It's bar food done (mostly) right at the whiskey/go-go joint on 11th and Callowhill.
In its heyday, the J&J Trestle Inn featured pregnant strippers with gunshot wounds jiggling their flesh morosely for the marks at the bar, who looked on as they reached distractedly into a foggy jar loaded with pickled pigs’ feet for a snack. Today’s Trestle Inn still has ladies dancing for the crowd—and still serves pickled pigs’ feet—but the similarities pretty much end there.
The Trestle Inn is a whiskey and go-go bar with an ambitious cocktail program, interesting and often inspired bar food (courtesy of Chef Travis Messman, formerly of Arrow Swim Club and a much stamped passport that includes stops in South Korea, Germany, Portland, Ore., and Yosemite National Park) and, yes, live go-go dancers five nights a week. Projectors blast clips of ’60s beach flicks onto the walls and a soundtrack of retro-hip tunes gives way to DJs spinning funk, psychobilly and everything in between. A black-clad, much-tattooed service staff dishes out the drinks and grub. The Trestle is also home to two weekend brunches (Saturday’s features classic cartoons, while Sunday’s “Drag Your Ass Outta Bed” is hosted by drag queen Brittany Lynn). It’s the kind of ambitiously hip bar that could either be a revelation or a disaster.
The Trestle is mostly a revelation, and its occasional missteps can largely be excused by its frank, unapologetic commitment to its genre: The Trestle Inn is a kitschy dive bar.
It’s a good one, with an impressive whiskey list and enough iterations of the classic whiskey sour—including a very drinkable $4 version and an exceptional $7 iteration made the real way, with egg white for frothiness—to satisfy the cocktail geeks. The craft beer list includes 14 draughts and an assortment of cans, enough to merit return visits from suds lovers to sample the rotating cask selections.
Service is capable and friendly, with both bartenders and wait staff eager to offer advice, but ultimately unobtrusive. And the menu, both at dinner and brunch, is playful and surprisingly diverse, with a variety of vegetarian and vegan options alongside what might be the best roast pork sandwich in town.
That sandwich, featuring RC Cola-braised pork shoulder with melted sharp provolone and pickled long hots on a crusty hoagie roll, is a dreamy balance of meat, bread and accoutrements, neither too dry nor too wet, toothsome without being toilsome to chew.
Less successful was the “burger,” a slice of bison meatloaf wrapped in bacon and served dressed with blueberry ketchup. Although meaty and flavorful, replacing a juicy patty with a dense slice of loaf diminishes some of the primal joy only a medium-rare burger can bring. To satisfy the carnivores, one would do better to order the bone marrow, which is perfectly roasted, subtly smoky and served simply and expertly alongside thin crostini with a caper gremolata that is both delicious and unnecessary. The bone stands alone.
Other bar snacks were tasty (savory roasted garlic popcorn, served in a red-and-white paper cup, and creamy crab and Old Bay deviled eggs), but the Trestle’s kitchen has an unusual execution issue: They like to cook with booze, and they like you to know it. A small mason jar of baked beans was whiskey-heavy enough to replace a cocktail, and the glaze on a house-made sticky bun tasted like a shot at last call—not exactly appealing when you’re still choking down that first cup of coffee. There were other misses, including the misnamed “All Grown Up Kid’s Cereal” at brunch that is, in fact, a bowl of Cheerios topped with dried fruit and, inexplicably, half of a fresh seckle pear, seeds and all. Given the price point—most meals cost less than $10—much can be forgiven. After all (say it with me), it’s a dive bar.
Unlike many dives, where the primary entertainment attractions are Big Buck Hunter and jukeboxes loaded with George Thorogood and the Cure, Trestle Inn manages to be both bawdy and fun. A diverse crowd gathers starting at happy hour to watch nightly go-go dancers shimmy playfully in Bardot-approved get-ups to lively tunes. And brunch with Brittany Lynn is a riot, featuring trivia and sing-alongs. Highbrow it’s not, but for a late-night hang-out to attract a packed house at brunch, they must be doing something right.
As for the pickled pigs’ feet of yore, that vinegar-y porcine gelatin of a foodstuff? While they’re a whimsical nod to the history of the J&J, they belong, along with the chubby strippers and other unmentionables, firmly in Trestle’s past. The present is bright enough without it.
339 N. 11th St. 267.239.0290. thetrestleinn.com
Cuisine: Bar food done (mostly) right.
Hours: Tues.-Fri., 5pm-2am; Sat. and Sun., 11am-2am.
Price range: $2 to $13.
Atmosphere: Barbarella seeks hipster for drinks, dinner and dancing. Must love Poe. Ambitious eaters a plus.
Food: Pig-heavy, with veggie and vegan options.
Service: Efficient, attentive and polite.
339 N. 11th St. 215.925.3343 It's all my friend Tafari's fault. When he suggests an evening's indulgence at J&J Trestle Inn, I readily admit I've never visited the establishment (indeed, I'd never hea...
PW's Taste of Philly 2014