How did a non-beer-drinker who rarely visits West Philly find themselves at Local 44, a West Philly neighborhood craft beer bar with eighteen beers on draft and two beers on cask? Chance. And I was in the mood for bar food.
Local 44 opened at the beginning of 2009 by the owner's of Memphis Taproom - another pub-grub establishment I've heard glowing things about (specifically their veggie menu options) but have yet to visit because it's not in my 'hood.
We visited on a weekend around lunchtime, and found the corner bar nearly empty and lonely feeling, but I've heard the joint is a mad house in the evenings. Since I wasn't there to drink beer - although their beer offerings did not go unsampled by my partner - I found the empty bar to be just what I was looking for.
Local 44's menu is small, but they have enough veggie options to make one's choosing difficult on the first visit: spinach croquettes with vegan garlic dill cream sauce; vegan frito pie; tofu tacos; oyster (mushroom) po' boy; veggie burger; and, of course, salads and fries.
Veggie burgers are usually what I order as a last resort at bars that have no other veggie options, but this day I was feelin' a veggie burger. Good thing we asked if the veggie burgers are housemade or frozen before ordering, because they're frozen at Local 44. Movin' on.Instead, I made the wiser choice by ordering the trio of tacos with breaded and fried tofu, cabbage and jicama slaw, and avocado pico on housemade corn tortillas topped with a spicy, smokey (chipotle?) sauce. The tofu had a nice thick, crispy breading that contrasted well with the soft tofu, and the avocado pico and smokey sauce lent the tacos a good punch of flavor. The slaw could have punched up the already great flavors if made with a heavier hand on the acid, but this is just nit-picking. I thought Local 44's tofu tacos were great, small bites of bold flavor, but they were just that - small bites. The trio of tacos alone is not going to fill you up if you're starving.What will fill you up is the mushroom po' boy with a side of hand cut fries. The mushroom po' boy consists of a roll filled with breaded and fried sliced mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and vegan remoulade, and is a great greasy sandwich to soak up beer. The filling to bread ratio was spot on, but there could have been more remoulade to lend more flavor. Be sure to ask for an extra side of sauce if you order this sandwich. I might even ask for the peppier sauce that comes with the tacos.
And the fries? Fries can be hit or miss on the same night at the same establishment, and this plate was a hit - not grease-logged!
Local 44 nixed dessert after hardly anyone ordered dessert when they first opened. But that's OK; I'd rather not have dessert than be served dessert that has languished for a week in the cooler. Local 44 is about the beer, after all. And some simple pub-grub.
So far so good on the veggie food front!
4333 Spruce St, Philadelphia, PA 19104