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.

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Good Dog Bar

Like Dogs? Like Bars? Then this is– actually you can’t bring a dog here, but you can look at lots of nice dog pictures as you enjoy a beer and a burger at this great center city bar. Located on 15th street between Walnut and Locust, Good Dog Bar is the antithesis of the big name steak houses and celebrity restaurants that inhabit the area (nothing against them though!). You can get a meal for around ten bucks in a very cozy themed dive setting.

The Drinks
Good Dog has a dozen beers on tap (8 standards and 4 rotating) with another 2 dozen assorted bottles and cans covering domestics, crafts, and imports.  Holly and I both had beers and they were served quickly. They also make cocktails though these vary wildly.Of the 4 times I’ve gone to Good Dog over the years I’ve only gotten one once. That cocktail was the Bob Loblaw (of Arrested Development fame): a margarita with pineapple juice and jalapeño infused tequila that was an experience. Most of the time its silly vodka cocktails that probably taste like candy. As with valor, discretion is the better part of imbibing.

Beer Menu

Cocktail Menu

The Food

Appetizer: Truffled Cheese Steak Empanada

These sound really lame (like cheesesteak eggrolls) but delivered for above both of our expectations. The empanadas were crisp, not greasy, and the dough tasted slightly sweet. The truffled cheddar cheese and sliced ribeye were an amazing combo. Equally important was the bourbon infused Rogue Chocolate Stout dipping sauce that cut through the richness of the empanadas.  Hands down the best appetizer in a long time.

Main Courses

Josh: Roast Beef ( From the Specials menu)

Sounds like something out of the golden-age of Diners, at first appearances this sandwich looked like a regular roast beef sandwich that I could whip up at home. This sandwich however sports their own seasoned and roasted beef with a delicious mustard, sweet peppers, and swiss on nice sourdough bread. It came Good Dog’s signature fries (shoestring cut mix of sweet potatoes and regular potatoes) and overall it was a good meal.

Holly: Fried Tomato BLT

A ate this sandwich as a shout-out to my Mom.  As long as i can remember, she would almost always get the BLT at any restaurant (and when she went to Good Dog, guess what she had?).  This tasty variant was made with perfect sourdough toast, basil mayo, and of course the fried Tomato–which I was sadly kind of disappointed in.  The words “fried” and “tomato ” are almost always separated by “green” for a reason.  The crunchier texture and acidic bite of a green tomato would have been refreshing in this sandwich, but the fried ripe tomato just didn’t deliver like i wanted it to.  The flavors were great–it was mostly a texture issue that contributed to my overall lack of satisfaction with this entrée.

Food Menu

The Design

You want a dive?  Good Dog is the definition of dive.  The best part about the ‘decor” of most dives is the old-man-club appeal of wood paneling, dark colors, and dim lighting.  Good Dog delivers on all of these points, and also provides a plethora of adorable doggie portraits to view while you munch on tasty treats.  Good Dog is definitely a step up from your standard center city dive, but all the charm that you would expect is still present.


The Overall Experience

We went for an early dinner this time, and our service was very punctual.  Sometimes it can be incredibly busy at Good Dog, so if you go during normal dinner hours or on a weekend, expect to wait for a seat and your food.  This time we walked right in and sat down, which was great.  Our waitress was sweet and our food came almost too quickly, if you can even complain about that.  It was a good time, as always.

The Receipt

Good Dog is pretty affordable.  We didn’t keep the receipt this time (shame on us) but it was under $50 for a meal and drinks for the two of us.

Our Ratings

Drinks: 3/5

Food: 4/5

Design: 3/5

Service: 5/5

Budget: 5/5

Overall Experience: 5/5

Will We Visit Again: Yes. Good Dog has good food at good prices and every time we’ve been there the service has been great. Not a place that will blow your mind with its offerings, but a great place to relax and grab a bite and a beer.

KraftWork

Kraftwork

This Fishtown foodie haven is the much hipper (and possibly more refined) younger sister to South Philly’s Sidecar Bar.  Kraftwork has everything that a gastro-pub should: great beer selection, interesting bites, and great service.  This joint can (and will) run with the best of the Center City luxury eateries, but it’s down-to earth atmosphere, wait-staff, and clientele make it a great place to try items that may otherwise seem out of reach.  Its non-intimidation factor means that aspiring foodies can dip their toes in the world of weird, while providing a safety-net of familiar options to run back to if the more adventurous menus are too daunting.

The Drinks
Kraftwork is known for their large selection of beers on tap (24 at any given time) which come in varying pour sizes depending on the beer (ranging from 8oz pub glasses to 64 oz growlers). Kraftwork uses a unique system of pairing second set of 24 kegs that will automatically go once the beer on the first list kicks.  This is noted on the menus, which makes it easy to tell what is available at the time of ordering.  In addition to a really great beer selection, Kraftwork has a few cocktails on the drink menu that they also change up about as often as the menu does which tend to have interesting names to match their interesting ingredientsI had The Poe (Dry oaked Gin, Dubonnet, Orange Curaçao, Pechaud’s Bitters, and Absinthe) and it was a well made cocktail.  The Gin was up front (as it should be) and all the other flavors followed, mingling, but each distinct. Cocktail service was fast and our bartender obviously knew what she was doing.  Unfortunately for any of you reading this the Poe is no longer on the menu for you to try, but I would suggest either the J.F. Sebastian (a shout out to Blade Runner) or the Montgomery Scott.

Current Drink Menu (As of Monday May 16th)

The Food

Appetizer: Corn Fritters (from the specials menu)

The fritters piqued our interest and we tried them. They were appropriately sized for an appetizer and perfectly fried (crispy with no excess oil). The came plated with a black sauce which we couldn’t deduce what was in it, but it certainly tasted good and added to the fritters over all as did the greens garnishing the plate.  This was a great appetizer to have with your opening drink and set the stage for the meal to come.

Main Courses

Josh: Burger with Cheddar and Bacon-Onion Jam

Usually Holly is the burger aficionado and I’m the one that tries the other sandwiches or plates at a gastropub, but we mixed things up this time. The menu offers you a couple choices when you craft your burger from the cheese to 1 free topping and of course you can add more depending on what you like. I went with the 2 year aged cheddar (cheddar is by far one of the best burger cheeses) and the bacon onion jam (had to see how that paid off). The burger was cooked exactly to order (I always order medium rare) and the cheese and jam (little crunchy from the bacon and sweet from the onions) did not disappoint. I got the same herb fries as Holly and really enjoyed them.

Holly: Short Rib Sandwich

This beast of a sandwich came piled high with deliciously tender slow-cooked short rib, poblano cream, pepper jack cheese, and fried onions.  Firstly, the meat was perfect: fall apart, juicy, and flavored just right.  But seriously, the best part was that poblano cream.  it added just enough spice to make the sandwich interesting, and it cut through the richness of the short rib.  As with all sandwiches at Kraftwork, the short rib comes paired with either herbed fries or a salad.  If you’re not trying to watch your figure, go for the fries.  They are the perfect match-stick cut, with great texture and a really interesting flavor from the herbs (and German-style mustard aioli).

Dessert: Chocolate Terrine

This aptly named dessert comes with raspberry coulis and salted walnut brittle.  A terrine, for those who don’t know, is usually constructed of meat purée and seasonings, and formed into a little brick to be served with toast and cheese. Well, this was basically a chocolate version of that (and with better texture).  The dense little chocolate “brick” melted perfectly in our mouths, and when paired with the slightly sour raspberry sauce and salty brittle, it became a harmony of opposites to quell the most discerning foodie into submission.  Salty-sweet, crunchy-dense, clean and rich flavors and textures marry to create the perfect little ending to a great meal.

Current Dinner Menu (As of Monday May 16th)

The Design

Kraftwork’s menu is full of items that are constructed from familiar elements presented in an interesting way, and their interior mimics that notion.  One wall features the almost-stereotypical crumbling brick wall, but the plaster damask pattern (designed to look like it was crumbling as well) makes a ubiquitous design feature into a piece of art.  What would normally be extremely uncomfortable backless bar stools are custom-designed (by a sculpture artist) with ergonomic seats and personal foot rests.  Structural I-beams are the support for industrial lamps that look like they come straight from the mind of Dr. Seuss.  And a GIANT saw with laser-cut hops in the blade calls attention to the focus of the place: a central U-shaped Bar made of perforated steel and wood.  This is one time that I wont criticize an industrial interior: Kraftwork’s designer got it just right with elements that make the urban industrial look cool again.

The Overall Experience

Kraftwork more than delivered on all of our expectations. We went in expecting good food, hipster staff and customers, and a decent beer selection and got all of that, but not quite in the way we expected.  The food was the highlight of the night (I thought that the beer would be – Josh) as both the appetizer and the dessert were more than their menu descriptions belied. Although a good portion of the staff and customers were hipsters, there were some normal middle-aged couples  and our bartender looked like she could have worked in just about any kind of place. The beer selection is as good as it looks,  but despite trying out a beer made with rye (which was delicious)  it was Josh’s cocktail that took prize  above all of our beer selections in a restaurant that’s supposedly all about beer.  Everything about the outing was enjoyable and we can equally recommend it for a date, ladies night, or guys night out.

The Receipt

Appetizer, two dinners, 4 drinks, and dessert!  We managed to get all of this for  just under 65 dollars (and we weren’t even trying to be thrifty).  Kraftwork is a really great place to grab a bite (or a beer) on a budget.

Our Ratings

Drinks: 5/5

Food: 5/5

Design: 4/5

Service: 5/5

Budget: 5/5

Overall Experience: 5/5

Will We Visit Again: Yes.  They have an ever-changing specials menu and the beers are also regularly rotated.  Not only was the service, food, and drink selection great, but it was easy to get to and super easy to find parking. Be sure to check out their Facebook page for the most up-to-date food and drink menus!

Visit The Kraftwork Website

Dos Segundos Cantina

Dos Segundos Logo

This charming little bar/restaurant is a Northern Liberties hot-spot, and not just because of the hipster-friendly décor and loud early 80’s punk soundtrack. Dos Segundos is exactly what we always expect of a Tex-Mex restaurant: bright, fun, delicious, and cheap! We even got to sit outside on this visit, which only added to the atmosphere. We must admit that the service may have been a little slow this time around, but we must forgive them because it was a Saturday night, and there was a wait of over an hour to get a table (after we sat down of course—we got the LAST table in the place!). We highly recommend Dos Segundos, and this is why:

The Drinks

I was very pleased with both the drink selection and my drinks. As you would expect they have a good selection of cervezas, but I did not come to a Mexican place to drink beer, Oh No, we’re talking tequila. In terms of just straight up tequila they have probably around 80 different bottles, as well as an offering of some very affordable flights focusing either on distillery, style, or region. I was intrigued, but as DD I held off and got some margaritas. Yes, you can get your adult slurpee margaritas here in a variety of flavors from passion-fruit to watermelon, but more importantly they have a dozen signature margaritas that are actual cocktails at only 7 dollars a glass. Its important to note that all of the specialty margaritas have a suggested upgrade that adds a better tequila if you so choose (most at around 10 dollars total). This time around I went with the well tequila, and while I don’t know what their well tequila is, it certainly is decent. I had the El Dorado (Tequila, Gran Marnier, lime, and pineapple juice) and the El Hevidor (Tequila, lime juice, and grapefuit soda). Both were well mixed and all the flavors balanced so  you could taste the tequila without it being overwhelmed by the fruit flavors.  Dos Segundos is definitely a place a would recommended for a guys night out or just drinks if you’re not hungry (though you may be later).

Drinks Menu

The Food

Before you even order, your waiter will provide you with free chips, salsa, and salsa verde. And these aren’t just some Tostidos and a can of Pace. The salsas are house-made and absolutely delicious, and the chips actually taste like the corn they are made from. The red salsa has a slight chipotle heat, and the salsa verde is fresh, bright, and actually tastes “green.” What great way to start a meal.  Also–if you go there for just drinks the chips keep coming (like the stereotypical peanuts or pretzels at a bar).

Appetizer: Nachos Pecunos

Pecunos may mean “small” in Spanish, but at Dos Segundos it means “big enough for 2-3 people.” I am afraid to even see the Grande size because the epic amount of deliciousness might be overwhelming. These nachos are heaping with cheese, beans, jalapenos, crema, roasted corn and your choice of proteins if you so desire. Somehow, even under this mess of tasty ingredients, the chips remain refreshingly crisp, and they are able to hold your inevitably huge scoops of tasty toppings all the way from the center of your table to your mouth.

Main Courses

Josh: Brisket Burrito (off the Specials menu)

I’d had a carne mechada burrito the first time I ate at Dos Segundos which was great, and when you order a burrito off the normal menu you can add specific ingredients to your liking (jalapenos, cheese, etc.). This was not that; this was magical deliciousness. The brisket was as good as brisket at a barbecue place and while the burrito had avocado and crema in it (both ingredients I usually prefer to go without) I was perfectly fine with it all. The burritos are huge and are a meal unto themselves. They must be eaten with a fork and knife–though this doesn’t stop them from wrapping it in tinfoil 3/4 the way up, as if a mere mortal could even attempt to eat this with their hands.

Holly: Carne Asada

This is off of the Platos Fuertes (main course) menu, and thus was a little pricier than most of their other items, but man was it worth it. A large spice-rubbed steak, topped with pico de gallo, pickled cactus, drunken beans, and fried sweet plantains. The steak was perfectly cooked (although if I were to order it again, I would take it medium rare rather than medium) and the spice rub was deep and flavorful—but not overtly “Mexican” in its profile. The drunken beans immediately made me say “MMMMMMMM” when I tasted them, and the pickled cactus was the perfect bright acidic bite to cut through all of the richness in the beans and the steak. The fried sweet plantains were soft and tasted almost like a caramelized banana, except slightly more savory. It was almost like my dessert came on the same plate as my meal! Now THAT is a good dinner.

Dessert: Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake

Okay, you’re probably thinking “What? No Tres Leches? No Sopapilla?” No. I (Holly) don’t like Tres Leches (and this makes me sad – Josh), and we will go back for the Sopapilla. Trust us on this: the shortcake is amazing! Tier upon tier of light yellow cake, layered with cream and strawberry jelly, topped with a rich chocolate shell and chocolate covered strawberries, with fresh blueberries (and they were amazing blueberries in of themselves. I grew up on Jersey roadside produce so I know – Josh) and strawberries on the side. It’s a good thing we decided to share this—our piece was easily an eighth of the whole cake and the was probably 6 inches tall.

And I’ll tell you a secret that’s even more amazing than the tastiness:

THE CAKE WAS VEGAN.  shhhh DON’T TELL

Yes. vegan. Besides the Tres Leches and Sopapilla which are made on-site, the variety of tasty cakes and desserts come from a local vegan bakery. Now, don’t go running for the hills. You would never know it were unless the waitress told you.  It was a great way to end a delicious meal.

Dinner Menu

The Design

If I was going to seriously review the design of a place like this, I would be required by my training and sensibilities to tear the décor apart. But that’s what’s so great about dives: they are SUPPOSED to be dive-y! Dos Segundos is too crowded, too loud, too uncomfortable, and kind of cheesy—and that’s why it’s so great. The sign itself looks like it’s been there for 100 years with peeling paint and barely readable text. The interior is swathed in primary colors that immediately let you know that your food is also going to be bright and fun. I especially love the bar, which looks like a mish-mash of wooden moving boxes they had left over slapped up on the wall. This industrial “non-design” look is very popular in Philadelphia right now, but it often isn’t right for the kind of food you will be eating. A 5-star restaurant that makes me to sit on a cheap wooden chair in low light next to an unfinished wall and then expects me to pay 100 per plate was not thinking their restaurant experience through. At Dos Segundos, the industrial no-frills interior is exactly where I want to be when I enjoy the best nachos I’ve ever had while drinking pitchers of sangria.

The Overall Experience

We mentioned earlier that the service was slow. This happened because our waiter missed our table, and we ended up being served by what seemed to be the head waitress. She was great—polite, well-spoken, and every time she came to our table and saw that we hadn’t received our orders yet, she immediately went to find out why. She even complimented Josh on his Street-Fighter reference t-shirt on our way out. She provided us with great service, considering she was probably managing a wait-staff and serving elsewhere in the restaurant as well.

Since we were sitting outside, it was not as loud as it sometimes is in the restaurant itself. This made it much easier to have a nice conversation. The people watching (and puppy watching) is also fabulous in Northern Liberties—and if you do happen to own a pooch, you’re welcome to bring him to sit outside, and the restaurant will treat him to a doggie biscuit! How sweet.

I hear tell that there is also Brunch offered every day.  We’ll have to make a return visit and report on that.  I’m sure that Dos Segundos is just as amazing for brunch as it is for dinner.

The Receipt:

And all of this great experience for less than $100. Our total was only $74 for the both of us to have drinks, appetizers, a full meal, and dessert. Dos Segundos is not only delicious, but completely budget-friendly.

Our Ratings

Drinks: 5/5

Food: 5/5

Design: 3/5 (Hey, it might be great for a dive, but it’s still a dive)

Service: 3/5 (We think this was an unfortunate mis-hap.  Our first visit our service was great)

Budget: 5/5

Overall Experience: 4/5

Will We Visit Again: Definitely, and you should, too because the specials change daily, and there is always something delicious to be offered up in the way of a ceviche, a taco, and a burrito.

Visit The Dos Segundos Website