In the age of COVID-19, many establishments are reimagining what indoor dining can look like during a pandemic, and The Olde Bar in Old City has certainly taken their time and creativity to find a way for Philadelphians to dine in style safely.
The hotspot owned by restaurateur Jose Garces was once known as the popular seafood joint Bookbinders, and even though it’s now been called The Olde Bar for the past few years, the establishment has decided to capitalize on the old idea and name. The Olde Bar’s new dining room pays homage to Bookbinders with a library theme while also keeping diners safe with individual “library dining nooks.” To accompany the new space, guests can also try 16 new dishes that include an assortment of seafood meals reimagined into hearty courses for the cold weather coming in.
“We are excited to welcome guests back for indoor dining with the debut of our new reimagined dining room,” said Chef Jose Garces in a statement. “Our team has worked hard creating a fun and unique dining experience that maintains safety guidelines and keeps social distance. We can’t wait to have guests enjoy our updated menu from inside the new library-inspired dining room.”
According to the release, for the new dining room, the Garces team started to reimagine the space back in late spring when the pandemic forced restaurants around the region, state and country to shut down. The closure presented an opportunity for the The Olde Bar team to step back from busy service days, and get creative and out of the box.
The result is an all-new cozy space filled with stacks of classic books, vintage lamps, colorful and quirky art, emerald jewel-toned reading lamps, a reading lounge, and even QR codes delivered to the table inside a book. The space plays up a more intimate and classic vibe with individual nooks—14 to be exact—which are all ten feet away from the patrons at the adjacent book nooks. The new dining area also features old fashion-inspired library reading desks, a new lighting design and a new bar dining room with socially distanced seating that leaves every other banquet unoccupied to keep guests more than six feet apart.
“The Olde Bar, and now our new library-themed dining room, pays homage to the original traditions that made Bookbinder’s a landmark in Philadelphia,” says Garces in his statement. “Our long-term goal is always to celebrate the nostalgia of that place and time in Philadelphia’s history, but with our own unique spin and a look to the future. The new library nooks and the new menu are great examples of old meets new.”
The Olde Bar will pair the new dining experience with a new menu that continues Chef Jose’s vision of modern influence on classic dishes. Philadelphians will be able to enjoy seafood fare that Bookbinders was once famous for in a completely new and elevated way. Think classic ingredients spun with all new flavors and combinations mixed together to offer an all-new way to experience comfort food.
Menu highlights include a Warm Lobster Salad (with fingerling potatoes, frisee and sherry truffle vinaigrette) Crab and Corn Chowder (with blue crab, guanciale and lime crema), Tuna Steak Frites (with herb-marinated yellowfin tuna, lemon garlic fries and green peppercorn jus), a Lobster Corn Dog (with sweet cornbread batter, lobster aioli, spicy mustard and lemon garlic fries), Bay Scallop Pappardelle (with asparagus Cream, speck, peas, fermented chile,) Stuffed Lobster (a half lobster stuffed with crab, haricot verts, almonds and roasted potatoes), Lobster Pot Pie (with sherry cream, smoked scallops, root vegetables and puff pastry), Steak Tartare (with smoked oyster aioli, charred onions and marbled rye) and much more.
“We wanted to create classic seafood dishes that offer a hint of comfort for our guests after this trying year,” said Garces in a statement. “The Lobster Pot Pie, Crab Stuffed Lobster and Winter Squash Risotto are great examples. We can’t forget the Lobster Corn Dog – that one is fun and tastes awesome.”
However, Philadelphians can still expect some classic favorites from the establishment as well to be kept on the menu including the Raw Bar, Seafood Tower, Crab Fingers, Olde Bar Crab Cake, Snapper Soup, Olde Bar Fries, Jeff’s Fried Chicken, Seafood Rolls and a few other returning dishes.
According to the release, all new dishes will be available on the all-day menu (1 to 10 p.m.) and/or on the dinner menu (5 to 10 p.m.). Additional food and drink specials will be offered during happy hour, 4 to 6 p.m. daily. For a full list of dishes and menus, visit The Olde Bar website, and for more information and reservations, visit theoldebar.com or call 215-253-3777. Reservations can also be made on OpenTable.com and are strongly suggested.