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Jun 11, 2012 09:57 AM

American Sardine Bar

So I've been on a bit of a new (to me) restaurant tear the last month or two and I haven't been posting about them, I'm going to start now with American Sardine Bar.

I'll start off with the one thing that turned me off to the place before we even got any food: the jerk who walked in the bar with his (I'm assuming) rescued pit bull, and the bar staff not only didn't say "I'm sorry, your dog will have to wait outside while you pick up your six-pack of PBR", but bent down to pet the dog. I'm assuming they washed their hands afterwards but I really don't think that's the kind of thing I should have to worry about when going out to eat. That's one reason dogs aren't legally allowed in restaurants, y'know? Between the dog, its leash, and its owner the bar aisle was blocked for almost 10 minutes, during which patrons had to step over and around the dog or leash to get by. Anyway, I blame the bar staff more than the idiot with the dog, he obviously didn't know or care that dogs aren't allowed in restaurants (unless they're service dogs) but the staff should.

The food we had started out good but fell off as the meal progressed. We started with the two best things we had: the sardine sandwich and the onion rings. The sardine sandwich was probably the only thing we had that I'd go back there to eat, with hard boiled egg and mustard it was everything I like about sardines. I didn't care so much for the patty melt, it was as good as I'd expect given the obvious fact that it is drenched in butter. And I mean drenched, the various parts of the sandwich were all sliding over each other and the bread was soaked and falling apart, I had to use a fork after a few bites and it was way too rich to finish. I appreciate that the caramelized onions were well done and apparently the bread is baked in-house but drowning the sandwich in butter really wasn't doing it any favors. We also had the seitan cheesesteak, my companion liked it more than I did.

Anyway, I wouldn't recommend it. A couple good dishes out of six isn't enough. It also doesn't really compare favorably to South Philly Tap Room, which is not that far away, where Scott Schroeder is also the chef, and where the beer, food, and service are all much better for the same money.

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  1. Thanks for the report. Laban's review in yesterday's paper was quite positive, so it is good to hear some other views.

    1. We visited a month or so ago ad enjoyed it. Like STPR they have an excellent selection of beers, both tap and can. Love the $2 sardine sandwiches. Go great with beer and could eat those all day long. Very good salt and pepper fries. At a regular sandwich size, the shrimp torta was also very good. Good service and we're looking forward to hanging out there again soon.

      1. The chef has turned vegan, so I should probably take away their fifth grease stain, but I'm giving him time to reconsider. I am confident pork shoulder will win out. Other than that breech, the American Sardine Bar is one of my favorite joints. No pretense, solid eating, great beer. In the id section of the computer register receipt, the bartender once labeled me "DUDE." What's not to like.

        The patty melt is my favorite sandwich there. I've been looking for a great local patty melt for years and finally found it at the American Sardine Bar. Yeah it's juicy/greasy. Thrice greasy. Hard not to be with a Pat Lafrieda blended patty, sauteed onions a couple of cheeses and the butter needed to grill it grilled cheese style. Onion rings are fantastic. So is the pork sandwich. The sardine sandwiches may be the perfect bar food.

        Back to the chef. He is ornery. Refuses to cut sandwiches in half, uses fresh frozen Krab instead of crab, his tweets are not suitable for people of refinement. But he builds great sandwiches and carries a proper assortment of beers.

        As to the dog. Doesn't bother me. It's a neighborhood tavern kind of place. That happens. I'm a dog fan, and would be happy if the dog came within petting range. But I totally appreciate why it is an issue. That said, I'd be surprised if dogs bellied up to the bar more than a few times a month, if that.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Holly Moore

          We recently bought a new boat and over the weekend had an open house for friends to visit and see for the first time. I had asked my wife what we should serve for snacks and she immediately responded with sardine sandwiches just like the Sardine Bar. So I had my son build the sandwiches with a variety of canned sardines we got and oven fresh baguettes from Bon Appetit north of Wilmington.

          I saw the platter of sandwiches and felt a little sad there were no takers. But my son said he couldn't keep up with the demand until just then- they were flying off the table. The wife of a friend who is a chowhound of Italian descent raved about them as Italian comfort food and couldn't wait to tell her relatives what we served. We were so pleasantly surprised. Someone suggested we stand outside the Sardine Bar and sell them for $1.50.

          1. re: RC51Mike

            Sardines are such an underrated food.

            1. re: barryg

              Yes. I got a little deeper into them after reading a couple threads around here by a crazy obsessed person who has eaten and rated nearly every kind of canned sardine made. Thank god for crazy obsessed people.