There was nothing about a.bar that I didn't like.
I can typically find a few nitpicks in any restaurant. Crappy cocktail lists. Boring food options. Poorly executed food. Shit service. Uncomfortable bar. My list of complaints goes on. And on. Of this you are assured.
But nothing from my vast list of bitches applied to a.bar. The place is bright and comfortable. Plenty of room under the bar for my legs. The menu was short and concise and everything sounded good. The cocktails were appealing and well-crafted. Hell, two of them showcased amaro with a base, including one with tequila and Montenegro, and another with Mezcal and Meletti. Well done.
The bartender was good-natured and more than happy to indulge me when I asked him to just surprise me with a cocktail. He also suffered through my game of "let me guess what's in this one."
The food, also, is no slouch.
This was probably one of the best burgers I've ever had. That's not hyperbole. It was great. The meat had an assertive, beefy flavor, reminiscent of burgers with dry-aged beef--but at half the price. The bun wasn't too big for the burger--an all-too-common problem in the restaurant world. House-made pickles and bacon onion jam added some acid, sweetness and, well, bacon flavor. No stinkin' ketchup needed here. My only complaint would be that the mayo condiment was applied with a heavy hand. Not to the detriment of the burger's taste, but rather to the detriment of my face and napkin. Simply outstanding.
Fries that aren't crispy and that are seasoned are almost never for me. But not here. For some reason, those thick-cut pieces of potato with Old Bay Seasoning kept us going back for more. Good food for drinkin' right there.
We were warned that the pickle plate wouldn't actually contain "regular pickles." Which I thought was a cute warning. I mean, I guess I suppose there are people who rather than expecting pickled vegetables, would probably expect pickled cucumbers and become very confused when seeing cauliflower. Indeed, this was a wonderful plate of winter vegetables. Crunchy, salty, bright, and a great way to kick off a meal, while feeling all healthy and whatnot. We were able to revisit these pickles at the separate a.kitchen the next night, where they fry these suckers up.
While we were expecting a mix of body parts in the fried chicken, it appeared to be just wings. And I don't have a problem with that, other than the lack of disclosure. I wouldn't characterize this chicken as crispy, but I would characterize it as moist, well-seasoned, spicy, and delicious. I got the sense they might sous-vide this stuff or something. Frank Purdue doesn't know about no tender chicken like a.bar does. Topped with chopped hot peppers and herbs, with a decidedly Korean or SE Asian flavor profile.
This is a perfect little neighborhood spot in Rittenhouse Square. As we sat there, enjoying every aspect of the place, we couldn't help wonder why there are zero restaurants like it near us in New Jersey.
a.bar : 1737 Walnut Street : Philadelphia, PA : 215-825-7035 (they don't seem to answer the phone much).