Philadelphia’s only Mardi Gras Pop-up Bar Experience is offering a few truly decadent specials to an already over-the-top menu.
The funny thing about me and New Orleans? I’ve been to the Louisiana parish on several occasions in the distant past, but never ever for the celebration of Fat Tuesday, and the in-between of the Catholic-Christian feasts of the Epiphany and Ash Wednesday. You know, Mardi Gras.
Which means that, if I want to celebrate New Orleans’ religious procession and wild party, I’ve had to do so, mostly with variations on beads (cheaply tacky and not so cheap) and South Street’s finest (Café Nola) or not so fine (let’s just say that the police on several occasion within the 20th Century had to stop the rioters pouring out of Fat Tuesday, and spilling onto the streets).
Which means I celebrated that Mardi Gras feeling at home.
Until last night, and at South 8th Street’s Craftsman Row Saloon mere inches from the jewels of Jewelers Row, and its Mardi Gras Pop Up.
Owned by Opa’s brother-and-sister restaurateur team George and Vasiliki Tsiouris (they also act as co-owners of Midtown Village’s Drury Beer Garden) Craftsman Row Saloon’s address (112 South 8th) has forever been this rustic drinking establishment. By the 80s, it became Coco’s, an unlikely Center City hideaway, if you wanted to get away from goth club habitues and disco-house Lolitas.
Seemingly what the Tsiouris did in its takeover of the space is refresh, refresh, refresh: keep the original bar facade, marked by nameplates of Coco’s regulars at each end, reupholster the nine booths with button-tufted brown leather (including the semi-circular king’s seat that we sat in last night near the front door), painted black 16 bar stools to match its freshly distressed black hardwood floors. They kept the ceiling dark with exposed wooden beams and added smart accents, modern campfire-style pendant lighting and sconces and, for Mardi Gras, just enough razzle dazzle without overwhelming the Craftsman’s dusky, sensual hideout vibe.
Into this, they’ve designed a pretty cool, hearty regular/daily saloon food menu of sandwiches such as the Donut Fried Chicken with glazed, bacon and maple syrup, a Mac Daddy Burger with smashed patties dripping with mac and cheese on a Martin’s potato roll, and crushed Doritos encrusted mozzarella sticks. If truly elevated saloon food is on your menu, do the Craftsman any day or night.
Now, for the Mardi Gras season (so through Fat Tuesday, March 1), the Tsiouris and Craftsman’s holiday pop-up – the patented Philadelphia’s only Mardi Gras Pop-up Bar Experience – is offering a few truly decadent specials to an already over-the-top menu.
Noncarb eater me (and my dining partner Evan) tried the whole of the Mardi Gras menu and loved it: the King of Bourbon Street Milkshake (a woozy boozy brain bonger), the dirty rice with ground beef, peppers, onions and a generous portion of grilled shrimp (nicely spiced with Old Bay, and not crazy filling so that you can eat more), the King Cake glittering gold, green and purple (sugar) sweet potato fries with cinnamon and praline sauce (seriously, this plush dish must be put under desserts its just THAT rich and flavorful).
While the King Cake Fries acted as our dessert, our main became the Martin roll-surrounded Mardi Gras Burger which featured everything from smashed patties, a chicken cutlet and fries all done up and smothered in a Remoulade bath. As I said to my friend Evan, I would eat anything if it was bathed in Remoulade, so… There’s that. And yes, it was one of the best burgers that I have ever tasted and would go back for in a minute.
This being a Mardi Gras dinner, several Saints Sazeracs of Rye, Peychaud’s, Absinthe were imbibed.