There is a tradition among sailors that probably originated in nautical Annapolis. When warm breezes begin to blow, it’s time to burn the socks! Many of us simply tuck away all but the rattiest pair, which we symbolically torch. And so, we face the question: Where can you go to sip and sup sans socks? For our meanderings to favorite spots where the beer is cold and the burgers hot, let’s look at the western suburbs, with a side trip to the Chesapeake Bay and the Jersey Shore. – Jay Lloyd
146 W. Main St.
Trappe, PA 18426
I don’t know if anyone who hangs out here even owns socks. It’s my go-to place for happy hour and a chance to kick my toes through the sand in the middle of suburbia. Peer over the rail at the buzzing deck bar, and there’s a full blown beach, complete with sand, a lifeguard stand, beach chairs and bean bag boxes. Come for the drinks but stay for the chow; I can’t take a pass on the onion rings. For lunch, I’m in for the French dip or a dynamite hoagie. At dinner, it’s the prime rib every night or a whole lobster on Wednesday. This is a fun place that’s combined with great food.
Center Square Golf Club
2620 Skippack Pike (Rte. 73)
Norristown, PA 19403
Public golf courses take the lead in outdoor eateries that live with a come-as-you-are attitude. As long as you come with a shirt, of course. A favorite is Champs, a watering hole identified by its turret and broad patio with a view. There are familiar beers on tap and a wide-ranging menu that spans the pub grub world and dips into local favorites with an Italian twist. My favs are either the fried chicken or the shrimp basket. Whether you’re golfing or just sipping, it’s a cool place to park at the patio.
264 Canal St.
Phoenixville, PA 19460
You can’t get more country than this while still staying in the metropolitan area. This historic brick tavern and deck bar is smack on the Schuylkill Canal. You can even rent a kayak or canoe here for an afternoon paddle before happy hour, so no one is going to wonder why you wandered to the bar sockless – and sometimes shoeless. The deck view of the canal and its flocks of waterfowl, sunning turtles and kayaks is an eye-filling way to end a day. There’s a full pub menu and for noshing, you can’t go wrong with crab balls or shrimp.
Spring Mountain Ski Area
Spring Mount, PA 19478
This place really lives up to its name. If it were any more casual, you’d be floating off to the Caribbean. The Tiki Bar is an outdoor bar and grill at the base of Spring Mountain near Schwenksville. Lounge at the bar or under a sun shielding umbrella, contemplate the island tchotchkes and sip a cool beer. The real trip here is the grill. This bar sells the raw stuff, then you toast it up yourself. They have all the tools, sauces, marinades and condiments. Staples here are beef, ribs, fin food and veggies.
WATERMAN’S CRAB HOUSE
21055 Sharp St.
Rock Hall, MD 21661
Pull your boat right alongside the Waterman’s dock or grab a slip. Then step from deck to dock, park at a harborside table and order up a batch of hot Maryland steamed crabs and a cold pitcher. If you’re driving, it’s about two hours from Philly. You can pick and sip the day away with a stunning view of the Chesapeake Bay and the bay bridge. Park at the bar and it won’t be long before your head is buzzing with yarns of sailing and fishing on this storied waterway. Boat shoes are the footwear of choice here; crabs and beer are the sustenance.
906 Schellengers Landing Rd.
Cape May, NJ 08204
You can’t beat a boat bar for the comforting feeling of being adrift on a calm sea. The Schooner American, moored at the venerable Cape May Lobster House, is a casual happy hour stop at the shore with a water view and a crowd made up of locals and regular shore visitors alike. There’s a solid staff behind the mahogany and a compact menu of salt air delicacies. The best bet here is a chilled combo of shrimp, crab claws and clams. I wouldn’t pass up the chilled 1/2 lobster with a lemon wedge or two and a bit of clarified butter, either. Then raise a glass and imagine the schooner slipping its mooring lines and dashing through the jetty for one more run on the Atlantic fishing grounds!