I imagine that this scene is played out all over the country: After a difficult night and probably a beer or two restaurant employees who work together talk about how great it would be if only they could own and operate their own restaurant.
With this mind (although I can't be certain of the mindset) along comes the Abbaye in Northern Liberties. A former long-time employee at Bridgid's is a co-owner of the new establishment and took nearly the entire front-end staff of the Belgian-themed Fairmount bar and restaurant with her.
Those who frequent Bridgid's will recognize several similarities between the two places. Among them are the Belgian theme, the food menu written on the blackboard, and the large selection of bottle and draft Belgian beer listed on the small, thin fold out beer and wine paper menus on the bar, and the camaraderie among the staff. The space itself is less cramped than Bridgid's with dark colors, natural wood, and the work of a local artist lining the walls on both the bar side of the room and in the dining area.
The food is similar in some aspects to Bridigd's with a mixture of American fare along side Belgian favorites, such as mussels. Unlike Bridgid's there is a fairly extensive list of sandwiches, including shrimp po' boys. My wife and I were there two weeks ago (so my recollection may be fading) and sat at the copper-topped bar. We shared an order of satisfying wings in Chimay beer sauce. I ordered the ancho BBQ pork chops while my wife ordered the vegan shepard's pie, which editors on the MSN site said was surprisingly delicious. We both found it surprisingly bland. Mashed potatoes atop a very small strip of caramelized onions and carrots on top of sautéed spinach. My pork chops on the other hand were meaty, moist and had a mild hot, smoky flavor. It came with a side of string beans with crumpled cheese (may have been goat cheese but I forget). In fact the chef does seem to be good at vegetables, both the string beans on my plate and spinach on my wife's were very good. I forget the large-bottled Belgian beer I had with my meal, but it went well with my dinner.
The service was friendly and our food was paced well. I think I'll need to go there a couple more times to get a better idea on what the chef does well. But for now I'll just say that it seems to be a place for good bar food and great beer.
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