Fat Jack's BBQ?s proprietor Glenn Gross has always been passionate about barbecue. Starting at the age of 11, Glenn manned the grill at family cookouts, fine-tuning his technique and flavors over the years. He eventually brushed aside career paths in dentistry and music to claim his favorite job title?pitmaster.
In order to develop the combination of meats, rubs, and sauces that Fat Jack?s uses to this day, in the early ?90s, Glenn traveled to the nation's barbecue meccas?Texas, the Carolinas, Kansas City, and Memphis. He learned how to create dishes such as Carolina pulled pork, St. Louis?style ribs, and Texas beef brisket. Now, his rich blends of spice rubs and notes of smoke have won him more than 200 national and local awards including being winner of Burger Brawl 2013 - Best Burger in Philly, 3rd overall Best Burger in the World Food Championships, and being featured on Destination America's BBQ Pitmasters.
Benny the Bum's 19-year-old local establishment offers an extensive menu of fresh seafood dishes that range from raw-bar specialties to pastas. Chefs arrange massive platters of steamed crabs, shrimp, and clams along with garlic sauce and potatoes, and pots of housemade chowder and creamy crab soups bubble on the stove. Servers tote plates and glasses of colorful cocktails into spacious dining rooms, where glittery silver pillars, nautical knickknacks, and flat-screen televisions catch the eyes of patrons seated at booths and tabletops. A lively, well-established local joint, Benny's was lauded by actor and Philadelphia native Bradley Cooper as his favorite restaurant in the city.
Though his dishes once occupied the white-linen tablecloths of Philadelphia’s finest restaurants, Chef Gerald Dougherty now prefers making napkins messy with his signature recipes of rich, meaty barbecue fare. The former head chef of L'Aigla D'Or and Founders at the Bellevue, Chef Gerald currently oversees the pit at Little Louie's BBQ, a casual eatery he opened to satisfy his hankering for down-home grub. Not one to color within the lines, he draws on barbecue styles from across the country—think North Carolina, Kansas City, and Memphis—and smokes his meats over cherrywood, applewood, and hickory chips.
Little Louie’s dining room betrays the same down-home inspirations as its menu. Rustic lumber lines the countertops, and light fixtures reminiscent of branches illuminate the expansive space. If they can peel their eyes away from the beef brisket and pulled pork on their plates, guests will notice Butch Cassidy and Lone Ranger posters hanging from the walls, classic Western movies playing on the 70-inch flat-screen television, and outlaws discreetly taking down Wanted signs that bear their uncanny resemblances.
Murph's Bar matches its full bar with a full kitchen that fires its food cannon until 1 a.m. every night. In addition to boasting pulled-pork and cheesesteak sandwiches, the menu also tells tales of 12-inch pizzas topped with spinach, shrimp, and ricotta cheese. Inside, eclectic furnishings such as a jewelry-wearing bear head and old beer signs surround a lengthy wooden bar bedecked in hundreds of shiny pennies. On the ceiling, a colorful mural of hunters stalking snakes, boars, buffalo, and dogs illustrates a common event throughout human history, the zoo escape.
Patagonia Bar & Grill serves up a spread of international fare from multiple continents, from flaky fillets of African grouper to Argentine churrasco, creamy shrimp alfredo, and tangy Shanghai calamari. Brightly hued contemporary decor frames these cosmopolitan feasts with sunny yellows and oranges, and a full-service bar slings drinks as the wine list pairs dishes with fruity libations from vineyards in California, Argentina, Italy, and France. A brick-walled patio hosts occasional musical performances and live-action reenactments of famous Tetris games.
The windows of El Camino Real are painted with elaborate mini-murals: you’ll find Mexican wrestlers, goats, dragons and gunslingers all depicted in a row. This somewhat-boisterous but never off-putting Northern Liberties spot serves what might be called Tex-Mex and barbecue comfort-food staples, like huge plates of nachos, tacos that range from chicken to bacon, beef short-rib, pulled pork sandwiches and barbecue platters. A handful of less-expected items include vegetarian wings that will satisfy even the staunchest of meat eaters. The yellow stucco walls and banquettes lined with Mexican blankets might make you want to settle in to a Southwestern reverie with one of El Camino’s blood-orange margaritas.