This past Friday Amanda and I met our friend Bekah at her new apartment which is just a hop, skip and a jump away from the new Piazza at Schmidt's. The Piazza is pretty impressive and worth a post of its own at some point. The developer claims inspiration from Rome's Piazza Navona, but its best not to compare the two. Granted I haven't been back to the Eternal City in a few years but I think its safe to say there isn't a permanent jumbotron broadcasting sporting events in Navona. What Schmidt's does have in common with its Old World brethren is that its a great public space. There are interesting shops, art galleries and some intriguing new entries in Philadelphia's restaurant world.
Amanda, Bekah and I walked the few hundred steps to The Swift Half, which is a pub run by the same folks behind The Good Dog in Center City. The name refers to the last half a drink you say you're going to have on your way home (which, more often than not, turns into a bender). The space is handsomely appointed with a faux-tin drop ceiling above the bar and comfortable booths lining one side of the dining room. The beer list is similar to Good Dog's: American Craft Beer.
The menu is, for the most part, typical pub fare. The three of us decided to share a few dishes to maximize our sampling potential. Our first course was the the combo plate, which consists of any 4 selections from the cheese and charcuterie sections of the menu. It comes with cornichons, mustard, pickled beets, candied almonds and olives. We chose the molinari salami, the duck prosciutto, keen's farmhouse cheddar and the moliterno sardo bianco. Both meats and cheeses were great. The duck prosciutto was tasty. The color of the meat itself was darker but the flavors were remarkably faithful to the real thing, with only a hint of gami-ness that suggested "fowl-play". Waka waka.
We were a little underwhelmed by the portion size of this combo plate, however. For $17 we expected a healthier serving of cheese and meat. Also, the olives were oddly terrible. They seemed to be half frozen and I could barely break through the oddly fluorescent green skin with my chompers.
The burger was ordered medium but came closer to well. It was tasty though (topped with our choice of provolone) and still juicy, despite the overcooking. The fries were a disappointing pile of soggy ends. I suspect we got the bottom of the basket. Good Dog's fries are also similarly greasy and broken down into tiny bits, not sure why this is or how the kitchen can rectify the situation.
The fish and chips was our favorite dish of the night. The batter was cooked to a delicious, well-done crisp hiding the tender, flaky morsels of fish inside. Doused with malt vinegar and ketchup this is pub fare at its finest.
The chips (nee fries) were of the same ilk as the soggy pile that accompanied the burger. That didn't stop us from finishing most of them though!
As for beers I had a Flying Dog Doggystyle IPA and a Sly Fox Dax Maibock. Both beers held up well with the food. The IPA being of the milder, less smack-you-in-your-face-with-the-hops variety. Not too familiar with the maibock style but the Sly Fox Dax was very quaffable indeed.
Service at The Swift Half was pretty great overall. None of the condescension you get at other gastropubs in the city.
I'm sure The Swift Half will iron out the inconsistencies in the kitchen, and when they do I will be back.