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Thursday, June 7, 2007

Teresa's Next Door: a pre-opening report

I got invited to the pre-opening shakedown for Teresa's Next Door, the new beer destination in Wayne that's had everyone buzzing for months now. You can get most of the details from Uncle Jack here. I'd only argue with Jack that any menu that sports four kinds of mussels, steak-frites, waterzooi, and frequent sides of stoemp is bound to be considered Belgian-influenced, Joe Sixpack or not. The beer...well, it's hard to get away from Belgian beer in a high-end Philly beer bar (though Standard Tap manages it pretty well). was all-draft last night at Teresa's Next Door, apparently because the computer POS system wasn't up and running yet, but all-draft was fine. The list was a solid middle-of-the-road offering, which doesn't do it justice only because the pre-opening expectations were so high. It was a solid craft/import list, with very few surprises, and one of those was an almost retro option: Kwak, which Cathy opted for: "Long time since I had one of these," she said when the proper tube-and-bulb glass arrived in its wooden holder. I grabbed another pleasant surprise: Charles Wells Bombardier, a nice edging-up-on-ESB British ale that I'd only ever had in bottle before. (Kind of speaking of which: I did spy bottles of Fuller's 1845 in the cooler, and I'm sure going to be back for some of that.)

This place is very nice, the decor and woodwork is -- well, the word that comes to mind is exquisite. There were no TVs, and I don't know if the sound system (a nice one) was on or not; the conversation created a dull roar, the kind of noise I love to hear when people are enjoying food and beer and each others' company.

The restrooms are unisex, like Monk's Cafe, and have dark gray fixtures (at least the one I was in) including a flat, square sink that really needs to be seen, probably before some drunk stumbles into it and breaks it off the wall... They do need one thing: easier locks on the doors. As someone said, the door's too far from the toilet; if someone starts coming in while you're enthroned, you've got no way to stop them, and no one wants to be seen in that position!

It kind of reminded me of Capital Ale House in Richmond, done on a much smaller scale with better-trained staff. The coolers are stuffed with great beers; I can already see that I'm going to have a better time with the bottle menu than the draft, although Matt Guyer promised a constant run of rare kegs (they were holding back during this pre-opening fine tuning, and I can't blame them). As Jack mentioned in the report linked above, the cellar's been dug out (they may have the deepest cellar in Wayne, which, along with the licensing wrangle, was some of the reason this has taken so long), and God bless them for the short taplines it gave them: that leads to easier cleaning and better pressure control: good things.

The service was ready for prime-time, although we didn't really press them too hard. The food I'll talk about after I go back again in a month, once the kinks are shaken out. Suffice it to say that Andy Dickerson really wanted to hear what we didn't care for, and seemed ready to tinker with what needed tinkering...and already knew about one major problem. Good signs.

After the Bombardier, by the way, I had two Rodenbachs (both just dandy, and good with the carbonades I had for dinner) and a cask Tröegs Nugget Nectar (perfect condition; was it really cask? Not so sure), and a very good cup of coffee with dessert, a ridiculously good chocolate torte/ganache/fudgey thing.

We'll be back; you should go too, ASAP. There is definitely a new beer bar in southeast PA, one that has easily vaulted directly into the second-tier, and may yet challenge for a top-ten spot.

P.S. Check out some pictures (and additional details) over here at the Brew Lounge, including one of that funky gray sink; glad someone remembered to bring a camera!


Bryan Kolesar said...

Great review for a pre-opening! Great reference, too, to Capital.

Funny, also, how you made mention of the restrooms as well. I believe in the picture that I took, if you look ever-so-closely, you'll see the little pinhead of a locking mechanism. (Supposedly, it works!)

Yes, I as well, cannot wait to return. They certainly seem to have all the right pieces in place. Continual execution will be the key in a well-trained market.

Matt Nolan said...

I actually did find the little lock on the door, which may be the smallest I have ever seen on a door. The bathroom is way cool regardless of if you can figure out how to lock the door after your 4th Nugget on cask.

Lew Bryson said...

I was able to find and operate the bathroom doorlock (someone tried to open it while I was in, so I know it worked!), but I think a bigger, easier lock is going to be a better idea. I did hear some people complain about the faucet...I liked it.

But yes, continued execution is going to be the key. What's this place going to look like in 18 months? Still happening on the beer side? Two points to consider on that angle: Teresa's itself looks good, and continues to be very popular after ten years; and whether Next Door is still hot on good beer is going to be somewhat dependent on how well that beer is received and how well it sells. Putting good beer in place does not mean it's going to sell; this reliance on the "Field of Dreams" theory of beer-selling has dogged craft beer for over a decade. Grow up and take some responsibility; I suspect Teresa's, backed by Matt Guyer's expertise and experience, will do just that.

GenX at 40 said...

Funny but my only Brussels restroom experience was of a multi-person unisex style one 20 years ago. Very odd chatting up a girl in a room with a urinal.


Anonymous said...

(perfect condition; was it really cask? Not so sure)

Yup, an old sankey keg with a bag of hops in it . . . been saving it for a few months.