Web Original: Critic’s Notebook: Embrace the Bar

A roundup of swanky restaurants with an affordable bar menu.

Everybody knows that restaurants are expensive. And Philly certainly doesn’t suffer from a shortage of eateries at which you can easily spend hundreds of dollars in the course of one evening. But, there is a way to experience even the fanciest restaurants for much less: Visit the bar.

Before I was a food writer, I dared not set foot in Le Bec-Fin. But a single glass of red and a bowl of extraordinary French onion soup at Le Bar Lyonnais was within my reach even as a grad student. Here, my list of places with bar bites that won’t break the bank.

Barclay Prime
Why: The comfortable, library-like lounge is even cooler than the dining room.
Try: The sliders.

Why: The restaurant’s bar is totally relaxed and a good place to meet other food-minded diners.
Try: The happy-hour oysters.

Why: The decked-out bar and lounge is the snazziest in the ’burbs.
Try: Something from the raw bar.

Why: The stylish sofas in James’ bar are surprisingly comfy.
Try: Seasonal canapés (a steal at $8 per person).