As Camden's waterfront expanded - with the Adventure Aquarium, the Tweeter Center, Campbell's Field - developers sought a restaurant to capitalize on the river view. The looming Ben Franklin Bridge and the Philadelphia skyline provide the perfect setting, especially for a patio or deck to serve the coming-and-going crowds.
But it took until last spring to find the right entrepreneurs - Sam Sarin and Mike Romano of Sam's Bar & Grille of Blackwood - to take a risk on Camden.
The Victor's Pub is on the ground floor of developer Carl Dranoff's Victor Lofts luxury apartment building. It's within walking distance of the tourist attractions and the Rutgers campus.
Indeed, the pub takes advantage of its location, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking to Philadelphia. But patrons also can track sports on a dozen flat-screen televisions, surprisingly unobtrusive on the opposite walls. During two recent lunches, robust crowds of business people filled high-topped and regular tables. Students populate the bar mostly on Wednesday and Thursday nights.
Wisely, the Victor's menu features standard bar munchies: nachos, fries, onion rings and fried calamari to complement 12 beers on tap and a clever martini menu (Scarlet Raptor, anyone?).
The menu also includes burgers, clubs, wraps and steak sandwiches served in baskets with pickles and kettle chips. Bigger eaters can opt for steak, seafood or pasta. Rabbits can choose from familiar salads - Greek, Caesar, spinach, tossed.
A white board just inside the door lists daily specials, or press 3 on the pub's voice mail to hear them in advance of your visit.
A cute crock of Yukon potato soup ($4) warmed me right up on a cold wintry afternoon. It was properly lumpy with potatoes and ham and prettily garnished with bacon bits, shredded cheddar and scallions.
I decided on the pasta special ($4.95), bow-ties swimming in a light cream sauce with sauteed spinach and sausage chunks. The portion was generous, especially for the bargain price, but the pasta was slightly overcooked. The accompanying garlic bread had real kick.
Consistent with her habit, my dining partner ordered the Victor's Classic Burger ($9), minus lettuce and tomato, but added caramelized onions. It seems no matter where we go or how long she studies the menu, she ends up with a burger and fries, which does give her a certain expertise. She rated the Victor's offering as "solid but not great." The caramelized onions, however, were "not to be missed," and the bun was excellent. We wolfed down her fries, served too-hot-to-handle, just as we like them.
Before or after an event in Camden, give the Victor's Pub a try. It's food with a view.
1 Market St., Camden Waterfront.
Sunday noon-2 a.m.; Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-2 a.m.
Across the street.
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