Small-batch coffee house. Indie art gallery. Bike boutique. If there were an amenity checklist for gentrifying neighborhoods to complete before officially “arriving,” it would read something like this. A craft-beer bottle shop and a new-school sandwich place are two other must-haves, and in Brewerytown, whose main drag still looks more Crip than hip, the new Rybrew definitely satisfies one requirement, maybe both.
Rybrew is an offshoot of Rybread, a cheery crust cubicle in Fairmount that shares a block with first-world businesses like London Grill along with a pet groomer and a holistic massage studio. Meanwhile, just a few blocks north is more of a mixed bag. Such is life in a transitional hood. But for savvy business owners like Rybrew’s Ryan Pollock, who lives two blocks away with his girlfriend, being an early adopter can pay dividends.
Located in the middle of the block, 40-seat Rybrew occupies a onetime toy store with a wrought-iron mezzanine and a table fashioned from an old toy-display carousel. It’s a big room with cool bones but little charm, and a gloomy paint job that made me feel like a character in a Zoloft commercial.
Or maybe it was just the drab weather outside, keeping walk-in customers at bay and the phone ringing off the hook? But with the friendly staff buzzing around fielding takeout, my eat-in order got delayed. Waiting 25 minutes for a few sandwiches seems a bit excessive when you’re the only customer in the place. I used the time to browse a paradise of 250 craft bottles.
When the named-for-cities sandwiches did arrive, I was half-pleased. The Le Bus bread was impeccable, and Pollock’s mom’s chicken-salad recipe (the Denver), bursting with juicy grapes, had that fresh-poached flavor. But the sourdough-slabbed San Antonio and the panini-pressed Buffalo starred industrial Boar’s Head lunch meats, which makes it hard to take Rybrew seriously. Pollock says he plans to start roasting his own meats; with the larger kitchen, there’s no excuse not to.
They were out of soup, but I did try a salad — the Austin, a very nice Southwestern setup with chicken, avocado, corn and a peppy lime vinaigrette. Dessert was limited to a lonely chocolate cupcake. Rybrew feels less like a fully developed, independent establishment and more like a glorified commissary with beer. The menus at Rybread and Rybrew are the same. If only my enthusiasm were.
RYBREW | 2816 W. Girard Ave., 215-763-1984, rybreadcafe.com. Hours: Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
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