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Lets talk about bar food.


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By the way, I don't really consider the places I wrote about to be bars.  To me, they are restaurants with bars. :smile:

why not? bars can have good food.

You may be right. I usually think bars put more emphasis on the alcohol than the food, though, but maybe this is just my perception.

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I had a very nice meal at Dark Horse last night (on 2nd between Pine and South in Philly).

It's the former Dickens Inn, which I never visited in its former capacity. The dining room upstairs is venerable and woody, quite comforting and warm on a cold winter's night. Our window table overlooked Head House Square, and the effect would have been perfect if the snow had started then rather than this morning.

We started with appetizers of cajun-spiced fried calamari ($9) and escargots ($10). The squid was a dark reddish brown, nicely spicy and perfectly cooked. It came on a bed of greens drizzled with some sort of sour cream sauce or aioli and a ramekin of fresh salsa verde. Lots of tentacly pieces along with the rings, which is always a plus for me. My companion pronounced it one of the best calamari dishes she's had. The snails were likewise delicious -- it's probably been five years since I've had escargot, so I have little more than a memory to compare them to, though. The plate came with a ball of puff pastry in the middle sitting atop a small base of cooked spinach, with a moat of lemony pernot cream, studded with red bell pepper here and there. There were snails around the plate swimming in the cream, and the pastry was filled with more escargot and very fragrant wild mushrooms. Every bite was delicious. The snails were tender and succulent and the sauce vibrant and subtly perfumed.

Our entrees were no less satisfying. My companion had a hearty, robust plate of cassoulet ($19) -- white bean stew with a rich tomato sauce, topped with a grilled quail and grilled chorizo. The portion was huge and tasty, not the least bit greasy. I had the chicken cheesesteak ($10), which was probably the best "gourmet" cheesesteak of any kind I've tried. Shreds of chicken braised in wine with sauteed wild mushrooms and brie on a nice crusty roll. I had to be very careful not to let the juices run all the way down my elbows. That came with salad and fresh-cut french fries.

The beer list tends towards the British isles -- Boddington's, Guinness, Tetley's, John Courage -- with Flying Fish disappointingly the only local micro on tap. But who can complain about a shapely imperial pint of John Courage for $5 to wash down such substantial fare? Not I.

Quite highly recommended.

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Dang, gabe, that sounds good. And not just because it's almost noon and I haven't eaten yet today; also because I haven't had a good cassoulet in ages. It's a little bit ridiculous that even though I live two blocks from the Dark Horse I haven't eaten there yet. Gotta change that, ASAP.

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I had a cassoulet in Paris last week that was delicious. What a great concept cassoulet is -- a dish that's so heavy you don't need to eat for two days afterward.

That is a HELL of a long way to go for cassoulet. I am impressed.

Rich Pawlak

 

Reporter, The Trentonian

Feature Writer, INSIDE Magazine
Food Writer At Large

MY BLOG: THE OMNIVORE

"In Cerveza et Pizza Veritas"

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  • 3 weeks later...

Mmmm, cassoulet. I worked in Gascony for a summer and over there they say cassoulet isn't a recipe, it's a reason for people from different villages to argue. If you can try to find one made with Haricot de Tarbes (or Tarbais, you see both spellings). These are large, soft white beans that absorb that rich poultry stock well. Sweet white runner beans are a good substitute. The use of quail and chorizo that you mentioned sounds yummy, I hate when people use that "authentic" French Sauccison d'Ail (garlic sausage), it tastes neither garlic or like good sausage.

I think tomorrow, I'm going to have to go try that, I live near the Dark Horse too and have never been there - thanks for the post!

Edited by tim olivett (log)

Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.

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Mmmm, cassoulet. I worked in Gascony for a summer and over there they say cassoulet isn't a recipe, it's a reason for people from different villages to argue. If you can try to find one made with Haricot de Tarbes (or Tarbais, you see both spellings). These are large, soft white beans that absorb that rich poultry stock well. Sweet white runner beans are a good substitute. The use of quail and chorizo that you mentioned sounds yummy, I hate when people use that "authentic" French Sauccison d'Ail (garlic sausage), it tastes neither garlic or like good sausage.

I think tomorrow, I'm going to have to go try that, I live near the Dark Horse too and have never been there - thanks for the post!

Tim:

The Dark Horse (and the Black Sheep - same owners) undoubtedly have some of the best bar food in the city. Reasonably priced as well. I've not had the cassoulet, but I've had the Chipotle wings, hummus and pita (a little too cumin-y for my taste, but still pretty tasty), the burgers, grilled chicken quesadilla, calamari and fish and chips are ALL top notch. And i can always be counted on the have an Isabella's salad with goat cheese and grilled portobellos. It's been one of my favorites since Chef Ben McNamara owned Isabella's up in the Northeast.

I even like the White Trash version of cassoulet. After all, what is Beanie-Weenie Casserole but Cassoulet with a different name?? :biggrin:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Yeah, beanie-weenie casserole. That's what I mean about the garlic sausage. I hate when cooks buy stuff just because it's authentic and not just because it tastes good. Somehow they think buying all that stuff will make their food good for them-they'd be better off making it with really good hot dogs. I always say I'd rather have a good burger than a bad steak.

Thanks for the late night tips, us poor souls who love food and get out of work after midnight usually get the shaft but I look forward to sampling Philly's surprising bar food.

Neighborhood places should be like your dry cleaner, a service, unpretentious and there for you when you need it. I'm glad places in Philly have the good sense to hire good cooks instead of relying on Sysco (an evil empire food international supplier to fine hospitals, nursing homes and diners). One or two good cooks make all the difference.

Up with cooks! (I can't say down with mozzarella sticks cause I gotta admit I'm an equal opportunity glutton but down with the same menu over and over again!)

I have to tell you guys, when it comes to bar food Philly kicks New York's ass. (I know you all probably have a bunch of things to add to that list but give me time, I'm learning)

Edited by tim olivett (log)

Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.

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I have to tell you guys, when it comes to bar food Philly kicks New York's ass. (I know you all probably have a bunch of things to add to that list but give me time, I'm learning)

i think philly has good bar food b/c we have a lot of microbrews that have good relations with bars, and the bar owners just figure might as well have good food to go with the beer if people want.

that'd be my guess as to why NYC doesn't have as much quality bar food.

not enough microbreweries, brewpubs, etc.

also maybe not good enough relations between the microbreweries and the bars.

don't know how many of the bars i mentioned in my post early in this thread serve after 10pm.

i know a few of them do, just not certain which ones.

i myself was just at copa too after 10 last night (15th btwn locust and spruce) and had a damm tasty burger.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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I have to tell you guys, when it comes to bar food Philly kicks New York's ass. (I know you all probably have a bunch of things to add to that list but give me time, I'm learning)

i think philly has good bar food b/c we have a lot of microbrews that have good relations with bars, and the bar owners just figure might as well have good food to go with the beer if people want.

that'd be my guess as to why NYC doesn't have as much quality bar food.

not enough microbreweries, brewpubs, etc.

also maybe not good enough relations between the microbreweries and the bars.

don't know how many of the bars i mentioned in my post early in this thread serve after 10pm.

i know a few of them do, just not certain which ones.

i myself was just at copa too after 10 last night (15th btwn locust and spruce) and had a damm tasty burger.

Bar food and BYOBs keeps in line perfectly with the city's gritty, DIY character.

I know most bars serve food until midnight at least, many keep their kitchens open until one or even closing.

For late night dining, you may also want to try Chinatown. There are several restaurants that stay open very late.

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  • 3 months later...
  • 2 weeks later...

The Dark Horse (and the Black Sheep - same owners) undoubtedly have some of the best bar food in the city. Reasonably priced as well. I've not had the cassoulet, but I've had the Chipotle wings, hummus and pita (a little too cumin-y for my taste, but still pretty tasty),

Different Chef at Black Sheep (though Ben M is still overall executive), name Robert Leget used to be at Vesuivio. He's got some talent.

I think they fixed the hummus from when we were there Katie not as cumin-y & these Sambal wings with Thai basil that are awesome.

Had a great salad at the Good Dog the other day, perfect girl salad...I will explain it was a Big Salad lots of greens (arugula, endive & I think romaine) cut nicely so you do not have half a lettuce leaf hanging from your mouth while trying to look cute and came in a great big bowl so one could say oh mi god i couldn't possibly eat all of that. Again Big Salad in a big bowl with goat cheese, cranberries & almonds, grilled chicken on top DEEEEE-lightful!!!!!! (with a $3 Strongbow on Wed, + industry discount..can't beat that)

Have to say some other stuff looked better than it was (thier Mac & Cheese was pretty good w. the cornflake crust but why serve with weird industrial looking blueberry muffin, I like Black Sheep's better)

I wish someone here would emulate Craftbar in NYC and do some really great bar food, I still dream about their stuffed sage leaves and a panini of taleggio, hen of the woods mushrooms & duck proschuitto. Or make a great great mixed snacky type platter with anything but mozzerella sticks, potato skins & wings (or at the very least kick-ass variations of same)

"sometimes I comb my hair with a fork" Eloise

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  • 3 years later...

The NO SMOKING - yeah! - law has made lunch at the right place a much more enjoyable experience.

...and with George's cart closed for summer vacation, I've refound my fondness for the Cherry Street Tavern after many years.

Outstanding beef & cheese on a kaiser roll! Bumpin' red-rare roasts warmed au jus enough to make 'em wet while you still taste the red - order rare, hot. And the hot pork is no slouch, either. Several other soups & sammies, a dozen taps and a Daily News to peruse at the vintage bar staffed by friendly folks.

Other than today's beers, prolly not much different than in 1933, assuming there were friendly barkeeps around back then. (...and nobody uses the trough at the bar anymore.)

Charlie, the Main Line Mummer

We must eat; we should eat well.

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Not the greatest, but very good - Tir Na Nog. Have had good Tuna with soba noodles as well as good Shepard's Pie. Toasties are great for a snack and the bartenders are friendly.

Only problem is finding a seat with the Comcast construction going on.

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  • 1 month later...

I heard a rumor that Ludwig's is closing soon, to be replaced by (of course) luxury condos -- and that the upcoming Oktoberfest on September 29th is to be the last. Can anyone confirm/deny/elaborate? If true this will be sad news -- Ludwig's had a lot of beer and food I haven't found elsewhere in the city, and a pleasant atmosphere to boot.

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I heard a rumor that Ludwig's is closing soon, to be replaced by (of course) luxury condos -- and that the upcoming Oktoberfest on September 29th is to be the last. Can anyone confirm/deny/elaborate? If true this will be sad news -- Ludwig's had a lot of beer and food I haven't found elsewhere in the city, and a pleasant atmosphere to boot.

Not necessarily, sez Mr. Klein.

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Must haves at Standard Tap:

Double standard burger

Fried Squid

Fried smelts

Roast pork sandwich with provalone

Duck salad

Mussels were a bit too gritty for my taste the last time I had them, and I've had both the chorizo version and the Italian suasage version, both respectable dishes, but they've gotta do a better job of cleaning their mussels. Also theier mussels were not as big and plum p as those served at the Grey Lodge, still, for my money, the best mollusks in town.

Edited by Rich Pawlak (log)

Rich Pawlak

 

Reporter, The Trentonian

Feature Writer, INSIDE Magazine
Food Writer At Large

MY BLOG: THE OMNIVORE

"In Cerveza et Pizza Veritas"

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yeah, what they said... I especially love the pork sandwich and the duck salad. For the record, when I've had the mussels there they have not been gritty, did have chorizo, and were really quite delicious.

I wonder what they could be doing wrong? Mussels don't really live down on the bottom, especially not the farm-raised mussels we usually get, so they shouldn't be sandy...

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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