New unique Northwest restaurant bubbles with charm

by Len Lear
Posted 3/24/21

I have a feeling that when the pandemic is over, one of the most popular gathering places in Northwest Philly will be Young American Hard Cider, which opened last November at 6350 Germantown Ave. (at Duval), close to the border dividing Germantown from Mt. Airy.

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New unique Northwest restaurant bubbles with charm

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I have a feeling that when the pandemic is over, one of the most popular gathering places in Northwest Philly will be Young American Hard Cider, which opened last November at 6350 Germantown Ave. (at Duval), close to the border dividing Germantown from Mt. Airy.

The only restaurant in the Northwest that serves many flavors of hard cider made on the premises, Young American features three talented owners whose personalities are just as bubbly as their cider as well as terrific food made from scratch, eye-OK ambience and lots of outdoor dining space next to a huge, spectacular mural created to honor the Black Lives Matter movement.

For those who may not be familiar with it, “hard cider” is an alcoholic drink made by fermenting the juice of fruit, usually apples. The addition of "hard" is used to distinguish it from its non-alcoholic counterpart, apple cider, which is made by pressing apples to produce juice. Hard cider is often compared to beer because it's slightly bubbly and contains about the same amount of alcohol as beer, usually 4 to 7 percent, about half as much as its fellow fruit-fermented drink, wine. This is because even the sweetest apples contain much less natural sugar than grapes.

Young American is the creation of Stephanie Cole, 35, Jesse Bilger, 38, and Kate Kaman, 39, who all went to art schools, have extensive background in the arts and who live in the Northwest.

“I met Kate when we were both doing public art at Penn Medicine,” said Cole. Bilger, whose background is in urban farming, added, “I thought I was introducing Kate to Stephanie, but it turned out they already knew each other.”

Kaman, who has a general contractor's license, purchased the two-centuries-old building at 6350 Germantown Ave. in 2010 and later met Bilger at a Pastorius Park Community Gardens event. All three friends have experience in the restaurant business in addition to the arts, and when they tasted each other's specialties — Cole’s “hand pies,” Kaman’s hard cider, her hobby for five years, and Bilger's homemade kombucha — they realized they just might make a great team of restaurateurs.

The trio and several friends did all the manual labor themselves to transform the Colonial house into a beautiful restaurant. Bilger's father, Barry, made custom wainscoting, a Dutch door for takeout orders and a gorgeous bar made from a tamarack tree which they felled themselves; the tin ceiling is from a bar in Nicetown; the tap is from Johnny Brenda's; there are handmade tables with floral inlays; a working fireplace; window seats handmade by a seamstress; a huge outdoor mural by Alison Dilworth; giant Devil's Pool photos by Sarah Kaufman; hand-blown glass apples by Nikolaj Christensen; hand-painted wall paper by Kathryn Hedley, etc. The totality exudes the vibe of a funky arts and crafts gallery.

Young American has a limited alcohol license, which permits them to sell beer, wine and alcohol made in Pennsylvania in addition to the hard cider made on premises and aged for six months in three huge fermenting vessels, each one of which holds 275 gallons. No sugar is added. Their fresh-pressed, unpasteurized juice comes mostly from orchards in Bucks County. Right now, food and drinks are just for takeout. When the pandemic recedes, there will be dining for 30 indoors, 30 more on an outdoor patio, possibly 30 more on sidewalk tables and most likely, live folk music.

“Our hope,” said Cole, “is to have a relaxed community gathering place where people can meet and make new friends. This a very diverse, friendly community, and we want to be a big part of it … We have been selling a lot of growlers. It is about 40 percent of our business. The most popular one has been tart cherry.”

A growler of the hard cider, a half-gallon, is $23, which can be refilled (for $18) when brought back. As of now, Young American Hard Cider is only open Thursdays, 4 to 9, and Fridays and Saturdays, 4 to 10. They will most likely open indoors in April.

I bought two hand pies, which were an absolute steal at $5 apiece — the barbecue spiced blend of mushrooms and kale, and the Route 23 (named for the bus route), a mix of beef, mushrooms, provolone cheese and caramelized onions. Absolutely delicious. The Bourbon cider was a very tasty treat. Non-alcoholic cider is also available.

I watched a new addition being made in the kitchen, soft pretzels either sourdough or Bavarian style. Dipping sauces are coming.

 “We are still figuring out what works,” said Bilger.

For more information: 215-406-5307, youngamericancider.com or @YoungAmericanCider (Facebook and Instagram). Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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