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Philly2Philly's Hop Stops: Devil's Den, Royal Tavern & 12 Steps Down

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The reasons to head to South Philly don't have to include debating whether to get a cheesesteak at Pat's or Geno's or stopping by the Italian market to pick up some fresh gnocchi’s. There's some pretty good pubs in this part of town too. The Hops Stops pays a visit this week, and so should you. Devil's Den

Devil's Den

1148 South 11th St.

(215) 339-0855

Situated on the corner of 11th and Ellsworth, the Devil's Den is a great place to warm up during these cold, bitter nights in the city. A wood-burning fireplace and the smell of a crackling fire greet you as you walk through the wooden double doors and up a few steps. If that doesn't take the edge off the cold, the beers certainly will. The long bar with about 15 or so stools is off to the right as you walk up, with high-top wooden four-seater tables to the left of it. Two giant flat screens hang above the bar, along with dangling lights. The restaurant expands out even further behind the exposed brick wall that flanks the tables.

The walls behind the bar are painted a deep, dark red, suiting the pub's name quite well. Devil's Den bills itself as an American gastro pub serving some of the best craft beers. It seems to be spot on. The draft list was pretty extensive, and the bottle list even longer at five pages. On tap included: Schneider Adventinus, Southern Tier Old Man Winter, Yards Brawler, Lancaster Winter Warmer, Heavy Seas Winter Storm, Duck Rabbit Porter, Brooklyn Winter, Terrapin Rye Pale Ale, Spaten Lager, Yards Thomas Jefferson, Flying Fish Grand Cru and Wild Goose Snow Goose. The happy hour specials that run Monday through Friday, five to seven make it even more enticing to warm your belly with some brews here. Beers are half off and they offer an affordable tapas menu of balsamic marinated mushrooms, truffled popcorn, and artichoke and parm croquettes. The main bar and dinner menus have even more offerings like Devil's Den duck fries, about a half dozen mussels and clams sauces to start with, pub sandwiches like roasted eggplant and chicken scallopine, and main courses like braised lamb shank and grilled wild boar, which range from $18 - $24. Paying homage to the fellow food service workers, the Den offers 20% off to those in the industry if they come in from 10 - 2 during the week. They also offer brunch and growlers to go if you bring your own.

 

Royal Tavern         Royal Tavern

937 East Passyunk Ave                

(215) 389-6694

This tavern on Passyunk, right next to the Dive bar and between Carpenter and Christian streets, might have been better suited with the name of the bar mentioned above. From the outside, it's rather unassuming with a simple red sign, a heavy, thick door and a small front window looking in. Inside, the bar is really dark, with only tea light candles on the rustic wooden tables, small track lighting hangs from above, and a few strings of Christmas lights around the front window is draped on the back walls. The bar, with about 10 seats, is immediately to the left as you walk in, with a few high-top tables adjacent to the right. Behind the bar, mirrors give the place a bit more depth with intricate carved wood around it and an embossed-looking ceiling. More tables (about 20 all together) are past the bar and up two steps, with the kitchen below it, like a split-level.

Both delicious food (most of it vegan-friendly) and a decent craft draft selection draws a crowd here, leaving little space to stand at the entrance when coming in out of the cold. Tap beers included Sly Fox Helles Lager, PBC Walt Whit, Yards Brawler, Victory Hop Devil, Gritty McDuff's Christmas ESB, Wild Goose Snow Goose, Dogfish Head Midas Touch, and Steamworks Backside Chocolate Stout. The menu isn't that large, fitting on two sides in rather large fonts, but the options are chosen thoughtfully. Apps included mussels with chorizo, crusted calamari and a mezze plate of hummus, baba ghanoush and grape leaves. Mostly sandwiches are offered like an angus burger, tempeh club, vegan sloppy joe, or curry chicken wrapped in lovash. Taking you back to childhood days, there's also a grilled cheese and soup option, with gouda, goat and provolone.

 

12 Steps Down                 12 Steps Down

831 Christian Street

(215) 238-0379

This place is 12 steps down in every sense. Not only do you descend 12 concrete steps to get to this rugged basement bar, but it seems to be a place where you could spend all night (or day) putting them back if you've fallen off the wagon. What's step one again? Oh yea, admit you have a problem. The basement bar gives the appearance that it’s been there awhile and not much has been done to improve it -probably because those who come here love it just the way it is.

The square bar offers plenty of stools and a minimal draft selection to choose from -- juts four: Yuengling lager (a staple), Saranac seasonal (the beer of the week), Weyerbacher Winter, and Anchor Christmas. The bottle list, however, is more diverse and scrawled out on the chalkboards behind the bar. A few tables flack the bar, one being larger with a bench seat and a copper-topped table with the 12 Steps Down logo embossed on top. There's a small 13-inch TV wedged in the corner, but to make up for it, a floor-to-ceiling projection screen with the basketball game on. Don't be surprised if you find a few regulars sipping Pabst Blue Ribbons at the bar, playing a crossword puzzle or giving a go at a round of pool - it is after all, "where the neighborhood comes together" as a group therapy bar. Specials, the atmosphere and maybe the jukebox, keep people coming back. Weekend mornings mean two dollar bloody mary’s and mimosas, and one dollar PBR’s on Sundays. There's also free wi-fi, which now explains the dude at the bar with a laptop, and quizzo on Wednesday nights. And if you need something to munch on there's a small selection: fries, PBR battered chicken fingers, mango BBQ wings, mac and cheese, chicken lettuce wraps, grilled cheese sliders, beef and feta burger, and some hummus.