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Fireside Grille in Ambler celebrates 10 years by adding craft brew

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COLUMN WRITTEN BY MATT BRASCH
For Digital First Media

In 2006, The Fireside Grille opened its doors to the public with the goal of being a family-friendly sports bar. Ten years later, it is celebrating a decade of exceeding that goal and its position as a mainstay of the now vibrant restaurant scene in Ambler. Located on Bethlehem Pike just East of the intersection with Butler Pike, the building that houses The Fireside Grille has an interesting history. Originally built as a garage, it was converted to restaurant space and has been through several owners and managers under various names. In 2006, Pete Penna and his father (also named Pete) bought the property from a family member. At that time it was a sports bar called “Rookies,” that according to Penna, “Didn’t serve much food.”
The Pennas were determined to run a tavern that they personally would like to visit; where families could come for good food and to watch sports. Penna explained, “We wanted to put the focus on our food and our family environment…and we wanted to build a place that would last for decades.” With the increase in dining options in Ambler since 2006, Penna said, “When we first started there were only a handful of restaurants around Ambler — but now there are dozens within a mile or two radius; which is great! Some people don’t want competition — but more restaurants brings more people to the area. So over time, we stayed busy — and just got busier!”

The Fireside Bar & Grille in Ambler offers craft beer and food specials daily, including specials during Phillies games.  Photo by Matt Brasch

The Fireside Bar & Grille in Ambler offers craft beer and food specials daily, including specials during Phillies games.
Photo by Matt Brasch

Pete’s favorite memory from the past 10 years? “During the Phillies’ run up to the 2008 World Series, Fox News Philadelphia came in — with Hugh Douglas — for the Battle of Sports Bars. We were in Philly Magazine in an article called “Nine Bars, Nine Innings,” which was a list of the best bars to watch baseball. That put us on the map outside of Ambler. There is also a video of the moment the Phillies clinched the win — there were what seemed like a thousand people in here, and everyone went nuts. The video was posted on YouTube and is still one of the most viewed 2008 sports bar moments.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAndT6iM9EU&list=PL2BE6517C502D4086. I’m a baseball guy, so on top of the Phillies winning, all the excitement surrounding that time was just amazing.”
In addition to planning a customer appreciation/anniversary celebration in mid-October, to mark their 10th anniversary they replaced their old tap system with a brand new one in April. Penna explained that the new system increased their taps from 16 to 24, which gives them the ability to serve more IPAs and other craft beer. “It’s a huge change for us. When we first opened, we served Miller Lite, Coors Lite, Bud Lite, maybe Heineken. Now those are mostly an afterthought — we understand that there is more of a demand for craft beers. We still have 4 or 5 traditionally ‘domestic’ beers on tap, but now we sell more kegs of Fat Tire than we do of Budweiser — 10 years ago that would never have happened!”

Pete Penna serves a crisp, cold Troegs “Sunshine Pils” from The Fireside Grille’s newly installed tap system.  Photo by Matt Brasch

Pete Penna serves a crisp, cold Troegs “Sunshine Pils” from The Fireside Grille’s newly installed tap system.
Photo by Matt Brasch

Vince Visco, General Manager of The Fireside Grille, explained that the first thing they’ve been able to do with the new tap system is offer “seasonal IPA and craft beer drafts like Troegs’ ‘Sunshine Pils,’ Victory’s ‘Vital IPA’, New Belgium’s ‘Fat Tire,’ Fat Heads’ ‘Bumble Berry,’ Dogfish Head’s ‘60 Minute IPA,’ and Sam Adams’ ‘Rebel Grapefruit IPA.’ Since most craft beer drinkers prefer drafts over bottles, it was an easy decision to invest in the new system.”
The Pennas are dedicated to ensuring that The Fireside Grille will be Ambler’s local sports pub for decades to come; not only because they are businessmen, but also because they are local — both Pete and his father attended the Upper Dublin School District. “Community involvement is not just important to us — it is a cornerstone to who we are. We make sure that we give tens of thousands of dollars to local teams, schools, every year — through sponsorships and ‘dine and donates.’ It’s important to our family to make sure that the community is strong — and it’s a way for us to say ‘thank you’ to all the people who come in and spend their money and time on us. It’s just the right thing to do.”
Now that the Phillies are actually giving us a reason to watch this season, a trip to The Fireside Grill sometime in 2016 should be on your list. As Penna said, “Come in — see why we’ve been here for ten years and how we’ve remained so busy for ten years. It’s great food, great prices, great portions, great people.” And now — great craft beer! Cheers!

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One Comment

  1. My friends and I go there every Wed. around 4:30, the specials clam, shrimp etc are delish and inexpensive. The entire menu is great. Great selections and great quantities. Love it there. We mostly sit a the bar. We are not young chicks, well into our fading years but we enjoy going there.

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