To an outsider looking in, a restaurant named for, catering to and themed around the bartenders, servers, runners, hosts, chefs, cooks and other undervalued laborers collectively known as the restaurant “industry” might seem a little … strange? Indulgent? Self-important? To an outsider.
If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant — and I think every American should have to (it would turn the dining public’s every dick and Scrooge into veritable Mothers Teresa) — then you know that the concept of The Industry, the handsome two-month-old Pennsport bar and eatery from Dave Garry and Heather Gleason of Good Dog, is just about the best thing since a shift drink.
Garry and Gleason really know how to take care of their own. There’s a standing 20 percent in-the-biz discount for restaurant workers, and chef Pat Szoke, a vet of Vetri and The Farm and the Fisherman, cooks his full beyond-bar-food menu till 1 a.m. every night so industry workers “can have a steak when they get done work, not just something fried,” Gleason says. (Which is not to say The Industry eschews all deep-fried bites: Szoke’s pork nuggets, neat rectangles of mustard-y headcheese encased in panko, and crisp, Buffalo-rouged sweetbreads beside airy shaved celery salad and crumbled blue cheese are the bar snacks in heaven).
Rotating specials range from cut-rate plates of spaghetti Bolognese and fried chicken (Wednesdays and Thursdays) to Staff Meal Sundays, when five or six bucks buys a dish of carnitas, meatloaf or whatever else Szoke and sous chef Jonathan “JonRod” Rodriguez create for family meals. Anyone can take advantage of these deals, not just those able to name the local hospitality legends (Monk’s Tom Peters, Flying Fish’s Casey Hughes, Jose Pistola’s Joe Gunn among them) whose pictures line the walls of this lively brick-and-timber clubhouse.
A steel I-beam rigged with bulbs spans two pillars in the center of the space, illuminating a communal table that flanks the 13-stool bar. There, regulars sip from one of the smartest beer lists I’ve seen, a 12-draught, one-engine rotation in which the generous-with-samples staff is impressively well versed. It’s equal parts local lovefest (Flying Fish, PBC) and American curiosity shop; my glass of Firestone Walker Double Jack, a malty imperial IPA, begged for a fireplace and smoking jacket. The Industry’s even gotten its hands on a rare keg of the Tröegs/Victory/Yards/Nodding Head Brotherly Suds collaboration. Helps when all those brewers are your boys.
More than those brewers, more than the chefs and bartenders whose photos grace the walls, Szoke is The Industry’s MVP. The open kitchen, so new the stainless-steel surfaces gleam like a lovingly cared-for car, represents the first he’s headed up, and if what he’s doing here is any indication, the 29-year-old has a bright future in this city’s restaurant scene.
Anyone who can simmer a lamb gravy this soulful, I’d trust with my life; the crock of slow-cooked tomato sauce marbled with strips of braised meat was my favorite Industry recipe. Szoke serves it with ricotta and grilled Metropolitan baguette for dunking. That’s all this small plate is, bread and gravy, and maybe that plays to my sentimental side — as kids, my brother and I made an Olympic sport of dipping sneaky pre-dinner hunks of bread into the Sunday gravy pot — but I think it says something about the confidence Szoke is cooking with.
Steamed with Ommegang Witte and white wine, tender clams yawned open, accepting browned crumbles of sausage. Shaved fennel echoed the ground fennel seed in the house-made sausage, long hots provided heat and lemon zest created brightness in a steamed-clam prep that rivals Southwark’s. The fluffy arepas would have pleased a Venezuelan grandma; their calendar-correct toppings of blistered sugar-bomb cherry tomatoes, roasted poblanos, onions, creminis and crème fraîche would have pleased a Lancaster farmer. Fun desserts featured pastry cream and berries macerated in elderflower syrup between buttermilk biscuits, and Rodriguez’s take on the classic Swiss roll, a chocolate sheet cake lathered with orange-rum buttercream, rolled and dipped in tempered chocolate.
I do have a few gripes, among them the pulled-duck sandwich, a great idea that needs to go back to the testing stages. Its bread-to-meat ratio produced too many mouthfuls of dry ciabatta, and the vinegar-based Carolina-style barbecue sauce didn’t saturate the duck thoroughly; a thicker, stickier sauce would help. The pork nuggets, wonderful as they were, deserve a more compelling dip than meh sambal mayo, and despite the otherwise excellent service, getting the check was a challenge.
All easy fixes, except for my chief, unfortunately unrectifiable complaint about The Industry: that it wasn’t around back when I was tending bar.
1401 E. Moyamensing Ave., 215-271-9500, theindustrybar.com. Lunch and dinner served Mon.-Fri., 4 p.m.-1 a.m.; Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m.-1 a.m.; brunch served Sat.-Sun.,11 a.m.-4 p.m.; bar open nightly until 2 a.m. Snacks, $3-$10; small plates, $6-$15; soups/salads, $5-$10; sandwiches, $8-$15; large plates, $15-$24; desserts, $6-$7.