With football season upon us, it’s always good to have a few game-day options at the ready, especially when you’ve got a crowd of thirsty men in tow. Places like South Philly Taproom (SPTR), where there’s no “scene,” and both the staff and clientele are pleasantly down-to-earth. As it turns out, the beer and well-crafted comfort fare alone are worth the trip.
Self-taught South Philly chef Michael Zulli ditched his gig at Bridgewater’s Pub in 30th Street Station to shake up SPTR’s kitchen, bringing with him a passion for game meats. A vegetarian for 17 years, Zulli returned to the land of carnivores with a single bite of boar bacon.
SPTR is sporting a new menu, but the now-legendary wild boar burger, the Rocky Mountain oysters and the poutine—French fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy—are still there, as are plenty of lighter dishes and vegetarian fare. Rather than settle for the comfort of onion rings with a fancy aioli, Zulli chars baby octopi whole and serves them on an oily bed of seaweed salad. The octopus—mildly seasoned with sambal, a spicy Southeast Asian condiment made from chile peppers and salt, and drenched in olive oil and lemon with a dash of parsley and lemon—was lovely, but the seaweed salad was fattened up and dragged down by too much olive oil.
Marinated for two days in tequila, and finished with a dusting of lime salt and agave nectar, the satay-sized ostrich skewers nicely complemented our heaping bowl of strawberry and Gouda salad. Using whole artichoke hearts would’ve made the fried artichoke gyro more manageable, and the tzatziki sauce tasted more like mayonnaise than yogurt. Mahogany-hued, wafer thin, flawlessly crispy and just salty enough, the potato chips were positively addicting.
SPTR’s selection of American craft brews—13 on tap and 80-plus bottles—includes beers from local breweries like the just-reopened Philadelphia Brewing Company.
1509 Mifflin St., Philadelphia; southphiladelphiataproom.com, (215) 271-7787.