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Manayunk Brewery & Restaurant

Manayunk Brewery & Restaurant
4120 Main St. (at Shurs Lane)
Credit cards accepted
Open for lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday
Sunday jazz brunch buffet

Philadelphia has been a strong brewery town since colonial times. John Adams, who enjoyed apple cider every day in his native Braintree, Mass., savored his first sip of beer at The City Tavern when he arrived in Philadelphia. He told his wife Abigail how much he enjoyed it.

Edward and I enjoyed a pint of Philadelphia-brewed beer on a cool, balmy evening overlooking the Schuylkill River at the Manayunk Brewery & Restaurant. It is a sprawling place of rooms and bars with the largest outdoor restaurant patio and deck in the city. Adams would have enjoyed the Manayunk lager ($4.50 a pint) and the beautiful view.

Manayunk Brewery is another good family restaurant. We settled into a roomy table by the river and perused the menu. Parisian-style heat lamps were in place just in case the weather turned chilly. Fortunately for us, it didn’t. Executive chef Brian Duffy put together a menu that includes pub fare such as juicy burgers; pasta; classic entrées such as filet mignon and chicken Marsala; all-American favorites, including stuffed pork chops and barbecued ribs; and vegetarian dishes at moderate prices.

There are no specials at Manayunk Brewery except for the soup of the day. Our waiter brought us a loaf of warm sesame bread and foil-wrapped pats of butter. I was disappointed to discover paper napkins, as cloth napkins should be offered at dinner. A good-sized Bombay Sapphire martini ($6.50) and a Beefeater martini ($6) were perfectly made and priced just right.

The cooks at Manayunk Brewery really know how to fry foods. There is a secret to coating with crumbs and deep-frying to a golden brown, free of grease and crisp to perfection. Fried Virginia oysters ($6.50) were a tasty way to begin dinner. Five good-sized beauties were dipped in panko breadcrumbs and arrived piping hot. The menu stated coleslaw was to arrive with the oysters, but it didn’t. Homemade tartar sauce and a doctored-up rich cocktail sauce, redolent with horseradish, enhanced them just right. Panko breadcrumbs, also known as Japanese breadcrumbs, resemble shredded coconut before cooking and always give fried foods a marvelous flavor and texture.

Seared ahi tuna ($8.50) appears on numerous menus. This version rated a C. I received eight tiny, slightly rare, very thin slices that lacked flavor and juiciness. The accompanying salad was a disappointment. Cucumber sliced into a julienne is sometimes added to this dish, but Duffy and his staff merely peeled cucumber sticks, the skin included, which did nothing for the appetizer.

A small mound of baby spinach and mesclun mix was added to the triangular plate. The salad was drizzled with a soy-based vinaigrette laced with honey. The menu states the salad is chilled, but mine was not.

The apple-smoked bacon salad ($7.75), on the other hand, was very good. It was thoughtfully split in the kitchen and arrived in deep soup bowls. Tender baby spinach and mesclun mix was tossed with bits of sweet red onion, quarters of red, ripe tomatoes, sliced hard-boiled egg and marvelous chunks of apple-smoked bacon. The dressing was rich and clung to the greens. The salad was a marvelous mix of colors, flavors, tastes and textures.

Our entrées did not measure up to the oysters and spinach salad. Grilled meatloaf ($13.75) was prepared with ground sirloin, pork and veal. Edward received a big slab of meatloaf, which, according to the menu, was to be topped with a mushroom demi-glace. There was gravy on top, but it did not resemble demi-glace. Tomato sauce also topped the meat. The meatloaf and the sauce were salty and lukewarm. The whipped garlic potatoes were not whipped too well, because they were still a bit lumpy and included skin from the red bliss potatoes used in making them. We did not detect a garlic flavor. They, too, were lukewarm. The sautéed vegetables, however, were nicely done and included a julienne of carrot, red peppers, red onion and yellow squash.

I ordered grilled scallops ($19), which were described on the menu as "jumbo scallops marinated and grilled with an onion marmalade." These were not jumbo scallops. They were small sea scallops — I received eight of them, threaded on wooden skewers. Although they were not overcooked, they were salty to my taste and Edward’s. Someone forgot to include the onion marmalade, too. I asked our waiter if I could have potato croquettes instead of rice and he said, "Of course you can." Boy, were they good.

I received two huge potato latkes made with mashed red bliss potatoes, coated in panko breadcrumbs and deep fried to a golden brown. I could have made a meal of them, as they made up for the disappointing scallops and the tasteless, unpleasant-looking grilled vegetables that came with my dinner. There were long, thick slices of carrot and zucchini, and a round, thick slice of red onion and yellow squash. The veggies were dry and obviously were not brushed with olive oil before grilling. The prep chef forgot to remove the seeds from the yellow squash. Edward shared his vegetables with me.

Service was excellent, however. Manayunk Brewery employs a big staff. Ample bus help cleared with ease, but we always had to ask for clean knives and forks because they were removed with each course. Two women sitting right next to us tucked into good-sized grilled burgers that really looked good. My mouth watered as the aroma of freshly made French fries wafted over to our table. As I said, the chefs here really know how to fry foods.

Two tips of the toque to Manayunk Brewery & Restaurant.

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