When I think Philly, I think of all the venues I’ve played - and I’m pretty damn sure I’ve played every single one of them; I think of a greasy heart-clogging Philly cheesesteak “wit” (that’s with cheese wiz); I think of the old video stores Trivium’s original cover artist Paul took me to to purchase Korean films like Coast Guard, Old Boy, Bad Guy - movies so dark, so twisted, yet still so artistic - movies that will forever scar, haunt and delight me; I remember sloppy, sweaty drunken arguments, minor-catastrophes, fights, and our old Chevy conversion van.
My relationship with Philadelphia is sort of a recurring one-night-fling. We always have a good time together, but then the fun is sort of over after the finale, if ya know what I’m sayin’ - leaving us both wanting a little more but also leaving us both wanting to run the walk of shame out of the room.
Having performed (multiple times) in some legendary clubs like: The TLA, The Trocadero (both upstairs and downstairs), The Electric Room, that big-amphitheater on the border of Jersey that keeps changing it’s name, even The First Unitarian Church - I’ve without a doubt witnessed some of the hardest rocking music fans in the States, but you’d think that I would have some great food stories to date - not quite.
My earliest food memories of Philly would be going to the “wrong” “best” cheesesteak place, mystery not-so-good Peking duck from Chinese places with a grease fog you have to waft through to find your seat, greasy-sloppy-spoon diners, Wawa stops at 2:37am in the van to sink-shower and grab a chicken tender sub - and lots of cheap long island iced teas and jaeger from the venue’s bars.
Now, don’t get me wrong - I know there is good stuff in Philly - you just need a local to show you around. What happens if your local source is also your North American booking agent, good friend for years, restaurant co-owner, and a foodie? Then you’re set.
Tim Borror has been Trivium’s booking agent since the beginning, along with Josh Kline and their co-workers at The Agency - and almost simultaneously it seemed, Tim heard I had a blog and I heard Tim owned a restaurant. Simple as that.
We finished the Camden show of Mayhem (basically the Jersey/Philly/outskirts of New York) show and P and I grabbed the venue’s runner to drop us off at Gunners Run, Borror’s bar/restaurant. Tim is co-owner of Gunners along with a few partners (a well known local promoter who has been booking Trivium in his clubs for ages) and a few other local music/food-dudes. Tim has been instrumental in helping cement Trivium as a touring-force in the USA and Canada, so I knew it’d be a great time to be able to hang in his turf for a change.
The area surrounding Gunners Run is breath-taking if you haven’t been there. It’s in a pristinely cleaned up, newly developed area of downtown Philly. Very different from the TLA’s surroundings that we’ve become so familiar with. It was all modernized apartment/loft living, big, open areas where people can drink and eat and enjoy the company of like-minded people. We approach the restaurant and see that the outside is packed, the inside has a Misfits cover-band jamming out. Gunners is an old building that has been remodeled and fashioned into a cool pub/food spot. The vibe is very Philly if you’ve been to the clubs in the area - just way more inviting. Clean, but still rock and roll.
We greet Tim, his wife, some staff, co-workers/owners and grab a seat outside. I start with one of their cocktails, the Tipsy Arnold Palmer (Absolut Wild Tea Vodka and lemonade). We chat the music biz, our touring schedule, life, yoga - all the good bits. Ordering some of Gunners’ Nachos to start, we begin chowing down. The nachos here were packed with all the essential suspects and perfect on this hot Philly-night - corn tortillas, refried beans, sharp cheddar, pepper jack, pico de gallo, sour cream, jalapeno, chicken. I was definitely into the sharing-vibe going down so far. They order me a glass of the house-made Cucumber-infused gin and tonic to get the appetite going - good stuff with a bite.
For mains, we asked what the best sandwiches were, and were greeted by the Roast beef with cheddar cheese and horseradish mayo for me, and the Pork with broccoli rabe and provolone for Paolo. A great sandwich is something magical - because - being in a band, you eat a lot of sandwiches from your rider (the list of things bands request to have daily in their dressing room: booze, water, meat, bread, strippers, etc.) and they’re typically just your standard-ass meat and bread-product. Gunners sandwich? Amazingness.
Simple, local, very Philadelphia. The Licscio bakery-bread had a perfect amount of crispness on the outer parts, the soft white-bread-flesh inside; each sandwich’s meat was married with the perfect cheese combo. Apparently, the Pork/rabe/provolone is just as Philly as the cheesesteak (and just as good as the best Philly-cheese). Gunners’ buttermilk/mayo/celery/red onion red potato salad with dill was a perfect companion to the godly sandwiches.
From here, I went with the Racer 5 IPA (always a fan of a good IPA), then into desert: The Belgian waffles with ice cream and fresh strawberries. To me - that desert felt very southern… it reminded me of home (yes - Florida is intensely “southern” in some of the areas I traverse, target-practice, eat and drink). I could have eaten that desert any time of day - damn good stuff.
To close, the Mint julep with bourbon, mint and simple syrup - another southern something, perfect to battle the unseasonably-hot Philly-summer heat.
Everything at Gunners feels familiar, yet with it’s own spin. I feel whether you’re in a Metal or Punk band; you’re a college student of business woman/man - Gunners feels like somewhere you’ve been, somewhere you like to be. It has the reminiscence of a favorite local pub, local music club, and pub-grub spot. The food here does things iconically Philly and iconically American-bar, but done right. The quality and the care is definitely considered and executed - we ended up hanging here for hours that flew like minutes.
Come here with friends and hang and eat and drink - you won’t be let down.