Food Review

Restaurant Review – Bar Ferdinand, Northern Liberties, Philadelphia

Last Thursday night, I was scheduled to meet The Rick and our friend Frank for dinner and a few drinks. Though Frank was unable to attend, The Rick and I decided to go out anyway. By Wednesday night, we decided that we were going to Northern Liberties, but still hadn’t settled on where we’d be having dinner. We narrowed it down to two places: Bar Ferdinand and Kraftwork. While I knew that the food at Bar Ferdinand would be good (I was last there four years ago), I wasn’t so sure about the beer selection. Kraftwork is known for an outstanding selection of craft beers, but I didn’t know much about their food. After consulting Philly Tap Finder, I found out that Bar Ferdinand has a very respectable craft beer list. Given my love of Spanish cuisine, tapas style dining, and really good beer, we settled on Bar Ferdinand.

My first experience with tapas style dining occurred in 1990 when I was lucky enough to spend a weekend in San Sebastian, Spain. Walking from bar to bar and eating countless appetizers while drinking numerous glasses of wine is an experience that I will never forget. Thankfully, this style of dining has been faithfully recreated at several restaurants in the U.S., which allows me to relive the San Sebastian experience without having to leave the country (so far, I’ve been to Jaleo in DC plus Amada and Bar Ferdinand in Philly).

The Bar Ferdinand dinner menu is broken down into the following categories: Ensaladas (Salads), Bocadillos (Sandwiches), Tapas Frias (Cold Tapas), Pinchos (Skewers), Empanandas (Filled Pastries), Croquetas (Fried Croquettes), Tapas Mixtas (Hot Tapas), and Raciones (Larger Portions). Since there were so many items on the menu to choose from, we decided to try as many different dishes as possible by ordering them in a series of stages. After 2.5 hours of eating and drinking, here’s how it all played out…

Round 1

  • Cerveza: Ballast Point Wahoo Wheat (4% ABV)
  • Empanadas Con Pollo Y Champinoes: Roasted free range organic chicken, royal trumpet and portabella mushrooms, sherry, thyme, frisee salad
  • Jamon Croquetas: Serrano ham, charred scallion
  • Vieras Salteadas: Grilled Spanish octopus, baby arugula, shaved fennel, grapefruit, red onion, citrus vinaigrette
  • Canelores Con Costillas Del Buey: Braised short rib cannelloni, sautéed spinach, pinenuts, golden raisins , sofrito

Round 2

  • Cerveza: Ommegang Rare Vos Belgian Amber Ale (6.5% ABV)
  • Gilda: Olive, Spanish white anchov y, Guindilla pepper
  • Pan con Tomate: Toasted bread, tomato salsa
  • Vieiras Con Puré De Chirivía: Pan seared scallops, parsnip puree

Round 3

  • Cerveza: Sixpoint Sehr Crisp Pilsner (5.4% ABV)
  • Aceitunas: House marinated Spanish olives
  • A La Espanola: Traditional Spanish omelete, aioli
  • Higado De Pollo: Crispy pan seared chicken livers, caramelized onions
  • Empanadas Con Berenjena Con Lentejas: Roasted eggplant, lentils, romesco sauce

The 4th and Final Round

  • Café: Espresso
  • Torrija De Manzana: Fried cider soaked bread, cinnamon ice cream, candied orange zest
  • Arroz Con Leche: Creamy calaspara rice pudding, brandied cherries, toasted almonds

The Aftermath

During Round 2, we joked that we were still very hungry, and that we should consider grabbing some sandwiches at Tony Luke’s. By the middle of Round 3, we were changing our tune, and by the end of Round 4, we were thoroughly stuffed. While we enjoyed every item that we ordered, there were four that were particularly outstanding. Here are the high and low points of our meal:

  • The Highs: The grilled Spanish octopus, the braised short rib canneloni, the pan seared chicken livers, and the chicken and mushroom empanadas. These four items were particularly delicious and I really like how the flavors and textures played off each other. Charred, yet tender octopus and crisp, citrusy salad. Fork tender short ribs covered in a simple, yet tangy tomato sauce. Crisp, tender chicken livers alongside sweet, caramelized onions. Moist chicken and earthy mushrooms wrapped in a tender, flaky fried dough.
  • The Lows: The toasted bread with tomato salsa and the serrano ham croquettes. These items weren’t particularly bad, they just didn’t stand a chance against all of the other excellent items that we ordered. Thankfully, they were only about $5 each.

In case you couldn’t tell, we really enjoyed our meal at Bar Ferdinand. Very good food, very good beer, and a well appointed bar/dining room made for a very pleasurable dining experience. As an added bonus, since we were there before 7PM, all of our beers were half price which helped to offset some of the cost for all the food we ordered. I’m looking forward to going back very soon.

16 replies »

  1. OK, A couple things prove very confounding ….

    1. What does the word “liver” mean in the food portion of the review? I understand a liver reference regarding craftbeer and metabolism and free proteins (like the stuff you read in the fortunes of fortune cookies at high end Asian bistros) but I’m having some difficulty coming to terms with how “liver” could appear (so seamlessly) as a menu item ingredient. Admittedly, the economy is troubled and few of us are capable of sustaining the same standard of living we may have “enjoyed” some years back but, my god, you’re talking about eating an organ! An organ, man! I suspect there was a guy strapped to a chair at the next table wearing a dark great and decidedly threatening hockey-style face mask….

    The other thing I don’t understand is why a Spanish tapas restaurant in Philadelphia took the name of a mid 1970s top 40 hit from a Swedish band.


  2. I am pretty sure several articles of the Bro Code were violated during this brocassion:

    Article 12 – Bros do not share dessert …. VIOLATED

    Article 41 – A Bro never cries …. VIOLATED
    (you know G-Lo teared up when “Fernando” started playing)

    Article 42 – Bros never share a full embrace …. VIOLATED

    Article 77 – Bros don’t cuddle …. VIOLATED

    Article 112 – Bros don’t sing along to music at a bar … FERNANDOED


  3. G-Lo,

    A minor correction to your otherwise excellent review. We considered a new joint, “Paesano’s” not “Tony Lukes.” Paesano’s boasts of having the best new sangwich in Philadelphia, an alleged masterpiece of beef brisket with fried egg. I am a skeptic of any “Italian” joint with a patronizing name like “Paesano’s” so i will reserve judgment. Anyways, here’s the website for your ongoing research project:

    As for the woefully unclever comments of your other fans. It’s kinda pathetic that they want to turn a beer drinking, belly stuffing marathon into Brokeback Dinner. Must be their own, latent identity issues bubbling to the surface. As Yoda would say, “Sad and boring, they are.”


    The Package


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