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Social Still: food and spirits in Bethlehem, PA

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The ol' restaurant-in-an-old-bank trick.  They're popping up everywhere. Bethlehem, PA, boasts at least two (Mint, is another, which is located in a 60s-style bank, a decidedly different vibe than the turn-of-the-last-century banks you typically see occupied by restaurants).

Social Still ups the game by not being not only a restaurant, but also a distillery. They're making gin, whiskey, vodka, rum, and not tequila. They're putting their spirits in some excellent cocktails, and on top of that, putting out some great, fun food.

Social still bethlehem
Social still bethlehem

Those cocktails include preferable ingredients like house-made bitters and fresh fruit juices. Some standouts were "The Herbalist" (House infused rosemary, thyme, and cucumber gin, lime, simple) and "The Jake" (rye, bitter orange liqueur, orange flower water, bitters, rye soaked cherries, pineapple). These cocktails may or may not be pictured here.

The menu tends to read toward the fun side of the spectrum, but I got the impression the team in the kitchen can indeed cook at a level beyond your expectations.

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We had a simple chopped salad, with marinated tomatoes, pickled red onion, and crispy chickpeas, and a chèvre vinaigrette. Notice I didn't say "tomatoes, onions, chicks peas, vinaigrette." They're doing things right here.

The mac & cheese jumped right off the menu. Smoked brisket, bourbon cheddar, pasta, and smoked tomato. This is not something I'd typically order. It sounds like a bastardization of a mac and cheese dish, and a waste of what should be great smoked brisket. I suppose I'm a mac & cheese purist (and for the love of all things holy, get that f*cking lobster out of your mac & cheese, chefs--it's 2017, not 1998). But I got the impression this dish would be more of a pasta dish which just happens to have smoked brisket and cheese, so throwing caution to the wind, I ordered it. And I was right. This bowl of food was delicious. Perfect comfort food right there boy.

Speaking of 1998, what the donkey is the truffle oil on the menu? The chef knows better. Or should. Please, please, please, get it off the menu, along with the truffle salt, and truffle dip, and serve those no doubt excellent fries with something of this earth. Hell, I'd rather you make your own ketchup (although I won't like it).

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Social still bethlehem-5

Fried calamari with cherry peppers was spot on. Sure, it's a typical dish you find everywhere. And it's typically screwed up. It's executed well at Social Still.

I think the real surprise to us was the scallop dish. Cooked "perfectly," as unoriginal people say. Served over a "Thai peanut noodle maki roll." I wasn't sure what this was going to be, but it turns out it was rice noodle sauced with a peanut dressing, rolled in seaweed. And it was quite excellent. Served with a creamy miso plate-schmear, and mouth-puckering pickled vegetables.

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Social still bethlehem-6

The room is airy and gorgeous. The staff was excellent and informed. They've obviously got some good management behind this place.

The beers are all local (yay!). And so are the wines (boo!). The cocktails were super. The bourbon on its own wasn't to my liking, unfortunately.  Or rather I should say that it didn't taste like most American bourbons taste. It lacks the sweet notes and smoothness. But if you're a fan of Japanese whiskeys (and I am), you might enjoy what they're doing here with bourbon if your expectations are in place.

Social Still is a located right by ArtsQuest at Steelstacks, and  is a short drive from the Sands Casino. And it has a parking lot. Well worth your consideration. 

Social Still : 530 East 3rd Ave : Bethlehem, PA : 610.625.4585