First Look: Southgate
Some of us here at Foobooz HQ were very sad to see that old standby, Tangier, go (*cough* Art Etchells *cough*) after a three decade run at the corner of 18th and Lombard.
Fortunately for one and all, it has been replaced by Southgate–a Korean-inspired gastropub by Peter Hwang and family, whose family also owns Center City lunch standby Oh So Good. Southgate, named for the neighborhood in Seoul that houses one of the city’s longest operating food markets, is doing that trendy thing of bringing Korean flavors to American pub grub.
A blue-gray room, with updated subway tile walls and blonde wood tables, it’s casual and comfortable, carving a space for itself into the list of Philly bars that, while still largely about the beverages, have gastronomical chops to back up the drinks.
Chef Clara Park’s menu—which includes a glossary of food terms to help educate diners unfamiliar with Korean food beyond kimchi—begins with small bites like mandoo, fried beef dumplings drizzled with soy-balsamic reduction over eggplant puree, and “koreancini,” sushi rice and sweet corn arancini, served with roasted tomato sauce. A real draw is the “KFC,” Korean fried chicken. Extra crispy double-fried chicken wings tossed in your choice of either gochujang or soy garlic sauce.
Of course there’s a bibimbap (available with either beef or tofu) and for these remaining warm days, the tuna hwe dup bap, a cold rice bowl with cubes of shiny raw tuna, ribbons of cucumber, daikon, carrot, pickled ginger, romaine, and avocado, all waiting to be tossed together with chojang, a sweet-spicy chili sauce.
Larger plates are all over the map, composition wise: Korean barbecue beef tacos, a shatteringly crunchy chicken katsu with cabbage slaw and rice, a bulgogi burger, and a pulled pork sandwich. While those seeking authenticity in presentation in Korean flavors will still have to head elsewhere, it’s nice to see these flavors at play in a varied way, instead of as a token expression.
While the food is relatively casual, a few contenders on Juan Bustamante’s cocktail menu could hold their own against any in the city where creativity is concerned. Two of special note include the Yamasaki 12 year “old boy,” with Amaro Nonino, Aperol, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, and a spritz of Laphroaig. Or, on the lighter side, the “ritten in the stars,” vodka with ginger liquor, plum wine, lime, and Misson Brewery’s Double IPA. Sip it from the top and you’ll experience the sharp aroma of the lime zest ribbons and the frothy head of beer, through a straw from the bottom of the drink you get sweetness and more ginger heat. There are a handful of wines, 12 beers on tap, a few sakes, and even a couple of bottles of soju, provided that you’d like to imbibe accordingly while partaking in a little Seoul food.