What is a gastropub?

It was a West Coast writer who christened the Standard Tap as the place where the concept originated (another feather in Philly’s well-feathered beer and food cap), so that’s a question we pay attention to in these parts.  In his weekly  online chat yesterday, Inky food and restaurant critic Craig LaBan had some thoughts on what that concept is and how it might be changing, based on a question from a reader about his review on Sunday of Stateside, a new addition to the burgeoning South Philly scene (you can read that here); here’s that exchange:

Reader: Read the Stateside review and while the menu looks awesome do you really think it fits the “gastropub?” When I think of a the great gastropubs here I think of elevated pub classics (i.e. Khyber Pass, North 3rd, Standard Tap, etc.) Do you think small plates is a little outside the box – and will that concept take off in the East Passyunk location?

C.L.: Good question that I think I began to discuss in the review, and it remains to be answered, I think, by the people. Does a gastropub have to be a beer-centric restaurant? Or just a bar-focused restaurant? The food format can really range . . . . I don’t think it has to offer only tweaks to the known bar canon (burgers, wings, etc.) We’re at a point where I think the modern taprooms of Philly are beginning to redefine what neighborhood dining is about in this town – and with Stateside’s serious drink program and labor-intensive seasonal small plates, I think it’s one of the ones to watch.

Reader: The food format can really range . . . . I don’t think it has to offer only “tweaks to the known bar canon” – I agree with this totally and it is nice to see something different in the gastro scene that has started to become a little over saturated. However in a area like East Passyunk I think you miss out on a lot of your target audience by serving small plates as the majority of the menu. I think a lot of the young professionals that will frequent Stateside are looking for a sandwich and beer on a nice weeknight at a neighborhood joint – and save the small plates for their weekend restaurant visits more toward Center City.

C.L.: I’m not so sure, in part because I think it is the younger audience that has grown most accustomed to the small-plate vibe. They can do as much or as little as they desire (a concept not unlike a.kitchen’s, I might add, though with a bit different vibe – pickles, charcuterie, etc.) I personally think E’Punk has plenty of sandwich places, so I applaud Stateside for trying to do something different, and perhaps a little more ambitious. Fond fits that category, too, of course.

I’m on his side although far removed from the younger audience. Us old folks can be cool too.

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