Sports bars are a mood - and not a mood you’re always in. Some days you don’t want to deal with sticky surfaces, people arguing from across the room, and greasy plates of hot wings. That’s why it’s good to have a place like Olly - somewhere you can get a decent, even healthy meal and watch sports when you’d rather not fight with a stranger over whether or not the Sixers should fire their coach.
Olly is more useful than your average sports bar, too. It’s a great spot to watch the game, but you should also go for a sidewalk brunch during the summer, a casual weeknight dinner, and a beer at the bar with a visiting Patriots fan who’d get verbally assaulted anywhere else in the city. Don’t expect a rowdy crowd here at any point in the day - it’s never super loud or full, and even people who are just here for the TVs are behaving like they’re at their in-laws’ house for the first time. The inside is also bright and spacious, which is practically the opposite of how we’d describe most sports bars.
The food here is classic American bar food, but a little better and healthier than the reheated mozzarella sticks at your neighborhood dive bar. Olly’s wings are dry-rubbed in spices and served with an herbed yogurt instead of a paper cup of bleu cheese, the bacon cheeseburger is topped with a cornichon aioli, and the apple pie comes with a scoop of ginger ice cream instead of vanilla.
And unlike your average bar, where the only vegetarian option is a side of celery and carrots sticks, Olly’s vegetable-based dishes make up around half the menu. There’s a Moroccan-spiced whole honeynut squash that’s both sweet and a little spicy from a harissa sauce and buffalo cauliflower that’s a solid alternative to hot wings. There’s also a full kids menu with things like mac and cheese and ants on a log, which means you can bring your 4-year-old here too.
Maybe the biggest upgrade from your average Philly dive bar is Olly’s drink list. They have natural wines on draft, a long list of beers and ciders from around the world, and seasonal cocktails that range from a rose martini to a mezcal toddy. Instead of cheap tall boys stacked across the bar, you’ll see small groups of people sharing pitchers of Japanese pale ales and drinking Gruners by the carafe. It’s essentially like if the dive bar that served you $1 Huge Ass Beers in college graduated, got a job, and became a respectable member of society.
Olly isn’t the most exciting place in the city to watch a game or have a meal, though. Some of the fancy bar food falls a little flat, like a mushroom tart that doesn’t have much flavor and a walnut-covered ball of cheese served with a few crackers that feels like an afterthought. And you won’t get the electric, “bleed green” energy you might get from a dark cave called McFadden’s or O’Neill’s. But a place with good, somewhat healthy food that’s always showing the game is a welcome change from a classic dive.
If you’re down to pay $6 for bread that you could get for free at most other places, then start with the squash focaccia. It’s soft, fluffy, and comes with a sage and walnut pesto that we wish we could buy at the grocery store.
These aren’t your average dive bar wings - mostly meaning you won’t feel like garbage after eating a whole plate of them. Instead of buffalo sauce, they’re dry-rubbed in spices and come with a delicious side of an herb yogurt.
If the whole dry-rub and yogurt thing doesn’t appeal to you, you can get the more traditional hot wing taste with the buffalo cauliflower. It’s covered in spicy hot sauce and comes with bleu cheese dressing. It’s basically what you’d expect from a dive bar, but vegetarian.
The gnudi isn’t bad - it’s just not super flavorful, and the mushroom and squash don’t add all that much. And for $16, you’re better off getting the burger or one of the specials.
The burger is the best thing on Olly’s menu. It’s a thick patty topped with cheddar, bacon, and a tangy cornichon aioli. It’s one of our favorites in the city.
Think of the last Mediterranean lamb dish you had. It was probably covered in some Moroccan spices, harissa was likely involved, and maybe some couscous. Now replace the lamb with sweet but rich honeynut squash and you have Olly's delicious take on the dish.
The apple crisp has a flaky pie crust and a scoop of ginger ice cream on top. It comes out hot, and it’s the best dessert here.