Jose Garces’ Olde Bar Adds Flavor to Philadelphia’s Old City
With two restaurant openings in the first half of the year, chef Jose Garces is making strides with his restaurants and the overall quality is joining in for the ride. Located in the Old Original Bookbinder’s spot, The Olde Bar is bringing the intimately designed building back to life.
The food choices populate only the first few pages in the front of the heavily bound menu, and the rest comprises of lists and descriptions of cocktails and assorted liquors. With an apron tightly tied around the waist, the bartender listens intently on what you’ve decided to drink and begins to craft your chosen cocktail. The aprons give the bartenders a look of a chemist – sans goggles – with the cocktail menu posing as their periodic table and the counter as their chemist’s station. After the drinks are mixed, the presentation is exquisite with perfectly-placed garnishes.
To me, a perfectly crafted cocktail is born when all the ingredients are well blended together so the drink doesn’t taste like a shot, but will certainly have the effect of one after imbibing. The Olde Bar’s cocktails are sweet, but they lacked the full impact of a well-liquored drink. However, the cocktails here are made with time, precision, and respect for patrons while they enjoy the whole experience consciously, which is something to be appreciated.
When you come to The Olde Bar, you definitely do not want to leave with an empty stomach. If you’re a lover of seafood and fried foods, this is the place for you. From beef fat fries to bread bathed in cheese, you might consider donning elastic-waisted pants when coming to dine. My favorite course was the simple $20 crab cake, which crumbled as my fork cut into it. With little drops of yellow hued puree on top, the lemon flavor complemented the crab just enough without overpowering the flavor. The Welsh rarebit, dowsed in cheese, was fantastic as were the Olde Bar fries that tasted like beef fat fries soaked in mac-n-cheese sauce; I’m not complaining, but I shouldn’t have had worn a belt. The Brussels sprouts were also nice, but I would have enjoyed them more without the excess salt in the sauce. On the other hand, the Nasketucket oysters went down smoothly and were a nice palate cleanser before the crabmeat filled, lobster-buttered, cheese fondue sauced the Olde Bar fries were generously loaded with was placed on the table.
Chef Jose Garces never ceases to amaze my taste buds, and his staff is almost ubiquitously enthusiastic about the food and service. The Olde Bar is a luxurious splurge, but this saloon stays true to its roots and adds a bit more flavor to Old City.
Open from Sunday to Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight, and Friday to Saturday from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., head over to The Olde Bar and enjoy some filling foods and classic cocktails.