It is often a good idea to pay another visit to a restaurant after a new chef takes the reins and creates a new menu. Edward and I did just that on a cold, windy evening just after Christmas.
I reviewed Devil’s Den when it opened in 2008. Cousin Carl and I found the food to be desperately lacking on all levels. Enter chef Paul Trowbridge, who revamped the menu, creating tasty dishes with fresh ingredients. Trowbridge came from Moriarty’s Pub in Center City where his big juicy burgers were among my favorites.
Devil’s Den in Passyunk Square is just what a neighborhood pub should be. Edward and I were immediately warmed up by the working fireplace in the front room where every seat was taken at high-top tables and the bar. We were lucky to snag the last available table in the adjoining room.
I liked the decor, especially the exposed brick walls, comfortable tables and banquettes where places were set with linen napkins — a fine touch for a pub. The fireplace also provided warmth and coziness.
The beer list is still huge and overwhelming. Edward and I decided to try two different flights. The East Coast flight ($8) consisted of New York’s Southampton Bière de Garde French Country Christmas Ale, which imparted a citrus flavor; Maryland’s Heavy Seas Winter Storm; and Pennsylvania’s Stoudt’s Revel Red hoppy amber ale, and The Brew Work’s Rude Elf’s Reserve Belgian dark ale. The Winter flight ($9) took off with The Bruery 5 Golden Rings, a golden ale from Belgium that I really liked; Elysian Bifrost pale ale, heady with a peaty rich aroma; New Holland Cabin Fever brown ale and Great Lakes Christmas Ale.
Our server advised we enjoy the beers from light to rich. We did not know happy hour was in full swing and when the bill arrived, the prices were cut in half.
Dinner began with a beet salad ($9) and a barbecued duck flatbread ($13). These were beautifully presented and delicious. Cool roasted beet and perfectly ripened Bosc pear cubes added a bit of natural sweetness to a toss of tangy goat cheese, which surrounded a mound of spicy baby arugula.
Duck has appeared on pub menus ever since Northern Liberties’ Standard Tap offered it 12 years ago. Trowbridge placed thin strips of succulent duck meat on the flatbread; added some sweet, red onion caramelized right on target, a homemade barbecue sauce that was in perfect balance of savory and sweet; and heated it to perfection.
I’ve been disappointed with burgers lately. Devil’s Den prime burger ($9) was medium-rare, perfectly seared on the grill, big and juicy, nestled on a soft bun, topped with a generous dab of Gorgonzola and thick slab smoked bacon and came with a pile of piping hot, crisp french fries and dill pickles.
Roast chicken ($16) was another winner. A whole skin on a boneless chicken breast was opened, slightly flattened, stuffed with intensely flavored minced chorizo, seasoned just right and rolled into a roulade. This was an inspiring choice. The chicken retained its juiciness, redolent with the flavors and aromas of fresh herbs and spicy sausage. After it was roasted, Trowbridge finished it in a skillet, reducing the pan juices to the most marvelous, intensely flavored gravy Edward and I have tasted since Thanksgiving dinner. Steamed rice and sautéed spinach with a touch of cream were the side dishes of the evening.
Don’t miss dessert at Devil’s Den. Our waiter, who took fine care of us, told us a woman who works at the restaurant during the day makes all of the desserts. A hefty slice of pecan pie ($5) baked on a flaky buttery crust and topped with real thick whipped cream was so outrageously delicious I should have asked for a few slices to go.
Trowbridge and his staff are in total synch at Devil’s Den. Our dinners arrived hot and freshly prepared. We noticed the brunch menu on the flip side and intend to try it on the next available Sunday.
Three tips of the toque to Devil’s Den.
1148 S. 11th St.
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Beer lovers, get ready to pour into South Philadelphia’s Devil’s Den, 1148 S. 11th St., for the fifth annual Pucker Up! Sour Fest taking place August 16 through 22.
On a cold evening more than 15 years ago, Edward and I were walking towards the corner of 19th and Chestnut streets and discovered the entire area flooded with bright lights. They were not just regular lights, but Hollywood lights.