Monday, February 20, 2012

Pub Review: Stateside

Stateside is the newest addition to the East Passyunk dining scene.  It's a great location, with big windows overlooking the fountain just below 11th street.  It's from the folks who do Green Eggs, maybe the best brunch place in the city with locations in Northern Liberties and South Philly.  I had high hopes for this place, let's see if it lived up.

The bar is the central feature of this spot.  The bartenders were very knowledgeable; one of them accurately pegged a patron as a sweet white wine drinker pretty quickly.  In the beer department, they have about 8 taps, with a thoughful selection of mostly locals but a few others, like Alewerks Porter from Williamsburg, VA, and Ithaca saison (my choice).  But this is not a standard beer bar.  They feature a huge whisky list, primarily american whisky, bourbon, and rye.  They had several bottles from the Van Winkle line and a few other real nice bottles (a shot of Pappy 23 ran you 60 bucks!), some standards at lower price points, and everything in between.  For me, the highlight of the bar was the cocktail list, which features about 8 cocktails, each costing either 8 or 9 bucks.  I had a clover club (a classic cocktail), and my wife had a sort of riff on a mint julep.  They were both very well made, and thus a great value.  I like the fancy cocktail bars and speakeasies elsewhere in the city, but Stateside showed just how overpriced alcohol can be.  I've definitely had a shoddy manhattan or two and paid upwards of 12 bucks a pop in this town. 

The food here was simply fantastic.  They have some larger plates, but really this is a small place joint.  They recommend 2-3 per person.  A quick rundown.  The cheese plate featured some artisanal cheeses with a lot of thought put into the accompainiments, e.g. blue cheese from Vermont with bacon caramel sauce.  The foie gras mousse on toast was good but somehow tasted just like Corn Pops breakfast cereal.  A side of house made pickles was good but unnecessary.  The beet salad was my least favorite dish, it was tasty and hearty but I like my beets a little crispier.  There was a smoked trout salad which was very delicious.  The maple pork belly with grits and a cider jus was delightful, and my wife's favorite dish.  But my favorite dish was the steak tartare.  It was topped with a raw quail egg, and each forkful was so salty, meaty, and wonderful.  For dessert, an apple cider type donut with candied bacon and a vanilla caramel glaze.  Out of this world.

We waited an awful long time for our table, and the bar is not exactly roomy.  Some folks were quite rude about pushing past us to get seated at the bar while we had been waiting.  But the host was so apologetic and attentive, taking our coats and repeatedly checking in with us.  He wound up comping our bar drinks, and we got a nice table so in the end the wait was worth it.  As far as price, we went all out, with 3 drinks each, dessert, and the maximum recommended dishes and got out for 100 bucks (before tip, and keep in mind 2 of the drinks were free).  I think you could do it quite a bit cheaper and still leave full and have an enjoyable experience (the plates are smallish but not so small as some other tapas places).  The food itself was superb, sort of a stepping stone between gastropub and high end restaurant.  I look forward to my next visit, for sure.

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