Last night the brothers Egan were fortunate enough to score an invitation to a preview of the Khyber's newest, most southern-fried incarnation. Walking up 2nd St. we saw the old black and white Khyber signage being removed.
Upon entering the newly re-renamed Khyber Pass Pub it appears as though not much has changed. Still the same old beautiful bar with lots of great craft beer tap handles. It's a little cleaner and the bathrooms have (mercifully) been made over and now feature locks and functioning plumbing.
Really, it's when one turns the corner and enters the old performance space that the work that Steve Simons and co. put into the place becomes apparent. The long narrow room features banquettes on both sides and beadboard wainscotting. The formerly flyer'd over windows have been cleaned and the woodwork repainted. The new wood floors and the roughly finished tables looked fantastic in the dimly lit room. The space still feels a bit raw - the tin ceiling may yet get a paint job, some of the light fixtures were not installed - but overall it's remarkably inviting given its prior state. (Check out Mealticket's pictures from last night as they remembered to bring a camera that is not also a phone. Whoopsie Goldberg)
While perusing menus, we snacked on bacon fat popcorn with cajun spices. The glistening popped kernels packed some heat and were well salted. This brown bag snack might rival the truffled version from chef Mark McKinney's sister kitchen at the Royal Tavern.
We tried a few things from the regular menu as well. The fried chicken was far and away the favorite. The salty, crispy skin concealed some incredibly moist, succulent meat, and the collard greens were a surprise hit with a generous amount of smokey bacon. We also tried the gumbo and the fried oysters, which were solid choices.
Needing something sweet to counter all the fried food, we tried three desserts: chocolate pecan bread pudding (a must-have), bourbon-maple creme brulee (as awesome as it sounds) and vegan red velvet cake (a little dry with overly sweet icing).
Some beer highlights from a really interesting and diverse list of taps:
- Ballast Point "Even Keel" - A generously hopped session ale. Maybe the most memorable beer of the night. Incredible grapefruit/citrus aroma, juicy and herbal (notes of hibiscus) and wonderfully refreshing.
- Two Brothers "Heavy Handed" - A delicious harvest ale. Hoppy, straw colored with a nice foamy head. A nice counterpoint to the spicy bacon-fat popped kernels.
- Dock Street "West of Center" - On hand pump. Due to the malt character of this dark brew we mistook this for a bitter; but according to Dock St. it is a ("Not-So") Pale Ale. Great beer for a blustery, rainy Monday.
- Philadelphia Brewing Co. "Harvest from the Hood" - Neither overly sweet nor hoppy. Well-balanced with a roasted malt character. Possibly the best beer PBC has ever put out.
Overall the Khyber felt like a comfortable extension of the Royal Tavern in appearance, food and vibe. We look forward to trying more of the menu and seeing how the beer program develops.
Thanks to the folks at the Khyber for hosting and treating us.
The Khyber Pass Pub
56 S. Second St.