Photos Courtesy: Caitlin Magarity
Geeks are everywhere. Ask four people what “geek” means and I guarantee you’ll come up with four different answers. There are comic geeks, A/V geeks, marketing geeks, gamer geeks, food geeks, science geeks–the list goes on and on.
While their casual social graces and tendencies towards showmanship might count bartenders out of your geek equation, they fit perfectly into mine. And besides, this city has no shortage of really geeky bartenders so I think it’s time we all got to know each other. I mean, a geeks’ got to have someone to talk shop with over a fresh brew, right?
Jonn Klein, owner of The Dive (7th and Passyunk) and Watkins Drinkery (10th and Watkins), worships classic dive culture and 90’s television. His bars are populated by a diverse population of regulars that are starkly loyal to his libations. He is comfortably rough around the edges, a natural storyteller and dons an iconic set of unapologetic mutton chops. You can’t really miss him.
“I grew up watching Cheers when I was a kid and I always kind of wanted to be Sam Malone–minus the alcoholism and career in professional sports.
But for my whole life, I thought I was going to be a doctor. I did all sciences in school. I went to Berkley for molecular and cell biology and it wasn’t until the last moment that I decided that I absolutely didn’t want to be a doctor. I dropped out and walked away from all of that. I moved back to Philly and got back into the restaurant business full-time.
The more I did it, the more I loved it. And the more I loved it, the more I realized that I actually did want to be Sam Malone, for real,” says Klein.
Don’t be fooled by Klein’s easy-going nature. His personality is rather colorful. The closest analogy I can think of to describe him would be the bartending equivalent to 13 Assassins comedic relief, Kiga Koyata (a whacky hunter cajoled into joining a bunch of samurai). He is a little off-kilter and does not subscribe to pretense. But, he remains extremely capable, nonetheless. His cocktails are classic and thoughtful, and his professional perspective is attentive and analytical.
“I’m good with numbers so that definitely helps the day-to-day but as far as I’m concerned, this business is all about experience, knowing what you’re doing and paying close attention to what everyone else is doing,” says Klein.
Klein has been tending bar since 1996 and working in the restaurant business for even longer. His geek claim to fame? He was Bachelor #1 on a Goth Dating Game on the Sally Jesse-Raphael Show. Let that one marinate for a few minutes.
Aside from Sam Malone, Klein’s fictional idols include the likes of James Bond (as played by Daniel Craig and Sean Connery). “Extremely well-dressed, extraordinarily dry sense of humor and great cars. All very important,” jokes Klein.
While we can all recognize (and be grateful for) geek-havens like National Mechanics or even Barcade, our southern-dwelling brethren need not be without a good place to drink. Ultimately, Klein’s bars (specifically, Watkins) serve as a safe haven for the geek-oriented in South Philly. Regular bar talk typically includes horror and cult classic film debates and word has it they’ll be hosting a few screening parties for a South Philly native that was recently featured on a reality TV for her taxidermy skills.
“I have the first five seasons of Cheers on DVD and I’ve gone back a watched them since I’ve been in this business and what’s amazing to me–especially with having my own place–is just how accurately the writer of that show got what it’s like to be in an incestuous, regular-driven bars, day after day after day,” says Klein.
“The regulars are the backbone and character of this place,” he continues.
If you’re looking for a good geek to break bread with, go see Jonn and ask him to tell you the story of his friend’s traveling misadventure with vitamins and hostels. It will be sure to lift your spirits (pun intended).
Best Cocktail: A Classic Manhattan
Trademark: Mutton Chops
Super Power: Immortality or Flight
Real Life Super Power: Master Mischief Maker