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Valanni: Sleek, Friendly & Tasty

At first glance, the ultramod, neon-lit, darkly sleek rooms of Valanni might seem somewhat intimidating. As soon as you step inside, however, any trepidation immediately gives way to happy realization that this is a friendly neighborhood hang (albeit one with a high-end beverage program). The Medi-Latin bistro has held down the fort at 13th and Spruce for over a dozen years now, which helps explain the relaxed vibe and no-nonsense service.

Proprietor George Anni also runs BYO Mercato (across the street) and vintage pin-up bedecked Varga Bar (a block to the east), so he’s no stranger to the Wash West crowd. A changing specialty cocktail list is split into three sections: margaritas and mojitos, skinny drinks (most made with Splenda) and re-imagined classics. A couple of our favorites were the Loaded Gun (Bulleit bourbon, muddled orange and brandy soaked cherries, Domain de Canton) and the clever Ginger Margarita, featuring a profusion of fresh ginger sticks as garnish.

A solid selection of wines by the glass (and dozens more in bottles) and a dozen or so brews (half on tap, half in bottles) fill out the drink options, which are best taken advantage of during happy hour. On weekdays from 5–7 PM, sit at the bar or the trio of outdoor tables to enjoy $3 Yuenglings and $5 specialty drinks. Extend your boozing capacity by trying half-price tapas from chef John Strain, who offers a changing menu of tantalizing plates like crispy chick peas with chorizo; baked Brie with Grand Marnier-soaked cranberries, pears and hazelnuts; and mussels with roasted tomato-garlic broth.

A good portion of the tapas menu is served until 1 AM, which makes Valanni a perfect late-night stop. That’s especially true on “Tequila Tuesdays,” with specials  from 9 PM–close. Enjoy $5 Margaritas made with Espolon tequila (that’s the good stuff), $5 Skinny ‘Ritas, $2 Coronitas and $2 Tacos during this weekly celebration of Mexican fare.

Weekend mornings are also a good time to stop in to the dining rooms, which are split between a front area with tables, a large, three-sided bar, and a relatively new lounge side that sports comfortable white leather banquettes. Brunch is now offered both Saturday and Sunday from 11 AM–3 PM, and features $25 all-you-can-drink Bloody Marys and mimosas to complement eats like chocolate-chip banana pancakes and a Kobe beef brunch burger, complete with a fried egg.

We haven’t even described a quarter of the food or drink menus, so realize this: Valanni is not one-visit bar – you’ll want to head back time and again.

1229 Spruce St.; 215-790-9494

Photos by Danya Henninger

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