This past Friday evening we stopped by Devil's Den, a relatively new (within the last year) pub-n-grub on 11th St. in South Philly. I had no idea what to expect, since the reviews of the food have been mixed to poor.
We sat at the bar in the main room. A fireplace divides the smaller dining area from the spacious, but cozy, main bar area. Even with a fireplace, Devil's Den lacks personality; it's just a nondescript, but nice, bar. On the plus side, the bar was full on Friday evening, but not obnoxiously full like so many other popular bars -- no shouting required to hear the person next to you!I asked the bartender to make me a girly drink of his choice (I always draw a blank when ordering drinks). He indulged my annoying request without one bit of 'tude. The bartender was a pleasure all night long - taking time to go to the kitchen and find out about the special, and generally just being more than a bartender. Oh, he made me a Cosmo with strawberry and basil infused vodka. Very good! I had to restrain myself from having a third.
I had the Hot Brie baguette sandwich with Brie, grapes, sliced apples and pears, and honey mustard drizzle. With hot in the name I was expecting melted Brie, but the Brie was not melted. My sandwich was cold, which made the baguette a bit too much to chew. Halfway through the sandwich I figured out that eating it open faced was much easier.
The honey mustard was the only ingredient that added any real flavor or kick to the sandwich, but by drizzling the plate with mustard and then setting the sandwich on top, the eater ends up with mustard all over their hands when they pick up the sandwich. Design flaw! Put the mustard in the sandwich or in a ramekin!
The accompanying salad was nothing but undressed mixed greens, and went untouched. Gotta have dressing if I'm gonna eat a pile of lettuce! The couple of thinly sliced homemade bread and butter pickles were a pleasant teaser.My partner ordered the veggie Monte Cristo from the specials board. This is the first time I've seen a vegetarian Monte Cristo in a restaurant since I discovered what they were. The sandwich was a fluffy twist of bread and cheese that tasted, oddly, like pepperoni pizza. We couldn't figure out where the pepperoni flavor was coming from, since our vision was impaired by low lighting. Also, most Monte Cristo sandwiches come with either maple syrup or jam, but Devil's Den skipped the sweet element of the sandwich. Everyone has their own version, I guess.
The Monte Cristo came with a side salad of microgreens, shaved fennel and pine nuts. Again, I don't think the salad was dressed. If it was, it was dressed very lightly, but at least the pine nuts and fennel gave the salad flavor. A cup of creamy, chunky, onion soup also came with the sandwich.
In conclusion, the food at Devil's Den is neither here nor there, good nor bad. The Hot Brie was a simple sandwich I could see making for a picnic. The Monte Cristo was good, but disappointingly missing the key sweet element.
Devil's Den will do you right if you simply need to fill the belly while getting your drink on (they have a decent beer menu).
1148 11th St., Philadelphia, PA 19147
Open daily, 11 a.m.-2 a.m; Sunday brunch, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.