Lined with tasteful new rehabs and tidy old row homes, 1200 East Palmer is one of Fishtown's most charming blocks. Benches and lampposts dot the sidewalk. Flags flutter and flowers spill from second-story window boxes. There's even a shady green playground in the middle of the street, no bigger than a microchip. You can see why people who grew up here stay here, and why people who didn't would want to move in.
But even the prettiest blocks have that one nasty neighbor. On Palmer, that was Moe's Tavern, the problem taproom linked with the 2009 beating death of a Phillies fan outside Citizens Bank Park.
Having poured its last lager last year, Moe's is no mo', and the block has welcomed a successor, Interstate Draft House, a no-pretense pub where old salts and new moms sit side by side along the 13-stool bar. The front's bottleneck widens into a rear dining room furnished with pew-like wood booths, beer-brand bric-a-brac and blackboards listing a rotating list of craft drafts like Sly Fox, Lost Abbey and Yards. Owner Bob Bitros and his son, Brandon — you know them from the old Azure — have polished the place up nicely, though they might want to examine the HVAC; the night I popped in, it was so igloo-like I might as have been sitting outside in the adjacent courtyard.
Moe's old game room has become a new kitchen, where Adam Scott, a veteran of Supper and Hawthornes, braids Latin influence into a menu of American bar staples. Cotija replaces Parm on the Caesar salad. Nachos are larded with creamy, lime-spritzed black beans. Clutch wings get rubbed in achiote and glazed in honey flamed with ancho chili powder.
There's straight-up red, white and blue, too. Brussels sprouts cooked in roasted garlic butter were as tender and sweet as French caramels, and the blackened green beans were easily as good as Grace Tavern's — and ballsier on the spicing. Crispy outside and creamy inside, the wedge-cut fries are the only ones I've ever liked.
But there's also room for improvement, even at Interstate's super-low price-point. Some items, like chicken tacos and a sirloin burger, required an extra element to make them memorable. (The latter also needed not to be overcooked.) A mole sauce smothering slabs of meatloaf tasted like ketchup, while the ranch dressing served with the beans was so thin it must have been made of equal parts water and Wite-Out. Fans of warm, sweaty romaine will love the BLT "pizza" on flour tortillas.
Scott took over just a few weeks ago for opening chef Julio Rivera, so you can expect the execution to tighten up as he acclimates himself to the new digs. You can also expect a new Cajun lilt to the menu, per the Bitros' original vision for Interstate Draft House, a bar anyone would be happy to call neighbor.
Interstate Draft House | 1235 E. Palmer St., 267-455-0045, interstatedrafthouse.com. Food served Tue.-Sat., 4 p.m.-1 a.m.; Sun., 4-10 p.m.; Sunday brunch served 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Menu, $3-$12.