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Friday night, Lois and I had the unexpected pleasure of a kid free date night. We decided to eat at the South Phila Taproom. I’ve had a thing for this bar for awhile, but the recent expansion and kitchen turnover had made us particularly anxious to check it out again. Most importantly because Lois’ brother is part of the kitchen staff that moved over from Bridgewater’s in 30th St station (which I was only moderately fond of the one time we ate there).
So after dropping the girls off at Grammy’s, we raced straight to south Philly. We did drive, contrary to my normal and desired method of transportation. Parking was a breeze, and I must say, there was a bounce to our steps as we made our way around the corner to the bar. We were met on the street by our old friend and partner in crime Adam, who works as a bar back there, and quickly made our way to a 2 seater next to the kitchen.
Had I read the review in PW closer, I would have realized that Lois’ brother Zach is the Sous Chef there, and is “kinda a big deal.” He introduced us to the chef who was more than friendly and excited to meet us. It was the night after the Bell’s event there, so there was still ample Bell’s on draft. I had a Lager of the Lake, while Lois had a Two Hearted IPA. I was in the mood for some lighter session beers, and the Bell’s did the trick.
The first thing that was brought out to us, courtesy of Zach, and without even asking, was the Mr Mancuso’s cheese plate. Zach is well aware of my cheese fetish, so this was much appreciated. It was a lovely plate of 4 kinds of cheese, and various accoutrements, including figs, dried apricots, balsamic syrup, and strawberries. The cheeses were “plain old,” as I suggested to the chef, in a regrettable faux pax, however they were spectacular. I have a tendency to treat cheese like extreme beer, and seek out the wildest, funkiest, bluest there is. But the simple sharp provolone Mr Mancuso provided was perhaps one of the best cheeses I’ve ever had. Perfectly balanced between sweet and sharp, I would even go as far to say that the texture was sexual in its chewiness. Lois preferred the Gorgonzola with balsamic and strawberries. This single plate would have made a completely perfect meal on its own. But there was more to come.
Rapid fire, we were brought a bowl of Poutine and a Frito Lay chili bowl. I’m a sucker for cheese fries, so I dug right into the Poutine, a Canadian version of cheese fries with mushroom gravy and cheese curd. Both Zach and the chef scorned this dish, but dang. Dang! The Frito Lay chili dish, Zach informed us, is a southern meal that construction workers eat for lunch: a bag of Fritos filled with chili. I don’t know how much truth there is to the origin, but our vegetarian version was hearty and delicious. Of all the uneaten food (keep reading, there was lots), this is the only thing that Lois insisting on boxing up to take home.
At this point, we are throughly filled. I had a Bells Amber, which I’ve not had on draft before, and Lois jumped right into a Third Coast Old Ale, one of my favorite beers. We nibbled at the mounds of unfinished appetizers as we discussed how we were going to manage the main courses that we probably shouldn’t have ordered. Lois ordered the fish and chips, and I got the scallop sliders. The scallops were delicious, coated with bourbon bar-b-q sauce, and served on buttery biscuits so light that they almost fought against the scallops in a battle of softness. As Lois could barely manage more than a bite of her fish and chips, I was charged with the difficult task of helping her eat them. They were a bit greasy, but forgivably so, as the IPA batter was beyond amazing. The three fried shrimps that accompanied the cod were perhaps the best seafood I’ve eating since I’ve started eating fish. And the cod was so tender, wonderfully balanced by the crisp coating of batter. I continued to enjoy long after my stomach begged me to stop.
As I sipped a newly tapped and cloudy glass of Bells Sparkling Ale, Zach insisted we try his own dessert creation: a strawberry mint trifle. He explained the triple layered parfait like dessert in detail, which we blatantly ignored, worried more about the possibility of actually being able to eat it. (It consisted of strawberry compote, chantilly cream, and pound cake coated with Rumple Minz). It was delicious. And it was sadistic of Zach to serve this, as we were both incapable of having more than a couple spoonfuls of it.
In the end, I believe that this meal was one of my favorite meals ever. I’m proud and excited to see more of what Zach comes up with working there, and looking forward to tasting more of it.