Restaurant review: Firing on all cylinders, Philco offers phenomenal HH bargains

By
From the May 8, 2014 edition

They’re practically giving it away during happy hour at cheeky, stylish and fun Philco Bar + Diner. I mean a highfalutin, highly desirable — but usually high-priced — Rockmill beer for only $4!?! Fantastic local fried cheese curds for $3? Little corn dogs and mini-flavor-bomb coney dogs for a buck? Seriously, tipsy-time concessions this grin-inducing are hard to find.

Almost a year after its high-profile premiere (during the delirium and chaos that is ComFest weekend, no less), and now that the gotta-Instagram-it-first! crowds have moved onto the next-big-thing, Philco’s really hitting its stride. I discovered this recently by wandering in, and after a having great time, thinking, “Why didn’t I know about this killer heart-of-the-Short-North-happy-hour bargain before?”

So settle into Philco (FYI: from the terrific team that brought you The Rossi, Little Palace, El Camino and Club 185) and its retro-mod-diner-chic confines, where shades of grey and green animate the limited seating, and a sleek stainless steel counter/bar is the place to watch games on a big overhead TV. If sports ain’t your thing, sweat not, because Philco plays tasteful music too.

Alright, here are Philco’s win-win HH highlights (Monday-Friday, 3-7 p.m.): All local taps are half-off, meaning about $3-$4/pint (this lately included brews from Seventh Son, Actual, Four String, Rockmill and Jackie O’s); a couple decent reds and whites are $5/glass; High Life “ponies” are $1; and the already-cheap munchies grouped under “Favorites” go for half-cost.

“Favorites”-wise (prices listed hereafter are non-HH), garlicky, grill-charred, dense-sauced short-and-wide conies deliver messy junk food awesomeness ($2 apiece; full monty $.50 add-ons of sharp Ohio cheddar and smoky slaw are recommended). Also mandatory are delicately flour-crusted, gooey-underneath Bluejacket Dairy cheese curds ($6), served with a sorta classed-up French onion dip. And, hell, while you’re at it, why not “splurge” on crispy Hush Puppies (3/$2.50) and cutely undersized, same-sweet-cornbread-battered corn dogs for only $2 more? And Dijon up those little corn pups!

Among non-HH-discounted winners, Philco’s Fried Egg Tacos ($6) are terrific as a snack, anytime breakfast or shared appetizer. Arriving on corn tortillas, they’re colorful knife-and-forkers tricked out with corn, black beans, spicy salsa, crema, cotija cheese sprinkles and big clumps of chorizo for $2 extra if you want (you want).

Another new top-pick is the golden-brown-seared, thick-cut, bone-in Pan Roasted Ohio Pork Chop ($15). Exhibiting Philco’s diner-transcending plating style and fancier-than-it-might-seem techniques, the mostly tender hunk of steak-like juicy meat comes with a huge-sized smoky “hash” made of shaved Brussels sprouts, diced cooked apples and Nueske bacon. A smile of not-too-tart/not-too-sweet “balsamic butter” sauce completes the spot-on plate.

Also pretty great is the remarkably tender Sweet Chili Meatloaf ($11). Herby and circumscribed in bacon, the practically melts-on-contact loaf — which sits on homey if light and fluffy whipped potatoes — goes a little Asian with its hoisin glazing and generous tumble of crispy-not-oily “cornmeal tempura green beans.”

Further mining this entertainingly oxymoronic “elegant diner” vein is the six-ounce flat iron Herbed Steak and Potatoes ($16.50). Five or six thick-but-lean beef slices were perfectly cooked and more tender than not. Their capable partners were homemade (and characteristically smoky) steak sauce and redskin potatoes bathed in an almost peanut-buttery arugula and pecan pesto.

Lest you think all is refined diner fare here, the old-school-glorious Phillip’s Jr. burger ($4) speaks fluent greasyspoon — as do the grandma-style dessert wedges brought in from Just Pies ($3.50). And damn, at these prices, why not order two of each?

Photos by Meghan Ralston