In Which City Tap House Is Kicked

Burger Breakdown

City Tap House - Map It!
Take your pick of two: cheddar, Gruyere, muenster, bleu, American cheese, provolone, sauteed onions, bacon, mushrooms, roasted peppers, pepperoncini. Whatever flavor combination you pick will taste terrible, and they'll forget half of it.
Fries come with your burger, and they're the highlight of a meal that has no light fixtures. And is having a power outage. And exists in a black hole.

When City Tap House opened up, Laurence assured me that it was pretty cool. He mentioned the ample outdoor seating, to which I responded, “But it's in University City.” He told me of the impressive number of taps they offer, to which I responded, “But it's in University City.” He then said that their burger looked awesome and had a giant knife in it, to which I responded, “But it's... damn it, okay.”

Laurence was right about the outdoor seating: City Tap House has one of the largest outdoor areas I've seen in Philadelphia, possibly second only to the new Frankford Hall in terms of open-air space. In fact, City Tap House is one of the largest eateries I've ever seen in the city, feeling more like a high school cafeteria than restaurant; appropriate, given the location. The only place we thought of that compared was the always heavenly Fogo de Chao.

He also spoke the truth about the draft list. City Tap House features a cool 40ish taps serving mostly local microbrews, with a few decent (if expected) imports available. Everything was marked up about a buck from what I would expect to pay, and there was almost nothing I hadn't tried before, but there was plenty to like.

He had two out of three. So, was the burger awesome? Son, you just got transitioned.

The Burger: City Tap House calls their burgers and sandwiches “craftwiches,” which is reason enough to hate them. But if you can stomach ordering something called a craftwich, you get a black angus beef burger with two toppings and fries for $12. Whether you can stomach that is another thing.

Photo of the burger at City Tap House

Kyle: To answer my above question: no.

To elaborate, City Tap House's burger crosses the line from “generic” into “bad” almost immediately and on every front. Much like the undergrads it serves, it's a full assault on good taste.

To begin with, you get two toppings on your burger, and they forgot one of them on mine. As has become too common, my sandwich was missing its bacon, but for the first time in my life, that was actually a good thing. Seeing the soft, graying, undercooked string of pork intestine on Laur's plate, I was thankful for the omission. If the best thing you can say about a burger is that they forgot the bacon, well, I could end this review here.

Photo of the burger at City Tap HouseThe black angus beef is actually black, because they put it directly on a fire and forgot about it for an hour. At least, that's the only explanation for the horrendous overcooking and hour-long wait for our meal. What didn't taste like char and smoke was mostly unseasoned and gristly, with an ingenious level of dryness that forces you to pound a beer with every bite. Equally parching is the bun, a dry brioche that could have sucked up all the moisture in the sandwich and still remained uncomfortably stiff, if there had been any moisture to absorb. According to our photos I also ordered cheese on mine, but you'd never know. Any flavor must have stayed on the cellophane wrapper.

But it has a cool knife in it. Kids love knives.

Your parents in the burbs go to Olive Garden when they want to go out to eat, because that's the suburban definition of good. City Tap House is the college student definition of good, which we know as “bad.” When you live on a diet of Easy Mac and Hot Pockets, this might pass as real food. For the rest of us, this is a kid's meal. You could get the same burger at Applebees with a more urbane audience. Rating: 3/10.

Photo of the burger at City Tap House

Laurence: The longer City Tap House remains open the less I like it. In fairness to the bar it may really be the fault of the patrons. Following the motto “the customer is always right” is a sure way to end up with a terrible establishment because corollary mottos are “the customer is usually stupid” and “the customer generally has bad taste.” That's certainly the case with City Tap House, which has been attracting more binge drinking Penn dental students in the year since it opened (if ever there was a good reason to take care of your teeth, the state of future dental professionals is it).

With increasing popularity comes noise and crowding and lousy service, which is all fairly expected. What was unexpected was a decline in the quality of food on the menu. When it first opened about a year ago, City Tap House had a phenomenal salmon BLT, bested only by the salmon BLT at Standard Tap. When I tried to order the same dish early this year I was informed it had been removed from the menu because it was "too messy." This didn't make much sense to me considering the inelegant piles of nachos I often see other patrons devouring at the bar, but arguing with a waiter is like fighting with a teller at the DMV in that they have no power to make your life better, but have more than enough power to make you life considerably worse.

All this adds up to my steadily growing hatred of the place even thought the beer selection is ample. The burger marks another turning point (a bad one as you can probably guess) in the quality of City Tap House.

Photo of the burger at City Tap HouseThe gristly burger comes impaled with a massive steak knife, a touch of flair to make an ordinary burger slightly more memorable. Sadly the burger was made memorable due to the toppings. I remember them as bad. Both Kyle and I had ordered bacon on our sandwiches. I won the bacon game as our waiter forgot Kyle's order, as once again writing things down seems to be out of vogue in modern restaurants. The thing about winning the bacon game at Tap House is that you loose anyway, much like the slogan to Alien vs. Predator and the audiences who won free tickets to see that movie.

The bacon at Tap House was so bad, I removed it. Fatty, flavorless, greasy, it was the epitome of a vegan ad campaign against pork. If I had a dog I might feed it this bacon as a punishment for eating the neighbor's cat, or child. Kyle seemed distressed by this apparent affront to edibility and so insisted on tasting it. He did not each much.

If this didn't end your interest in the meal, I'll continue with the round up...

  • Onions – Lacking flavor aside for that of smoke

  • Lettuce – Maybe the only item worth eating

  • Meat – A gray wad of beef with unimpressive flavor

  • Bun – Looks like it would have been good when it was fresh

  • Dinner – fuck this place

As an awful finale, I couldn't even drink beer with dinner as I was on doctor's orders, which means potentially the only thing that could have saved the meal was off limits. It probably wouldn't have mattered anyway. Even with all those taps it would be hard to improve the experience. The demands of the masses have won again, and those of us with taste buds inevitably loose. I'm sure everyone else raves about this knife-stabbed monstrosity. So much for democracy. Rating: 3/10.


Aside for the deck, I can't think of one good reason to eat a burger at City Tap House. Did I mention you can drink beer on the deck without ordering food? I guess I can't think of one good reason to eat a burger at City Tap House.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (5 votes)