Royal Flush

Back to East Passyunk today, for lunch at Royal Tavern, a hipster haunt shadier than Michael Vick's "water bottle." It's a dive bar if you've ever seen one (which is ironic since a joint called Dive Bar is right next door), brought to you by Dave Frank and Stephen Simons, the dudes behind Khyber and the Cantina a few blocks down. This grungy gastropub is all dark wood and moody lighting, like something out of the '30s noir flick playing on the overhead TV, but instead of gangsters and femme fatales, it's host to art students and Miami Ink extras sipping Yards, chatting about gallery openings and damning the smoking ban (Michael Nutter wouldn't last two seconds inside this place). If you're not tatted-up, be prepared to feel a little like Ugly Betty schlepping into Mode. You won't have a Golden Globe to show for your balls, but you will have a happy stomach--and liver--filled with Royal's elevated bar food and beer menu. Fiery mango-habanero and violet chipotle BBQ sauces transform crisp and meaty wings into something more than a beer companion. The Angus burger is just fine, but is eclipsed by the meatloaf sandwich, two slabs of moist comfort crowned with fried onions, sharp provolone, bacon, and mushrooms on cloud-like ciabatta. For dessert, there's vanilla-pecan layer cake or sweet potato cheesecake, but wouldn't you rather a chocolate stout or raspberry-infused Lindemans Framboise? It's five o'clock somewhere.

937 East Passyunk Avenue

*Thanks to readers for enlightening me about the finer points of the dive bar, which readers are contending Royal--though dark and a lil dirty--is not. Some true dive bars readers are digging include: McGlinchey's, Dirty Franks, Doobies, Locust Bar, Locust Rendezvous, Tressle Inn, Bob & Barbara's, and Ministry of Infortmation. No matter how Royal Tavern's classified, that meatloaf is worth a trip.


Anonymous said...

Good description of the fare at Royal Tavern. And I would absolutely agree it's a "hipster haunt," but it's hardly a dive. That's an insult to real dive bars, which, in fact, are great places to hangout.

I can't remember any dive bars I've been to that served framboise or had such an aloof wait staff.

adam said...

Good call on the aloof staff (and the great food). I meant dive bar in the sense that Royal is dark and a little dingy. What would you say are the qualifications for dive bars? Size? Off the beaten path location? Everybody-knows-your-name staff? What are some of your favorites?

Anonymous said...

Me again,

About five years ago, I used to live across the street from the Locust Bar, 10th and Locust streets. That's the place I always think of when I imagine a dive. It was dark, with wooden booths and wood paneling on the walls, reminded me of someplace you might find in the Poconos.
I have only been there once or twice since, so I don't know how it may have changed, but the bar had a really basic menu: hamburgers, roastbeef sandwiches, cheesesteaks and similar type stuff. It was really cheap, especially for Center City. The best was they sold grilled cheese sandwiches for like $3.75. And one night a week there was a special and the sandwiches were only like $3.25. Cracked me up.

Joe said...

I agree -- I think it does an injustice to the Royal to call it a dive. It's just not true. I'd say these are the types of bars that would be considered dives:

Dirty Frank's
Locust Bar
Locust Rendevous
Tressle Inn
Bob & Barbara's
Ministry of Information

If someone is reviewing their food, it's a pretty good indication it's not a dive. I don't think size or location necessarily matters, just maybe a sense of dinginess. And cheap drinks are almost always a requirement.