I've heard rumblings for a while about a new pub by the folks of South Philly Taproom--my all time favorite bar--and Brew (beer and coffeeshop). I had thought it was going to be in tune with the "fresh and local" craze, and I guess partly it is, but turns out that's not the apparent focus (It's more of a greasy sandwich and fries spot). American Sardine Bar is located in the somewhat sketchy Point Breeze section of South Philadelphia. The menu was designed by chef Scott Schroeder, of Taproom Fame, and proprieter of Philly hot dog cart Scott's Dogs. I've been twice since it opened and was not disappointed. The bar has a giant sardine can for a sign, and, as elsewhere in Philly, if you build it, hipsters will come. Though it was crowded, even on a Friday night you could grab a seat without too much trouble. The menu features an assortment of salad, soups, and sandwiches. The Pittsburgh cheesesteak is a cheesesteak topped with fries and slaw and a softer roll than you may be used to, all making for a great sandwich (my wife and I split one it was huge). The salt and pepper fries with dill dip are excellent, and the onion rings are perfect. The Walt Wit braised pork sandwich was good, but somehow didn't wow me. My wife had the Krab Kake, and in addition not liking the spelling, she was confused that there was apparently imitation crab meat in it (maybe that's why they use the 'K's?) My favorite menu item so far are the 2 buck sardine sandwiches. The sardines are prepped like a tuna salad and come on a little slice of rye (?). A great salty bite for an appetizer. The beer list, about 22 taps, was solid, and being as the place is in Point Breeze there are multiple $3 selections, and a bunch for $5. I had a few nice beers, notable were Brewdog's Double Pale Ale and Mikeller's Beer Geek Breakfast. A Boulder bourbon barrel beer was decent, too. A friend ordered a Manhattan and seemed pleased with it.
On the whole it's a really neat place. I'm likely to head back. A few minor issues. 1. For us, it's a far walk through a sketchy neighborhood, and there's not much point of getting on a subway for a handful of blocks. Not the bar's fault, but given the choice, SPTR is a bit closer and in Newbold, a safer 'hood. 2. I understand the vibe of not having paper menus and seating yourself, but I feel when it's crowded enough they should have a better seating system. They will take names if you ask, but it's still sort of like a bunch of folks hovering waiting for tables. Also, the tables are kind of big, so you wind up sharing them with other parties. It sounds weirder than it is, the tables really are huge. And you can't read the chalkboard menu from anywhere in the upstairs room so it's kind of a pain. Just give me a menu, you know?
I don't really have a rating system but I'd probably give it 4 stars out of 5. The food is more than solid, though none of the things I ate compare to the North Carolina BBQ chicken sandwich at SPTR. Still, Mr. Schroeder is a great chef. I kind of wish he'd open something "upscale" to see what he would do with more highbrow ingredients.
By the way, Happy New Year. Thanks to those of you who keep up with my ramblings on this blog. I'll try to post at a higher rate as one of my New Year's resolutions. But I averaged about 3 per month last year, which isn't all that shabby. Additionally, I would be happy to accept guest posts on any related or even unrelated topic that you would like to share. Maybe make your top 10 beer list, or write up a new whiskey you've tried, or a restaurant, etc.