photo credit: KERRY MCINTYRE

Southwark review image



701 S 4th St, Philadelphia
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It seems like every day there’s a new, ultra-specific beauty product we’re told we absolutely need. Like a nail bed exfoliator that swears it’ll turn your stubs into dainty claws, or a clay mask especially for the backs of your knees. We miss the days when you could walk into a drug store, head straight to the hygiene aisle, and pick up a combination shampoo-conditioner-body wash: the simple product that takes care of pretty much any soap-related need.

Like a 3-in-1 beauty product, Southwark has a lot of different components - a cocktail bar, a dressy dining room, and a casual back patio. But unlike the shampoo-conditioner-body wash trio - which we concede should probably remain separate products - Southwark nails all three elements, and ties them together with some of the best food in the city.

Southwark is a French-leaning place in Queen Village, and when you first walk in, you won’t be able to see past the large bar. In fact, if you didn’t do any research beforehand, you’d probably think this one room - which serves the full menu - is the entire space. You wouldn’t be disappointed either, because on its own, it’s one of the best cocktail bars in the city - with fruity milk punches and silky smooth highballs, all named after famous movie lines.

Southwark review image

photo credit: Kerry McIntyre

But beyond the bar, through a narrow hallway, are two entirely different spaces. There’s a dining room with white tablecloths and fancy silverware that feels a bit proper, and might cause you to start thinking in a British accent. And then out back there’s a plant-filled patio where couples are sharing charcuterie plates, splitting bottles of wine, and slipping pieces of prosciutto to their dogs.

These three starkly different experiences make Southwark a useful place for a variety of situations. But the food is really what makes Southwark what it is. From the perfectly crispy fried green tomatoes to larger dishes, like the creamy stuffed summer squash, everything is flavorful and shareable. There are pasta dishes that rival the ones from our favorite Italian spots, and they come in both whole and half portions, in case you can’t decide between the buttery pea and ricotta ravioli or the potato gnocchi buried in a savory pork and tomato ragu. Just get half portions of both, and maybe throw in a third bowl of shrimp squid ink fettuccine if you’re really hungry. The menu works for any situation, whether you’re here to catch up with a few friends and split a bunch of half-portions of pasta, or have a full dinner with clients in town from New York who each want their own steak.

Even if the food at Southwark wasn’t top-notch, you’d still want to come here for a cocktail at the bar. But the food is so good you’ll want to have a summer dinner out on the patio, and host all of your future family graduation dinners in their dining room. It’s a place you get excited to go to, no matter what reason you come here for, and no matter how many times you’ve been. If there was a 3-in-1 beauty product that could make us feel half the things Southwark did, we’d clear all the shelves and stockpile it in a storage unit somewhere. Until then, we’ll continue spending our summer nights on Southwark’s back patio, and buying our shampoo and conditioner separately.

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Food Rundown

Southwark review image

Fried Green Tomatoes

Crunchy, juicy, and just a little bit sour. They come with a creamy herb aioli and some shishitos on the side, and no matter where you’re sitting, you’ll want these in front of you.

Southwark review image

Homemade Bread

With all of the amazing dishes on the menu, it might seem dumb to waste your precious stomach real estate on some plain bread. But this fluffy, chewy, homemade bread is the perfect way to start your meal. And at $4, it’s well worth ordering.

Southwark review image

Pea & Ricotta Ravioli

Of the three pasta dishes on the menu, this is probably our least favorite. But that’s not saying all that much, because we still enjoy how the lamb bacon, peas, and ricotta all work together. Plus it’s topped with a buttery lemon sauce that takes the whole thing to another level.

Southwark review image

Potato Gnocchi

The gnocchi remind us of tiny little featherbeds - the really expensive kind that they put on the beds in 5-star resorts. Except instead of being made from goose feathers, they’re all cheese and potato - which we’d argue is much more appealing. If that alone doesn’t make you want to get in your car and drive straight to Southwark, then we are on very different pages.

Southwark review image

Squid Ink Fettuccine

The fettuccine itself is light and perfectly al dente, with a butter herb sauce, ’nduja, and shrimp. It’s basically summer in a bowl, and we’d also happily eat it in the middle of a snowstorm.

Southwark review image

Green Circle Chicken

Roast chicken on a menu is about as ubiquitous as jaywalking. But this one comes with a super tender thigh that’s crispy on the outside and a side caesar salad that puts most other caesars to shame. You’ll be happy it’s on the menu when you’re here with your five aunts who are pickier than their children.

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