Monday, May 13, 2013

Morgan's Pier

221 N. Columbus Blvd.
Philadelphia, PA 19123
(215) 279-7134

Now that the weather has (slowly) come back around, Morgan's Pier opened last Thursday for its second season. The first year was undoubtedly a great success for the business, but the food left a lot to be desired.

This time they've made substantial improvements to their kitchen staff, and presumably, the menu(s). With a crew of talent that includes the ex-chef from Stateside (George Sabatino), there are a few others in there who've come by way of Barbuzzo (which will undoubtedly continue to be a feeder). With that being known, I went in with some pretty great expectations.

The menu has been broadened to include a slew of vegetarian-friendly options, but they've also stuck with a selection of outdoor-BBQ-meets-bar-food that's very reminiscent of last summer's offerings. I was a little surprised. I was expecting more. Or maybe just more of a difference in selections.

But, before I go on, I will mention that there is a raised section of seating that's essentially the "dining room." There's nothing "room" about it, as the entire establishment is open air, with the only enclosures including the kitchen and rest rooms. It's lightly fenced-in and has it's own pre-fixe menu. For $30 you get to choose one each from a selection 5 apps, 4 entrees and with an optional surcharge, you can order from the raw bar. Not sure that I'll get around to all that, but the diners seemed happy up there.

Down on the lower level, we started with the carrot & shaved snap pea salad with ginger dressing. This was actually very good. Refreshing and crisp, it was very well presented and the ginger dressing was right on the money (think sushi-spot house salad).

Here are the cheesy kale croquettes. Another good presentation, albeit a small one. I guess for $5, I expected at least 5 balls? Is that too much to ask? The more the merrier.

They were small, but pretty delicious.

The deep-fried shell gives way to an aged cheddar sauce littered with sultry wilted kale, served over dabs of romesco. I liked them, but wouldn't order them again, unless they up the ball count.

I had to try a sandwich, of course. With a fairly limited menu, my options were whitefish salad, pulled BBQ chicken, bacon (pork belly, I assume) or burger. I was feeling like some hearty beef, so I got the latter.

It's served with a house-made american cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and "thousands of islands" with a side of paper-thin mixed potato chips. The chips literally disintegrate upon hitting your tongue. Salty deliciousness.

I ordered it medium, and was pleasantly surprised when it came out closer to medium-rare. Cooking a burger to temperature at an establishment whose kitchen is serving as many as 200 people can be a tricky call - but they nailed it. The burger was well seasoned with such an amazing caramelized char on the outside, I had to remind myself that there was no bacon on there. The aforementioned dressing seemed to be lacking, but it wasn't even necessary. This burger's definitely worth recommending.

All in all, I love Morgan's Pier for the atmosphere. Not to mention the fact that PBR's are always $2.50 - that's the best deal on the menu. I wish the other items came closer to that kind of 'affordability' but I also understand that when you've cornered the market on riverside deck bar/restaurant/music venue for the younger crowd, there's a price we'll have to pay.

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