1148 S 11th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 339-0855
http://www.devilsdenphilly.com

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I was hot. Not in a “little black dress and heels” kind of way, or a “sevens again!” kind of way, but in a “sweat running down my back, hair sticking to my forehead, am I hallucinating or is that dog really talking?” kind of way. Excited for a bright day after a rainy June, I’d decided to enjoy the sunshine, forgo the bus, and walk the two-plus miles to meet my friends at the Devil’s Den, a South Philly gastropub serving the neighborhood’s growing beer snob population. I was an idiot. It was over 90 degrees and I wanted to give in, but I hadn’t passed a single available cab, and I didn’t know the bus routes in this neighborhood. My friend’s promise that there was a cold Arcadia Sky High Rye with my name on it was the only thing that kept me soldiering on.

Luckily, the Devil’s Den is extremely cool. In a literal sense, it’s relatively dark and den-like (it’s not just a clever name!), exactly what I wanted after my walk as the rest of Philly jostled for tables at outdoor cafes. Figuratively, it’s a haven for local hipsters, often jam-packed on weekend nights and during happy hours (where drink and food specials abound). On this late afternoon, there were several other tables of people looking for respite from the sun, sipping craft brews and enjoying the mish-mosh menu as the world melted outside.

The beer list is huge, with pages and pages of ales, lagers, wheats and Belgians listed between the covers of a thick leather-bound menu. As with most beer-focused Philly haunts, the taps rotate, with a good selection of mostly American (and several local) suds on draught. After finishing my Arcadia, we decided to try a flight of four Belgians, all of us agreeing that the Ommegang Witte was the perfect anecdote to the steamy weather.

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Hungry for some grub to go with all that beer, we perused the relatively extensive menu. I was intrigued (and maybe a little repulsed) by the poutine, this version (according to the menu) coming with duck confit, IPA cheese sauce, swiss cheese and duck gravy, but I was outvoted and we went with an order of standard but tasty “traditional” mussels – sweet bivalves steamed in white wine and garlic, and topped with parsley – that came with an order of somewhat disappointingly limp pommes frittes.

The salad and sandwich offerings my table ordered were again, serviceable but pretty standard, with the exception of the hot brie sandwich – gooey brie, apples and grapes topped with a decadent and delicious honey mustard sauce. A spinach salad with bacon and rounds of fried goat cheese and a chopped salad topped with a mound of crumbled blue cheese did the job, but the pulled pork sandwich was too sweet for my taste. The menu does have some more robust offerings – including a dry-rubbed New York Strip and veggie-friendly seitan “meat”loaf – but in general, the food is more of a complement to the fantastic beer selection than a reason to make your way to the Devil’s Den.

Downing the last sip of my Ommegang Witte, I was ready for the long walk home. My belly full of beer and bar food, I was revitalized. I put on my sunglasses and stepped out into the humid air, walked two blocks, and then turned around to rejoin my friends for another round. I could always call a cab later.

by Tara Pierson Hoey

[Photos: Joel Rakes and Benjamin Haas]

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