While Hampden’s 36th Street has exploded with upscale dining spots and quirky eateries, The Avenue has always lacked a decent sports-bar-style neighborhood spot. With the growing influx of young professionals and families, the demand has never been greater, which makes Five and Dime Ale House a perfect fit in this trendy ’hood.
The name is a tribute to the variety store that once occupied the space, which has been opened up to accommodate two wide rows of dining tables and a nice long bar, all clad in dark wood. Cushy banquettes, high tin ceilings with industrial-looking light fixtures, and sepia-toned photos further contribute a throwback feel, enough to lend a bit of background refinement while still allowing for TV watching (and there are plenty of screens to go around).
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Similarly, menu offerings strike a happy medium, mixing dependable, modern tavern fare with a judicious sprinkling of Tex-Mex and Asian influences. Wings, nachos, and soft pretzels are all solid, but the tacos step it up with house-made corn tortillas, cod, or Korean beef.
It seems like almost a requirement these days for Hampden restaurants to offer pizzas. Here they are admirably turned out with pleasantly chewy crusts and an abundance of fresh toppings—the Farmer’s Market, in particular, is served almost overflowing with arugula and not one, but two, beautiful sunny-side up eggs.
Burgers are touted as hand-formed with beef delivered fresh daily, and the result is noticeable—flavorful, tender, and juicy, completed with a pillowy challah bun and a laundry list of toppings available in addition to the preset permutations on the regular menu. Of special note among these is the “Juicy Bleucy,” which boasts bleu cheese in the center of a 10-ounce patty. Yowza. Mac and cheese is also a build-your-own format, and includes options such as bacon, crab, and even lobster. Entrees stick mostly to the straight and narrow with standards like “Fish-n-Chips,” pasta with blackened chicken, and a large, lumpy, if not exactly captivating, crab cake entree.
In addition to a Monday burger night, other “Daily Specials” are focused squarely on the bar, with surprisingly deep discounts on drinks, including half-priced wines on Tuesday and $4 off craft cocktails on Thursdays. The latter are found on the reverse of the food menu, alongside bottled and canned beers. Draft beers are bestowed a separate menu, with offerings from Oliver Brewing Co. (whose owners opened the restaurant) and a list of “Guest Drafts.” Nitro coffee, growlers to-go, and Wednesday night “Tap Takeovers” round out the impressive beer program.
Service can be unpolished at times, but, overall, staff has proven to be welcoming. Even on nights that are very busy, servers remain engaging, while quieter afternoons are a good time to commiserate with affable and expert bartenders.
FIVE AND DIME ALE HOUSE 901 W. 36th St., 443-835-2179. HOURS Mon.-Thurs. 11–1 a.m., Fri. 11-2 a.m., Sat. 10-2 a.m., Sun. 10-1 a.m. PRICES $4-25. AMBIANCE Retro chic.