“Old school class in a modern society.” -Zero Lives
I thought it a lot lately, an Olde City bore. The disturbed reigned supreme on weekends. Crowds always mobbed the streets. High heels clanked by as skirts a little too short were repeatedly yanked into place. “YOOO SEXY!” A guy shouted at a girl that passed by. I traveled the long road ahead; breaking pace only to search for the next review.
Whistling and hollering filled the air. Lonesome dwellers on street corners stuffed their faces with cheap pizza, starting or finishing the night for some. Subtlety has a strong impression on chaos; the kind that forces waves of commotion to fall silent. Enter Sassafras, the quiet gentlemen amongst its rowdy brethren. Next door is Mint Lounge, where the beats and lights pound your brain into submission. Followed by Brownie’s Pub which is designed to feed the divey crowd. While across stood The Plough and the Stars motioning uneasily as loose women and morals were given up after a cheap draft beer.
You hardly notice until it’s too late. The simple wooden door with a large glass window. In the midst of a sweltering summer evening, a cool quiet breeze hit me as I entered. My eyes adjusted to the dim lighting. “How are ya this evenin’?” a thick Irish accent greeted me. The bartender smiled as he polished a glass. I was uneasy. My brain and body were built for chaos and belligerence; soothing sounds and politeness bled from the walls. “What’ll ya have?” he asked placing down the cup and tossing a napkin on the bar. I took a deep breath and considered running out the door. Maybe I should join the wooing and the shouting. I was in over my head. Come to your senses man, we’ve prepared for these situations. “I’m here for something different, something with whiskey, no coke,” I replied. He smiled. A few splashes and shakes later, he placed an Old Fashioned in front of me. It was a perfect diversion to match the atmosphere.
The bar was small, stretching a fair distance back. Intimate tables with church benches sat in the rear across from a looming fireplace. Turn of the century mirrors complimented the mosaic ceiling. It all swirled together creating a reassuring effect. Couples quietly chatted and giggled around me. A man at the bar nudged me. “Love this place,” he said with a belly laugh. A large glass container full of iced water with knobs caught my attention. “What’s that?” I asked the jolly man. “That my friend…is for Absinthe,” he smiled and laughed again. The Green Faerie was upon us. It was a lot to take in; my head spun from the calming confusion.
Sassafras worried about itself like a finely groomed gentlemen, ensuring his tie was on straight and sleeves were properly aligned. 5 or 500 customers, it carefully paid attention to detail, while regaling its customers with jovial banter. It was an invisible pat on the back that gently coaxed them into returning again and again. A couple sat to my side, smiling and blankly staring into each others eyes. She turned to me grinning. “This is my fiance!” she burst out. A proud man stood tall, smiling ear to ear. “Congratulations!” I replied. They both shook the bartender’s hand and thanked him for the great evening, then hand in hand carefully exited the bar. It would have been rude of me to remind them not to talk to strangers, but it was hard not to. The bars intoxicating effect had complete strangers pleasantly chatting away.
The intimate ambiance and well crafted drinks brought class and sophistication to an unruly part of town. It’s key to success was to remain quaint and justified, while mastering it’s own posture. Here sat Sassafras; a return to charm, charisma, and old-fashioned values. Much like the tortoise, it’ll win the race every time.
The bottom line:
|Hours: 5 p.m. – 2 a.m.
Crowd: Casual | Intimate
Music: Background| Live
|Price range: $$
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
|Dance floor: No
Outdoor area: No
Coat check: No
Sassafras captures something that almost all of the bars in Olde City fail to. Words hardly do justice, so I highly recommend this place. They’ve got fantastic food, a great selection of drafts, and above all high quality cocktails. If you’re looking for a great happy-hour bar, or the perfect place to take a date then this is it. It’s cool, calm, and above all you can HEAR each other talk. They also offer live jazz bands occasionally, as if you needed any other old world incentive. (From what I hear, honorable mention to the ladies room. You’ll know it if you see it.)
48 South 2nd Street, Philadelphia