Reviewing a restaurant can be an enlightening, revelatory and artful culinary experience. Or it’s just a glimpse into the perfunctory necessity of feeding people.
I’ll let you figure out which one it was this time.
Uptown Beer Garden, 1735 Market St., recently opened for the season, this year with both an expanded bar space and a bigger food and cocktail menu. The ground-level space is surrounded by looming skyscrapers on all sides and populated with skinny trees, string lights, picnic tables and numerous stations where one can purchase an adult beverage. Once quitting time hits and if the weather allows, the place quickly fills up with affluent college students and young urban professionals looking to drink and mingle, with ambience and the need for nutritional sustenance being far-more-distant concerns.
Let’s get the food stuff out of the way — only because when we visited, we hardly saw anybody eating. The few places one could sit and focus on eating were taken up by the drinkers, which is a shame, because the food we did try was solid as far as concrete, open-air social cattle chutes go.
The Village Gyro ($9) was grilled to perfection with tzatziki and lemon juice brightening it up. The Uptown Burger ($10) was juicy and tasty with a nicely aged gouda cheese rounding it out.
This is where the food journey began and ended because, in all honesty, eating here is like trying to enjoy food at a fraternity/sorority mixer. The staff here is as friendly and as helpful as can be expected while dealing with a massive influx of happy-hour drinkers and college students pre-gaming their blood-alcohol levels for the evening. And really, who wants to elbow their way into a tightly packed inland lake of humanity to secure a helping of nachos or a Bavarian pretzel if it means coming back to find your corner of the picnic table has been colonized in your absence?
And by the way, that the DJ was blasting “The Beat Goes On” by The Whispers in the midst of it was the baffling highlight of the evening. But I digress.
If you are over the age of 30 and knocking back microbrews with mostly straight young 20-somethings in the shadows of corporate towers isn’t your thing, the charms and allure of a place like this evaporate with astonishing speed. The food, while hitting the spot and served up with efficient aplomb, does little to make you want to prolong your stay if this place isn’t your social comfort zone.
Uptown Beer Garden has the kind of location, foot traffic and target market to keep it packed and successful for many summers to come, but from an aesthetic and culinary standpoint, it’s a very young person’s (drinking) game.
If you go
Uptown Beer Garden
1735 Market St.
Mon.-Thurs.: 5-10 p.m.
Fri.: 4 p.m.-midnight
Sat.: 2 p.m.-midnight