Review: Good Dog

Frank Clement's Tavern gets reincarnated as a Center City version of the Standard Tap.

By Lauren McCutcheon
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Apr. 21, 2004

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Good Dog
224 S. 15th St. 215.985.9600
Cuisine: American
Prices: $7-$21
Hours: 11:30am-2am Mon-Fri; 4pm-2am Sat-Sun.
Atmosphere: Old taproom meets pet boutique.
Service: Friendly, enthused.
Food: Satisfying big sandwiches, fries and blue plates.

It was obvious something was up at Frank Clement's Tavern when a man stood at the pub's entrance checking IDs.

Not that there weren't other clues that something was amiss. A new red sign capped the entryway, for example. But the bouncer was definitive proof.

Since the end of Prohibition, Frankie Clement's place was a friendly, old-mannish spot known for three-martini lunches, club sandwiches served in plastic baskets, barstools filled with business suits, and an occasionally singing bartender. It was the kind of pub where lunch melted into happy hour and then melted into last call.

It was not the kind of place with a bouncer.

Some years back the Clements sold the business to a new owner, who in turn sold it to another. This October Frank's saw its fourth owner. Her name is Heather Gleason. She comes from the Starr Restaurant Organization.

In one month Gleason scrubbed the taproom till it gleamed like it did 70 years ago. She gave it a new name, Good Dog, and concept: local beer and sophisticated comfort food--sort of a Standard Tap for Center City.

With a doggy motif. And bouncers.

Good Dog's decorations suit its theme. Bone-shaped chalkboards list food and drink. Black-and-white photos of local canines adorn walls and menu. Each black vinyl check folder bears an embossed silver dog collar.

Vestiges of the previous tenant remain, most notably the long mahogany bar and the booths with tall backs that once provided perfect cover if, say, your wife came looking for you several hours after you were due home.

But the crowd's changed. Though a few corporate refugees still linger at the bar during happy hours, nights bring just the kind of customers who are supposed to migrate to Philly after The Real World airs.

With revamped rooms on the second and third floors, this younger clientele plays Ms. Pac-Man, darts and pool, and listens to ironic songs on the jukebox.

Sure, Frank Clement's ain't what it used to be. (Heck, just across the street, the Office isn't even the Office anymore.) But food-wise, it's better.

That's because of chef Jessica Curley. A Culinary Institute of America grad and former Neil Stein employee, Curley wraps chicken fingers in black forest ham and Swiss. She ages mozzarella for her fried cheese appetizer. She makes spinach dip with roasted tomatillos and cream, vegetable ratatouille for empanada stuffing and an olive-bread muffaletta with fennel salami, aged provolone and roasted veggie ragout.

She even jars the strawberry jam for a double-decker peanut butter and jelly and banana sandwich. Each sauce, stock and dressing is hers.

The pub's self-named salad rivals those tall, sweet heaps meant for sharing at the Continental and Jones. Three crunchy, bite-sized lettuces anchor the toss, while creamy crumbled goat cheese, dried cranberries, slivered almonds and most notably a divinely unsweet vanilla vinaigrette provide the fireworks.

Crispy, buttery cornflakes top a baking dish of subtly oniony mac and cheese made with Gruy�re, gouda, white cheddar and bechamel--a gourmet-sounding mix that turns out creamy and surprisingly modest. A blueberry corn muffin comes on the side--an homage to Gleason's favorite childhood meal.

Also impressive: a snappy chicken breast and wing oozing herbs and Italian cheeses from beneath its crackling skin, served alongside cushions of mashed potatoes and shiny, garlicky spinach.

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