Tuesday, April 6, 2010
After Caroline's great post on Roll-N-Roaster I thought I'd keep the retro theme alive. Before Steven Starr, Neil Stein, or even George Perrier, going out for a fancy dinner in Philadelphia meant either Bookbinder's for seafood or The Pub.
At one point in the 1960's there were five branches of The Pub in the Philadelphia area - the original in Pennsauken NJ, the "Little Pub" on 1421 Sansom Street (now Chris' Jazz Cafe) another location at 1522 Chestnut (photo of the back door on Sansom - I think - here), one on Allegheny Ave, and the mind - blowing Polynesian Pub Tiki at 18th & Walnut right on Rittenhouse Square. The Pennsauken location is sadly the only one left standing.
If you live in Philadelphia you've no doubt passed The Pub a million times, on the way to the shore or sitting on the Chinatown bus blasting through the South Jersey landscape of disintegrating bright yellow liquor stores, derelict strip malls and discount furniture emporiums.
This will not prepare you for the amazing mountain lodge meets medieval palace that lies within. Nothing has changed since 1960, which is mostly a good thing. Taxidermied deer heads, multiple suits of armor, shields and spears and coats of arms line the walls and up the gigantic cielings. The dining room holds about 500 people and the bar area alone is the size of most center city restaurants.
So what about the food? If you're expecting prime aged kobe beef with forest mushrooms, obviously this is not the place. But both times I've been here, my charcoal grilled steaks - wheeled to the table on a sizzling grill cart by diner-sweet waitresses, and ladled with a pool of no-frills beef jus- have been cooked perfectly. And the massive onion rings were crisp and delicious, and quite possibly not from a bag.
All entrees come with unlimited warm loaves of bread stabbed with a knife, your choice of potato side, and the "famous" salad bar. The pre-dressed Caesar salad is OK but I went for a big pile of iceberg lettuce and veggies drowned in ranch dressing. Everything was fresh which is more than I can say for most salad bars and the best part is the maple-leaf shaped wooden plate you pile your salads on.
I would suggest sticking with steaks, The prime rib and filet are decent and I would guess NY strip is also a good choice. The filet kabobs are more affordable but not as juicy. Ribs were OK but kind of tough and oversauced.. real Barbecue has ruined me for mediocre ribs anyway.
Half roast chicken might be something to try. Crab meat stuffed seafood, give it a shot if you want to roll the dice, that stuff scares the hell out of me. The biggest bummer are the twice baked potatoes that are lacking any sort of salt, fat, or flavor.. same goes for the fries and mash... But who cares? Order a giant drink (made with "1 1/2" shots of booze) and have a great goddamn time.
Part of me thinks that with a new chef, or even just a few tweaks to the menu (prime steaks, better sides and desserts, table-side caesar, even more giant retro cocktails) this place could be the best steakhouse in Philly.
But I doubt any restauranteurs have the stones to invest in a place like this without remodeling it into some douchey luxe-lounge nightmare. Which would scare away the loyal Jersey locals who pack The Pub every night. Just as well to leave it exactly the way it is.
7600 Kaighn Avenue
Pennsauken, NJ 08110
• Time Travel - Citypaper Review from 1998
• great collection of menus from The Pub Tiki