Philadelphia, PA - Who is Charlie? That is the question many customers ask when they step inside Charlie was a sinner. Nicole Marquis’s mysterious cocktail bar opened 2 years ago on 13th street.
She describes the restaurant as the darker, sultry side of her personality which is easily felt when you walk in, through a velvet curtain, to see a Louis XIV-style decor and an old hotel front desk where the host greets guests. Open only for dinner, the restaurant is entirely low-lit creating a “feel-good” vibe.
Whether dining in the front lounge area of the restaurant or slipping by the bar and underneath a glowing chandelier into the main dining room, guests will begin by sipping on sparkling or flat water that is brought to each table freshly infused with mint leaves. Guests can take advantage of happy hour when dining Monday- Thursday 4-7 pm, Friday 4-6 pm. Specials include $8 cocktails such as Witches of East, Cider House, and Charlie’s Punch. Draft beer is $1 off and house wine, Sycamore Lane Pinot Noir and Sycamore Lane Pinot Grigio are $5 a glass. Select small plate specials are also offered.
Bar manager Pete Venuto’s has designed a drink menu in partnership with Barclay Prime’s Bob Caskey, that covers everything something to suit all tastes distinguished by fresh juices and unusual enhancements. The drinks themselves set the tone.
We started with The East of Eden, a sort of alternative to a manhattan featuring tea-infused Dolin Blanc and brown muscat, Bulleit, lillet and garnished with dried fig. This drink is a great suggestion for the Fall season. We also loved the color and tastes of La Dame De Fer made with old overholt, pamplemousse, ginger, mint, lemon, and orange.
Per recommendation of a fellow diner, we followed with the Penicillin concocted with dewars, laphroaig, ginger, lemon, and agave. And we couldn’t resist ordering No Time for Dreaming, simply because of its cheeky name- its made with Sailor Jerry rum, cranberry shrub, spiced syrup, and gingered lemon. As the menu changes seasonally, The Done and Dusted has been a staple drink since Charlie opened. Its no wonder it has won crowds over as a night cap, being made with the dark notes of Patron XO, housemade creme liquor, and hair bender espresso.
One thing is for certain, you won’t feel like your sinning while dining here. Like all Marquis & Co.restaurants, the food served at Charlie is completely untainted by animal products. Chef Michael Santoro’s menu can only be described as vegan bar food that is healthful enough to make your body feel good, but indulgent enough to keep you drinking.
Nicole’s favorite is the Our Ricotta served with a side of grilled sourdough bread, this whipped tofu is seasoned with agave, black peppercorn, and olive oil for rich flavor. This dish is certainly enjoyable as a starter for dinner or alone to accompany a strong drink. The popularity of the Potato Croquettes with chipotle aioli is unmatched- they might be the crispiest in town. We also loved the Korean-Style Tofu which hits the deep fryer and is then coated with a spicy glaze, black sesame, and garden pickles creating the ultimate combo of crunchy, spicy, nutty, and sweet.
This tofu paired quite well with the Caramelized Eggplant Bao Buns soft and fluffy with sweet hoisin, and pickled slaw. And let us not forget the Tofu & Bean Sausage with pebble potato, charred broccolini, and mustard seed.
Next time we’ll surely have to indulge in some of Charlie’s pasta selections as well as hearty winter dishes like Wild Mushroom Paella with asparagus, sweet pepper, and endive or Shepard’s Pie with rutabaga, fennel, carrot, and mushroom.
Then as you know, no meal is complete without a sweet ending. We sampled the Chocolate Pot De Creme which was instantly a winner combining whipped coconut, rum banana, and cocoa tuile. Other options include Meyer Lemon Cake with huckleberry pudding, and spiced meringue or Brown Sugar Apple Empanada with salted caramel, and vanilla bean ice cream.
Whether considering cocktails, small plates, or an entire dinner- Charlie was a sinner is not to be missed, especially for those living the plant-based lifestyle. But if you’re more of the carnivorous type it is no excuse to miss out on enjoying the cocktails at atmosphere at this cozy spot. Reservations are welcome and the kitchen is open till 1 am. But if you can’t make it out of the house, Caviar will happily bring a little bit of Charlie right to your doorstep.