You don’t have to run up the steps of the art museum like Rocky to enjoy one of the best views in Philadelphia.
Well, you can if you want. But then, come on down to street level, go ’round the corner, and experience an even-better view. With OK food and a side order of impressive history.
The Water Works Restaurant & Lounge is in the shadow of the art museum on the Schuylkill River, next to pretty Boathouse Row and Fairmount Park. All provide a captivating view when driving in or out of the city on the Schuylkill Expressway or taking Amtrak.
The restaurant is among buildings that look like Greek temples. So pretty, it’s hard to believe they were once the city’s water works.
But in their day (in the 1800s) they were heralded as architectural and engineering wonders. They were a tourist attraction long before Pat’s Steaks, drawing the likes of Charles Dickens. Or so it’s said.
In the early 20th Century the river grew too polluted and city’s demand for water too great. So the Water Works shut down.
The restored historic landmark now houses an upscale restaurant with the same million-dollar view of the river. That’s what you’re paying for.
I have to disagree with Joe Biden, who ate there and told the chef he sure could cook. The food I had for my 29th (ha) birthday brunch was so-so.
What was supposed to be one of the place’s signature features — 40 different kinds of bottled water — labeled light, classic, and bold — just seemed silly. I chose good old San Pellegrino over its Croatian and New Zealand counterparts.
The fish and chicken were dried out and nothing special. The shrimp cocktail sauce was weirdly chunky. There was an impressive crepe station but nothing else out of the ordinary.The desserts looked like cut-up Entenmann’s cakes.
When the biscuits and gravy and the crab salad are the meal’s high points, you know you’re in trouble.
I’m glad we didn’t go for dinner. The online reviews painted it as a real hit-or-miss. One thing everyone seemed to agree on: The food is way overpriced.
I will say the service was great. The waiter from Rome was very personable.
He made fun of the Greek architecture in a good-natured way. And had the unenviable chore of refolding our used napkins every time we got up for another round. If that were me, I’d leave my bed unmade on my days off in protest.
My recommendation: Go for only a drink (unless you’re really flush with cash and feeling adventurous) and stay for the view.