There’s a long-running debate in Philadelphia over which bar created “the citywide special” — the no-frills drink combination of a beer and a shot of bourbon. It’s normally a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and a shot of Jim Beam, Heaven Hill or Old Crow, and the only thing that is truly special about “the special” is that it’s incredibly cheap (almost always under $5).
Borrowing its name from the official title of the beer-and-shot cocktail, The Boilermaker is a new bar and restaurant launched by the owners of The Farmers Cabinet.
While Farmers Cabinet specializes in complex cocktails, the idea for The Boilermaker is to work with the simple but sophisticated flavor profiles of a beer and a shot of liquor. “You can’t open a shot-and-beer bar without paying homage to Philadelphia’s traditional citywide special,” says Boilermaker’s director of operations, Will Pumphrey. “But PBR’s the only macro beer we offer.”
Boilermaker’s two floors are a mixture of Transylvania and “Game Of Thrones,” with medieval-themed furniture and antique communal picnic tables, mysterious alcoves and flickering candles. Conceived by executive chef Steve Forte, the menu offers American comfort food, from mac and cheese and black pepper cornbread to hot dogs and a pork sandwich topped with bacon and a fried egg. “It’s food people want to eat late at night,” says Pumphrey.
But, considering how dimly lit Boilermaker is, it will feel like midnight no matter what time you stroll in.
Boasting 12 local craft beers and 28 nonlocal craft taps, the centerpieces of the menu are the eight regional boilermaker options. Alongside the citywide special are more unique pairings, such as the Florida (St. Somewhere Saison Athene with Aviation Gin), the Virginia (Cabinet Artisanal No Love Lost with Ragged Mountain Rum) and the Pennsylvania No. 2 (Weyerbacher Blanche with Prairie Vodka).