It’s the 2014 50 Best Bars in Philadelphia

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Bob & Barbara’s | Photo by Trevor Dixon

We asked 25 of the city’s best chefs, bartenders, beer geeks, cork dorks and professional drinkers to weigh in on the best bars in Philly. Here, in order, are the 50 best places to drink in a city made for drinking. Philadelphia, meet the 50 Best Bars Class of 2014.

Foobooz 50 Best Bars by the Numbers

13 bars are new to the list from last year.

18 bars have been on the list for all six years we’ve compiled it.

Another 4 bars have been on the Best Bars list at least 5 years.

A.bar was the biggest mover, jumping 38 spots on the list.
Read more »

This Weekend: Brooklyn Beer Meets Philly for Mash Tour

farm-dinner-400The Brooklyn Brewery Mash Tour is coming to Philly this weekend and bringing more than just bottled beer with it.

The weekend kicks off with a slew of events centered around Brooklyn Brewing’s beers and is topped off with Sunday’s Dinner on the Farm with Chefs Mitch Prensky and Andrew Gerson.  

Read on for highlights and a discount code for the farm dinner »

Steel Magnolia

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Furnaces and fireworks for the Fourth of July. Photography by Jonathan Davies

John Callahan, a 44-year-old natural salesman turned preternatural politician, looks down at the small plate of tuna crudo on the table. Fork poised, he considers the unlikelihood that he would be sampling such a dish in a swank new Italian restaurant on the main drag of the traditionally working-class ethnic enclave called the South Side in his hometown of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

“Who’da thunk it,” he says, with a rapid-fire wheezy chuckle. He spears an olive-oil-drenched nubbin of raw fish. “I often tell people: This is not your grandfather’s — hell, it’s not your father’s — town of Bethlehem.”

If he walked out the front door of Molinari Mangia, Callahan, who recently ended a decade as Bethlehem’s mayor, could peer toward the hulking 20-story blast furnaces that were once the hot heart of Bethlehem Steel, a premier industrial powerhouse of the last century. For much of that century, into the 1990s, those belching furnaces — “convoluted structures that look like smoke-stained dinosaurs snorting into the sky,” in the words of one writer — delivered a daily reassuring signal to the city of 75,000. As long as what locals called “The Steel” was working, so was Bethlehem.

But The Steel, reeling from foreign competition, plagued by myopic management and hamstrung by its unions, shut down the furnaces in 1995. The company spiraled into bankruptcy and finally dissolution. The city lost its namesake company, and a fifth of its taxable land devolved into an unused brownfield site, transformed almost overnight into a Rust Belt relic facing an existential crisis: What do you do with a huge plot (picture downtown Philly, Market to Spruce, river to river) of polluted land littered with industrial-era detritus?

More than 10 years after The Steel’s bankruptcy, the emerging answer gives John Callahan a story to tell. One day he showed up at daybreak at those big blast furnaces, which have been preserved and repurposed (complete with a glowing LED light treatment) as the city’s largest art installation. In the shadow of the furnaces now are two sleek modernist glass, steel and concrete cubes. One houses state-of-the-art studios for the Lehigh Valley’s public television station, WLVT; the other is a multi-level visual and performing arts center called ArtsQuest, with several chic performance spaces (one is an amalgam of Philly’s World Cafe Live and New York City’s Jazz at Lincoln Center) and a two-screen art-house cinema. On a landscaped plot of grass hard against the furnaces is a concert pavilion designed by Philly architecture firm WRT; it looks like an unfolding piece of origami. The whole area is called SteelStacks, and it’s just a short walk from Bethlehem’s real game changer: a nearly $1 billion casino, hotel, shopping mall and events complex that began operating five years ago as the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem.

“This one Sunday,” Callahan recalls, “we were having sunrise yoga under what they called an ‘earth harp.’” He lets out his characteristic chuckle. “The harp was these giant bands that came off the ArtsQuest building. Someone was playing it by jumping up and grabbing onto them.

“So I’m kicking off the show, doing a little welcoming speech. And I couldn’t help but imagine a rigger working up on those blast furnaces, looking down and saying, ‘What the fuck kind of nonsense is going on down there?’ How could that kind of person ever imagine a day when there’d be people doing sunrise yoga underneath an earth harp at an arts center called SteelStacks?

“Wow,” he says, “what a change!”

Bar Crawl to Anchorman 2

south philly goes to the moviesAfter nine years of waiting, there is finally a sequel to Anchorman. And if you’re excited, you’ll be doubly pumped for this combination bar crawl and exclusive midnight showing of Anchorman 2.

A $20 ticket gets you a beer at the Pub on Passyunk East, a beer at the Industry and a ticket to the midnight showing of the movie.

Local sales reps from Shawnee, Allagash and Brooklyn will be there as well.

The crawl starts at 7 p.m. at the POPE and progresses to the Industry . Get tickets at Good Dog, the Industry, the POPE or the 10th street location of Foodery to buy your ticket.

Listen to Mort Crim, Will Ferrell’s Inspiration for Anchorman, Recite the Film’s Iconic Lines [Philadelphia magazine]
And Now, a Song About Mort Crim, Ron Burgundy and Anchorman [Philadelphia magazine]

Philadelphia Restaurant Review: The Industry

Kentucky fried hen at the Industry Philadelphia restaurant.

One Christmas, without having read it first, I gave my mother Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. When I mentioned the gift to a friend who had just finished that no-holds-barred look behind the curtains of the restaurant biz, his jaw dropped. “Dude, you gave that to your mom?” he exclaimed. “One of the first stories he tells is about watching some chef rear-end a newlywed bride over a garbage can! Bourdain says it’s the moment he knew he wanted to be a chef!”

I wouldn’t call my mother a prude, but her ideas about hospitality have a limit. She chose not to accompany Bourdain on the rest of his journey beyond that fateful 55-gallon drum in a restaurant garbage stockade. But sometimes it seems like everyone else in America did. And just like that, sous-chefs knocked bike messengers off the top of the urban-cool totem pole.

The restaurant business’s gritty gl­amour has now held us in thrall for a decade. And as if to prove the strength of its grip on Philadelphia, here comes its latest absurd (yet somehow inevitable) manifestation: the Industry, a restaurant dedicated to restaurant workers themselves.

The Pennsport pub-cum-clubhouse is the brainchild of Dave Garry and Heather Gleason of Center City’s Good Dog, who paid close attention to pedigree. Honorific mug shots of industry stalwarts like Monk’s Tom Peters punctuate the shadowed walls, and the open kitchen belongs to chef Pat Szoke, who made his bones at Buddakan, Vetri, and the Farm and Fisherman. A pay stub from any bar or restaurant in town gets you 20 percent off. Civilians will pay full fare for Szoke’s nifty pig-ear lettuce wraps, fast-food-style burgers and “Kentucky fried” guinea hen.

But at six, eight and 17 bucks respectively, that’s still pretty friendly—and friendliness is really what makes this place tick. From off-duty table runners hitting the bar for a $6 plate of late-night “Sunday staff meal” meatloaf, to families handing stubby jars of smoked Pocono trout around a high chair at a sidewalk table, the Industry’s genuinely caring waitstaff gives everyone the warm fuzzies.
Of course, good cooking helps. The Industry’s fried green tomatoes are the final word for evangelists of that too-­frequently-fumbled dish: perfectly crispy batter, an even more perfectly tangy tomato slice, topped with peppery arugula nestling sweet bursts of ripe cherry tomatoes. A killer hot sauce spilled from those pig-ear wraps, in which julienned veggies were a pleasingly full partner. I liked the whole-grain salad, too, with its shavings of ricotta salata half-dissolving into the zu­cchini-and-squash-speckled heap of farro,
giving the al dente wheatberries a salty sort of creaminess.

Indeed, one of the nicest surprises here was the fair shake given to healthful stuff. You’d expect a restaurant-biz hangout to serve pig-face nuggets (an old amuse bouche from Vetri, revved up here by a mild sambal aioli) and bone marrow (mine was a little too dried out), but not necessarily whipped tofu, or an excellent cucumber salad.

A few things fell flat. There was a ho-hum wedge salad, a pulled-duck sandwich in which the barbecue sauce dominated the duck and the bready ciabatta dominated them both, and a dessert that managed to undershoot my expectations for a Swiss Roll—which I would have thought impossible. I can recognize the burger—a thin brisket pa­tty gr­iddle-cooked gray all the way through—as a superior, greasy-juicy emblem of the Five Guys school, but I can’t get around wanting my burgers fat and pink.

Still, that’s easy to forget over your third beer from a killer 13-tap rotation—and even easier once you taste Szoke’s lamb-neck gravy. He simmers the meat to shreds in canned Romas and red wine, tosses in a dollop of house-made ricotta, and serves it with grilled baguette. Yeah, it’s simple. But you’ll look pretty silly saying that with your tongue in the cast iron, lapping up puddles like a starved cat.

Maybe that’s why servers are quick to offer extra bread. But that just brings us back again to the Industry’s generous come-one-come-all vibe, which ended up reminding me of the first and best restaurant I ever worked in, where a white working-class entrepreneur, who had built his waitstaff out of hard-­partying Bible Belt refugees, put his kitchen in the unquestioned charge of a black family man, and gave the Yale kid a dishrag and instructions for hosing food waste out of the kitchen mats—as means to earning a part-time valet gig, and a full place in the family.

The truth is, you can’t chalk up our era’s love affair with restaurant work merely to the kitchen drama that sells memoirs and TV ads. What’s most compelling about that work is the way it obliterates social differences at a time when they’re starker than ever, and remains an engine of class mobility when so many others have broken down. That’s something well worth paying homage to, and though the Industry has room to tune up a recipe or two, it’s got the spirit down pat.