Updated: Wednesday, September 13, 2017, 9:34 AM
The neon sign above the bar makes a bold promise: “The Largest Drink in Philly.” But I’m initially unimpressed when the bartender sets a mere 20-ounce cup in front of me. Then, I think to ask how many ounces of vodka are in the Ciroc Punch, a drink I ordered on impulse and would soon regret. The bartender counts briefly on her fingers: “Eight.”
If there’s any place to drink eight ounces of vodka, it’s Eagle Bar. After all, it adjoins Max’s, a cheesesteak shop where a “half-size” sandwich is more than a foot long, and a full-size one should not be attempted without a spotter. They don’t do “small” here.
Max’s presides authoritatively over the hectic intersection where Broad Street meets Erie and Germantown avenues: Look for the oversized, lit-up hoagie and the Kevin Hart mural. On a recent Thursday night, the corner was bustling, lined with tables of CDs and incense for sale. A man hawked perfume out of a stolen supermarket basket. Two men crouched on milkcrates waged a fierce chess game. In short, it’s the kind of place someone making a Rocky movie might look for local color — and, indeed, it provided the ideal backdrop for Tessa Thompson to explain “jawn” to Michael B. Jordan over a cheesesteak in Creed. (The only thing that could’ve made it more quintessentially Philly would’ve been a heckling Eagles fan.)
To reach Eagle Bar, I navigated past the clatter of the kitchen, aromatic with sizzling steaks, and found a long, crimson room illuminated by neon interjections (“WINGS,” “BUDWEISER ON TAP”) and dowdy table lamps. It’s just the place to wash down what some say is the city’s best cheesesteak with a Long Island iced tea, a frozen strawberry margarita or, if you so choose, a martini, priced at $4.95 during a happy hour that starts at 5 p.m. and continues until you’re cut off or until 9 p.m. – whichever comes first.
The marketing pitch is quantity here, more than quality. Consider that the most popular drink is something called the Trash Can.
Punch, traditionally, has five ingredients: booze, sugar, lemon, water, and tea. Eagle Bar’s Ciroc Punch, it’s my understanding, includes just four — Peach Ciroc, Pineapple Ciroc, Red Berry Ciroc and Sour Apple Ciroc – and tastes as if someone dissolved a package of strawberry sour straws in a bucket of grain alcohol. My friends opted for strawberry margaritas, frozen and spring-break-flavored, that came piled high in tall plastic cups. The generous servings set the stage for a novel pickup line. “Can I have some of your drink?” a man asked one of my friends. “I have my own cup.” (I offered him some Ciroc Punch instead. He demurred but invited me to the movies — then added, confusingly, “Tell your husband he can come.”)
It’s the kind of bar where people don’t try too hard. They stop by in jeans or sweats and eat cheesesteaks while looking at their phones. Staff were friendly and helpful. They also at one point got into a shouted argument over scheduling in the middle of the bar. On the other hand, if you’re patient, you can get your cheesesteak delivered right to your bar stool. Eventually, a waitress came by to take our food order. She paused a moment, squinting at us. “You from Philly?” We assured her we were. Later, whenever she passed by, she’d chant: “Philly!”
It doesn’t get much more Philly than that.
3653 Germantown Ave., 215-229-9048
When to go: You know the kind of night that calls for a pint of vodka and a five-pound cheesesteak when it happens to you. The Eagle Bar is open 11 a.m to 2 a.m. daily.
Bring: Your out-of-town guests who want the authentic Philly experience.
Order: The strawberry frozen margarita ($10) and – I can’t emphasize this enough – the half cheesesteak ($8.75).
Bathroom situation: The black-tiled women’s room has a couple stalls in decent repair. Apparently, the men’s room sink was broken, so some guys were darting into the women’s room to wash their hands. Many others presumably were not.
Sounds like: Depending on whether someone has ponied up for Touch Tunes, it can be a peaceful 85 decibels – quiet but for The Jeffersons or NFL Game Day on TV – or a bumping 103 decibels of Lil Wayne or Bruno Mars.