Almost Bookbinder’s

It is another iteration of restaurant week in Philadelphia, this time primarily Center City establishments. So we decided to try a couple. Tonight brought us to The Olde Bar, which is basically the bar area and a side room to what for over 100 years was Old Original Bookbinder’s, in the Old City section. The main dining room of the old place is basically closed off, which makes sense given it is more real estate than can be filled by your average restauranteur nightly in this era. (Might still be used for special events, not sure,) Likely why the original finally folded. But under current owner Jose Garces, it is worth a visit.

The pros include the lovely old bar area, with the wood paneling, red banquets, and tin ceiling. It has a great old-timey feel about it. You can just imagine people back in the 20s, 30s, 40s, or 50s dressed to the hilt, smoking and drinking. Food-wise, the current menu has been stripped to the basics. There is a good selection of oysters, and appetizers that harken to the old days. (When was the last time you saw Parker House Rolls on a menu? Do you even remember what Parker House Rolls are? I had to think about it.) But there are familiar selections, like New England clam chowder, wedge salad, snapper soup, fried oysters and deviled eggs, plus current faves like tater tots. The clam chowder was quite good, but I have to say I like the one I had at the Standard Tap pub in our neighborhood a bit better.

Entrees include some basic fish filets — I had a blackened sea trout and Pat went for snapper in a garlic butter. But the lobster and crab rolls sounded interesting, and there is always a burger that I suspect is quite good, or crab cakes … you get the picture. It’s not one of those places with 12 different fishes allegedly flown in daily, but everything we tasted was well executed. We would give it four stars out of five.

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