by Judy Rubin
Roberts Block is a new restaurant/bar situated at the outbound side of the Glenside Train Station. The owner, Jack Conroy, of Conroy Catering in Fox Chase, and his wife Beth designed the restaurant. The building is 100 years old; it used to be three storefronts and was used to store merchandise that came off the trains. It was vacant for over a decade following a fire until Jack reopened it in October of 2105 after major renovations.
Jack went to the Philadelphia Restaurant School, was in the restaurant management business and as a young man was the cook at Glen Foerd Mansion (on the Delaware in Northeast Philly). He “started to appreciate old buildings, how they live and breathe.” For the interior of Roberts Block, he wanted an “industrial feel, but not too super-industrial.” He succeeded.
“The guy who helped me, Bob Anderson, a retired carpenter, did the design and construction with me. He made all the tables and floors with Brazilian Lacewood . It was cut wrong for a job in Brazil, so we bought a boat load of it and repurposed it.” The wood on the ceiling is from La Salle High School’s bleachers. There is a large hutch in the dining room, built in 1930, and was given to Jack by his grandmother. The curved bar is comfortable and striking, but if you want to eat with less noise, sit in the dining room area, away from the bar. It wasn’t too noisy the night we went, a Wednesday, but noisy enough, especially with a screaming baby. I can imagine that it is deafening when full.
Patti, the manager, seated us and said she would like to bring us a varied sampling of their dishes. Cocktails are $10 except between the Happy Hours of 4:30-6:30, Tuesday-Friday; $2.50 off draft beers and specialty cocktails and the same for select wines. My cocktail choice was their Summer Crush, a light and refreshing blend of Skyy passion fruit vodka with pineapple, lime and fresh squeezed orange juice over crushed ice. It was large and luscious.
After the drink, Jack sat down to join us. He mentioned how catering is different in concept and execution from running a restaurant. In his catering business, everything is prearranged and set. Restaurant inventory depends upon so many variables. He is toying with the idea of a Sunday brunch.
All food is fresh and made to order. Hearth baked bread is from Liscio’s. Local roasted coffee is from Elcy’s. The honey used in the fried chicken recipe is from Jack’s beehives. The menu changes seasonally.
The Portuguese octopus ($12), listed on the small plates portion of the menu, arrived. It was melt-in-your-mouth tender in a flavorful ragout of white beans, tomato, goat cheese and arugula. Two entries followed, first, a delicious braised short rib, ($26) cooked to perfection with Chambord, purple Peruvian fingerlings, ginger-carrot puree and asparagus.
The other, a creative carrot gnocchi ($16) with baby carrots, cipollini onions, corn puree and micro herbs. It was a bit bland, but with an ingredient to add color and a bolder flavor, it would be quite tasty.
Desserts are homemade. The chocolate chip ice cream had a few too many chips, and the ice cream was lackluster. The “chocolate oblivion” was a flourless chocolate torte with a bottom layer of caramel, chocolate sauce and a hint of salt on top.
Jack followed up by inviting us for a tour of his home/business at Knowlton Mansion at 8001 Verree Rd. in the Northeast. A memorable experience and definitely the place to plan an event, but that’s another story.
The restaurant is at 2 Roberts Block in Glenside at the intersection of Roberts and Mt. Carmel Avenues. More information at 215-690-4445 or www.robertsblockrestaurant.com.