Nodding Head Brewing Company
1516 Sansom St
Visited on November 8, 2008
Nodding Head was perhaps the only brewpub in Philadelphia that I really enjoyed during my brief stay in the area. It’s up a steep flight of stairs in an old building with a lot of great woodwork, so it has character. It has a pleasantly fruity and floral IPA, so it has at least one very good beer. And it has baked brie with mango chutney, so it has some fatty foods. All good things.
Only blocks away from the astounding City Hall in the center of the city of brotherly love is a hidden gem of a brewery. Its sign does not light up and is only recognizable down the narrow street if you’re looking for it. The restaurant sits atop a flight of narrow, steep stairs that I would hate to walk down after a long night with their delicious beers.
The place has real character. It’s dark, it’s old, the tables have been gouged by patrons over the years, and it’s even a bit smoky (which I’m not sure is legal!) The bathrooms only hold one at a time, there are few “bar” qualities, and yet it’s somewhere I would want to spend many nights should I be lucky enough to live nearby.
The baked brie with mango chutney is simply one of the best two or three items of food I have ever put in my mouth. It’s creamy, its offset by the sweetness of the chutney, and served with warm, freshly baked pita wedges. I could eat this every day of my life and never be sick of it. The mufaletta sandwich is very tasty, though slightly overpowered by the herbal pesto generously applied to the fresh bread. Combined with the roasted red peppers and sun dried tomatoes, it is difficult to pick up the ham and pepperoni inside. My friend’s jerk chicken was likewise lost amongst other flavors and it tasted little more than chicken. The fries were crispy and delicious. Overall, I was impressed.
Be careful if you come here alone and order a sampler. You will be greeted by seven or eight glasses filled with at least six ounces of liquid. But they are well done. The oatmeal stout was especially good, and the “Grog” was an excellent English-styled nut brown. But the true star was the BPA, a British Pale Ale, that was somehow not hoppy up front but explosively floral and intricate and hop taste throughout the experience. Plus it went perfectly with the brie.
Not overly impressed with the service, but neither was I disappointed. It was exactly what you expect from a good restaurant, but nothing unexpected or over the top. A very solid score, but you have to go above and beyond for perfect marks.