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Phillies Bar Review: Cavanaugh's Rittenhouse

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The fourth part in a never-ending series takes the reader inside the exposed brick walls of the downstairs bar at Cavanaugh's Rittenhouse.

That looks like the $3.50 Gameday Special!
That looks like the $3.50 Gameday Special!
Dan Mullan

This is the fourth part of a project undertaken by the author to 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 a Phillies game.  Just as Socrates found himself unsatisfied in his pursuit of the Forms, the present author will likely find himself in a similarly futile pursuit, albeit less noble. Nonetheless, this series has been promised to the internet, and internet promises must be upheld.

Note: If you require a refresher on the exceptionally rigorous methodology behind these reviews, refer to the first post in this series.

With a glut of day games in the intervening week in addition to a minor, though temporarily debilitating, medical malady on the part of the author, this week takes us, on a rainy night, no less, to a bar at 8pm for a game with a 7:10 start time. To add to the discomfort I experienced both in my tardiness and my drenched-ness, this was my first venture north of South Street for the purposes of this series. Welcome, readers, to the first true sports bar of this series: Cavanaugh's Rittenhouse.

Aesthetic: When I think of sports bars, a very Buffalo Wild Wings-esque image typically comes to mind--lots of noise, lots of shiny things, lots of HDTVs, lots of bossomy females. Cavanaugh's, thankfully, did not contain any of those things, save the only one we want included--lots of HDTVs. They seemed to sense my soft spot for exposed brick and delivered it in abundance. There was one key feature, though, that I feel I need to discuss at some length: it has two floors. When you walk in to Cavanaugh's, you can either go straight to the bar or downstairs. This obviously results in a more intimate setting on each floor as space is tighter and you could probably get to know more of your compatriots, if that were something you cared to do. Such a situation might be ideal in a season not unlike the present one when us Phillies fans might seek companionship. However, at some point it might be the case that the Phillies find themselves in a meaningful game or two. At such a time, one might view the bifurcation of the bar as a disadvantage, an architectural barrier to the brotherhood of shared-fandom. Call me a pessimist, but I don't see that being an issue soon enough to impact my grade here. 70

Phillies Specials: This was perhaps the weakest aspect of Cavanaugh's qua Phillies bar. They offered no game-specific food specials (although it was, unbeknownst to me, ½ price burger night), and offered a solid, but unspectacular, drink special of $4 Goose Island drafts (they have one rotating tap) and $3.50 Bud Lights. Anyone who would consider ordering the Bud Light is welcome, no, encouraged, to stop reading now. That Bud Light offer is useless. It's like bringing in the closer when you're up 3 against the Padres in Petco Park--you're clearly just padding the stats. Cavanaugh's must have thought, "We can't only offer one beer special! How would that look? We need a second special. Let's just put our regular price for Bud Light up there for appearances." You know what, Cavanaugh's, you can take your Bud Light special and shove it!

Even without a food special, the $4 Goose Island draft would have earned a favorable grade here, but now I'm just offended by the Bud Light. Look at what you've done! 20

Noticeability of Game: I gotta say, I was underwhelmed. At a glance, none of the TVs at the upstairs bar were showing the game. They all, as I recall, had tennis on. I've learned in this past week that people put tennis on their televisions for reasons besides providing something to look at during boring conversations with relatives at a Labor Day party. Anyway, I immediately proceeded downstairs, where the game was on about half of the TVs, so in downstairs bar world, it was pretty noticeable. Apparently Tuesday nights are Quizzo nights at Cavanaugh's, so I cannot say definitively that they do not have the volume on for games. Based on other evidence--100% tennis upstairs, Bud Light special, only on half the TVs downstairs, $3.50 Bud Lights--I feel comfortable inferring that volume would not be available on non-Tuesdays. This might be a topic for further study, though. 45.

Quality of Other Fans/Clientele: None were noticeable. Those seated at tables were playing Quizzo and no one at the bar seemed to be paying much attention to the game nor reacting in any noticeable way to significant events in said game. Again, due to Quizzo, this may be an area deserving of further study, but for the time being, I am underwhelmed. 25

Beer/Food: Typical to the sports bar genre, Cavanaugh's exhibited an uninspiring tap list with the old "Rotating Seasonal" that raises every red flag in a 10 mile radius. I can't decide whether I find that insulting because it indicates a laziness to not update menus on occasion or because it unveils the mission statement of the bar as, "To Bring Together Bros Who Just Want to Get Drunk and Stuff." Either way, the "Rotating Tap" label irks me. All taps, or at least 90% of them, should be rotating. To list one as rotating indicates the whole operation is misguided from the start.

For food, the Cavanaugh's burger was excellent. I'm a bit of a stickler when restaurants overcook my burger. I always ask for medium-rare, but often get something medium or more cooked. They cooked it right. In addition, the bacon was crispy, the cheddar cheese was melty. It's hard to ask for much more than that, so I don't.

Beer: 35, Food: 70, Cumulative: 55

Final Thoughts: I find it hard to make heads or tails of this place. On the one hand, it flashes some elite tools in Aesthetic and Food, but then fails to deliver in a number of other important aspects like beer and, well, mostly just beer. But let's not understate the importance of beer to this whole endeavor. What's the point of a Phillies bar qua bar if it doesn't have a variety of at least tolerable beers? Poor drink just can't be tolerated. The stakes are too high. I don't doubt that Cavanaugh's has its merits, but being a place to watch the Phillies while drinking a beer appears to not be one of them. 40 (50 Potential)

Updated Rankings: As a new feature, I'll be updating the rankings of the bars I've visited based on how I graded them at the time of my visit. In the future, grades might be updated and bars might move up and down the list. Instances like those, if they ever occur, will be duly noted.

  1. Citizens Bank Park: 60

  2. Devils Den: 55

  3. Madira Bar & Grill: 40

  4. Cavanaugh's Rittenhouse: 40