With football season in full swing and basketball season starting up, it’s a good time to be a sports bar in Philadelphia. The new breed of sports bars isn’t your parents’ watering holes with a TV in the corner. A lot of the latest additions to the scene are trying to step up their game.
No pun intended.
Tradesman’s, 1322 Chestnut St., and Stats on 17th, 111 S. 17th St., subscribe to both oversized man-cave sensibilities with large flat-screens and sports posters and memorabilia taking up every significant piece of space. The former infuses it with a roadhouse aesthetic and the latter goes for a comfortable-but-sleek business-lounge vibe.
Barbeque plate with sides
If you go
1322 Chestnut St.
Mon.-Sun.: 11 a.m.-2 a.m.
Tradesman’s has Southern charm for days with a whiskey bar and a menu steeped in BBQ with a few nods to a more refined audience. The cheese plate ($14) features a nice selection along with fruits and honey. But, a respectable selection of vegetarian offerings aside, this place is a carnivore’s playground. Barbeque plates come with white bread, pickles and onions, and you can’t go wrong with any of the meats.
The beef brisket ($13 for a half-pound, $24 for a pound) is tender. The chicken ($12 for half, $22 for a whole) is juicy and seasoned well. Tradesman’s arsenal of excellent sauces enhance the enjoyment of the meats, especially the spicy sauce and the sweet BBQ sauce.
The sides dishes are pitch-perfect as well. The mac and cheese ($5) has the ideal consistency and creaminess. The cornbread ($3) is pleasantly cake-like and sweet. The collard greens ($4) are hearty and fresh.
Buffalo Chicken MeatBalls
If you go
Stats on 17th
111 S. 17th St.
Mon.-Thur.: 4-10 p.m.
Fri.: 4 p.m.-2 a.m.
Sat.: noon-2 a.m.
Sun.: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Stats on 17th has a more upscale vibe to the vast space below street level, making sports fans feel more like affluent ballers. The menu sticks to sports-bar standards for the most part: wings, sandwiches and burgers. It’s the kind of menu that keeps the focus on the TV screens and the well-stocked bar.
The highlights of this menu are the stuff of stoner dreams, like taco nachos ($14), a plate of Doritos piled high with ground beef, nacho cheese, tomatoes, sour cream and aggressively spicy fresh jalapeños. Despite that anybody could easily duplicate this dish at home, it’s probably the best thing we tried, hitting the spot with our inner-omnivore college student with no sense of health consciousness.
The crab sliders ($11) had potential, but the fry on the crab cakes was a tad severe and the cakes themselves needed more crab to overcome the intensity of the breading, which left a lasting impression on the palette. Any time the French fries, which were pretty damn good, distract you from crab cakes, your crab-cake game needs some serious tweaking.
The biggest yellow flag at Stats was its signature Buffalo chicken meatballs ($14), a decent idea in the playbook that didn’t really work out in execution. The Buffalo sauce and bluecheese crumbles delivered the desired flavor, but the texture was just off, bordering on alien. Meatballs are supposed to be succulent and juicy but there was not enough fat, rendering them dry with an uneven, chunky texture that didn’t inspire repeat visits to the plate.
Both Tradesman and Stats have created the kind of spaces that wide-eyed sports fans will flock to. If we’re talking a head-to-head showdown based on their menus, Tradesman would definitely win the first match of the season by a comfortable margin.