the High Street bar’s claim to fame. (For the best of both worlds, the meats are available as pizza toppings.)

The crowd in large part comprises young German Village dwellers and employees from the nearby courthouse, but it’s not a place where regulars glare at new customers and think, “What are you doing here?” More importantly, the bartenders are always welcoming.

Open 365 days a year, the bar keeps most of its holiday decorations up all year long: Christmas lights and snow-covered tree statues share space with Halloween- and St. Patrick’s Day-themed objects. Maybe that makes sense for an establishment famous for its annual Christmas party, which is one of the few times each year the big wooden stage is unfolded from the back wall. The stage lights back there, though, are on every day, illuminating the pingpong table.

Don’t miss the multitude of small paintings by Daniel Work on the walls — one reoccurring theme is dancing cats — or the graffiti art scrawled in the bathroom stalls.

Beck Tavern

284 E. Beck St., German Village


Large, beautiful brick homes surround Beck Tavern, an unassuming little bar in the heart of German Village. No matter that the outside environs are a bit counterintuitive; inside, the bar nicknamed “Low Beck” by neighborhood residents is a quintessential dive. Bartenders quickly serve up cheap drinks to non-regulars at the U-shaped bar, but they take time to chat with regulars.

Seated in the handful of booths — including one big enough to fit a decent-sized group — and gathering near the dart boards are patrons of all sorts: preppy twentysomethings, middle-aged men in suits and plenty of older folks who you can tell have had a tough week. It’s the ideal place for German Villagers to end a night out or grab a drink after work.

Red Brick Inn

292 E. Gates St., Merion Village


When a regular walks into Red Brick — passing under a suspended life-sized shark with a hand sticking out of its mouth — the bartender calls out to him to ask which of his two preferred beers he would like. Even on a busy Saturday night, when a first-time visitor sitting at the bar sneezes, that bartender offers a “Bless you.” It’s a friendly place, but Red Brick is not a “Cheers”-esque bar; it has more character.

Collectible Jim Bean bottles immortalizing historical figures line the wall above the wood-topped brick bar, paintings of old Yankees players hang near the pool table and dartboards, and the barkeep’s pours are very, very generous. One visit is all it takes to want to become a regular.

Hal & Al’s

1297 Parsons Ave., Merion Village


It’s hard to miss Hal & Al’s bright blue facade while driving on Parsons; that color signals that the homey bar is an oasis of cool amid a bevy of discounts stores, pawn shops and pizza places. The bar serves as a hangout for Merion Village residents of all ages, but its extensive beer list and impressive vegan menu also attract a young crowd from other parts of town. Between the rotating selection of craft beers on tap and multiple fridges full of bottles and cans, there are usually 100 to 120 beers to choose from.

Thursdays offer a special sushi menu that’s so popular the rolls often sell out. During the weekend, grab a basket of fried avocados or a fake-meat corndog, then chill on a couch while listening to music by Phillip Fox Band, singer-songwriter Elijah Aaron or other great local musicians.