I decided to find an amazing mussel dish for this month’s meal challenge. I wanted to experience a stellar, unique mussel dish that strayed from the traditional white wine offering. I selected three different restaurants in the city of Philadelphia that Yelp reviewers claimed to be the best. My selections included Monk’s Belgian Cafe, Eulogy Belgian Tavern, and Birra Pizzeria. Well… Like many other ventures I decide to take on, I start out with an extensive list and give myself no time to accomplish it. I managed to make it to one place on my list! Don’t shake your head; I did try two additional places that were not on my original list. Take that!
I visited Legal Seafood (suburbs of Philly), Goat Hollow (Mt. Airy section of Philly), and Monk’s Belgian Café (on my original list).
My Legal Seafood visit was celebratory. My darling’s birthday was this month and the choice for the birthday dinner was Legal Seafood. I am soooo not a chain restaurant girl. With so many small restaurants in Philly, I never feel the need to visit a chain but I’ve been a fan of Legal Seafood for quite some time. I was delighted to see they had mussels on the menu so we decided that would be our first course. .
The Legal mussel recipe consisted of a traditional white wine broth but with a healthy amount of crushed red peppers. I enjoyed the spicy note of the broth but the mussels were not as big as I would’ve liked. The biggest issue I had with this dish was the bread. It was way too crisp and even when dipped in the broth, it did not soften. It was almost like they don’t realize how instrumental the bread is in this dish. They were tasty but didn’t make the cut for the best mussels title.
Along comes the last week of January and I am talking to my friends who happen to be my accountability partners when it comes to pursuing my passion. They very casually(not really) mentioned that the month is drawing nigh and they didn’t remember me talking about making the mussels. My response was, “I know I must get it done this weekend!”
With that being said, Goat Hollow is next up… Goat Hollow is a super cute, super hip small Phillyesque restaurant. The wonderful thing about Goat Hollow is the mature list of craft beer and their homage to Mt. Airy. For example, their mussels are named after various streets in Mt. Airy. Value add for sure in my book!
I visited Goat Hollow with a gang of kiddies on a Friday evening; My two girls, my baby cousin, and my sister’s god-daughter who has unwillingly become my honorary niece. My sister also joined me. Needless to say we were one of the only tables with kids but we made the best of it because I was on a mission. After reviewing the menu I ordered the Goat Hollow and my sister ordered the Lincoln Drive mussels. After waiting 35 minutes our food finally came out. The mussels were accompanied by fries and a dinner roll.
The Goat Hollow mussels were made up of caramelized onions, tasso(specialty Southern ham), and beer. They were certainly tasty but the tasso was washed away in my opinion. The dish would’ve been better had the tasso been added at the very end and not drenched in the broth. The fries were nice and crispy and the roll was chewy and complimented the broth very well. I had a taste of my sister’s Lincoln Drive and as expected it was garlicky, buttery goodness.
Finally we get to the great part! Monk’s Cafe… Oh me, oh my! Have you ever went out of your way to try a place that people rave about and when you finally get it, it’s just ok? Well that is not the case with Monk’s Cafe! We(my darling and I) walked in around 11:30 on a Saturday night ruling out the chance of being seated right away as it was super crowded. We walk in and manage to snag a table with no wait! Upon being seated, we review their beer bible which is a hearty list of Belgian brews. We ordered two beers then set our sites on the mussel menu. We choose the Thai Curry and Ghent (bacon, onions, and blue cheese) mussels. While waiting for our food we make small talk with the table of four people sitting next to us. I mention the purpose of this visit and they asked if I tried Devil’s Den. I am definitely trying them in the very near future.
Our food arrives in about 15 minutes and we immediately dig in. Melt in your mouth goodness! They were tasty, big mussels that melted in your mouth. There was only one problem. They didn’t belong to us! As I am enjoying them I notice I don’t taste curry or blue cheese. Our waitress stopped by and I asked her what we ordered again. She confirmed Thai curry and Ghent, I said ok, and she walked away. I ate about two more and had to get the waitress. I asked her to look at the mussels we had and tell me what kind they are. Low and behold, our mussels were switched with the table next to us. The waitress asked if we wanted to switch them and we chose to keep one(Monk’s Cafe mussels) and get an order of Ghent mussels. The Monk’s mussels were their take on a traditional white wine.
Ghent mussels… Heavenly blue cheese and bacon goodness. Those flavors can tend to overpower but the mussels still managed to shine trough the creamy goodness.
Overall this was an awesome meal that included awesome beer and ended a snowy day on a good note. Oh, and I didn’t mention that the table next to us let me taste the Thai curry mussels. Yummy! The moral of my story is… The Belgians do it better!