One of Philly’s Best Burgers Ever Finally Returns

Plus: Pickle beer, beaver bourbon, an Italian disco Thanksgiving party and more Philly restaurant news.

Royal Tavern

Royal Tavern — and its burger — is back! / Photograph courtesy of Royal Tavern

Howdy, Buckaroos! And welcome back to the weekly Foobooz food news roundup. It’s a light week this week as we head into the holiday season. So how ‘bout we just get right to it? And I’ll start things off this week with this:

A Royal Return

Royal Tavern

Royal Tavern is back! / Photograph courtesy of Royal Tavern

Last week, everyone who loves a good bar, a good beer or a good burger got some excellent news. And that news is that the Royal Tavern was reopening after a LOOOOONG nap in Bella Vista.

The place closed (along with every other bar and restaurant in the city) in March of 2020. But while we’ve seen large parts of the industry come roaring back — including re-openings from other properties operated by Royal partners David Frank and Steve Simons — the beloved spot at 937 East Passyunk has stayed dark now for more than three years.

Until, of course, last Thursday. That’s wheen the Royal flipped on the lights, unlocked the doors, and started welcoming guests back to their new-and-improved location. Nic Macri is in the kitchen. So is sous-chef Anna Wilson. and they’ve put together a menu that’s keyed for both herbivores and carnivores. They’re offering porchetta sandwiches on the one hand. On the other hand, radish tartare. There are vegan gyros with shaved red onion, sauteed Tuscan kale with pickled raisins and Calabrian chili (which sounds awesome). And there’s a wedge salad livened up with candied bacon. That’s for those who don’t really feel like declaring their loyalty to one side or the other.

Royal Tavern

Taps at Royal Tavern / Photograph courtesy of Royal Tavern

Of great concern to regulars (and me), Macri is bringing back the burger pretty much unchanged. It will now be offered in both single and double-patty formats. But it still comes dressed in caramelized onion, pickled long hot and bacon. And it still oozes smoked gouda and chili mayo. This was one of the best burgers in the city if you’re the kind of person who likes a messy, overloaded, kinda chef-y burger experience. And I am very much one of those kinds of people.

At the bar, they’ve got a whole new cocktail program featuring reimagined classic cocktails. Then there’s High Life on ice for those looking for something simpler. Oh, and maybe the best news (besides the burger) is that the Royal is coming back strong with dinner service running seven nights a week. Things start at 4 p.m. And the kitchen will be staying open until 1 a.m. (and the bar till 2 a.m.) every night. The team is thinking about putting together a brunch, too. But that won’t be until after the New Year.

In the meantime, they’re calling that first service last week their “soft opening.” The official grand opening will be on December 1st. The team is planning to make an event out of it.

You’ll know more when I know more.

Moving on …

You Guys Remember Fishtown Pickle Project?

Philly Dilly pickle pilsner / Photograph courtesy of Fishtown Pickle Project

It was one of those things that blew up huge a couple years back, won some awards, and then became almost emblematic of the kind of pandemic-era hustles that can turn into full-blown businesses before you even know it.

The FPP team has been keeping busy. They’ve been crafting their small-batch refrigerator pickles. They’ve been selling them all over Philly. And now FPP is shipping them all across the United States. But one of the coolest things they did last year was partner with Levante Brewing  in West Chester to make a collaboration pickle beer called “Philly Dilly Pickle Pilsner.” And now guess what? They’re doing it again this year.

On Thursday, November 16th (right about the moment you’re going to begin freaking out about planning for Thanksgiving and be most in need of several beers), the Fishtown Pickle Project will be at Levante’s taproom at 208 Carter Drive in West Chester, tapping the kegs on the second round of their pickle beer. And this time they’ve got three different versions to show off — a ginger beet, cinnamon and clove, and Tajín lime. They’ll be pouring all three draft varieties alongside pickle-chip-garnished Bloody Marys and pickle pizza from Mezzaluna Wood Fired Pizza, then selling Philly Dilly in cans on the spot.

They’ll also have live music and — for those of you still trying to claw your way onto Santa’s nice list — a charity raffle that you can get in on by either bringing one unwrapped toy for Levante’s Toys For Tots donation box, or by making a $5 donation to Hops & Vines for Hunger.

Fun starts at 6 p.m. out in West Chester. Don’t be late.

Beaver Stew and Smoked-Trout Brandy, Anyone?

Saison de Frai smoked-trout brandy / Photograph courtesy of Tamworth Distilling

Okay, so hear me out on this one …

On Thursday, November 16th, the crew from Tamworth Distilling will be showcasing their “experimental line of flora and fauna flavored whiskies” at Adam Diltz’s Elwood in Fishtown at a special dinner they’re calling “Wilds of New England.”

Sounds cool, right? I mean, of all the chefs in Philly to host a dinner like that, Diltz — who has become something of a historian of olde timey edible Americana since opening Elwood back in 2019 — is the perfect choice. He takes this stuff seriously. And when you’re looking for someone to pair a dish with your new Eau de Musc beaver-castoreum-flavored bourbon whiskey, you want someone who isn’t going to, you know, laugh.

Like, a lot.

And Diltz is that guy. He’s doing his trademark (and honestly delicious) scrapple mounted on a deer antler to go alongside Tamworth’s Deerslayer venison whiskey, and a beaver stew to pair with Tamworth’s beaver-ass bourbon, and he’s doing it all with a completely straight face. He was made for this gig and, as such, I am psyched for both him and the Tamworth crew because I can’t possibly imagine a better team-up than this one.

Also, the entire idea of this dinner is just crazy and I love crazy. I love anyone in this business who looks at something like beaver musk sacs or smoked trout and says, Hey! We should make a whiskey out of that! And, if possible, I love even more the chef who can taste the resulting bourbon or brandy and think to himself: We need to have a special dinner because I’ve got the PERFECT dish to pair with this.

Anyway, if you’re interested in getting a little boozy while eating beaver and invasive green crabs and drinking trout brandy, you absolutely have to make reservations for this Thursday’s dinner at Elwood. Dinner starts at 6:15 p.m. Tickets will run you $75 per person. And what you’ll get are five courses paired with five unusual liquors — everything from the aforementioned beaver stew and scrapple to trout with brown butter and pumpkin (paired with Tamworth’s Saison De Frai smoked-trout brandy) or apple tart with caramel ice cream and a slug of Tamworth’s VSOP apple brandy.

Also, memories. Because I don’t think this is the kind of dinner that you’re going to forget any time soon.

Now it’s time for some leftovers.

The Leftovers

Monterey Prime American Grill t

The Monterey Prime team from left to right: Jon Friedman (VP of restaurant operations), Shaun O’Mara (operating partner), Dave Magrogan (CEO/founder), executive chef Andrew Pearce / Photograph by Mike Prince

Longtime Philly and Jersey restaurant guy Dave Magrogan (Kildare’s, Harvest Seasonal Wine Bar, etc.) is betting big on Mount Laurel. He’s opening a 10,000-square-foot steak and seafood joint inside the Aloft Hotel at 558 Fellowship Road called Monterey Prime American Grill. This is a HUGE space, to say the least. And barring any last-minute delays, he’s opening it Saturday, we’re told.

Monterey Prime will be an entirely independent restaurant, not owned by Aloft and with its own separate entrance. Also three outdoor patios. And four private dining rooms. And seating for, like, a billion. It’ll be focused on being a high-end steakhouse with Andrew Pearce, ex of The Palm in Philly, running the kitchen, but also a seafood restaurant and a raw bar, with artisanal cocktails, a big wine list and vegetarian dishes, too. It is, essentially, a little bit of everything. And with 10,000 square feet to play with, it has plenty of room to find itself and craft as many identities as it wants.

I’m hearing that The Dutch is now doing its all-day brunch thing seven days a week, and owners Lee Styer and Kevin Watters are also re-upping their “Dutch After Dark” prix-fixe menu that runs from 5 to 9 p.m. five nights a week. For $56, you get to choose from multiple options and assemble your own custom three-course meal — like country-style pâté with mustard, beef bourguignon over smashed potatoes and pumpkin cheesecake in a gingersnap crust. Nice, right? And they’re tinkering with the cocktail menu, too, to bring in more seasonal fall flavors.

Fall cocktails at The Dutch / Photograph courtesy of The Dutch

Probably not beaver-flavored bourbon, though. More’s the pity.

Dock Street is doing their annual Pie Drive again this year, and if you’re looking to do something good in the community, you should absolutely check this out. From now through Wednesday, November 22nd, you can go to Dock Street’s website and donate a pizza to the Eliza Shirley House — a charitable organization looking out for women and children experiencing homelessness. Donate a pie, add a few nice words to pass along, and that’s it. On the day after Thanksgiving, employees will then deliver all those pizzas to the Eliza Shirley House, and Dock Street will match 20 percent of all pie donations with a donation of their own.

It’s a good cause. So if you’ve got the means, think about helping out.

And finally this week, on Thanksgiving Eve — one of the best adults-only holidays of the year — Irwin’s is throwing a disco party. They’re calling it “Italo Disco” and instead of the regular dinner service, they’ll be pushing the tables aside, turning down the lights and turning up the music for one night only.

Here, I’ll let them explain:

“On one of the biggest bar nights of the year, Thanksgiving eve, Irwin’s will host the first-ever Italo Disco night. Fernet Branca featured cocktails will be stirred, natural wines will be flowing, and the disco ball will be spinning alongside DJs Dave P. and Dana Caracci. Italo Disco is a sub-genre of Disco Music referring to music produced in Italy (and Europe) towards the end of the ’70s and early ’80s. Tickets are $10 and include entry, entertainment, and a shot of fernet. Drinks will be offered at a cash bar.”

Cool? Cool. Now you all know where the party is. Maybe we’ll see you there.