Located in the new Hotel Monaco, in the heart of Philadelphia’s historic district, the Red Owl Tavern (433 Chestnut St.) specializes in comfort foods using local, seasonal ingredients. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner and brunch on weekends, the Red Owl also features an “On the Fly” take-out counter, offering coffees, pastries, soups, salads and sandwiches during the day (6:30am-4pm).
As a Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant, the expectation is high for quality service, stylish décor and a commitment to eco-friendly practices. The Red Owl features a comfortable, rustic vibe with hints of modern trendiness. The décor uses repurposed construction including old barn wood, brick, and steel beam. The interior is comprised of a large bar with an impressive display of liquors, ground floor seating as well as an indoor mezzanine that overlooks the first floor, and outside seating, which will be available once the weather gets warm.
The bar features an extensive wine list and prohibition-era style cocktails, heavy on the whiskey. Try the Red Barn with Belvedere Vodka, grapefruit juice and winter spiced berry pepper syrup shaken with egg white or one of their Old-Fashioneds, like the Spaniard made up of Buffalo Trace Bourbon, amontillado sherry and chocolate bitters. Happy hour is available Mon-Fri 5-7pm with drink specials and 2 for 1 appetizers.
Dinner appetizers include local specialties such as Sea Salt and Sour PA Farm Potato Chips, Philly Soft Pretzels or Marrow Bones with pickled lamb’s tongue and preserved shallot on grilled toast. House made sausage, charcuterie and in-house pickled vegetables also available. The menu also features a selection of soups, salads, mussels, steaks and entrees such as braised and roasted lamb shank with a spicy tomato chutney and yellow lentils as well as a slow roasted herbed chicken pot pie. Vegetables available ala carte, although entrees come in large portions and include a small side. Finish the meal with seasonal and Pennsylvania Dutch desserts like whoopie pies, seasonal fruit tarts and the decadent mocha in a jar.
On a recent visit, the staff seemed overwhelmed, perhaps by the large number of holiday parties, and service was slow and disorganized. Fortunately, management handled the problems smoothly and stepped in, providing exceptional personal service to tables that were ignored, and even provided complimentary drinks to make up for the delay.
Overall, the Red Owl Tavern provides a welcome break from the lounges and bars of Old City and an ideal stop for comfort food, just steps away from Independence Hall. There are definitely still a few kinks that need to be worked out and drinks are pricey, but with a beautiful atmosphere, good food and a management team that leads by example, the Red Owl looks to have a bright future.