When you think of Allen Street, you probably think of party bars, but before Allentown bars were arming Jägerbombs for the suburban soldiers of #SundayFunday, they were mostly pouring cheap afterwork pints for their neighbors.
OK, so, it’s a bit of a stretch to say the new Days Park Tavern on Allen Street is a corner bar, what with its baby grand piano and elevated comfort food. But owner Michael Jacobbi has created a vibey space that seems to be attracting Allentowners, West Siders and Elmwood Villagers.
“I’ve had some people come in from the Days Park neighborhood and they love the place,” Jacobbi told us recently. “We want to embrace the neighborhood and welcome everybody.”
The end of a long narrow bar greets guests as they walk in. The baby grand piano sits in a small corner at the other end of the bar. Around the corner from the bar, you can sit in a large dimly-lit dining room with speakeasy decor, in full view of the piano.
The tavern menu has the Buffalo classics you might expect: wings (10 for $15), beef on weck ($14) and French onion soup ($9). There’s also a focus on southern food and barbecue, with plates like gumbo ($8), Nashville hot chicken sandwich ($14) and St. Louis-style ribs ($21). The fist-sized smoked lamb meatballs we had (3 for $12) were well seasoned with Mediterranean spices.
The full bar pours around 30 kinds of beer, a selection of wines and a handful of classic cocktails. Seats around the piano for listening and/or singing are first come, first served.
In creating the new tavern, Jacobbi’s tapped into his knowledge about Allentown. He’s the co-owner of Giacobbi’s Cucina Citta, located on the corner of Franklin Street and Allen, just a few blocks to the east.
While Jacobbi was running Carmine’s, Allentown was going through changes. Yeah, there were party bars back in the 90s, but the neighborhood mostly revolved around The Old Pink– Nietzsche’s alternative axis. About five years to ten years ago, the drunken Normie mobs of Chippewa shifted north to Allentown and since then, neighbors have been complaining more and more about people passing out on their porch or pissing on their lawn. Since the pandemic started, there’s also been an increase in vagrant activity.
With the opening of Days Park Tavern, Jacobbi said he’s trying to be part of a course correction. The first part of that is providing an alternative to party bars that attract people hell bent on going hard until closing time.
“I know the west side of Allen Street has a reputation for being a heavy-duty party area,” he told us. “But Billy Club has a nice, sophisticated crowd there and Falley Allen does some nice things. So I’m seeing a transformation on this side of Allen.”
Currently going through a literal transformation is the Allen streetscape. Starting at Main Street and going west, crews have been completely modernizing the streetscape to make it more walkable. The work in early 2022 is focused on the stretch between Delaware and Elmwood avenues.
“In front of Giaccobi’s, they’ve revamped the whole street, right down to the sewers and everything,” Jacobbi said. “Now, they’re extending that work all the way to Wadsworth, to right in front of my new place. It’s going to look a lot cleaner and nicer.”
He said it’s also important for Allen Street to be cleaner and nicer in other ways. In addition to dialing back the hard partying, Jacobbi wants to see something done about the uptick in vagrancy that’s happened since the start of the pandemic.
“We’ve had a roundtable discussion about some of the issues that I’ve witnessed,” he said. “Getting the police and the Common Council involved would be for the best.”
Jacobi said he gets Allentown, and he’s not looking to tame Allen Street, turn it into something it’s never been. Offering a chill bar for an after-work drink, approachable tavern food and a chance to sit and sing around a big piano, Days Park Tavern is a step in the direction of classic Allentown.
“It’s a unique, fun part of the city that we want to keep going,” Jacobbi said, “but not in the wrong direction.”
Hours at the time of publishing (Subject to change): Wednesday and Thursday 4 p.m. – 12 a.m., Friday and Saturday 4 p.m. – 2 a.m., Sunday 4 p.m. – 12 a.m., Monday and Tuesday CLOSED
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