The road toward a second restaurant was hardly smooth for the team of Doug and Kelly Hager and chefs Jeremy and Jessica Nolen (all of Brauhaus Schmitz), but as of this evening, it's finally official: Whetstone Tavern is up, running, tested by friends and family, and ready to face the public at Fifth and Bainbridge.
When we first spoke to Nolen about the project early in 2014, he estimated an opening date as early as that summer. A number of construction delays and headaches pushed that date back a full year as they rehabbed the building extensively, including an expansion into the basement to improve the workability of what was an extremely tight space. The supposedly cursed location was formerly home to a troubled string of tenants (Tapestry, Ad Sum, and Coquette), so fingers crossed they used some of that extra time to burn a little sage.
While the players behind it have made their name in German food, Whetstone is intended as a neighborhood hang specializing in American classics, drawing on various regional traditions and Nolen's Berks County upbringing. On the menu, you'll find options from chicken wings and burgers to crab cakes and clam fritters, and hearty entrees including homey roast chicken, hefty South Philly-accented pork chops with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone, rabbit tetrazzini, and more. Charcuterie, including a mix of imports and a few varieties made in-house, is highlighted. But perhaps the most eye-catching thing on the menu is pepper pot soup, a spicy Philly icon that's by now nearly extinct. Whether or not the tripe-spiked soup will prove to be a popular order in 2015, just seeing it on a new menu inspires some serious warm fuzzies.
There's also a full bar, which has 15 taps for beer, but also allows for a stronger focus on wine than at beer-obsessed Brauhaus. Designed by sommelier Marnie Old, the wine list includes 60-plus bottles and offers 20 of those selections by the glass.
For now, Whetstone will stick to dinner, from 5 to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 5 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday (an abbreviated late-night menu will be available until midnight). Reservations are live on OpenTable. Once it settles in, look for the addition of brunch, which they plan to serve every day of the week. Sidewalk seating is also in the works for later this summer.
Whetstone Tavern, 700 S. Fifth St, (267) 239-0906, now open.