After a fun day exploring some of the great museums of Philadelphia (well, looking at the sculptural masterpieces of Rodin and climbing the “Rocky” stairs of the Art Museum), a lunch out was well deserved. The night before in the hotel lobby we sucked up as much internet as we could and searched out places to eat by this museum district. Looking on my places app on my phone that day, we also came to some of the same conclusions. Scrolling through, our fingers landed on Brigid’s.
It was a little bit of a walk in and into unfamiliar territory, through quaint residential streets just seconds from some of the major arteries of the city. There was uneven pavement and churches, school children, all to add charm, but not to deter hunger and anxiety. This was one of my choices, so I was nervous. It almost felt like I was making the food, it is a big decision, especially with a gourmand dining partner.
We finally arrived at the restaurant, self labeled a tavern. It was obscure, almost hidden, like the side entrance to a house, you know the one, from the driveway. There was a small sign, and a chalkboard singing welcome and dishes.
Walking through the narrow bar area, it felt like a neighborhood haunt, quiet at the odd hour. The yellow walls welcoming and not intimidating. Some of the details were extremely finished, while others were not. There were some oversights which were not purposeful like curtains to restricted areas, etc... It was a mix of high and low, some intentional and some obviously not.
The dining room was super sweet, cheery, empty (it was just before the place closed for dinner prep). It was the first floor of a house, and it felt that way. There was a nice lady putting flowers on each of the tables for the dinner seatings, which added even more warmth.
Despite my usual disposition, I wanted a beer. Maybe it was because there was giant board hanging opposite me listing the special brews, or maybe it was because the place was a tavern and I was hoping to get the full experience. But very like my disposition, I did not know what kind of beer to get, and our server ventured a guess and brought me a tiny taste. I ended up ordering a pint of the stuff (Allagash White… if memory serves). It was light and refreshing, especially with my meal to come.
The brunch menu was short and sweet, sophisticated twists on the classics, like burgers, mussels, other sandwiches and lasagna. This characteristic mimicked the decor, creating a safe, familiar space to try something a little bit different. The range was really nice with options for light to heavy lunches or even breakfast.
We opted out of appetizers, saving our bellies for the main and for our later dining foray. I ordered the cheeseburger mostly because it was topped by gorgonzola cheese, bacon and french fries (!!). The plate was like heaven. The heavy burger, on a beautiful bun, stabbed with a steak knife, set in the middle of a moat of french fries. It was messy and refined at the same time. Unfortunately, when I used the mondo knife to cut the aesthetic burger in half, the middle was less than cooked. Believe me, I like my red meat rare, but this was like that dangerous looking kind of rare. After begging for the attention of our server with my eager eyes, one of the cooks who we saw arrive, asked me what I needed. She graciously and wordlessly took my burger to give it another go.
When I got it back, it was just right.
However, it was also unbelievably salty (something we had been experiencing in that part of the world). There was a heavy hand with the salty ingredients; the strong gorgonzola, fatty bacon, and french fries. You almost expect the saltiness from the gorgonzola and bacon, very different kinds of salty flavors. Gorgonzola most always packs a major punch, something acquired and different, something that takes skill and moderation to control to make pleasant to the typical mouth. But there was too much, or it was too much with the other elements. Bacon, delicious, is also salty but a great companion to burgers, fries and cheese. The fries were laden with a borderline obscene amount of salt. Sea Salt is beautiful, but to a certain extent. And there was no escaping them on the burger and all around the plate. Something had to give. The only thing that gave me some relief was the balsamic reduction, drizzled on the light bun. The sweetness was an effort in the right direction to ease the salt assault.
My other half ordered the day’s special, which was a tilapia sandwich topped with arugula and a roasted pepper aioli. It was also a pretty sandwich. It tasted good and it was simple. The roll it was on was lovely and light, but buttery and decadent too. The arugula gave a little bit of the bitter kick needed to spice up the sandwich with the mild fish and the mostly nondescript aioli. It was not a terribly heavy sandwich, which rendered a little disappointment for my hungry partner. He ate his fries, salt and all, but wanted more.
Brigid’s is a sweet place, both a bar and dining experience. The menu has a note of complexity mixing with the classics we are all familiar with, creating the atmosphere of a gastropub. You can get a good brew and a filling meal, but you can also come and enjoy the special menu selections. We might have come at a weird time of day, getting the bottom of the batch and the end of resources before prep for dinner. I really enjoyed the space, and am curious as to what it would be like at a busier time. I feel there is room for growth with the food flavors, sophistication and execution, but Brigid’s is a good place to try off the beaten path.