Part of the charm of South Philadelphia may be its knack for making the perfect cheesesteak, or its seeming commitment to greasy pizza joints. But tucked in the quirky Bella Vista neighborhood is a little bar with a big reputation.
The Royal Tavern is a hole-in-the-wall restaurant with nothing more than a chalkboard with a list of specials sitting on the sidewalk.
Easy to miss, and easily overwhelmed by the flash and glitz of its neighbor Geno’s Steaks, the Royal Tavern has become a favorite among many South Philly patrons.
The rich mahogany furniture and dim lights create a mysterious look, and the bar is plentiful to say the least. A jukebox plays a random mix of music from jazz to your most embarrassing ’80s hits.
Rainbow Christmas lights hang from the walls and fresh flowers sit at almost every table, seemingly out of place for the ordinary smoke filled bar.
The lunch menu is minimal and is scribbled in chalk and hung on the wall. Though the selection is limited, there seems to be something for everyone. For those looking for an afternoon in a typical Irish pub, the smoked beer and cabbage soup is only $6. For those who prefer seafood, mussels with white whine costs $10. And for those who stick with a safety food, the mac-n-cheese, at only $5, is some of the best you may ever have.
Dinners are even more eclectic, with a big menu for adventurous eaters. Kobe beef hot dogs are $8, quite a price jump from ordinary lunch truck hot dogs.
Duck Ragu is offered as an entree for $15, with a duck club sandwich for those who are opposed to the Ragu portion of it. Looking for a cheap appetizer? Spiced nuts are only $3, because nothing prepares your palette for a nice duck dinner like spiced cashews.
Despite the eclectic menu and high quality of food, the big pull for most patrons is the happy hour that takes place every Sunday through Thursday at 11 p.m. The fully stocked bar is impressive, with every basic staple and then some.
This a simple bar, perfect for those looking for a straight drink without the flare. Perhaps the most glamorous thing about the bar is the neon straws included with your drink.
The Royal Tavern will hold their first event on Jan. 31. Check out the restaurant Tuesday night for the Yards Beer dinner, a five-course meal with five bears for $50. Reservations are strongly suggested.
The staff is friendly and wildly enthusiastic about their job – a rarity for most waiters. During down time they would often sit and enjoy a cigarette with a frequent customer. The next time you’re looking for a relaxing night out and Maxi’s just isn’t doing the trick, consider a trip to South Philly.
Jessica Cohen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.