Sonny’s Cocktail Joint at 15th and South Streets is the new neighborhood drinks, dining and hang spot – a real feel good bar.
I, like you, miss The Cambridge. Dark, noirish and stately, The Cambridge at 15th and South was the right spot for that time of night when you needed a perfect cocktail to close out that evening. A good meal, a great concert, a winning game. For all that, The Cambridge was a fine punctuation. In their search for a different punctuation and a new mood – something sunnier and brighter, vintage and homey, like your grandmother’s backyard, with a touch of Tiki, sans the kitsch – the Fetfatzes, the family owners of The Cambridge, have turned that same address’ dark into light, and the stately into something fun while keeping the boozy drinks high-minded in design and curation with the newly opened Sonny’s Cocktail Joint.
Sonny’s Cocktail Joint, fresh from Chris Fetfatzes (who also owns Sonny’s next-door-neighbor Wine Dive, as well as South Philly’s Hawthornes, Pivot Coffee and Tio Flores), Heather Annechiarico and comfort food/pub cuisine veteran Chef D DeMarco (American Sardine Bar), feels like an extended member of their cojoined fam.
That familial vibe starts with the fact that “Sonny” is the nickname for Fetfatzes matriarch Olimpia, and emanates towards Sonny’s mix-and-match dining room accoutrements – a still-dusky indoor environment, and a roomy, skylit, backyard garden area – a comfort food menu that is handsomely high-end (think salty salmon roe on fresh, fleshy raw oysters, caviar in the chicharron chips n’ French onion dips, shallots in the wagyu hot dog and crab-fat brioche for their lump crab Sammich).
But, start with Sonny’s worldly curated cocktail list. There’s a predilection toward the global when it comes to its drinks and mixes. There are ingredients ranging from rich Mexican mezcals, Panamanian rums, Alpine amaros, French absinthes and good old Kentucky willet bourbons, to Japanese mixers in its highballs. The latter is but one division of the Joint’s cocktail menu (Negronis, Nice Things Poured Neat and Boat Drinks among the intoxicants listed). While the Fairy Avant-Garde (Absinthe, matcha and Japanese club soda) was heady and surprisingly light – a perfect post-summer drink you could imagine having more than one of – the Uh-Huh Honey (Prosecco with apricot and nectarine) tasted just-picked fresh.
Chef Dane “D” DeMarco’s menu was just as heady as Sonny’s cocktails. Moving onto their snacks, the blistered shishito peppers with chili crisp oil and chopped peanuts was hot, but addictive. Really hot and really addictive in that way where you don’t care that your hair is on fire, I’m going to keep eating these addictive. The half-dozen oysters deal – fresh from a rotating cast of bivalve mollusks – features a generous spoonful of salmon roe and a dash of horseradish crème fraiche for something briny and divine. Add a shot of vodka, and the already delicious oyster treat is nothing less than decadent.
Among the starters and shareables was a hearty burrata nestled atop a bed of cabernet poached pear (another boozy addition to a menu item? Why not.), roasted squash, agave-pepper almond and arugula with a hint of balsamic glaze. Then there was the sublime Tartare Toasty – a true highlight of Sonny’s menu. Normally served with filet tartare, our Toasty was a roasted beet tartare, atop grilled cheeses and crisply toasted bread.
On the Sammiches side of the menu, everything worked wonderfully. The Snake River Wagyu Hot Dog with sweet heat mustard and pickled celery & shallot slaw was a mighty upscale wiener. The Fried Chicken Sammie was piled high with truffled artichoke, zippy mayo and arugula with each flavor coming through in every bite. The New England lump crab Sammich was a zesty knockout with its spicy mayo, mango, carrot, cucumber and shallot all across a long, rich, crab-fat brioche. Lovely. In lieu of dessert, the Nitro Espresso Martini – on tap, with vodka, a hint of Kahula, vanilla and some Herman’s Cold Brewed Coffee – was the perfect, ever-so-slightly sweet sendoff to a hearty meal.
Every server, bartender and manager at Sonny’s was knowledgeable, funny and happy to be there. Reese (my dinner companion, photographer and wife) and I could tell, genuinely, just how much each of the staff loved their jobs, here. That love radiated in every minute and morsel of the Sonny’s experience.
Along with the promise of a live house band, a classics’ spinning jukebox, and a weekend brunch (with all-day Marys, mimosas and smoked bacon-egg-and-cheese Sammiches), Sonny’s Cocktail Joint seems as if it wants to be an always fun, always tasty, all-purpose hot spot for your drinking, dining and hanging needs. Fact is, they’re already there.
Images: Reese Amorosi