A taste of Pennsylvania Dutch food has arrived in Manassas. So has the Philly steak sandwich.
What is Pennsylvania Dutch food? "We're doing a lot of education here," says Mary Villante, owner with her husband, Carl Joseph, of the Philadelphia Tavern on Main Street in Old Town. There's ring bologna on the menu and a sandwich called the Schmitter. People who grew up in the Lancaster-Philadelphia area know the bologna: Milder than salami, spicier than bologna, Villante said.
The Philadelphia Tavern pairs ring bologna with cheddar cheese for a hearty appetizer. Other appetizers are baked brie with French bread and fruit, and mussels in sauce.
As former Philadelphia residents, we were determined to see if the restaurant's boast of authentic fare held true. We sampled the classic Philadelphia steak sandwich: thin slices of perfectly grilled beef on a soft sub roll, smothered with inch-square chunks of slightly browned onions, a dollop of dill pickles atop all. No mayo, no tomato, no lettuce -- a naked sandwich.
The boast is true: It tastes like those made in Philly delis. Additions such as green peppers, mushrooms, three cheeses or red gravy -- marinara sauce to those not from Philly -- can be added.
The Tavern has transplanted the Schmitter, a cheese steak with onions, salami, tomato and special dressing served on a Kaiser roll, and a kielbasa (Polish sausage) or bratwurst with sauerkraut sandwich.
And there are hoagies, lunch meats piled high with cheeses, hard-boiled eggs, onions, tomato, cucumber. They're all served in a basket with a bag of chips or with fries and cole slaw, the way they traditionally are in many Pennsylvania taverns.
The menu is ambitious, with open-faced roast beef sandwiches, cheese ravioli with homemade meatballs or sausage, and Alaskan king crab legs. We tried something lighter: Caesar salad with a hunk of grilled tuna, moist with the right bit of chewiness.
Two homemade soups are made daily; one is always New England clam chowder, $3.25 for a large bowl.
Philadelphia cheesecake -- browned on the edges, dense inside -- comes plain, swirled with raspberry or flecked with chocolate chips. It was so good we were tempted to lick the plate afterward.
The Tavern is just a block from Old Town Manassas's visitors center and train station, in an area with many restaurants.
The Tavern has that stained-glass, dark wood, intimate ambiance -- plus more than 40 domestic and imported beers ($3 to $5), 14 specialty drinks, and wines -- that you find in taverns. There's also root beer on tap.
Best of all, perhaps: The Tavern is open late on weekends, which in the Virginia suburbs means midnight, with a respectable lineup of late-night fare -- shrimp, hoagies and hearty appetizers.
Address: 9413 Main St., Manassas. 703-393-1776.
Hours: Open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, noon to 8 p.m.
Credit cards: Accepts Mastercard, Visa, Discover, American Express and personal checks.
Prices: $3.50 to $6.25 for sandwiches; full platters and dinners, $5.95 to $19.95.
Miscellaneous: Carryout menu. Does not take reservations. Our bill for two at lunch came to $33.20 with tip. No children's menu, but youngsters can order any menu item for half price.
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CAPTION: The Philadelphia Tavern specializes in its packed-to-the-max Philly-style sandwiches, served with french fries and cole slaw.