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City Tap House

I’ve been looking for an excuse to try City Tap House since Meal Ticket released pictures of the interior.

It looked like a perfect place to take my suburban parents for brunch, should they ever come into the city to visit. Well, I’m still waiting for that excuse, but I did have a friend looking to lunch today because she had a federal holiday.

It’s an intimidatingly big space with most of the seating near the kitchen and far from the door, so we grabbed menus and walked toward the back to meet the host. And then we wrangled for outdoor seating because it was a gorgeously sunny afternoon and the roof deck is beautiful. Sure, the green roof is pretty scraggly, but it’s still a lovely space. I want to come back at night just for the flaming pits of fire.

One of the reasons I had wanted to bring my mother here was that I was under the impression that in addition to having an impressive array of beers that they’d also had a good selection of bourbon/whisky/whiskey/scotch. I was wrong. Still – plenty of beer.

Neither of us opted for the beer, so I can’t speak to her beer knowledge, but our server was well versed with the food menu and quite helpful. Also, even though it was quite a walk for her, she was good at keeping our water glasses refilled (not an easy task for any waiter of mine).

I started with the chilli. It was made from actual pieces of meat, instead of ground beef, so it automatically levelled up in my standards. There were some kidney beans, but not so many as to seem cheap – just adding to the body. Actually, this chilli would have been very good cooked a little thicker and then put in a sandwich (like a sloppy joe, but even tastier). Decent marks, and it ended up being the highlight of the meal.

A coworker had recommended the wings, so we ordered them. The house ranch dip had chunks that made it look suspiciously like blue cheese dip, but the taste was mild and indeterminate. The wings, however, were plenty seasoned. They took a delicious mixture of spices and added quite a lot of sugar and salt to it – but mostly sugar. And I’m not talking a little brown sugar for caramelization, but it tasted more like spoonfuls of straight domino’s sugar.

My companion was excited about the bratwurst sandwich because it’s something that’s hard to cook at home properly when you aren’t getting out a grill and charcoal. Well, they weren’t getting it out, either. The philly-standard Amoroso roll (if it wasn’t, it was similar enough that they might as well) was lined with cheese. Who puts cheese on a bratwurst sandwich? They do. Only it’s not adding any flavor – we checked. It’s just sort of there to glue the sandwich in place. Both the sausage and the sauerkraut were bland, but oddly sweet (again). Or maybe they were sweet because the mustard sauce was sweet. We later asked for a dipping sauce, and this was suggested – only instead of tasting of mustard and a bit of honey, it was a syrup with some yellow-brown in it.

Right, so we had a choice of fries or salad to accompany the sandwich, and I asked the server for a recommendation as to which was best, and she enthusiastically recommended the sweet potato fries. And they were the right balance of crispy and tender, and even still warm by the time she’d walked them from the kitchen. They only came with plain ketchup, so we asked for another dipping sauce and ended up with the syrupy mustard. And while I believe that these are very exciting fries, they were also weirdly sweet. I’ve never before had fries that tasted like Halloween candy corn.

The whole meal was just too unrelentingly sweetened, but the experience was so lovely that we were sad to be disappointed by the food. I might yet come back to try their brunch, but it’s no longer at the top of the list.

Craig LeBan’s review in the Philadelphia Inquirer