Standard Tap


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recently lots Inexpensive 901 North 2nd st.
Philadelphia 19123
Roast Pork Sandwich, Burgers, Mussels, Duck Salad, specials, almost anything... nothing

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I really wish there were Standard Tap around the corner from where I live, in fact, in a perfect world there'd be one every 10 blocks or so, close enough so that any of us could drop in any time. Because the Standard Tap really is the perfect neighborhood bar, with great local brews on tap, a good selection of wine by the glass, a cool jukebox, and terrific unpretentious food.

Inside and out, it looks as if it's been comfortably ensconced in this corner of not-quite-yet gentrified Northern Liberties for over a hundred years, and it has, although not in this exact configuration. The Standard Tap is a relatively recent manifestation, but one that retains the historic vibe.

Admittedly, it can get a bit crowded and smoky, but I'll brave that for a nice fresh microbrew and a big plate of hearty food, served up by friendly bohemians. The pacing can be very slow, and you might have to wait/fight for a table, so don't come if you're in a big hurry, especially on weekends.

The menu is an exercise in Zen clarity: a few blackboards with the most minimal of descriptions. Apple Salad. Mussels. Pork Sandwich. That's the general level of elaboration, but never fear, the food itself is anything but plain, well above the quality one might expect in a neighborhood pub. This is serious food made with a sense of creativity and attention to detail, without getting too precious.

Servings are very large, and always nicely complete: the excellent soups come with a nice multigrain roll, the entrees always have good accompaniments. Some of the stews and entree soups are simple one-dish presentations, but that dish usually contains a range of varied ingredients.

The menu changes often, sometimes even during the evening, so pay attention! Some of the sandwiches and salads are pretty reliably available, but most of the main entrees seem to be decided each day.

I like their duck salad, although the duck leg comfit has been a little dry once or twice, but I still love the contrast of the warm, rich, salty duck with the cool, crunchy, slightly bitter greens.

DDP has gotten versions of oyster stew, sometimes with other seafood as well, always rich with cream, potatoes and aromatic vegetables. The mussels are always steamed in an interesting broth, we had one recently spicy with sausage and herbs. Clams and monkfish was swimming in an bright citrusy both, with nice chunks of potato.

A dangerously large serving of pot roast was more intricately seasoned than mom's version, I think I detected some cardamom, and maybe star-anise? It was flakingy tender and moist, served with good mashed potatoes and some baby root vegetables seemingly cooked with the meat.

An order of barbecue ribs was again alarmingly large, and again perfectly tender. Excellent sweet corn and fries made it the perfect summertime dinner. Lamb sirloin had a sweet balsamic sauce, with a gratin of eggplant, roasted peppers and tomato.

But we often opt for the simple but winning sandwiches, especially their roast pork. It's wonderfully moist, slightly spicy Italian-style roasted pork, thinly sliced and piled on a crusty Portuguese style roll, with provolone and some bitter greens. A spicy roasted pepper is served on the side, if you wish to add another voice to this already boisterous chorus. It's a little sloppy, but possible to pick-up, or tear apart with fork and knife. It's my favorite version of this Philadelphia classic, partly by virtue of that wonderful roll.

That same crusty roll has gotten mixed reviews as a carrier of their very fine burger. I love it, but some prefer a softer cushion (...wimps.... ) It's a tasty burger, nicely crusty yet juicy.

A Flank Steak sandwich is a variation on the theme, with pleasantly chewy slices of flavorful medium-rare beef, with sautéed onions. And there's a roasted vegetable sandwich that was very flavorful with mushrooms, peppers, eggplant and greens.

They often run out of dessert, but if they still have something, get it! We've had great fruit cobblers and crisps, pies, crême brulée, even simple berries in cream, all a nice end to a hearty meal.

They do a nice brunch on Sundays, with the usual suspects: omelets, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, steak and eggs.

If I ran things, I'd make sure they always had Victory's "Golden Monkey" on tap, but I'm willing to tolerate its rotation off the taps for the changing variety of well-made local beers. There's always a good range of light and dark beers, hoppy ales, and sweeter lagers. Just don't ask for a Bud, there are no mass-produced beers, and nothing in a bottle, only local brews on tap.

This is one of the few places that gets the bar thing right, a comfortable, casual neighborhood place with a good vibe, good drinks, good food, and good prices. Now if I could just get one in my neighborhood....

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