Now Open: Rittenhouse Tavern
Alongside Rittenhouse Square, 18th Street is home to one of the hottest cocktail scenes in the city. Strolling north to south, you’ll have the chance to duck into high-end speakeasy Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co., sip eclectic and rare wines at the marble-walled bar at a.kitchen, rub elbows with high society over screwdrivers at Rouge and lounge outside with mimosas and Belinis as you people watch at Parc. However, Rittenhouse Tavern — just opened in the Art Alliance building on the park’s southeast corner — offers another welcome opportunity for great drinks, one that is uniquely secluded and elegantly relaxed.
To find the bar at this Restaurant Associates-run establishment, enter the majestic stone archway of the Philadelphia Art Alliance and head to the back of the building, one of the Square’s only remaining grand mansions. A trio of wood-appointed rooms has been carefully restored and stocked with reclaimed wooden slab tables and retro-mod chandeliers. To the left is the lounge, home to a marble bar and a set of high-tops, arranged around a mantle, with large windows letting in ample sun.
High-end ingredients are a mantra here, from chef Nicholas Elmi’s eats to the beverage program designed by general manager Dan Elliott, but the overall atmosphere is entirely casual. Need a spot for a drink before a friend’s wedding? You’ll be welcome in all your finery. Stopping in on the way back from a Phillies game? The same pleasant reception will greet your dusty caps and tees.
Though there are no taps, the beer list is more than respectable, and certainly the value winner. The 15 or so bottles and cans hail from local and U.S. crafts and none is higher than $6. It’s the cocktails that really steal the show, however, with original takes on classic combos that are served in old-style, round-edged glasses. The Garden Sazerac brings Bulleit Rye together with Vieux Carre Absinthe for a perfectly formed magenta sip. The gin-based Betsy Ross is a multi-layered experience, the floral notes and bitter tang of St. Germain and Cocchi Americano each contributing to the bouquet. Even these quaffs are affordable, by Rittenhouse standards, ringing in at $9–$13. The brown spirits selection will continue to grow, as will the well-thought out wine list, where bottles start as low as $29.
Two more things that should not be missed on a visit to the new tavern in town: the food and the garden patio. Elmi’s bar bites are creative yet accessible, like the deviled egg-topped scrapple coins and pickled baby vegetables ($6–$11). A Pat LaFrieda burger comes atop a bun specially made at Wild Flour Bakery with Yards ESB, for extra flavor in each bite. An assortment of meat, chicken and seafood choices will change with the seasons, in warm weather incorporating herbs from out back. When you head through the glass doors into the brick-lined patio, you’ll find a private garden, hidden from the busy Center City streets by flowers, trees, an ivy-covered brick wall and iron gates. Bring a glass of the Don Q rum Tavern Lemonade and order a platter of mussels and you’ll be close to a springtime paradise.
Rittenhouse Tavern is open 5-10 PM, Sunday and Tuesday–Thursday and 5–11 PM, Friday–Saturday. Lunch and weekend brunch will be introduced soon.
251 S. 18th St.; 215-732-2412
Photos by Danya Henninger
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