Most people don't go to a restaurant to sing. But that's not true at Jolly's American Beer Bar. Here, diners sway and croon at their tables as two pianists at adjacent baby grands animatedly play popular tunes from a range of eras. The dueling pianos, an entertainment form hailing from the 1930s and a fixture at this University City establishment, imbues the space with an ecstatic and raucous energy. The professional ivory ticklers' hands cascade across the keys, covering songs from icons such as Billy Joel, Elvis Presley, and Lady Gaga. In between melodies, the musicians treat the audience to bits of ribald humor and plates of deep-fried quarter notes.
In the midst of the crowd sing-alongs, patrons can sip from a cache of American craft beers from breweries such as Russian River, Dogfish Head, and Rogue or sup on handmade morsels in the form of thai chicken wings or a Carolina–style barbecue pulled-pork sandwich.
Most of the action in Pi Coal Fired’s kitchen centers on the oven. At 900 degrees, it imparts a smoky, charred flavor to everything from the Neapolitan-style pizzas to the chicken wings and calzones. This flavor pairs well with the chefs' sauces and ingredients, from the San Marzano tomato sauce to the fresh mozzarella, romano, and olive oil sprinkled on every pie. The chefs tend to stick to traditional Italian combinations, using spiced sausage, roasted red pepper, and a variety of cheeses to create simple yet satisfying plates. These pies are served along with other classics such as hand-pressed paninis, offering guests a chance to experience the true essence of Europe without roasting baguettes over a burning gondola.
Krocks Grille Pub ushers pub fare toward casual diners gathering for a night out or laid-back meal. The Krocks' menu features hot plates from its arsenal of gut-tickling appetizers and filling entrees. Homemade chicken fingers ($6.95) get mouths warmed up in anticipation of the jaw-stretching honey-barbecue bacon cheeseburger ($8.25) or obstinate hard-c rejecting krab kake sandwich ($7.95).
The seasoned, friendly tendril-tamers at The Hare Hut civilize savage cuticles and pacify surly digits with expert nail services. With a professional manicure, customers relax as grabby grapplers are buffed, filed, and polished to glistening perfection. Meanwhile, the bundled pedicure service revamps toes so they feel gorgeous enough to approach dapper shoes and ask them out on a date. As their phalanges are thoroughly mollycoddled, patrons can soak in the welcoming ambience of The Hare Hut’s brightly colored furnishings and warmly lit space.
Cooperage caters to comfort-food connoisseurs with a smorgasbord of soulful fare and a smattering of eclectic spirits. Its menus compile farm-fresh ingredients, unique salad dressings, and industry secrets for starting a novelty belt-buckle company to create fashionably tasty tongue accessories. Chomp on hushpuppies and Mississippi blueberry jam ($6) while treating underfed eyes to singularly convivial décor that amalgamates reclaimed elements of barns, ballrooms, and factories. The Brekkie burger, prepared with grass-fed angus, sates the palate with a juicy ground-round topped with applewood smoked bacon, pickled beetroot, herbed aioli, cheddar, and a sunnyside egg ($11). The bourbon-spiked chocolate beignets, presented with a side of coffee ice cream, serve as a fitting coda to an authentic Southern meal fit for Ulysses S. Lincoln himself ($7).
Winner of City Paper's reader poll for 2009 Best New Bar/Club, Over the Bar Bicycle Café attracts bicycle buffs with its décor concocted from recycled bikes and a menu that revives fatigued bikers after a pedal-tastic day. Quell rebellious stomachs with an appetizer such as the Spoke Junkie, made from baked zucchini spooled up inside three cheeses ($6.99), or the Heritage Trail hummus ($6.99), which is supplied by Salim's in Oakland. For those who recently burned enough calories to silence Richard Simmons, fill empty stomach space with the Dirt Rag Delight burger, featuring a burger smothered in peanut butter ($7.99). Taste buds looking for a spicy challenge will find a worthy duel in the Rail Trail wrap ($7.99), as tangy buffalo chicken is enveloped in pita bread and sprinkled with blue-cheese or ranch dressing. On the other hand, cyclists who had a tough day dealing with the low acceleration of their off-road penny-farthing can loosen up over an icy-cold brew.