White Dog Café has the sterling reputation, New Deck Tavern has the old-country feel and Bubble House has the trendy look. But when it comes to the best beer selection in University City, the surprising winner is the unassuming Tex-Mex restaurant hidden away behind all three: Mad 4 Mex.
True to its name, Mad 4 Mex looks every bit the Tex-Mex eatery—the trappings of Southwest culture, the aroma of chili peppers heavy in the air—and nothing like your standard beer bar. Monk’s Café this is not.
But one look behind the jagged bar and you’ll see why Mad 4 Mex is a popular haunt for beer lovers: Two-and-a-half dozen different brews on tap, including selections by local favorites (Downingtown-based Victory Brewing; Harrisburg’s Troeg’s), nationally respected craft brewers (Anderson Valley of California; Smuttynose Brewing of New Hampshire) and old stalwarts (Miller Lite; Boddington’s). The kegs change regularly here, and the variety of beers on tap is truly remarkable. You can check Mad 4 Mex’s web site (www.madmex.com) to see what’s new on tap. And don’t forget the amazing selection of bottled beers, too.
We recently stopped by Mad 4 Mex to sample some of its best—and came away duly impressed. Here are the beers that stood out.
Victory Hop Devil IPA and Smuttynose IPA
Few locally produced beers have a more rabid following than Victory’s Hop Devil IPA, a full, flavorful India Pale Ale that can be found in an increasing number of taverns in the area. And every time we taste it, we’re reminded why: While other IPAs tend to be overly bitter and syrupy, Victory’s formula finds the right balance—hoppy enough for hop lovers, but drinkable, too. Another IPA we sampled, from New Hampshire’s Smuttynose Brewery, also drew rave reviews. Though more potent than Hop Devil—and noticeably bolder in flavor, too—our hop lovers nonetheless agreed with a New York Times tasting panel, which in 2004 named this beer the best IPA in its group.
Maine’s Allagash brewery made its mark specializing in Belgian-style beers, and its Allagash White is about as basic Belgian as it gets: With a wheaty, fruity finish, it reminded one our tasters of pear cider—but in a good way.
Spanish Peaks Black Dog Ale and Flying Dog Pale Ale
Mad 4 Mex offers not one, but two, competing ales from two great breweries way out west. And both had their charms, too. We enjoyed Spanish Peaks’ Black Dog Ale, a raspberry-tinged English-style ale with earthy undertones, but it was Flying Dog’s wonderful Pale Ale that stood out. With a perfect balance of hops and malts, as well as a surprising amber color, it is one of the finest, and most unique, pale ales that we have ever sampled.
Mad 4 Mex is located at 3401 Walnut Street in the Shoppes at Penn (entrance is in the alley between Walnut and Sansom streets). For information, call 215-382-2221.
Originally published September 7, 2006.
Originally published on September 7, 2006