Rival Bros was brought to my attention by my friend Greg of Coffee Guru App fame. On my first visit to Philadelphia, in 2014, Rival Bros was a roastery with a growing reputation and a coffee truck near the station. Sadly, I missed out visiting that time, but when I returned the following year, Rival Bros had opened its first bricks-and-mortar coffee shop on the corner of 24th and Lombard Streets.
Fast-forward anther three years (to this time last year) and I was once again in Philadelphia, part of another of my Grand Adventures. By now, Rival Bros was up to three coffee shops, including the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, its most recent venture on Tasker Street, firmly on Philadelphia’s south side, where it joins the likes of Ultimo Coffee and Plenty Café.
The ubiquitous Revolver blend is on espresso, where it’s joined by a decaf option and a single-origin, with more single-origins (four during my visit) available on pour-over through the Chemex. There’s also batch-brew if you’re in a hurry, plus cold-brew, nitro cold-brew and various iced coffees. If you’re hungry, Rival Bros has a small menu featuring two toast options and two sandwiches, plus a selection of cakes.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Rival Bros third location opened in November 2017 on the corner of 11th and Tasker Streets, the front along Tasker Street. Inside, it’s split into two, the front containing the counter, while the back room, accessed via a flight of four broad steps behind the counter on the right, has the seating.
Like the original Rival Bros Coffee Bar, Tasker Street has two doors, handy for maintaining the flow for takeaway customers. The counter runs pretty much the full width of the coffee shop, with the door on the left leading to the till, where you order. Meanwhile, the door on the right is at the far end of the counter, next to the Synesso espresso machine, where you wait for your coffee.
There are three tall, thin windows punctuating the front wall, while the left-hand wall has four windows, all side-by-side. Along with the two glass doors, it makes for a bright, airy space. The back room is roughly the same size and shape, perhaps twice as wide as it is deep, with grey walls and exposed floorboards. There are only two narrow windows in the left-hand wall back here, although clever use of mirrors on the front and back walls, plus borrowed light from the front, along with plenty of electric lights, make it a very bright space.
You’ll find a pair of metal mesh chairs directly ahead, flanking a neat coffee table that’s in front of a disused fireplace in the back wall. Off to the right, there’s a small, wide alcove with a three-person bar facing the front wall. While not offering much in the way of views, it does provide privacy.
The bulk of the seating, meanwhile, is arranged around the front, left and back walls in a U-shape. Starting immediately to the left of the steps, there’s a two/three-person (if you know each other very well) bench seat against the front wall, followed by pair of corner units, front and back. Finally, there’s another two/three person-seat against the back wall. Each of these has a pair of fixed, round tables, one at either end. The corner units also have tables at either end, with a bonus table in the middle. Finally, each of the tables also has its own black, metal chair.
Since I was having my first coffee of the day, I played it safe with the Revolver blend in a cappuccino, although I was sorely tempted by all four single-origin pour-overs. However, I wasn’t disappointed by my choice, the Revolver’s bold taste cutting through the milk on the first sip before mellowing slightly thereafter, allowing the rich, creamy milk to take centre stage. Pretty much the perfect start to my day.
Afterwards I spoke with Joe, the manager, who told me how Rival Bros were getting more into direct trade, looking to improve the quality of the green beans that they sourced, with an emphasis on sweet, fruity coffees. While I was there, the single-origin espresso was from a farm in Costa Rica, Hacienda Sonora, which processes half of the coffee using the natural method and half using the honey process. These are then recombined as green beans.
Naturally I had to have a shot and it was awesome. While pulled relatively quickly, it was a longer shot by volume, which, Joe explained, was due to a large crema. The result was a really creamy coffee, with a syrupy mouthfeel and a rich, fruity flavour, with a hint of acidity. One of the most interesting espressos I’ve had in a long time, it’s an early front-runner for this year’s Best Espresso Award.
December 2019: Rival Bros, Tasker Street was a runner-up for the 2019 Best Espresso Award.
|1100 TASKER STREET • PHILADELPHIA • PA 19148 • USA|
|Monday||07:00 – 19:00||Roaster||Rival Bros (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 19:00||Seating||Tables|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 19:00||Food||Cake, Sandwiches|
|Thursday||07:00 – 19:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||07:00 – 20:00||Cards||Amex, Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||07:00 – 20:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||07:00 – 18:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||Local||Visits||3rd March 2018|
Liked this? Then take a look at the rest of Philadelphia’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Philadelphia.
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