Center City Sips

I know I know, pretty much anyone living in Philly already knows about this, but just in case your apartment is in a hole, make sure you get out and try Center City Sips.

Sips is a summer-long event at multiple restaurants which feature various cocktails, wine, and beer and 1/2 price appetizers on Wednesdays from 5-7pm.  Like restaurant week, this would be a cost-efficient and non-intimidating way to try out a new place, and maybe rediscover an old favorite.

I would personally suggest checking out Square Peg; you all know we’ve been there a couple of times already, and they are the new kids on the block so show them some love!  Their ruben quesadilla sounds pretty great, too.

Here is a full list of the participating restaurants
Follow @CCDSips for updates.

Now get out and get your drank on!

Sidecar Bar and Grille

Sidecar is a South Philly staple, and the vibe and food fit right in with its hip neighborhood.  Although we have gone to Side Car many times before, we have neglected to share a review with you all.  This seemed like the perfect time to do one, since Holly’s mom was in town, and we could get her two-cents in the post as well!

The Drinks

Sidecar keeps a pretty fresh and ever-rotating set of taps featuring a lot of area craft brews and specialties with some old standbys like PBR. They also have a respectable bottle list with beer offerings in all the major styles for those who aren’t feeling the draft list (myself during our latest visit).

Holly: Ithaca Saison

I have learned that Saisons can pretty much be a crap-shoot flavor-wise.  Some are more wheat-y, some are very bitter.  This one was very biter, which I’m not a huge fan of.  But it went well with my food so it became drinkable with dinner.

Josh: 1809 Berliner Weisse

I’m a big fan of the berliner weiss style. It’s the sourdough of beer in my mind: light, airy, and with a nice sour pluck to it. Plus, if you’re ever offered a syrup (natural fruit syrups like raspberry or Woodruff) don’t. A great beer to drink with your meal and especially good to go with the creative pub faire offered at Sidecar Bar and Grille.

The Food

Josh: Burger and Onion Rings

Sidecar makes a solid burger at an affordable price. They offer 3 different topping options all ranging from 10-12 dollars. I went with the cheddar, bacon and mushroom burger ($10) medium-rare w/fries (vs. mixed greens). The burger was great if a bit more on the medium side of medium-rare. It was pretty big as well but wasn’t really greasy at all ( a nice plus to not have my burger on my hand).  I also got way more fries than I remembered/was expecting. Their fries are a solid straight cut fries with the right amount of salt.

The onion rings were ordered because I forgot how much fries they give you with a sandwich @ Sidecar. These were huge, beer batter onion rings that were perfectly crisp & golden brown. They were fried expertly (no excess grease) and were as good as I remembered them being in the past.

Holly: Sweet Potato Soup (special) and Pork Carnitas

I wasn’t feeling all that hungry at this visit, so I thought I’d be safe with a soup and a small appetizer.  Foiled again.  The soup came in a bowl as large as my face,with beautiful and delicious bright orange soup contained.  The soup was savory and slightly spicy from the chipolte.  It was garnished with cilantro and sour cream.  I chose to pair it with a single pork carnita (an appetizer sold per piece).  The carnitas are juicy pulled pork, paired with jalapeno and pickled onions.  i was really craving the sharp pickled flavors, and they went great with both the pork itself and the silky smooth texture and flavor of the soup.  I was not, however, able to finish my meal by any stretch of the imagination.

Mom: Turkey Sandwich (Thanksgiving dinner on sourdough).

“The greens were excellent.  The sandwich was massive, and I had to bring half of it home! It’s excellent though” –Mom. Her sandwich really did look excellent.  And the bread was MASSIVE.  Her sandwich was almost 4 inches tall, and chock-full of the essence of thanksgiving.  I might have to try it sometime.

Current Dinner Menu

The Design

Sidecar, in all honesty, is a designed for (and probably by) hipsters.  It’s a little bit urban, a little bit too dark, and a little bit eclectic.  But truthfully, this is exactly what the food is like there so the decor actually works to support the whole vibe.  It’s pretty simple, but cute details like religious votives, melted vinyl record spice racks, and beer menus tacked into a cork board wainscot give the place just enough uniqueness to keep me interest.  The also just opened a new upstairs area, but we didn’t get to see it.  We will eventually, though, because Side car can be absolutely packed downstairs if it’s a weekend or during an event, and that extra space was badly needed.

The Overall Experience

Sidecar was and is usually a little noisy, but its a small space and it never gets out of hand. The food and the service are always spot on and there is always something good to drink on tap or to be mixed for you by their competent bar tenders (I’ve tested their gin cocktails in the past). It’s a great place to go with a friend or a small group, but too noisy for a date and even with the new upstairs I’d avoid going with a large group during peak hours.

The Receipt

Sandwiches around 10 dollars, snacks and appetizers under 10 with beers in the 5-10 dollar range definitely makes sidecar very affordable and an easy place to drink for awhile or just have nice big meal.  Our check was around $50 for the three of us.

Our Ratings

Drinks: 4/5

Food: 4/5

Design: 3/5

Service: 5/5

Budget: 5/5

Overall Experience: 4/5

Will We Visit Again:

Yes.  And we have already.  For a fun experience check out their Sunday Night Pork special “Pork Me Sundays”: everything with pork in it is half off!  They also offer an amazing brunch (with their namesake sidecar cocktail featured. – Note from Josh: It’s a girly sidecar w/ sugar on the rim which is not part of a traditional sidecar).

Restaurant Website

(And on a side note, be sure to Like both Sidecar and Kraftwork, their sister restaurant, on Facebook.  The two send the best ridiculous music videos to each other and it’s great for some laughs, besides the updates you get for restaurant events and menu additions).

Nodding Head

Nodding Head is a small brew-pub on Samson St in Center City.  It is nestled in among a lot of high class eateries and city bustle, but its second floor location makes it a quiet spot to grab a unique beer and a bite.

The Drinks

I did not order cocktails, though through all appearances Nodding head had a full bar that looked like it was straight out of the Winchester of Shaun of the Dead fame. Nodding head is best known for being a brewpub and winning lots of awards in Philly for their beers.  Holly and I both started out with their Ich Bin ein Berliner Weisse which is as they describe it “not a hefe-weizen.” It was a wheat, but had a nice bit of sour at the end and for mine I got it with the Woodruff syrup that definitely altered the flavor and made it almost taste like a hard cider.

Round 2 involved 60 Shilling for Holly and Grog for myself. Holly enjoyed the 60 Shilling Ale (a Scotch ale) and enjoyed it despite normally liking lighter (color) beers. The grog was a great english ale which is a style I have been having more and more of lately whenever I find it.

The Food

We originally decided to come to Nodding head to try their charcuterie platter, BUT SADNESS availed as they were sold out (we later found out that they no longer serve it).  We still got a great meal.

Josh:Pulled Pork Sandwich

Been on a bit of a pulled pork bend lately, but summer is the season for barbecue and it was the only thing on the menu that immediately jumped out at me. The pulled pork was probably the best I’ve had this summer (tried the pulled pork at Silk City and one other place I can’t recall). The sandwich was a good since, the pork was juicy and the barbecue sauce flavorful, and best of all they didn’t go overboard with the coleslaw (bonus points for a slice of melted cheddar too!).  Instead of fries, I got potato wedges and they really exceeded my expectations. They were crisp and cooked throughout and seasoned with paprika.

Holly: Moroccan Mussels

These little beauties come in either a 1/2 pot or full pot (2lb) portion.  The 1/2 pot is definitely enough food for one person, as the shellfish is accompanied by bread (an appropriately sized piece, I may add) and  fries in the Belgian tradition.  The Moroccan Mussels are flavored with ginger, garlic, cinnamon, tomato sauce, coriander, cumin and lemon zest–a delicious flavor adventure to the Mediterranean. The mussels were cooked well, and the broth was definitely worthy of being sopped up with the provided bread.  The fries were also seasoned well, but they came with a mayonnaise dipping sauce that seamed a bit heavy for the pairing.  I’m not always so hot on mayo dips for fries anyway having grown up on ketchup.

The Design

In the truest spirit of the “dive”, Nodding head is an achievement of run-down chic.  The bar is made to look like the stereotype of an old pub, with somewhat tattered wallpaper and lots of wood paneling.  I do happen to love the church-pews for seats and the large-scale tables.  The centerpiece of the restaurant is the large case of name-sake bobble heads at the top of the stairs, and the some-what visible beer stills toward the back of the dining area.  Nodding Head is surprisingly large, with a side dining room for busy days and many booths for groups.  It may not necessarily be beautiful to look at or innovative in design, but the space is well planned and it never feels cramped or unwelcoming.

The Overall Experience

This was our second go at the place as a couple (Holly had been many times with friends and enjoyed it, but the one time Josh went we received HORRIBLE service, to the point that Josh never wanted to go again.  We did decide to give it another go as it seemed like that fateful night had to have been a fluke.  To our pleasure it definitely was.  Our service this time around was great–polite, fast, and accurate (even entertaining at times).

The Receipt

5 dollar beers and food for around 10 dollars a person makes for an affordable outing. You could find beer for cheaper elsewhere but it’ll be PBR, Kenzinger, and Yeungling (all offense meant towards PBR) whereas at Nodding head you’re getting a great selection of craft brews in varying styles.

Our Ratings

Drinks: 3/5

Food: 4/5

Design: 2/5

Service: 5/5

Budget: 4/5

Overall Experience: 3/5

Will We Visit Again

Nodding Head is a great place to grab lunch or dinner for around 10 bucks and is basically Good Dog Bar as a brew-pub. While not a place to wow friends and family it is a go to for beer and burgers.