The Dandelion: A Perfect English Pub in the Heart of Philadelphia
Real English pubs — that is, pubs that are actually located in England — tend to look a little different than their American counterparts. English pubs in America usually just look like your standard neighborhood barroom, albeit with a soccer game on TV and a Union Jack hanging somewhere. But in England, there are lots of pubs that are made up of many different rooms scattered across several floors, each with its own unique vibe. A true, honest-to-goodness English pub in this style is incredibly difficult to track down in the States, but legendary restaurateur Stephen Starr runs one in Philadelphia. It’s called The Dandelion, and we recently had a lovely meal there at the invitation of the restaurant.
The two-floor gastropub’s main bar is located on its ground floor, just past the heavy, wooden front door. It’s light-filled and about as classic as it gets, with a homey, comfortable vibe. Adjacent to that is a dining room with a cozy fireplace, and upstairs are several additional rooms, all of which have traditional, Victorian-inspired décor (seriously, the pub feels like it could easily be over 100 years old). But we suggest you ask for a table in the second-floor Dog Bar, which is exactly what it sounds like: A smallish room with an ornate, antique bar and walls covered with paintings, photographs, and illustrations of dogs — even the vintage curtains are dog-themed! Three globe lights over the bar spell out MAN’s – BEST – FRIEND, and even the brass rail is embedded with dog heads.
We visited for lunch, and sampled a variety of the pub’s classic British offerings.
The Welsh rarebit starts with thick-sliced buttermilk toast, which is topped with a creamy, cheesy, mustard- and Worcestershire-kicked cheddar sauce that gets nicely burnished under the broiler. It’s a perfect dish for a chilly day, and is an ideal companion to a pint of cask ale.
The “pint of prawns” came with seven perfectly-cooked chilled shrimp and tangy cocktail sauce.
The fish and chips is an absolute must-order, a big slab of line-caught cod encased in a light, crisp shell and served alongside some spectacular triple-fried french fries (erm, chips).
And a warm roast beef sandwich, topped with watercress, beef gravy, and horseradish and served on thick sourdough toast, was also delicious.
Other traditional highlights from the menu include lamb shepherd’s pie and bangers and mash, but there’s certainly something for everyone: Additional offerings include deviled eggs, house-made ricotta, house-made charcuterie, crispy chicken paillard salad, and tikka masala mussels. When we return, we’ll definitely try the burger and the macaroni and cheese, which are also very popular. The pub also offers a hearty weekend brunch (arrive on Sundays after 1 p.m. and you can order a traditional English sirloin roast, complete with Yorkshire pudding), and a traditional afternoon tea is offered daily from 3 to 5 p.m.
Visiting The Dandelion is like stepping into one of the finest pubs in London. Even though there may not be many pubs of this caliber stateside, we should be thankful that this one exists — and that its fish and chips are so good!
The meal that was the subject of this review was provided at no cost to the author.