Trolley Tap House feels the neighborhood is ready for its first craft beer-focused restaurant
The new Trolley Tap House, managed by former Two Stones Pub employee Patrick Jones, is the first strictly-craft-beer bar in that Wilmington neighborhood. Jones sat down at the tap house recently with his former boss, Michael Stiglitz, to exchange a few good-natured jibes, discuss black ops and talk about what community means to members of the craft beer culture.
Patrick Jones’ and Michael Stiglitz’s friendship began in 2007 when they worked at Pig & Fish Restaurant in Rehoboth, shouting to each other over the din in the busy kitchen. Stiglitz was the chef and Jones was the expo (the link between kitchen and front-of-house service).
The two continued to work together at various other area restaurants, where Jones was a dedicated bartender or line cook. In 2011, Stiglitz decided to open a place in Newark called Two Stones Pub—now with locations in Wilmington and Kennett Square—and he asked Jones for help.
“Having him contributed to our success,” says Stiglitz. “He was there at the beginning and was a big part of everything that started at Two Stones.”
Jones left the restaurant-bar industry last year to try his hand at sales, first for a car dealer and then, a few months later, as a salesman at Comcast.
Then this past spring, Joe McCoy, owner of Catherine Rooney’s in Wilmington and Newark and Hummingbird to Mars and C.R. Hooligan’s in Wilmington, asked Jones to be a consultant in a craft beer bar start-up in Trolley Square, where C.R. Hooligan’s was formerly located. It would be called Trolley Tap House.
“I know you were a part of the success at Two Stones,” McCoy told Jones. “They’re obviously incredibly successful and on their third location now. What are they doing right?”
By the end of July, Jones was back in the business and onboard fulltime as general manager of the Trolley Tap House, which opened Sept. 15 with 31 craft beer taps and pub fare.
“I’m here because I’ve been treating it as my own special project, and it felt better to keep it than to let it go,” Jones says.
As they sit down to begin the interview, Jones and Stiglitz reflect on their long friendship.
“He and I had our blowouts at times, [but] we’re hugging now and it’s all that matters,” says Jones. “We could always kiss and make up and get something cold to drink afterwards – but all great relationships are that way, right?”
“Yeah, it’s like a good marriage,” says Stiglitz.
When I found out about the tap house, I had to sit by myself alone and think: do I help him? Do I not?
O&A: Mike, what was the first thought that went through your mind when you heard about Trolley Tap House?
Stiglitz: (Laughs) The first thing I thought was Patrick is crazy. This industry picks up people, chews them up and spits them out, so I was happy for Patrick because he had gotten out of the industry intact and had moved on. But he proved that when you love what you do you can’t stay away. When I found out about the tap house, I had to sit by myself alone and think: Do I help him? Do I not? They’re going to be my competition in a sense, because they’re a craft brew beer bar. But Two Stones hasn’t done anything no one else has done; I can tell you where I got all my core ideas.
I’ve never hung out in Trolley Square, but I think it’s time that the neighborhood, the people, are elevated. It’s not cheap to live down here, so there’s no reason why bars shouldn’t elevate their game as well. There’s other corners people can hide and drink their Miller Lite. There are craft brews here, but it’s time for someone to do it correctly. Craft beer people are smart, and they care, and they know if you care and get it. And if you don’t—you’re done.
O&A: Pat, what did you learn from Stigz during your time at Two Stones?
Jones: I’ve learned how to look at everybody else and combine all the best things that I’ve seen in the world into one spot. How to pace myself.
Stiglitz: What about goals? I set goals.
Stiglitz: Yeah, he’s golden, people in the area restaurant industry agree. And now everybody’s been calling this place “Two Jones Pub.”
Stiglitz: Yeah, it’s ridiculous.
O&A: What’s your prediction for Trolley Tap House’s impact on the area?
Stigz: There are people here that want this.
Jones: My prediction is that we are going to bring an entirely new clientele. Just like Stigz said, the people that live around here—and it’s not cheap to live around here—actually leave to go spend time in Kennett Square, or apparently there’s a craft beer bar up at the corner of Naamans and Foulk roads that people drive to [Two Stones Wilmington]. We want to create something for that community.
O&A: What’s on the menu?
Jones: The tap house’s chef is Donovan Brown, who used to be chef at Two Stones in Newark. He’ll try all kinds of different stuff. I’ve been around Stigz and Donovan enough to know what people will want to eat with beer. You could put 20 entrees on there and people will still ask “Where the hell are the burgers?” That’s why we have three sections of sandwiches, dogs and burgers, and six awesome entrees, too: seared ahi tuna, mac and cheese, herbed chicken breasts, and more.
One of the mentalities that I want to maintain in this space is to stay true to the community. This is a bar for the neighborhood of Trolley Square—I’m bringing the craft beer culture into Trolley Square. Produce is sourced from local farms, and everything will be either composted or recycled. Globally and regionally we will get as close as we can to being a zero-waste facility. Our plate-ware is a product from India made from fallen palm leaves, which fall naturally. It is an expensive product for being disposable. However, it’s great, durable, you can heat it, and it looks great too. It’s not filling the landfill up. It’ll be taken to the composting plant in Wilmington and turned over to local farmers for the state of Delaware, so that stays true to my mentality of maintaining a sense of community.
It’s not just a craft beer bar, it’s a place that’s building craft beer culture, and to me part of craft beer culture is community.
O&A: Will you go to each other’s bars?
Stiglitz: I personally banned him because I don’t like him when he’s drinking. Just kidding. He is very dedicated to his family. If I don’t see him at Two Stones, it’s not because he doesn’t want to be there or doesn’t have good ideas, it’s because he’s home spending time with his family [wife and 2-year-old daughter] which is what everybody should do.
Jones: I’ll send black ops. Instead of me going to Two Stones, I’ll send people in to observe and take notes.
Stiglitz: I can send you the security video and you can watch Two Stones from your phone like I do.
Jones: It’s too broad. I want fine details. I know what those cameras can see and can’t see.
Stiglitz: There’s a term you can put at the end of this article, and it’s called “sociopath.”
Stiglitz: What’s your long-term plan? What’s your five-year plan?
Jones: Probably a food truck. We’re going to make a food truck that looks like a trolley. Also, there is a decent amount of space between Rooney’s and the tap house that we might utilize for something.
O&A: Mike, any advice for Patrick?
Stiglitz: Just be consistent. If you’re consistent, you can win. McDonald’s has crap food, but look at them. If there’s ever an issue with how the restaurant goes, it won’t be because of Patrick. It’s the same mentality from when I created Two Stones at Brookside in Newark. People looked at me like I was crazy. But if you build it, they will come—if you do it right. We proved that in Newark, and this should be much easier. If it doesn’t come together here, it’s not because of what they put out there, it’s pretty much just because the gods are against him—that’s all it could be.