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Barcelona Wine Bar: ‘We’re Not Out to Change the Neighborhood’

The East Passyunk restaurant is inching closer to its opening date

Barcelona Wine Bar at 1709 East Passyunk Avenue

The upcoming Barcelona Wine Bar may be a stylish wine and tapas spot nestled among the destination restaurants on Philly’s hottest food strip, but that doesn’t mean the owners are scrubbing off old graffiti. “We’re not out to change the neighborhood. Graffiti is part of the neighborhood, so that’s staying,” says Adam Halberg, gesturing toward a splash of graffiti on an outside wall of the restaurant, facing East Passyunk Avenue, and another inside next to a glass-doored wine room. “It’s a raw, fun space. Cinder block walls. Concrete floors. That’s not a big fancy wine room; it’s racks stacked into a triangle.” He points up. “Some of the lights were recovered out of a warehouse, some are chicken feeders.”

Halberg, a chef turned senior VP at Barcelona Wine Bar, which has locations up and down the East Coast, says the goal is a relaxed restaurant that fits in with its surroundings, and feels like it’s always been there. “You want to be in a neighborhood where there’s some compatibility to the style of businesses,” he says of choosing East Passyunk. “There are so many other great restaurants that are building energy in the neighborhood, so if we can wedge in the middle and be part of that, that’s great.”

The raw touches blend well with burlap-wrapped ceiling tiles (to offset the acoustics of concrete floors), wood tables and chairs, and what Halberg calls a “jigsaw puzzle” wall made of wood slabs with spaces between them. The wall breaks up the large room, loosely dividing the dining room from a big white marble U-shaped bar lined with high stools. The eclectic décor includes a dressmaker’s dummy in a glass case.

Inside there are seats for about 180; the outdoor seating configuration hasn’t been finalized just yet. Urban Jungle, just up the street at 1526 East Passyunk, supplied the plants and trees that encircle the outdoor patio, closing it off from the sidewalk.

Each Barcelona Wine Bar is tailored to its location in terms of both design and menu, Halberg says, but don’t expect a tapas-sized cheesesteak in honor of the Philly address. “There are already people who make great Philly cheesesteaks. We’ll let them do that and we’ll make our food,” he says. Under executive chef Paras Shah, who spent time training in Spain, the Philadelphia location will serve classic Spanish tapas, like croquettes and meatballs, and more inventive plates. Expect a “ton of vegetables on the menu,” Halberg says, plus plenty of seafood and meat.

The wine list is about 450 bottles strong, with a focus on Spain. Wines will be available in three- or six-ounce pours, priced around $7 to $14 for the full glass (and half that for the half pour). Cocktails and beers are available too.

The restaurant is “racing toward the finish line,” Halberg says. If all goes according to plan, Barcelona Wine Bar (1709 East Passyunk) will open within the month.

Barcelona Wine Bar Passyunk

1709 East Passyunk Avenue, , PA 19148 (215) 515-7900 Visit Website