“My parents owned a bar at the corner of 30th and Girard.” This biographical factoid was oft-repeated by my mother, the youngest daughter of the aforementioned bar owners, while I was growing up. To me, 30th and Girard was just an intersection in North Philadelphia’s Brewerytown neighborhood, a section of the city that is finally seeing better days after years of urban blight. To my mom though, it was where she spent the first 11 years of her life, in a home above a bar at the corner of 30th and Girard.
I don’t know too much about the bar. I like to imagine that it was a place where everybody knew your name or where you could keep a tab and pay up when you got the chance. I know my grandfather, a carpenter, build the actual bar with his own hands, some of my uncles were bartenders, and my mom used to tap-dance on the bar (in a totally innocent five year old way).
It wasn’t until recently that I found out that the bar actually had a name – Schellhardts’ Café. They didn’t serve food except on Fridays when my grandmother would make her homemade crab cakes. Aside from a few things, my mom doesn’t have much from her childhood…but she does have her mother’s recipe for crab cakes. She’s rather famous for making them, especially during Lent. Every Good Friday, she would make a batch for our family so we could fulfill our Lenten obligation of fish-eating. I always screwed up my nose and wouldn’t eat them except for one bite a long time ago.
My mom loves to cook for people. When she was working, she’d make up meals for her coworkers; for family parties, she loves making loads of food; and when she visits me she likes to make my favorite meals. That makes her happy. (That last one makes me pretty happy too!) On Saturday night, to inaugurate my new patio set (that my dad kindly put together), some friends joined me and my parents for dinner. My mom, of course, made enough food to feed an army. The main course though was her crab cakes. I’m counting the half of a crab cake that I ate as my Food Friday for the week. Unlike my reaction when I was younger, I have to say that the crab cake was actually pretty delicious. I guess there’s something to be said for a family recipe that’s been handed down through the years.
I like to think that whenever my mom makes her crab cakes, she’s keeping the memory of Schellhardts’ Café…that bar on the corner of 30th and Girard...alive for yet another generation.
*My new job has me increasingly concerned/obsessed/batty about correct punctuation so I have to admit, I don't know if it was Schellhardt's Cafe or Schellhardts' Cafe. I chose the plural possessive because there are multiple Schellhardts but perhaps it should be a singular possessive because it could have referred to just my grandfather, the owner of the bar. If I'm wrong, I'm fairly certain my mom will let me know!