For the craft beer lover, Old City could use an update to its name. Wedged amongst the symbols of Philadelphia and America’s beginnings are a number of newer bars featuring impressive rotating drafts. Because of the large number of bars in the area, it’s safe to say there’s no room for a slouch in the high competition for the influx of tourists and weekend drinkers.
Philadelphia Bar and Restaurant, on Market Street between Front and Second, has proven to be no slouch. As the craft beer phenomenon continues to expand at exponential rates, the must-visit bars, often turning into must-visit-often bars, seem to do three things well, not separately but collaboratively: beer, food, and service. Let’s start with the most important.
Philadelphia Bar and Restaurant (PBR) offers sixteen rotating drafts at all times. Many bars make similar claims, but sometimes that large number rings hollow. When a craft beer lover heads out for something with a bit more taste (and perhaps, for a bit more alcohol percentage), too often it’s like dealing with a cable company that advertises 1,000 channels but offers much less watchable channels. From Oskar Blues GUBNA to beers from Founders, Stone, Dogfish, Avery, Allagash, and the relatively new and local Neshaminy Creek, PBR’s varied selection does not disappoint. The beer style possibilities do not either. Their draft list includes wheats, IPAs, porters, pilsners, scotch ales, a unique cider, and many others. As if their draft list wasn’t good enough, PBR delivers a wide array of bottles and cans as well. A list of featured big-bottles included beers from Firestone Walker, Port Brewing, Rogue, Russian River, and a number of other yearned-for brewers. Their regular bottle and can list fully earns the term “extensive,” offering many solid beers such as Central City Red Racer IPA, Boulder Hazed & Infused Ale, and a few from Sly Fox. They even sell Pabst ($2!), Miller Lite, Coors Light, and a host of others just in case your drinking buddy hasn’t caught on yet to the whole craft beer thing. PBR’s offerings are considerable, but not overwhelming, and they offer the best reason for a return visit.
PBR’s menu is dumbfounding in the most positive way. Rarely does one find a menu on which every single item sounds like a must-have. A three cheese grilled cheese on challah bread; cornmeal crisped calamari with sautéed peppers, lemon aioli, and smoked jalapeño marinara; and pan seared tilapia with a Yards Brawler butter sauce (a number of their dishes used beer, a delectable sign) are just a few of the unique and mouth-watering options. Rather than pair individual dishes with specific beers, PBR serves hearty food well-matched for almost any craft beer. This freedom of choice for the patron provides a more eclectic, personal experience.
The service at PBR was impeccable. The bartender chatted with the patrons in an easy, welcoming way. He showcased his knowledge of all the beers PBR offers, even giving his opinion about beers he didn’t like in a positive way. PBR does not sell flights, but the bartender offered many samples of beers new to patrons. With craft beers, many times it matters who’s slinging the suds. A bottle jockey could get the job done, but that intimate connection craft beer lovers often feel with their beer sometimes demands a server with the same depth of love.
In an area of the city where even good bars can be swallowed up by the machine of grand competition, PBR has positioned itself to become an “old” part of Old City. Philadelphia Bar and Restaurant is located at 120 Market St., Philadelphia, PA 19106.