The name “Alexander’s” in large letters inscribed above the front entrance, one supposes is to link the chic, sleek Kitchen Bar with its more prosaic, yet successful and popular past. Alexander’s, in essence an upscale Greek diner with a bar, was a mainstay for many years in restaurant-poor Abington.
The completely rebuilt Alexander’s/Kitchen Bar restaurant, reopened in May 2006, with its rakish modern exterior, and stylish contemporary interior, is a dramatic departure.
It is filled with eye-catching details, e.g., a wall of falling water lit with ever-changing colors (there’s one on the outside too), giant metal cook’s utensils on another wall, acres of glass windows, suspended floating straw-colored panels against the black ceiling, and varied attractive lighting everywhere, not to mention the slick, perfectly square large bar and high-tops in the lounge area, and the really cool-looking restrooms.
The whole is chic enough to attract young singles and comfy enough with good food and service to hold some of its original middle-age and senior base. But not all of the latter. Gone are the low-cost early bird three-course dinners, and with them many of the former gray-haired regulars. So too is my favorite dish, the superb Athenian flounder, which I invariably used to have every time there. By 9:30 p.m., dinner mostly done, it is turned over to the younger louder crowd, when the DJ cranks up the music in the lively lounge.
On the Thursday night of my first visit, the parking lot and dining room were 90 percent full. Yet, the noise level was very low, except for the occasional boisterous cheering when the fightin’ Phillies went up 6 to 0 on the several large flat-screen TVs in the bar.
Two very well-mixed drinks, a Bloody Mary and a Cosmo, were not at all slight of alcohol, and got us ready to enjoy the excellent signature appetizer. The Kitchen Bar P.E.I. Mussels ($10.79) with the marvelous, homemade-from-scratch marinara sauce, a piquantly spicy seafood sauce rich with bits of clam and tiny shrimp and tomatoes was just great for dipping the sliced brown bread that came with it. The mussels were quite large, yet sweet.
Entrées come with soup or salad. We both opted for soup, the split pea (a favorite) for me – was rich, good and hot, and full of excellent flavor. My dining companion chose the French onion – topped with a slice of French bread, lots of onion, but so-so flavor, and not hot enough.
On another visit, the roast pepper seafood bisque ($3.50/cup if added to an entree) was rich, tangy, medium thick, and delightful.
My entrée choice, chicken and shrimp with risotto, which featured sun-dried tomato in a zesty basil-wine sauce ($16.99), was quite superb. The shrimp were large and tender, the boneless chicken breasts were less so, but still moist and tasty. The risotto was, in a word, superb.
My companion’s pick from the salads list was a Mediterranean grilled (rare) Ahi tuna salad ($13.50), with portobello mushrooms, roast red pepper, extra-creamy goat cheese, cucumber, tomato, and mixed greens in a white balsamic dressing.
The dessert menu always offers six interesting pastry confections which vary over time, plus ice cream and seasonal fruit. Way too full to handle the pastry, we opted for a lovely dish of fresh fruit (mixed berries, melon, pineapple, grapes).
If anything, between my early and more recent dinners at Kitchen Bar, I would say the food quality has improved, while cost level has remained essentially the same. Noise level can still be high when the bar is filled and their voices and laughter ricochet off the hard surfaces and into the dining room.
I have also enjoyed breakfasts at the Kitchen Bar, once sitting with a group of friends outside on the patio under a large umbrella, on a beautiful, clear, sunny Sunday morning. My plate of eggs over easy, home fries, and crisp (on the outside) scrapple was perfectly prepared. On a previous morning, I especially liked the unusual eggs benedict with lump crab and spinach (instead of bacon). And most recently, enjoyed a nova lox platter, and the three-veggie garden omelet.
Overall rating: mmm 3/4 (out of 5 m’s) Good, B+ overall - A for the chic setting; B+ for food; B for service; B+ for bar drinks.
Location: 1482 Old York Road, Abington
Cuisine: Contemporary American with a few Greek specialties
Hours: breakfast: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.; lunch: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; dinner: 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Dinner menu prices: Appetizers, salads $7 - $14; burgers/sandwiches $8 - $11; entrées $12 - $19; Pizzas $10 - $14.
Ambiance: Stylish, contemporary, and comfortable high-style design concept.
Reservations: Recommended for dinner.
Credit cards: All major accepted
Alcoholic beverages: Great very chic full service bar serving potent mixed drinks.
Wheelchair access: Yes, steep ramp
Smoking: Non-smoking, except on dining patio.
Special features: Free buffet treats during Happy Hour Tuesday through Friday 5-7 p.m.; DJ Thursday – Saturday after 9:30 p.m.
To contact Mitch Davis, you can e-mail him.