Race Street Cafe
Taps: 13 / Bottles: 20
Cask: Y / Beer-to-Go: N
Ratings: 16 | Reviews: 13 | Show All Ratings:
4.1/5 rDev -2.1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5 | $$
Fact finding mission Phillybound, it’s been a while since we’ve done so. Today, we ran the long long longest way around, as we saw the posted ‘1 hour delay between exits 9 & 8’ signs on the dirty Turnpike heading south towards it. Jumped off and ran Route 1, never a treat on a Sunday afternoon or ever, but dealt and done...
Circled and parked a sweet slander spot just up the block. Through the tables two out front, in & up; it’s actually a tiny little place. A wrapping ½ a hex wood topped bar with a lip, wood panel base, & a foot box; seating for a dozen on high backed chairs. Brass barbell tap tower holding a dozen + a stand up Franziskaner ceramic piece with 2 more, and a hand pump alongside the main tower on the corner. Barback corner holds wood shelving units off the corners, their units with inlayed baby spots. Tiered booze on the center of one wall below a mirrored panel, and more shelved booze to both sides. Just shy of a dozen and a half bottled selections above, and large format stuff (Duvel & Grolsch 3L, giant glassware, bottles, etc) displayed atop. Glassware of all sizes and shapes shelved and wines on their sides boxed on the side wall.
Brick walls & the far wall painted over wood slat lower & trim. Wood slat floorings, and a slightly arched wood rafter ceiling with a skylight piece off the bar. Dark duct work, spinny fans & drop thimble lamps tracking the bar and adjacent seating. Blackboard action around the barback bend listing tap selections, and a 4x6 board on the back wall listing dinner specials just now. Light brewery mirrors, tins, & signage, some good local art & bridge pics. Flats in the corners, front & rear; golf here, football there.
Oddball lamppost in the middle of the room and a forward wood stove between the red curtained windows; one with tall vertical narrows & a dangling plant potted above, the other with swinging barnlike doors over panel windows and a planter there. Them windows offer some nice views of the Ben Franklin Bridge out front. 8 low tables & 4 hightops across the room and a stairwell surprise to the bathroom lined with old Philly black & whites.
14 mix & match taps printed on a 4 x 6 horizontal blackboard chalked. A single PA player (Sly Fox O’Reilly’s Stout), some craft near (Allagash White & Confluence, Ommegang Rare Vos, Great Lakes Dortmunder & Smoked Porter), some craft far (Lagunitas New Dogtown Pale Ale & Lucky 13, Sierra Nevada Torpedo, Firestone Walker Double Jack IPA, Elysian Bete Blanche Tripel), a few imports Germ (Ayinger Brauweisse, Bitburger Pils), and a single cider (Jack’s Hard Cider). And let us not forget the cask Yards IPA. The Dortmunder from Great Lakes was tasting anything but, but the Allagash Confluence was wonderfully brettiful.
And bottles (the board listing ‘featured’) Lovely Orval, Sam Smith Organic Lager, Apricot, & Chocolate Stout, Unibroue La Fin Du Monde, Chimay Blue, 3 ciders, Narragansett Lager, macro & import meh. Orval runs a very cool $7.50 = tax, wow. Almost got one for the sheer novelty. And wines, too. Red & white, 5 of each, + a sparkling Cava.
Started with the saffron shrimp chowder, red, served with bread, it was good stuff. And then the Race Street Burger (½ lb angus, cheddar, bacon, L, T, O, & P, dealt medium, on a bun that held up to my abuse of consumption), and I’ll play tater tots, please. Witz had the Spanish burger topped with a fried egg, served with Spanish tater tots, of which he said ‘lovely’.
Golf & football on the tele and mostly Motown oldies tunes today. Chill Sunday lunching crowd of grownups; a neat quiet warm comfortable place. Good tap list & fine grub. I’d do this again…
01-16-2014 21:10:47 | More by slander
3.93/5 rDev -6.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4 | $$
Really nice place on the boundary of Olde City in Philly. It's very small and tidy, with a very intimate atmosphere; bar seats about 12-15 people, with a total capacity of maybe 50 people. They have a good, ever-changing food menu, featuring some standard pub fare and seafood, and a nice variety of rotating beers on tap. They usually engage in beer events. Staff can be a bit distant, but are typically knowledgeable, and willing to chat with you about beer, should the opportunity arise.
I need to frequent this place more.
04-29-2011 20:57:29 | More by Rifugium
4.18/5 rDev -0.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4 | $$
The recent Veteran's Day holiday gave me the opportunity for a long weekend in Philadelphia. Following the required touristy things, such as a tour of Independence Hall and an aimless stroll through Elfreth's Alley, it was time for lunch and around the corner from the aforementioned Elfreth's Alley loomed the Race Street Café. I had yet to try this Center City venue.
This is a hidden gem that is far from the normally beaten path; situated across the street from a vacant lot and block away from the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, this beer bar-lounge is worth a trip. Enter the door and climb the stairs. It is especially small and informally cozy. The single room is an L-shaped space that seems no larger than your average living room, if the average living room was furnished with a C-shaped bar nestled beneath a large skylight. Incidentally, the restrooms can be accessed down the stairway at the end of said bar. Along the front are a few windows looking out onto Race Street, with the occasional PATCO train carrying passengers across the bridge to New Jersey. (But that's their problem.)
Above the bar is the chalkboard listing the café's fifteen well selected, draft choices, regional crafts and otherwise. Not overwhelming, but very interesting. During this long and leisurely lunch, the following were gloriously quaffed: Paulaner Oktoberfest, Great Divide Baltic Porter, Centennial IPA, O'Reilly's Stout and some nicely hopped Racer 5 on cask.
The service was superb as the bartenders passed the "Water Test." (Is the water glass automatically refreshed?) As for the food: the grilled cheese and jalapeno brioche was hearty and filling. The folks at Race Street Café do a great job to say the least. The one regret? I did not find this place sooner.
11-15-2010 22:06:54 | More by jjboesen
4.95/5 rDev +18.1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 5 | $$
This is my go to bar. The ever-rotating draft and big bottle selection never disappoints. From local staples like Stoudt's and Sly Fox to some rarer Elysian and 21st Amendment beers, I am always able to check something off of my list. Lines are always clean.
The food is top of the line. The regulars like the Race Street Burger (recommend medium with cheddar bacon and jalapeños) or the buffalo chicken sandwich or wings are all fantastic. The specials are out of this world. Brunch features the greatest breakfast in the world... Juevos San Lucas. You will be impressed.
The staff are incredible. Nice, funny and knowledgeable.
02-10-2010 22:44:49 | More by kgmcdonald
4.43/5 rDev +5.7%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5 | $$
Ever since Ludwig's Garten closed more then a year ago, the Race Street Cafe has been my go-to bar of choice. This is odd because I went to Ludwig's for the food and beer (and roaches), but I go to Race Street because it is easy parking, easy on the wallet, and overall just plain easy.
The atmosphere is very good, although I'll give it an exceptional grade just for the heck of it. The place itself is small but does the whole seasonal thing with open doors in spring/summer/fall and a wood burning stove in winter. The other customers are all good folks. Not too trendy, not too low-brow, just good solid folks. Too many Philly bars are cater to one specific group, this is not a problem at Race Street.
The service is always very good. Mind you, I don't think they are Beer Advocate-level connoisseurs, but they serve you well. I would not think to ask them questions about a beer, but they will get you a refill 10x faster then some other more pretentious places that I will not mention.
The food is good to great. I've never been disappointed once. The app selection could be expanded, but they offer a very sold menu with great specials, none of which are overpriced.
The beer selection is very good, and constantly changing. They offer ~12 beers on tap and have 1-4 new beers each week and probably only 4-5 beers which I would say are regulars. With that said *none* of the beers offered are macro-brews. Never, not once. What is offered is typically 80% craft brews with 20% German imports.
If there is one suggestion I can make, it is to *INCREASE THE BOTTLE SELECTION*!!! 12 beers on tap is very good, but if you would please offer 12 to 36 bottles that would be spectacular!
02-15-2009 21:56:05 | More by MarcGetty
4.45/5 rDev +6.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4 | $$
A great low key place with a lot of class. The bar staff is awesome and always done with speaking about beer. The food is great. The beer draft selection is always changing almost every week new beers to try. It is small so big groups might want to try else where. But groups of 4 to 5 and settle down for the night and eat and drink for a great time. Also on 1st Fridays in philadelphia this bar is packed, so i would stay away during that time.
only two tv, so if you want to watch sports i don't know if you should go here.
Overall great bar, great good, great beer.
12-18-2008 16:36:36 | More by doctchad
4.2/5 rDev +0.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4 | $$
This is one of my favorite places to stop in and have a beer in Olde City. It doesnt have the greatest quantity of beers on tap, but the place has a very good atmosphere.
Walk up a few steps to the L-shaped bar on the left, a handful of tables and booths throughout, with a wood-burning old-style furnace going in the front. In the warmer months they open up the front for some sidewalk seating. The chalkboard will always give you whats on tap, and they always have a couple Stoudts, Yards, Victory, Lancaster, as well as Bells and some Great Divide. Chimay and a few other German hefes usually complete the list. Beers are typically priced for a Philly restaurant, and the food isnt too expensive (burgers are about $8 or $9). Service is very good, quick and attentive. Cool art on the wall changes regularly as its for sale. Located right underneath the Ben Franklin Bridge, this is a good spot to hit if youre in the neighborhood, and only a short walk from Eulogy Tavern and Triumph Brewery.
01-03-2008 21:01:13 | More by IgnatiusReilly
4.21/5 rDev +0.5%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | $$$
This was a tiny place with an angular bar that began at the top of a short flight of wood steps. The interior boasted exposed brick, ducting, and wood beams, as well as a huge skylight. There was a working wood stove against the front wall. In order to use the lavatories, one had to go all of the way aft, turn left and descend a flight of steps. Not a lot to say about the physical layout, but we did have a great server.
Chalkboards listed beers, wines, and food specials. They offered twelve (12) taps and our visit they consisted of two (2) Yards products, O'Reilley's Stout, LNCBC Dunkelweiss, Goffel Kolsch, Jever Dark, Maredsous 8, Climax ESB, Legacy Midnight Wit, Warbird IPA, Yuengling Lager, and Stoudt's Pils. In bottle, they had Corsendonk Pale and Brown, Fin du Monde, Duvel, and Chimay Red. Pretty impressive for such a little place!
01-03-2008 01:41:43 | More by woodychandler
4.22/5 rDev +0.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | $$
I stopped by the Race Street Café for a pre-split thy skull warm-up with my brother, his friend and BA woodychandler. I must say, I was quite impressed with this little out of the way bar. As we stepped up the stairs inside, I found myself surrounded by dark hard woods and an over all open and airy feeling which was odd considering this is in center city. We grabbed a spot in front of the brass tap tower at the crook of the L-shaped bar and ordered some pints. If my memory serves me well, Woody and I grabbed some IPA from somewhere in New England that I had never heard of, my bro got the OReillys Irish stout and his buddy got a tasty Belgian dubble served in an attractive chalice. They had about 12 no-nonsense beauties to offer with a nice bottle list to boot. Looking around the bar from our seats, I noticed a whisky selection that got me to drool a bit. They had some of my favorite Scotches, Irish whiskeys and bourbons to offer. I didnt partake today, but the rounded selection gave this place a lot of bonus points in my eyes. They also seemed to have a good deal of wine around, but I cant comment too much on that. I have to say that the most charming feature of the bar was the huge skylight that let in the late morning sun and caused the whole building to glow a happy, pastel white. It really set the mood and makes me want to come back for lunch some day. My last observation was that the latrines are down the stairs. Where are the stairs? Why under the bar, of course. Walk down to the far end of the bar, and youll see the stairs disappear underneath. For some reason I was/am terribly amused by this. This bar is really top notch. Good beer and whisky, great atmosphere and we had the fortune of getting an attentive bartender. Granted he didnt seem all that busy, but he made our stay a pleasant one.
04-19-2007 16:43:09 | More by DarkerTheBetter
4.13/5 rDev -1.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5 | $$
In the shadow of the Ben Franklin Bridge is a pretty neat beer bar. Very nice atmosphere and vibe. Not a huge place, but there was plenty of room when my wife and I went there. As blitheringidiot mentioned, an L-shaped place.
Service was very attentive. Not Le Bec Fin attentive, but attentive and friendly.
I had a pulled pork bbq sandwich and my wife had a grilled chicken sandwich (minus the bread). My wife really like the fries, but I found them adequately good. Not the worst by any stretch, but not in the top tier of fries either. Sandwich was alright. Could have used a much better roll.
Beer list was a nice mix. A couple beers from Yards. A couple from Sly Fox (Seamus Red and the dry Irish stout). Laguaninas. A few Belgians. A Kolsch of some sort (or Grolsch, something like that).
03-03-2007 05:10:48 | More by GeoffFromSJ
Race Street Cafe in Philadelphia, PA
92 out of 100 based on 16 ratings.