Friday, April 10, 2009

Review - Lunch at Ladder 15

Ladder 15, just down the block from Nodding Head Brewery, was a convenient stop for a weekday lunch last week. We were one of a half-dozen couples spread out across the cavernous restaurant; I could imagine late-night throngs packed around the bar-height tables, enjoying the fireplace and what looked like some kind of mezzanine.

The waitress was warm and prompt, letting us know they'd been open a few weeks and served meals small-plate style. The drinks list was decent, but the beers on tap weren't a draw...mostly off-the-beer-truck options like Hoegaarden, Guiness, etc...I choose the Hook & Ladder, an Irish ale brewed for the restaurant (had a burnished color and an aroma/flavor like the dark potato chip at the bottom of the bag..not bad, but deeper than expected). Elizabeth had a good smattering wines by the glass to choose from. There was also a list of dessert-themed cocktails..Root Beer Float, Thin Mint, Key Lime Pie & Water Ice to name a few.

The wide drink selection, compounded with the striking decor and variety of gastro-esque offerings, gave me impressions of a Starr-joint built for socializing, like Continental Midtown.

Here's a link to their menu.

The lunch menus were still at the printer, so we ordered off the dinner menu. Comfort was the word of the day...Roast Pork & Provolone Egg Rolls & the Mac & Cheese Croquettes.

The egg rolls were spicy and had plenty of flavor...we didn't need the au jus dipping sauce at all. A little light on the cheese-factor, but the egg rolls were satisfying.

The Mac & Cheese Croquettes were a bit disappointing; there's a restaurant we'd just dined at who served a Panko-Crusted Mac & Cheese Croquette that was out of this world. We were comparing it to Ladder 15's and theirs needed some re-working...they used orzo instead of a macaroni and the croquettes were dry and lacked any cheesy character...probably their diminutive size contributed to their dryness. The accompanying tomato sauce was decent but couldn't save the dry croqs.

The Shallot Haystack was described as a take on the Blooming Onion and while crispy, light & delicious, it left our breath in a serious state of shock...make sure you AND your date share this one or you may not be getting that goodnight kiss.

Although we'd only popped in to grab some refreshment & snacks after a day of running errands, the waitress brought out a plate of Watermelon Cotton Candy with the check. She mentioned that the owners throw all sorts of schnapps into the cotton candy machine to come up with crazy flavors.

There's something about cotton candy that makes you feel like a kid again and Ladder 15 seems to have tapped into the formula for having interiors, a decent mix of drinks, small plates that, while hit or miss, make for some whimsical eats and friendly service.

Ladder 15 should definitely be on the list of pop-in places to hit in Center City, but not so much a full 'dinner' might leave some thinking "Pricey Elf Food".

Just checked out Phoodie's excellent take on Ladder 15 as a turf war between duck & truffle-eaters and Coors drinkers. The scene of relative desolation of our midday visit probably obscured the fact that this place has great potential...potential to be a 'brohang' as opposed to a culinary showcase.

Whichever way it develops, I hope the food gets a little more practiced/tweaked and the beer taps stay balanced during the morphing and we'll see if it's worth fighting the reported crowd.



    CityPaper figured out the 'sugar' angle that breaks this place...