Walking into Kyber Pass Pub, I wondered if anything had changed. Same dim lighting, same bar, same tiled bar floor, same jukebox. Feels like the Kyber I know, a dingy Old City bar and music venue, except, peek into the adjoining room where bands used to play, and the stage is gone and candle lit tables fill the long, narrow room.
Starting today, the Khyber reopens as Khyber Pass Pub, a gastropub serving grub with a Southern bent. The pub will be serving food and drinks in soft-opening mode until the grand opening on November 18. Thanks to the fine folks at Khyber Pass Pub, I was treated to a preview of the menu, which you can peep here. The menu features a mash up of normal pub food (wings, burgers, fries, onion rings), Cajun (po-boys on imported Leidenheimer rolls, gumbo, and fried oysters), barbecue (North Carolina-style pulled pork and brisket sandwiches and platters with choice of Kansas City, South Carolina — holla! — and North Carolina-style barbecue sauces), and soul food (Memphis-style fried chicken, biscuits, and collards).
Vegan and vegetarian options are clearly marked on the menu. While the meat-eaters plow through bacon grease popcorn with Cajun seasoning and oyster po-boys, vegans can order their own non-porky Cajun seasoned popcorn and seitan po-boys. There were a lot of vegan and vegetarian options, but the following is all we could manage to put away in one evening.
Bright and thick vegan tomato bisque was actually a special of the day, conjuring up memories of dreary winter days, and would have perfectly paired with a grilled cheese sandwich.Thinly sliced fried green tomatoes were piping hot, perfectly breaded, and topped with a tangy and spicy remoulade. The best dish we sampled.
The grilled vegan sausage sandwich had a bit of pep from the roasted poblanos, red onions, pickles, creole mustard. The side of mac and cheese was bland and dry.The vegan fried seitan po-boy seemed so similar to the grilled vegan sausage sandwich, that I'd like to see one of the two omitted from the menu, and a barbecue pulled seitan sandwich on a soft roll make it onto the menu, since there currently isn't a vegetarian or vegan barbecue option.
The side of sweet potato fries were on par.
Bourbon, pecans, and red velvet were all over the dessert menu, but we only had room to split one, so went with the maple bourbon creme brulee. A thick, crackly sugar top gave way to a smooth, bourbon-heavy, but thin custard. The taste and texture was all there, just a little thickening was needed.
Obviously an initial run through of the menu with the staff, and a gracious preview for the guests, Khyber Pass Pub has some expected, initial-opening kinks to work out. I think the Khyber probably made a wise choice to keep the venue a bar, as they have such a loyal following — and apparently mostly men, 'cause it was one hot sausage fest up in there!
For those living on the northerly end of town, you'll be pleased to know that Khyber Pass Pub reads like a more spacious Royal Tavern, a sibling bar in South Philly . . . and that's not a bad thing.
Khyber Pass Pub
56 S. 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19106
Bar: every day 11am-2am
Kitchen: every day 11am-1am