The first thing you’ll notice when you walk into Dock Street South is that it feels like the lobby of a high–end hotel, or one of those new millennial co–working spaces. Located on a soon–to–be gentrified strip of an industrialized Washington Avenue, the space is filled with long wooden tables and homey chairs, an obvious allusion to community building. There’s a millennial pink neon sign that greets you, and modern art decorates the walls. A coffee/beer/cocktail bar lines the front, letting you order an IPA and a cold brew in the same breath.
Dock Street South aims to cultivate the same energy as its sibling, the West Philly favorite Dock Street Brewery. The pub and pizza spot is that kind of natural catch–all restaurant—unpretentious enough for families to get dinner together, but pretentious enough for college students to shamelessly order an imported beer. Dock Street South does much of the same, but rather than achieving it through decor, the gastropub does it through food.
Dock Street South offers approachable Mediterranean fare, which basically means you can order a hummus plate and mac ’n cheese at the same time. While we didn’t do that, we did appreciate how much their small menu accomplishes. There are charcuterie boards, light salads, rotisserie chicken, and vegetarian friendly sides. Everything is refreshingly simple, striking the balance between home–cooked comfort and Michelin Star sophistication. At a time where every restaurant is searching for superlatives—the best pizza, the tallest milkshake, the cheapest boozy brunch—Dock Street South just wants to be good. And to me, that’s more than enough.
Our meal began with a cheese board that came with three different breads: a sweet raisin swirl invoking memories of lazy breakfasts in bed, a soft pumpernickel that wasn’t overly dense, and a classic baguette. Made for sampling and pairing, the board let the cheese ride in the backseat, allowing the often overlooked accoutrements to shine. Served with a fruit jelly that shocks with a slightly tart aftertaste and a stuffing imbued with complex textures, the board turned fine dining playful, subverting the flavors and composition of a cheese board served elsewhere.
The same can be said of their charcuterie offerings. Plated with a sharp salami and a perfectly cured soppressata, this board similarly played with flavor pairings. A line of pickles sat next to a cluster of strawberries, inviting us to ask the question: Are there bounds to the classic sweet–and–sour pairing? (There aren’t). The board finished with a cup of refined, spicy brown mustard, tasting less like mustard smeared on a deli hoagie and more like something you’d find on the shelf of a Dean & DeLuca.
That, perhaps, is the true beauty of Dock Street South. It collects the flavors we take for granted—the tang of mustard, the finish of a well–seasoned chicken, the foam of a beer—and elevates them to something just out of civilian reach. Sure, we could craft our own cheese board or spiralize our own zucchini, but why would we, especially when it could never taste this effortless?
Dock Street South offers a robust sandwich section, each injected with a dose of Mediterranean flare. There’s the Lamb Pita, smeared with tzatziki and dusted with sumac. With no more than six ingredients total, the dish is uncomplicated. And yet, the flavors are bold, with the pickled carrots adding a punch to the cool sauce. The lamb is nice too, with a slightly smoky aftertaste that leaves your lips tingling, but it, once again, feels secondary to the things that surround it.
Meanwhile, the Sicilian Herb Chicken looks plain, like the type of rotisserie chicken they keep cooking under the heat lamp at the supermarket. However, it tastes anything but, seasoned with a mixture of thyme, rosemary, oregano, and lemon. It’s a mellow main course, with the chicken equal parts meat and fat, allowing for a textural interplay as you deconstruct it. Juicy yet smooth, with a crispy edge from the chicken skin, it tastes like something you’d place at the center of a dinner table.
Dock Street South isn’t Dock Street Brewery. It’s more—more flavorful, more serene, more adult. But it’s also less in some intangible way, lacking the friendly nod from regulars at the bar or the group of college students clinking glasses in the back. Perhaps this is better, underscoring that simple doesn’t always mean boring or dependable—like a neighborhood joint you get take–out from every Wednesday. Simple can be special, just like Dock Street.
TL;DR: A catch—all brewery/coffee shop with simplistic Mediterranean fare.
Location: 2118 Washington Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19146
Hours: Monday–Thursday: 7 a.m. — 11 p.m.
Friday: 7 a.m. – 1 a.m.
Saturday: 11 a.m. — 1 a.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. — 11 p.m.
Price range: $$