Eats: Jack's Firehouse
There is nothing better in October than being scared really good AND having a really good pumpkin beer. Jack's Firehouse, an eclectic restaurant strategically situated right across the street from one of the most haunted places in America, Eastern State Penitentiary, you can do both. Jack's serves fresh and delicious American fare made from locally grown goods in a converted 19th century firehouse. On the day that we were there, the fair weather allowed for the huge firehouse doors to be open wide and gave a great view of the walls of the penitentiary right across the street. If the impressive view of the notorious one-time home of Mr. Al Capone isn't enough, check out the refurbished racing scull, complete with oars, suspended over the bar. Or grab a seat at the bar and admire the ingenious way the people at Jack's have rigged old fire extinguishers (I think, they were something old and fire-related) to become taps for some really delicious local brews.
On the Saturday I went with my boyfriend to visit Eastern State Penitentiary as part of Campus Philly's College Day, aka visit some cool places for free day. Eastern State Penitentiary was one of the first penitentiaries in the United States and was distinctive for its wheel and spoke architectural design. Today, after years of being abandoned, it has been reopened as a historic site for tours and their annual Halloween haunted house extravaganza, Terror Behind the Walls. It is just so interesting, even if you're not all that into prisons and their history. They let you have pretty much free-reign of the site and you can see cells, solitary confinement and Al Capone's cell, modeled as it would have been when the gangster was in residence. It also makes for some pretty amazing pictures and a long trip; we were in there for two and a half hours.
If you're ever in Philadelphia, I recommend Eastern State as a fun stop on your tour. But back to the good eating that is Jack's Firehouse. We stopped at Jack's both before and after serving our time at the penitentiary. For lunch, we grabbed a table right inside the big firehouse doors at a little cafe table. Our meal started with complimentary and interesting bread: thick slices of banana bread and nuggets of sweet cornbread accompanied by a raspberry ginger spread. Talk about a delicious start. For my meal I ordered the barbecue beef brisket sandwich which came on toasted bread with handcut fries. The sauce on the sandwich was sweet with a slight vinegary tang which made me one happy girl and the meat wasn't dry but didn't fall apart too easy either which made for a great sandwich. The boyfriend, the burger expert, proclaimed his to be one great burger.
Our meal was such a good kick-off to a fun afternoon traipsing through the maze of the Eastern State Penitentiary. As I mentioned, we went to Jack's both before and after the prison visit. Afterwards, I called my friend who was working in the city to meet us for a drink. I tried Dock Street Brewery's Pumpkin Ale in honor of the screaming crowds lined up for Eastern State's Terror Behind the Walls. All in all, a whole lot of good eating at Jack's Firehouse.
2130 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, PA