Volume 74, Number 38 | Jan. 26 - Feb. 1, 2005

Eagles and cheesesteaks rule at Philly fanatics’ bar

By Sarah Schmalbach

Villager photos by Talisman Brolin
Above and below, feeling love for the city of Brotherly Love’s team at Wogie’s on Greenwich Ave.

It was a literal blizzard of Eagles fans at Wogie’s, a West Village bar and grill, this past Sunday during the fourth consecutive (and first successful) N.F.C. Championship game for the Philadelphia football team. Wogie’s, a nearly 1-year-old Village restaurant, served a flurry of Philly favorites, cheesesteaks and Yuengling lager, during the three-hour-plus game.
Hours before kickoff, ESPN’s Chris Berman proclaimed, “Are you ready for some…SKIING?!” The Eagles were favored in their game against the Atlanta Falcons who would rather fly south for the winter than run plays in the white stuff. Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field saw almost a foot of snow the day before the game and it took 750 people working for hours to prepare the field.

Aaron and Todd Hoffman, brothers and Pennsylvania natives, opened Wogie’s last February. The bar is named after their father, William “Wogie” Hoffman, who was an top athlete and inspiration to his children. The Krazy Kate wings are named after their mother, Kate.
Aaron was formerly the manager for the chain of W Hotel bars in New York City while Todd was involved in numerous bar ventures, including opening Trust at 13th St. and Ninth Ave. and working at the Hudson Lounge, across the street in Tribeca from the trendy sushi spot Nobu. When Hudson Lounge closed after only a year and a half, Todd gave Aaron the tip that the Robert DeNiro-owned bar was closing and looking to get rid of its interior inventory. “I’m sure DeNiro sat here one night after work,” Aaron said as he sat at Wogie’s bar.

These days, Philly fans donning McNabb, Douglas and Owens jerseys swarm the bar — and the bartenders. “The nice thing about this place is that there’s someone new here every week,” said Stu, Wogie’s resident Manchester-born barkeep and converted Eagles’ fan.

This 2005 season has been the reluctant cradle of curses and controversy for the team from the town of Brotherly Love. The most recent curse (that was thankfully dispelled on Sunday) was the three consecutive loses the Eagles suffered in N.F.C. Championship battles against St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Carolina. After the Eagles’ playoff win against the Rams two weeks ago A.J. Irvin, an actor living in the West Village, said, “Despite being a huge Eagles fan, I am not looking forward to next week’s game.” To his surprise and satisfaction, he watched the Eagles beat the Falcons 27-10 in his usual spot by the door. “I’m superstitious,” he said, and his positioning seemed to have worked.

The fear of the Championship-game curse was only heightened by the late-season injury of Terrell Owens, star wide receiver, who may or may not be back in time for the Feb. 6 Super Bowl against the Patriots.

Aside from Owens’ injury, the team was caught in a Janet-Jacksonesque controversy over a Monday Night Football commercial involving T.O. and an implicitly naked Nicolette Sheridan, star of NBC’s “Desperate Housewives.” The media hype didn’t affect many fans however. Kerry Rogers, an Eagles fan from Wilkes-Barre, Penn., said, “I couldn’t have cared less. What’s worse is when there are close-ups on the sidelines and you can read profanity on the lips of the coaches and players. That’s more devastating to any children watching than the T.O. commercial.”

Scott Dunlap, a 29-year-old hedge-fund manager, comes to Wogie’s any night of the week, not only on Sundays. “For me, it’s not about Philadelphia; it’s that I feel like family when I come in here.” Yet, it may very well be for the Philly fare as well. He recounted his disappointment after ordering a steak and cheese last summer at a Maine restaurant. “Literally, the plate came out with a T-bone steak and slices of cheese on top.”

The cheesesteaks are one of the top draws at Wogie’s. Nick Bavuso, a 24-year-old student from a Philadelphia suburb claimed, “It’s the closest thing to perfect next to Gino’s, Pat’s or Jim’s.” The steak sandwiches, which cost a mere $6.50 for a mental culinary trip to South St., Philadelphia, are served in wooden baskets overflowing with steak, fried onions and most cheeses imaginable, including the traditional Whiz (Cheez Whiz).

The bar’s atmosphere is sparse but much like a heart can be worn on a sleeve, its Philly pride hangs on its walls. Original photographs, taken by Todd Hoffman’s friend Peter Holmes, bring life to the room. Black-and-white and color photographs of Philly landmarks like the Art Museum, Boat House Row and the Philadelphia skyline give many patrons a taste of home.
Between chants of “E-A-G-L-E-S-Eagles!” cheesesteaks get devoured and Yuenglings are downed. But most important, between the football games’ quarters and halves, bonds get made between displaced Philadelphians living in a world dominated by Jets and Giants fans.
The Philadelphia Eagles have never won the Super Bowl and its been 45 years since they last won a league championship. Bill Lyons, Philadelphia Inquirer sport columnist, made it deafeningly clear in his Monday morning column. “This is how long [we’ve been waiting]: If you were just coming of legal age when the Birds last won a championship, you are now collecting Social Security. That is a lifetime. Literally.”

Wogie’s, located at 39 Greenwich Ave., at Charles St., is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner and offers free delivery. In the springtime there is a outdoor sidewalk cafe that flanks the bar on both sides.

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