On a whim we decided to visit The Rum Bar and Lounge in Rittenhouse square this past weekend. The reviews we came across were all over the place. Some of the older ones seemed to be more on the negative side, while the recent ones showed significant improvement. Several people seem to agree that the drinks are great, but the food is bland, not worth the money, or just plain awful. Celebrating a birthday for half of Vino & Vintage, we knew we were taking a chance, but that’s half of the excitement for us.
The place serves food representing different Caribbean cultures (Cuban, Puerto Rican, Jamaican,etc.). What better credentials can we have to share our opinions of Latin-inspired dishes other than being 2 Latinas?
Let us break it down for you:
RUM BAR PROS:
*The drinks are definitely fantastic! It was hard to just choose a couple from such an extensive list. Just reading the drink menu makes you feel a little like you’re on a tropical vacation. (Their wine list is very limited, which is expected, after all it is called the Rum Bar.) We tried their Summer Picnic Mojito. With Cucumber rum, watermelon, basil and lime, it’s the perfect Summer cocktail. Not too strong. Not too sweet. Perfect blend. We also had the “Rum Bar” mojito made with the same Cucumber-infused rum. Not bad at all. With dinner we had a glass of the Malbec, Trapiche Oak Cask. At only $8 a glass, we enjoyed a deep wine with traces of blackberry and vanilla. Went great with the steak.
*The Mussels – Wow, perhaps the best we’ve ever had. The mussels were fresh and the portion was more than enough for two. The Spicy Rhum Broth they were served in had a great kick that was full of flavors…best ever. Though the picture might make the bread looked burnt, it was not, and we couldn’t resist dipping it in the sauce once the mussels were gone.
* Steak Chimichurri entree – An 8oz skirt steak with a mushroom chimichurri on top. Cooked just right. Typically served with mashed potatoes, we asked for Yucca fries instead because, well, first of all they are so hard to find and second of all, if you haven’t ever had Yucca fries…you need to get on it! The whole dish was wonderful, even the sauteed vegetables (mostly zucchini) were delicious.
* Ropa Vieja entree – a typical Cuban dish, the flank steak is slow braised and served shredded with corn, peppers and cilantro. The Rum Bar chef did an amazing job. Could not get enough. It was served with maduros (sweet plantains), another Latin/Caribbean staple, and red beans, though we asked for more yucca fries instead, and rice .
*We also asked for a side of Tostones, another form of plantains…best we’ve had aside from the homemade kind, of course.
*Great service! Our hostess and waitress were wonderful. Very attentive and friendly, even when we asked for substitutions to our dishes, they obliged with a smile. The manager even came to our table at the end of our meal to make sure we had enjoyed our time and food. We were then surprised with a little complimentary birthday dessert… Maduros con Lechera…sweet plantains topped with a raspberry and lechera sauce. (I was pleasantly surprised our server had noted the birthday comment we included on our online Open Table reservations.) We were stuffed at this point, but had to at least take a bite….so glad we did! Thankfully, there was no singing involved, just a single candle and a great dessert.
* The portions at Rum Bar were definitely enough that we practically brought a whole meal home. Go hungry!
* The vibe on a Friday evening was pretty laid back, though it was a little loud. This is expected from a very small cocktail bar-restaurant. The decor is simple, yet a little reminiscent of being on a pirate ship. We especially like the barrels used as lounge tables. When we arrived, the happy hour crowd seemed to be finishing up and as we were leaving, the late night crowd was starting to trickle in. Rum Bar received the 2012 Nightclub&Bar award – Cocktail Lounge of the Year….so expect a hipster, trendy 21 and over crowd. If you’re looking for a quieter, more relaxed dinner experience, we highly encourage you to make reservations for about 6:30pm, or opt for lunch instead. Either way, there’s no fussy or sophisticated attitude lingering here. Causal dress is appropriate, but this is no dive bar either. As we always say, dress to impress, especially when heading into the City. The reputation of a place is only formed by those who frequent it.
RUM BAR CONS:
* The fried oysters were not good at all. They were covered in batter that tasted like the ocean. Just keepin’ it real. Enough said.
* The place itself is tiny. Not sure how this place works as a lounge. Upon entering the Rum Bar, you’re instantly at the very small bar and then in the dining area which has maybe 8 tables. We were seated at the very last tiny table for 2. It was pretty uncomfortable trying to maneuver around the several dishes and drinks. Half way through our dinner, a couple was seated right next to us…literally almost shoulder-to-shoulder. It seemed a little more awkward for them than us, as we were already well into our mojitos.
* Typical issue in the city: Parking – if you can’t find any on the street, be prepared with an extra $20 bucks for the parking lot conveniently located on the corner diagonal from the restaurant.
Even though the bar is small, this is definitely the type of place that seems to create a more social, happy hour type environment, where you can get some great drinks. We definitely did not feel like the reviews we read were very consistent with our own experience. Perhaps those reviews inspired The Rum Bar to make some changes and we so graciously reaped the benefits. Either way, we think the Rum Bar is the type of place you just have to try for yourself. Make reservations ahead of time and request a more private table, if you think that may be an issue for you. If not, then go ready to drink, eat and mingle!
To check out all the great events, the menu, and learn more about the Rum Bar: Click here