Last Friday Another Delco Guy and The GF needed a night out after a long week, so we decided to hit a few different spots in Philly to enjoy, relax and unwind.
We started at our old standby, Valanni, where we sat at the newly expanded bar and gawked at how different the crowd is. Char wanted a drink the P.I.N.K Vodka rep had pushed at Valanni's grand opening, but got something entirely different. There seem to be differences between the P.I.N.K version of Pink my Ride and Valanni's. Not good. I sacrificed and drank it and she had a Blanche de Bruxelle from the cool frozen cobra taps. Good beer was spoiled when we were surprised by a former colleague sitting down next to us. She doesn't work for me anymore. It was simply awkward to have someone sitting next to you ignoring the situation. Brecian helped things with a healthy pour of Maker's Mark, but Fired Fraulein and her date ordered food. We paid and left. Not a good night at the Big V.
I had heard some good things about the new pub Devil's Den, so we headed to South Philly. After nearly walking by the place since it only has a chalk board on the street as a sign, we were pleasntly surprised to find 16 beers on tap and old friend and fellow Delco Guy Randy Walker behind the 15 seat bar. After trying a few of Randy's suggestions, Char passed on a Hennepin in favor of an EXCELLENT Ayinger Brau Weisse and I went with a Maredsous 8. Anytime you can get two beers of this quality on tap, things are looking good.
Then we ordered the Mussels au Lager. We should have stopped with the beer. Char's second shell creature was so bad it made her gag. I had a few good ones before I had to admit some were good and some were just plain awful. It seemed as though a good batch was mixed in with an old batch. I soldiered on, while Char ate the very good fries while passing on the below-average side of mayo.
The mussles necessitated a trip to the very nicely done bathroom, and we paid up and headed out. While I loved the location, ambience, beer selection and HD TVs, bad mussles and good beer is a combination I can find lots of places. Given that friends had a similar recent experience at Devil's Den, I'm not sure I can recommend the food. Do drop in and see the proud new papa behind the bar though!
I was itching to fill my newly-emptied stomach. As cliched as it is, we headed to Oregon Avenue and Tony Luke's Beef and Beer Sports Bar. Our chatty and speedy waitress Gina was a wonderful little slice of South Philly, exclaiming "Now we're talking baby!" when I ordered my roast pork with sharp provalone and brocolli rabe. Char had what she said was the best cheesesteak of her life, with American, mushrooms, sauteed onions and long hots. I paired mine with, what else, a Yeungling and Char had a Blue Moon Belgian Wheat that couldn't hold a candle to the two awesome Belgian-style whites she had earlier.
The sandwiches were perfect. The rolls had just enough body to soak up the juices from the perfectly cooked meats. There was the dead-on mix of cheese and broc rabe on mine, while Char just kept going "MMMMHHH! MMMMMMMMHHHHH!!!!," so I can only assume it was good too. She wouldn't let me near it.
The place ain't pretty though. It's situated in the shadow of I-95, the bathroom has no hot water and the interior decor consists of a concrete floor, TV sets and neon beer signs. You don't come here for the looks, though. It's the food that made the original place across the street famous and the food is the reason people come to the new joint.
At the end of the night, we'd been to three very different Philly food and drink experiences. First, an established Center City place stuggling to decide if it's a chic cocktail joint or a serious restaurant. Second, a fairly new place in South Philly that shows promise as a beer hall but has yet to work out the menu kinks. Finally, the beer-serving extension of a venerable sandwich shop. Each had its positives and negatives, but at the end of the night I was left wondering, "Where SHOULD we have gone?"