Archives for March 2012

Tashan – Indian At It’s Best, With A Nice Vibe



Business Travelers: Do you recommend Tashan for

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Co-workers, Colleagues or Customers?
Conducting Business; having a Business meeting?
Dining alone?
Women Business Travelers dining alone?
Friendly staff, patrons and good service?
Enjoyable food?
Meeting other Business Travelers?
Rating: 4.0/5 (2 votes cast)

Wednesday 3/21/2012 about 7:45 I walk into Tashan, the popular Indian restaurant on South Broad Street.  It’s always nice walking into the place, lots of friendly people to greet you and a coat check.  I’ve been here several times, both at a table and at the bar, and was looking forward to this return trip.

I sit at the bar, order a drink and ask for a menu.  The bartender, great guy, recognized me from a previous visit and was very friendly and engaging.

Then it started.  It seemed the bus came in with the obnoxious Old City party crowd.  Not really a crowd but four people, not far down the bar, with one guy VERY loudly regaling about his life, coolness, high school(!!??) and how they were going to “take” Atlantic City.  What a mess.  I don’t think the others with him ever said a word.

The bartender asks if I’d like to order, I say I will wait until I knew whether this group was staying.  No way I was eating dinner with this guy bellowing.  When I go to eat at a bar I always have a backup plan and I had a place in the area in mind (The Wishing Well) in case I left.

Good news, unbearable guy left.  Watch out Atlantic City!

I order food and what a great meal it turned out to be. As usual, I ordered one thing at a time to make sure the food does not come out too fast.  I order the Kobe Chopan Kebob and the Tandoor Chaaps.  The Kebob was terrific and the Chaaps were even better.  I did a meat night and it was well worth it.  I’ve eaten many things on the menu and have never been disappointed.

A small band started playing in the adjacent lounge area. The Alfred James Band was excellent, playing a selection of acoustic songs perfect for a lounge bar area and dinner.

While the bar does face a wall, the ends are open enough that you can see quite a bit of the restaurant and even into the kitchen from some seats making you feel part of the scene. Almost any seat at the bar is very good.  There are about 10 seats on the long end with about 6 more stretching around the side.  The seats are stools with a modern design, comfortable. I’ve eaten here at the bar several times and had always had a choice of seats except for one night when a networking event packed the bar and the adjacent lounge area.  For that reason, whenever I go out, I have a backup in mind.

The Restroom deserves mentioning as first time users have entertaining reactions to it’s layout. The main room with sinks is a unisex area surround by individual, full door stalls.  I’ve watched women walk in as I’m washing my hands, look at me and immediately walk out thinking they came into the wrong restroom.  I’ve seen men react the same way when they see women in the communal area.  Very funny expressions as they meekly reenter the room.

After a rocky start it was a great meal.  Bartender, food, band and the bar itself combined to make a good night.  I highly recommend the experience.  Don’t say “I don’t eat Indian food.” Try it, this is just great food.

BarTaste Rating  ★★★★☆ 

Tashan
777 South Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
267-687-2170
Tashan Menu

Tashan Modern Indian on Urbanspoon

Blue Bear Turns Into The Boiler Maker

We were walking down 11th Street and came upon this sign.  Blue Bear only recently closed.  Welcome to The Boiler Maker.  We’ve added to our list of places we plan to review.  Check our To Be Reviewed Map.  Grub Street Philadelphia has more details.

The Boiler Maker
216 South 11th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

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Rating: 3.0/5 (1 vote cast)

Valanni – Good Views, Good Food

Really like those under the bar hooks.


Business Travelers: Do you recommend Valanni for

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Co-workers, Colleagues or Customers?
Conducting Business; having a Business meeting?
Dining alone?
Women Business Travelers dining alone?
Friendly staff, patrons and good service?
Enjoyable food?
Meeting other Business Travelers?
Rating: 3.3/5 (3 votes cast)

Walked into Valanni on Tuesday 3/13/2012 about 8:15 PM, sat at the bar and ordered a drink and asked for a dinner menu.  Not too crowded with lots of seats available.  The few people there began drifting out, sounded like they had been there since happy hour. Tuesdays in general are an easy night in most places to get a seat at the bar for dinner.

Valanni has been around for a while, since 1999, and the food is always good.  The location is on a happening little strip of Spruce Street close to several other popular restaurants making the street scene enjoyable.  The front of the restaurant opens up, floor to ceiling, to the street with a large sidewalk seating area.

I order the Grilled Merguez and the special Hawaiian Wahoo over polenta.  I’ve learned from past experiences to order each course separately while sitting at the bar to eat to avoid having the plates come out too quickly.  The strategy worked.  The lamb sausage was delicious with lots of onions which I particularly like. It was served on a “stylish?” long, thin plate (10 in by 2 in?). Every time I tried to eat a bite some food some slipped off the plate onto the bar.  Despite the mess it was very tasty.  The fish was great as well, flakey white fish cooked perfectly and yummy polenta.

I like the bar at Valanni because it is almost perfectly square, about 8 seats per side, so every point offers some view.  Bars in the center of the room work well bringing the bar patrons into the restaurant instead of facing the wall.  Unfortunately lots of Philly real estate is long and narrow making this setup difficult to achieve.  Valanni’s bar does have several structural obstructions which make some seats a little Siberian-like but there are plenty of goods seats if you choose carefully.  I sat at the back wall giving me a view of the entire bar and most of the restaurant out to the street.  Probably the best bar seat in the place.  Other patrons were friendly although not many there.  Bartender was friendly and attentive although three beautiful girls walked up to the bar distracting him a little. One small television, so if you go to watch TV your seating options are very limited and you might have competition selecting a channel.  No TV on tonight.  They seem to put the TV on for major sporting events but I’m sure they would accommodate requests.

Food was very good, bartender nice.  I rate the place 4 stars really because of the square bar.  I’m very partial to this design and it really draws the bar eater into the restaurant.

BarTaste Rating  ★★★★☆ 

Valanni
1229 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
215-970-9494
Valanni Menu

Valanni Restaurant and Lounge on Urbanspoon

Hey TD Bank – Why does every restaurant in Philadelphia use your pens?

Photo by Google

You’ve all seen it, your restaurant check comes and what do you sign it with?  A TD Bank pen.  I know the pens are freely distributed at TD Bank branches everywhere but is restaurant distribution part of TD’s marketing plan?  Maybe waitstaff are making a stop before work at TD branch to pick up a few.  Good deal for TD Bank?  How much does this cost them?

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Rating: 4.0/5 (1 vote cast)

Mixto – Latin Food and a Scene

Mixto First Floor Bar

Photo by Google


Business Travelers: Do you recommend Mixto for

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Co-workers, Colleagues or Customers?
Conducting Business; having a Business meeting?
Dining alone?
Women Business Travelers dining alone?
Friendly staff, patrons and good service?
Enjoyable food?
Meeting other Business Travelers?
Rating: 3.6/5 (2 votes cast)

Tuesday March 6, 2012, about 8:15 PM, I arrived at Mixto planning to sit at the upstairs bar which has a TV. The upstairs was closed so I sat at the first floor bar and ordered a drink, Red Sangria.  The Bartender was absolutely terrific, smooth and calm under the pressure of making my drink, elaborate drinks for rest of the bar and the entire restaurant.  It was pure entertainment watching the bartender work.

I ordered black bean soup and arroz con pollo cubano with red beans. Food was terrific and I took some home to eat for lunch the next day.  See, I do eat things besides burgers and fish and chips.

Three girls, one with comedy show like high and whinny voice, were putting on quite a show to my right at the end of the bar. Two more girls to my immediate right snickering and eye rolling at the very load antics of the other three.  I could barely control myself when the bartender offered to make them a drink called a “Jersey Turnpike”.  A perfect fit. Guy sits down on the left and his date arrives with overwhelming perfume, my eyes water.  Luckily they sat at a table quickly, I pity their nearby diners.

First floor bar is tucked into the back almost in an alcove with about 9 high-back seats, I was sitting about three seats from the left.  You are facing the wall and you see nothing of the restaurant or windows. It’s probably one of the most isolated bars for me to date. This will not stop me from coming back.  The food and the Latin, Cuban and Spanish drinks are always good at Mixto.  The bartender was very friendly and I learned a lot from his drink making.  Of course the three on the right were enough to entertain for one night. The upstairs bar deserves a visit on another night.

The arroz con pollo came too fast, I was not done my black bean soup.  This has happened before while eating at a bar, not unique to Mixto.  If you are eating more than one course while sitting at a bar, order them one at a time.

BarTaste Rating  ★★★☆☆ 

Mixto
1141 Pine Street
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 592-0363
Mixto Menu

Mixto on Urbanspoon

Where is the Drexel Love? – Is Philly a REAL sports town?

March Madness, lots of fun, lots of upsets.  No Philly area teams left in the NCAA Tournament but Drexel is still playing in the NIT, National Invitational Tournament.  Drexel just missed the NCAA Tourney but Drexel in the NIT on ESPN in prime time on a Tuesday is not bad.

I began a search for a bar with decent food with the Drexel game on TV, hoping to do a review for this site.  This began a long walking odyssey through the Washington Square West, Bella Vista and South Street neighborhoods in Philadelphia, visiting four, YES FOUR, restaurant/bars which tout themselves as sports lovers and not one had the Drexel game on.  Several have TVs everywhere yet all tuned to the Flyers.  Philly you think you are a real sports town?

Now I like the Flyers but why no Drexel?  It’s March and all hockey has been serving up lately is staged, bloody fights which have cheapened an already niche league.  Where is the love for a big local school? Drexel, Philly’s only team still playing in March, 24,000 students, started here in 1891. I am an Alum.

Drexel lost.  Maybe a little love would have made the difference?

Ask to change the channel? A real Philly bar would plan and KNOW local sports, I call it lazy and uncaring.  Is Philly a REAL sports town?

BarTaste Rating = LAME  ★☆☆☆☆ 

Drexel University
Drexel Dragons Basketball

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Rating: 4.5/5 (2 votes cast)

Tapestry – Got The Neighborhood Vibe Right: CLOSED?


Business Travelers: Do you recommend Tapestry for

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Co-workers, Colleagues or Customers?
Conducting Business; having a Business meeting?
Dining alone?
Women Business Travelers dining alone?
Friendly staff, patrons and good service?
Enjoyable food?
Meeting other Business Travelers?
Rating: 3.4/5 (2 votes cast)

Wednesday 2/29/2012 about 8:30 PM, Happy Leap Day.  I’ve been anxious to go to Tapestry since it  changed from Adsum.  Some say Adsum had lost its way and Tapestry is  focused on being a great neighborhood spot.  They do not disappoint.  I sit down and the barback is very aggressive about helping by taking my drink order only to just pass it along to the bartender who was standing nearby.  It’s nice to get great attention and service and the barback was extremely nice but seemed like he was trying to do everything, I think even the bartender was a little confused.  I felt like I had a middle man between me and the bartender. The barback worked very hard and kept extremely busy, I’ve got to give him a thumbs up, until he tried to change the channel (more on that later).  Got my drink from the bartender, nice friendly guy, great beer, liquor and wine selection. I tasted the Doc’s Pear Cider, very good and a little light, how I like it but watch the alcohol content.  Barback gives me a menu (who else) and I order Fish and Chips.  The food was excellent, nice and fresh and a real treat, well done.  Neighbors at the bar were friendly with a nice neighborhood vibe about the place.

I settled in with my drink and my food to watch the Sixers play the Thunder, a very tight game. Suddenly the barback is trying to change the channel. I ask the bartender if the Sixers are going away and he shakes his head and says no.  A  new couple sits to my left and say they are looking forward to watching the Knicks.  When the channel does not change they ask and find out it is not changing, they are annoyed and leave. Their annoyance was a little much.  This is Philly, what would you expect on the TV, Sixers or Knicks?  Apparently they asked the barback to change the channel, he agreed, but was eventually overruled.

Made a quick trip to the bathroom ran into a girl and asked her if she was in line.  She said she was looking for the restroom and what did “Water Closet” mean? I answered her question and she meekly went in and closed the door.

I especially like the low profile beer taps making the seats behind the taps seem open with the TVs viewable.  Bar has been lengthened from the size of the old Adsum bar.  Two large TVs, one at either side of the bar, one had ESPN and the other had the Sixers game.  Good place to sit and watch TV. The barback will take your channel requests.  Nice Bartenders and very good food. Neighborhood crowd and friendly as well. Standard bar stools. I recommend and will go back to sample more of the menu.  Bar faces the wall so you miss the action in the restaurant and through the large windows facing the street.

BarTaste Rating  ★★★☆☆ 

Tapestry
700 South 5th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 923-1620
Tapestry Menu

Tapestry on Urbanspoon

Knock – Good Food and a Center Bar

Business Travelers: Do you recommend Knock for

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Co-workers, Colleagues or Customers?
Conducting Business; having a Business meeting?
Dining alone?
Women Business Travelers dining alone?
Friendly staff, patrons and good service?
Enjoyable food?
Meeting other Business Travelers?
Rating: 2.7/5 (2 votes cast)

Knock is a place I have gone many times for a meal at the bar.  While the food is not spectacular it is consistently good with a nice varied menu, bar menu to slightly upscale. The place is a convenient neighborhood stop. This post describes two very different visits, the first one very puzzling.

Monday 2/13/2012 about 8:00 PM.  I sit at the bar close to the door in the only available bar seat.  I expected it to be less crowded but more people is great as long as I get a seat.  I was thinking of going somewhere else as I had been going to Knock often and already had many of the things on the menu. I only recently learned about a nightly extensive list of specials available at the bar.  No one ever said another before and until I heard another customer ask, I never knew.  I sat down, ordered a glass of wine and asked about the specials.  This is when things got odd and disturbing.  The bartender did not know the specials, asked the other bartender and the bartenders got into a verbal argument.  I sat there quite surprised then the bartender came back, never stopping but saying as he huffed by, almost out of earshot, “it’s all fish”.  People, why do you put up with this when you are spending your money?  I paid for my still full drink, left no tip and walked out the door.  I don’t put up with that kind of treatment.  I went to Varga Bar and had a terrific meal at the bar.

Not wanting to lose a neighborhood standby bar meal I went back to check it out again.  Wednesday 3/7/2012 about 8PM.  I sit at the bar, this time on the other side of the bar with a view of the bar, door and both Locust and 12th Streets, I like that side.  I order a drink and ask about the specials.  The bartender does not know all of them but quickly finds out.  I order the fish and chips, quick bar meal.  I promise no more fish & chips for a while (see Tapestry review). Both the fish and the chips were very good, hot and done very well, not overcooked.  Halibut was a special but the guys next to me discretely told me that it was not season yet for Halibut so avoid it.  I don’t know fish “seasons” so I took their advice.  These guys had a salad with grilled chicken which looked very good and they agreed it was, might check that out next time all this fired food is a little too much.

Bar is shaped like a triangle jutting into the room.  I am a BIG fan of eating at bars which are in the center of the action.  I like it better than many other bars which have you facing a wall without a view of the inside of the restaurant.  The bar is somewhat centered within the room, making for many good vantage points.  Pick the side of the bar opposite of the door, better seats although most seats are fine.  High back chairs let you lean back a bit and the crowd is almost always friendly and talkable. Two very small TVs placed very high up so not a place to sit and really watch television. Primarily gay clientele. I recommend and will be going back.

BarTaste Rating  ★★★☆☆ 

Knock Restaurant and Bar
225 South 12th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
215-925-1166

Knock Bar Menu
Knock Bar Photos

Knock on Urbanspoon

Amis – One Of The Best Meals In Town



Business Travelers: Do you recommend Amis for

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Co-workers, Colleagues or Customers?
Conducting Business; having a Business meeting?
Dining alone?
Women Business Travelers dining alone?
Friendly staff, patrons and good service?
Enjoyable food?
Meeting other Business Travelers?
Rating: 4.6/5 (3 votes cast)

Amis is one of my favorite restaurants in Philly.  I frequently sit at the bar for dinner, maybe a little too much.  While some consider it pricey, I go there when I want to treat myself to an reliably excellent dinner. I probably have been averaging once every 1 ½ weeks.  Friends barked that they are not going there for a while because “I’ve eaten everything on the menu several times”.  The menu changes frequently enough, and I have my favorites, so I keep going back.

This is a review of two different trips to Amis.

Monday 2/20/2012 at the middle of the bar about 8:00 PM.  Not a busy night, about 5 people at the bar. Easy to find a seat with lots of room and the bar area was calm.  I order a glass of house red wine, swordfish meatballs with creamy polenta and pinenuts and the creste de gallo with sausage and cabbage.  This is the only time when I did not have a great experience at Amis.  The meatballs came first.  This is a classic Amis dish having been on the menu forever and I order it frequently.  Usually very yummy.  It came quickly but the meatballs were barely warm and worse, the polenta was not as creamy as usual, rather it was cold and seemed to have been sitting out for a while developing a slight crust.  It was a disappointing start to my meal.  The bartender seemed distracted and not engaging at all.  It certainly was not the busyness of the restaurant that slow Monday night that kept her attention.  When the pasta came I was happy again.  It was fresh, hot and tasted terrific.  After a rocky start to the evening I left happy.

Tuesday 2/28/2012 at the end of the bar near the door around 8:15 PM.  Busier than the previous visit.  More people sitting at the bar and others having a drink while they waited for their dinner partners to arrive, still plenty of seats.  Now this bartender is very friendly and engaging.  I’ve spoken to him several times and he is enjoyable and interesting, a really nice guy.  I ordered a glass of wine and the same meal I ordered on my previous visit, swordfish meatballs with creamy polenta and pinenuts and the creste de gallo with sausage and cabbage. I was not disappointed, the meatballs were perfect, fresh and warm with nice creamy polenta, still a favorite.  The pasta was terrific as well.  I was treated to a complimentary appetizer of lamb neck croquettes with salsa rossa.  Not sure if I would have ordered them on my own but they were wonderful, I highly recommend.  Thank you Amis.

The bar has standard barstools with about 2/3 of the seats facing the wall.  The remaining seats on either end give you a view of the restaurant scene and the open kitchen, pick those first.  The bar starts getting crowded later in the week but I’ve never waited for more than a few minutes to get a bar seat, even on a Friday, as people come and go and sit down for dinner.  There is also the bar seating at the open kitchen for a real chef’s experience. Check it out on a Sunday, lots of bar seats and try the Sunday Gravy at Amis.  This South Philly inspired three course meal is a terrific way to end the weekend.

BarTaste Rating  ★★★★☆ 

Amis
412 South 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 732-2647

Amis Menu
Amis Photos

Amis on Urbanspoon

Parc Brasserie – Hopping Bar Scene at Brunch


Business Travelers:  Do you recommend Parc for

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Co-workers, Colleagues or Customers?
Conducting Business; having a Business meeting?
Dining alone?
Women Business Travelers dining alone?
Friendly staff, patrons and good service?
Enjoyable food?
Meeting other Business Travelers?
Rating: 4.3/5 (3 votes cast)

Woke up on a Sunday morning craving some eggs or a nice burger for brunch.  After reaching out to several friends who were either busy, had already eaten or hung over, I realized I was on my own and headed off to eat at the bar at Parc Brasserie (sound warning, why oh why?).

I’ve always enjoyed Parc for all meals.  The food is consistently good, intensity level high and everyone seems to be having a good time.  Sunday 2/26/2012 about 12:15 PM.

The restaurant was full, with a wait for tables.  The bar was packed with one empty seat which I quickly scored.  I ordered a very tasty Kettle One Bloody Mary and the Cheeseburger with Grilled Onion, Raclette Cheese and Pommes Frites.  The crowd to my left began expanding as more friends arrived for brunch and they had no reservation.  No one in the group would make a decision about what to do when the wait for a table seemed to go on forever. They were all too busy texting and regaling about the previous night, as more arrived they began expanding into my space.  I was worried that the  guy closest to me, and getting even closer, would knock my tasty, and very red, Bloody Mary onto the back of his very white sport coat.  They finally decided to go down the block to a.kitchen where they also did not have a reservation.

My burger came and it was very good with big thick juicy onions.  I ordered it medium-well, as I usually do, because I like it just pink inside and I was not disappointed.  Fries were delicious as well.  Got a text from a friend headed to the Nike Outlet Store.  Only one thing I like better than food is sneakers, especially Nike’s.  Out the door I went.

Great bartenders at Parc’s bar who asked frequently how I was doing and service was quick and attentive.  Absolutely recommend and will go back for brunch , lunch or dinner at the bar but beware the place is often packed with crowds at the bar.  Bar has standard bar stools.  Depending where you sit you sometimes only face the wall but several seats will give you a view of the action within the restaurant. Be prepared to wait for a bar seat or have a backup in the neighborhood.  Once you do sit down don’t be surprised if you get jostled a bit by the crowd.

BarTaste Rating  ★★★☆☆ 

Parc Brasserie (music)
227 South 18th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Parc Brasserie Menu
Parc Brasserie Photos (click tour)

Parc Brasserie on Urbanspoon