What you should really be coming here for is live blues music & the bourbon. I have never seen a collection of whiskey and bourbon like the one that The Tail has assembled here. It's as extensive as Village Whiskey and definitely cheaper. They also make a decent old fashioned, which always scores points in my book, but their mint julep is what really defined the experience here. Just enough fresh mint so you know it's there, but not so heavy a hand with it that it masks the good bourbon lying underneath. This is an OLD drink that your grandparents used to drink on Derby Day, and for good reason. It tastes like spring and gets you well on the path to inebriation, quickly. Muddled mint leaves, a tsp. of sugar + bourbon = delicious. Try one - it'll change the way you think about brown liquor.
|a proper mint julep|
We ordered the St. Louis ribs & cedar plank salmon for entrees. The ribs were tender and nearly falling off the bone, with just a hint of sauce brushed on at the end of the cooking to give them a nice crust. Served with "wicked greens" that seemed to be either collard or mustard greens braised southern style with a ham hock and dressed with some good vinegar. The tang of the greens, with the hint of smokey ham, cutting through the sweetness of the ribs offering a perfect foil to the pork. There's good reason these have been paired on the same plate for decades.
The fish was tender but a bit mild. I tend to think salmon should taste like, well, salmon. The best is always fresh, snatched out of the hands of a hungry bear trolling class II rapids in Alaska. This version was likely of the frozen variety, snatched out of the back of a food service truck that was scoping a salmon farm in New Jersey. I did really enjoy the braised broccolini though; the skinny, somewhat bitter cousin to standard broccoli was the most distinct flavor on the plate. All served alongside some pickled kale that was curiously good. Tasting like it had just a light pickling, maybe 2-3 days, it was a clever take on a tough to like vegetable with a bad rep.
My only knock on the menu at Twisted Tail would be the pricing. With appetizers ranging from $5 to $12 [$7 for fries, really?!?] and entrees hovering around $20, it's not cheap eats. With two drinks each, we dropped about $90 for dinner. Not that there's anything wrong that ("they've got a good team over there") but based on the setup of this place as bourbon bar and blues joint it seemed pretty expensive. There's nothing particularly fancy about the menu: ribs, a burger, chicken, salmon, blue fish, shepherd's pie, lamb shoulder and a "cowboy" steak make up the entrees. Southern style cooking involves making the best out of cheap ingredients - necessity breeds innovation. The cooking and presentation here are good, but basic and simple. This is not fine dining, so don't try to charge for it.
Is this a bar that serves food? Or a restaurant that has a bar? I think that question has yet to be answered. While the management figures that out, I would stick to the upstairs bar for bourbon, live blues and the killer old school shuffle board table. Twisted Tail is a great place for drinks and live music on a Saturday night - something Philly seems to be lacking lately. On these points alone, it's worth a trip and even the $5 cover for the band. Hold off on the dinner plans for now though.
Food Baby rating - It's a girl!
The Twisted Tail
509 South 2nd Street
Philadelphia PA 19147
Philadelphia PA 19147
Hours: Mon-Sat: 11am-2am