On the corner of 18th and Sansom, along the outskirts of Rittenhouse Square, Ryan and I approached the Dandelion Pub, hand in hand. We had spent the previous night reading countless reviews and drooling over the menus of every Stephen Starr restaurant in Philadelphia. Personally, I could have closed my eyes, pinned my finger on any restaurant on the list and been on my way. Unfortunately for me, Ryan isn’t as adventurous when it comes to his next meal. “London’s culinary revolution comes to Philadelphia with this unique gastropub…” the Dandelion’s website began. We knew nothing about London’s culinary revolution and had never before heard the word “gastropub” but there were steak and chips on the menu and with that, Ryan was sold.
I recognized the building from the Instagram research I had conducted the night before. Vibrant red, yellow, orange and purple pansies sat in high window boxes against the tall brick building, intricately outlined with charcoal and off-white designs. Beneath the blooming flower boxes, large open windows gave us a glimpse of the inside; older couples sharing dinner, younger couples sharing drinks. I imagined there were friends meeting up after a long work week, co-workers celebrating the completion of a big project, or the addition of a new client, two strangers on their first date.
Beneath the windows sat large black picnic tables, each with four table settings and a small candle. Some were occupied by brave souls, unconcerned about the low gray clouds above, some were left vacant. Along the opposite side, the restaurant was lined with fat, wooden barrels each filled with a cluster of different colored pansies with leaves spilling over the sides.
Ryan and I stepped into a small doorway, above it hung an even smaller lantern indicating we had reached our destination. There was no sign on the building, just a faded number “124” and the lantern. A small image of a lion in a top hat, fully dressed with a monocle and cane was etched into the face of the lantern. Inside the pub was dark, but far from gloomy. It was as alive as I had imagined it be while peering into the windows just minutes before. The cozy, old-timey bar was filled with people and with laughter. Ryan and I were lead up a carpeted stair case to the second floor. Exactly where I had hoped we’d be sitting. The dining room upstairs was empty and much better lit than the downstairs bar. It was early, just 5:35. We sat to the left of a beautiful 3 fold window looking out over Rittenhouse Square, at a small, intimate table next to a beautiful fireplace. Our chairs looked like antiques, the same red and yellow pansies were peaking out from inside their boxes beneath the windows.
“Would you like flat or fizzy?” the waitress asked. We looked at her in confusion. “Flat is fine,” I replied sheepishly, unsure if adding fizz to our water would result in an additional charge. We were out of our element, for sure. Standing on Passyunk Ave. in front of a Pat’s cheesesteak window, impatient chef waiting for our order, ‘wiz wit’ or ‘wiz wit out’? Not a problem. Flat a fizzy? A whole new world.
We ordered drinks, a red sangria for me, a Brooklyn Lager for Ryan and house-made ricotta cheese served with toasted sourdough bread. I’ve eaten my fair share of bread and cheese, but I can tell you confidently, this was the best cheese, topped with extra virgin olive oil and dried herbs, I have ever tasted.
There was plenty to celebrate, but not a lot we wanted to talk about. Two and a half years together. Four years of college complete. A future filled with opportunity, uncertainty, excitement and apprehension. Ryan is moving to Arizona to spend the next six months working for the Irish Dairy Board, far away from the only home he’s ever known, Philadelphia. My next move after graduation has yet to be determined. A new job in Boston, another summer baby-sitting on Cape Cod? I wasn’t quite sure. What we both knew, and what neither of us wanted to admit, was that our lives were changing quickly, faster than we had ever thought possible. And so we raised our glasses in a toast to ‘life’, a broad topic that seemed to sum up everything we couldn’t quite put into words. A toast to love and happiness and new beginnings.
After looking over the menu for what seemed like the 100th time since the previous night, Ryan ordered the steak and chips, as expected, and I opted for the herb crusted salmon served with lemon pure, olive tapenade and haricot verts. Both entrees highly recommended. Ryan had no interest in the watercress salad served along side his steak and triple-cooked french fries, as it wasn’t a pile of romaine with creamy caesar dressing, so I helped him finish it up. With a little (ok, a lot) of convincing, he even tried a bite of my salmon.
The sun set behind the tall buildings of Center City as we finished our meals and headed back downstairs with full stomachs and happy hearts. Downstairs was even more alive than it had been when we first arrived. By candle light, through crowds of people I noticed a cluster of words displayed boldly above another fireplace. “Fear knocked at the door, Faith answered and no one was there.”
It was a beautiful reminder of the next chapter to come. To be strong and fearless and confident and brave. I smiled, reached for Ryan’s hand and headed back out into the big city towards a bright, bright future.
*A special thank you to my number one guy, Ryan for putting up with me as I photographed every morsel of food placed on our table. To see all of our plates from the Dandelion Pub, head over to the photo gallery.