This is the second part of a project undertaken by the author to perhaps find the proper company, both in human interaction and in drink, to endure the current season of Philadelphia Phillies baseball, as well as seasons in the immediate future. Absent friends who even bother to pretend to care about the Phillies, that same author has taken to the streets, as it were, of Philadelphia to find the ideal spot to watch the Phillies game. Just as Socrates found himself unsatisfied in his pursuit of the Forms, the present author will likely find himself similarly unsatisfied in his pursuit of a proper Phillies bar. Nonetheless, this series has been promised to the internet, and internet promises must be upheld.
Note: If you need a refresher on the exceptionally rigorous methodology behind these reviews, refer to the first post in this series.
The second stop on our eternal quest takes us to the Devil's Den, a bar known primarily for it's beer selection located in the unclaimed territory between Bella Vista and East Passyunk.
When this post appears on these pages, I will have moved into the Bella Vista neighborhood of Philadelphia. In preparation for this move, I spent the prior weekend scouting the area, a trip that included visits to a local restaurant, (at least) a couple neighborhood bars, and general walking around the hard streets of Bella Vista. On an unevaluated level, I found it all quite nice; I am excited to move into this neighborhood. That aside, this review, and this bar in particular, warrant a more critical engagement.
Aesthetic: Most gastropubs in the city have adopted an aesthetic best described as sanitized grime. Put another way, they all try to seem as if they are straight out of Industrial Revolution era London minus all the factors about that aesthetic that would cause you to not want to eat food or drink drink there. Devil's Den departs from that with a sort of contrived elegance. It feels like a home in a newer, wealthy suburb--clearly newly furnished but painfully trying to erect a facade of history. The Devil's Den features the key architecture of that style. Exposed brick. Wooden fireplace. Ceiling beams. It's a little too new to pull it off, but I respect the unique ambiance it created for a gastropub. 60
Phillies Specials: As a bar known for its beer, Devil's Den delivered on it's beer specials. They had $1 off all Yards and Ommegang drafts. Don't get me wrong, that's a pretty good special for drinks and credit to the subtlety of the Ommegang discount because it's brewed in Cooperstown, but to not have a food special is an automatic disqualification from having an average tool in this area. Having Yards IPA on the handpump can only take you so far in recovery from that fatal flaw. 35
Noticeability: Devil's Den had two TVs behind the bar and both had the game on. This alone nets them a 50 tool. They turned the volume way up on the TVs and the music way down for the Charlie Manuel Wall of Fame induction, which was a huge plus for their grade here. Once the game started, the left the volume on one of the TVs but cranked the music back to normal bar levels. It was a Saturday night, so the weekday audio situation might be different. 60
Quality of Other Fans/Clientele: Let me keep this short: there were none. A moderately amusing interaction occured when some bro tried to order a light beer and the bartender informed him, in as snobby a way as he could, that the Devil's Den does not stoop down to such beers. The bro then proceeded to order a Yards Brawler in a bottle--despite it being on draft at $1 off--because he "doesn't trust how they clean their glasses." I'm tempted to boost their grade here for this interaction, but I can't explain how that reaction makes any sense. 25
Beer/Food: As mentioned above, Devil's Den is known for consistently having one of the better beer lists in the city. They did not disappoint in that regard, with 15 beers on tap, including a hand pump. Also as related above, I have to give props for not even stocking a light beer. While that might be a bit showy a demonstration of their status as a beer-forward bar, I like the chutzpah.
As far as the food went, my girlfriend and I ordered three appetizer-type dishes: beet salad, macaroni and cheese, and pigs in blankets (is that the correct pluralization?). They were all unspectacular, but inoffensive.
Beer: 70, Food: 55, Cumulative: 65
Final Thoughts: While objectively a better bar for both Phillies and bar-related things than Madira (the first bar profiled in this series), I think I would sooner return to Madira to watch a game. That said, Devil's Den will be receiving a higher score than Madira, as I sense my subjective experience of each place is clouded by where each is in its respective stages of development. Imagination rarely projects flaws. So while Madira is easy to dream on, Devil's Den is already just a step below that ceiling. I could definitely find myself here for a game, especially since Devil's Den has, for my money, the best happy hour in the city--half-off drafts and appetizers.
Overall: 55 (55 Potential)