It’s no secret that tastes have been changing in the homey, front-porch Main Line borough of Narberth. It’s hardly Fishtown. But a steady trickle of urbanites – typically as their children reach school age – have decamped from Philadelphia, giving the town of some 5,000 a younger, if not ostensibly hipper, feel. Voting rolls have tipped from reliably Republican to decidedly Democratic. And in recent years, a genuine French patisserie has opened near the SEPTA station (and even more recently a second one – owned by Georges Perrier – on Montgomery Avenue). There’s an Osaka-style lunch counter offering okonomiyaki, a Japanese “pizza.” A very tasty Thai cafe. Wholesale croissant bakeries. And not least, three pubs – two of them facing off across Haverford Avenue, a small-town version of the dueling delis (Hymie’s vs. Murray’s) a mile away on the Bala-Merion border.
The two taverns – The Greeks (born 90 years ago as Arcadia Chios Tavern) and McShea’s – are among the oldest establishments in town, watering holes dating to the days when this was an Irish-Italian tradesmen’s village, and snubbed by the grander, more monied precincts it abutted. So it was with some surprise that locals noticed that, not just one, but both of the places had suddenly decided to annex the shops next door, nearly doubling their old footprints and offerings.
At his new “Greek’s Next Door,” owner Drew Johnson, is installing coolers for more than 400 take-out (bottles and six-packs) of craft beers, and 15 rotating taps at a growler station.
Why now? “I kept seeing more dogs and strollers,” he says, signs of a younger, family-centered clientele that might not have time to drop in for a gin and tonic, but who he suspects have developed a taste for the craft beer that has taken Philadelphia by storm.
At McShea’s – a fixture under various names since the end of Prohibition – owner John McShea, who actually seats twice as many lunch and dinner customers as The Greeks (a total of 90), is tacking in the other direction. He offers about 60 labels in the bar. But it’s the dining and catering part of his business that needs breathing room. He’s breaking through his wall to the estate jewelry store (it’s relocating) next door, expanding his kitchen and offering take-home prepared meals – versions of his comfort-food meatloaf, pasta and and house-made Irish-bacon specials.
Both places are aiming to open their expanded digs in early fall, doubling Narberth’s menu of take-out meals and craft beer. Can Korean tacos, a cupcake truck and retro bowling be far behind?