Philadelphia: The Right Way
With the great feedback on our Chicago: The Right Way article, we decided to take a crack at the City of Brotherly Love. We asked our friends here at The Interrobang!? and our readers, what’s The Right Way to visit Philadelphia.
If you’re going to Philly you’ll want to grab yourself a few of the thing’s they’re most known for:
- Water Ice
- Soft Hot Pretzels
Of course, you’ll need more information than that. Here are our favorite places and top recommendations:
1. Sarcone’s Deli. 734 S. 9th Street. ”It’s all about the bread.” Sarcone’s piles their hoagies into some of the best seeded Italian bread that you can find ANYWHERE. Whether you go for an “American Italian,” or “The Old Fashioned Italian,” you can not go wrong. Philadelphia is the sandwich capital of the USA and Sarcones is the sandwich capital of Philly. Closed Mondays. Also, if you’re coming from far away, call ahead with your order, even if its only 1 hoagie, as they sometimes sell out early, particularly on sports weekends.
If you’re in the Philly area, and Sarcone’s is closed or runs out (it happens) and you absolutely need a hoagie on your way through town, we love Lenny’s in Conshohocken. This small town, family run, old-school-as-they-get corner shop makes their own pork, has great bread and kills it in the hoagie department. Easy parking, and it’s right off the Schuylkill. 900 Fayette Street, Conshohocken, Pa.
2. The Italian Market. South 9th Street (runs along 9th Street from Wharton to Fitzwater St.) Be advised that many shops in the market are closed Mondays. Start your trip with a visit to Sarcones (see #1) and then head north on 9th street for some great ‘souveniers’ to take home. It’s America’s oldest outdoor market and a part of the history of the city, so head there, take a stroll, check out the wonderful DiBruno Brothers cheese shop, and Claudio’s (their home made fresh mozzarella is outstanding- like biting into a cold glass of milk), salumi, pastas, specialty foods etc… Afterwards, head to nearby Isgro Pastries (1009 Christian St.), for great cannoli, get yourself some sfogliatelle too, .. Say it: svoy-lah-tell-eh! Then eat em up… and then visit Fante’s for the one of our all time favorite kitchen shops.
3. Paesano’s II. 1017 S. 9th Street. BELIEVE the hype about this place! Inventive, delicious, amazing sandwiches. Standouts include “The Paesano:” juicy beef brisket, sharp provolone, sunny egg… “The Arista:” a fine, FINE roast pork sandwich, “The Bolognese:” crispy fried lasagna, red sauce, sweet peppers, smoked mozzarella, sunny side up egg. then there’s also “Italian Meatloaf Parmesan,” and even a super tasty smoked turkey sandwich called the “Statiooch!” “The Italian Tuna,” is also a good bet- non-mayo tuna salad… THEY’RE ALL FANTASTIC! Tons of no-miss choices on excellent Carangi seeded Italian bread. Extremely difficult to pick a favorite.
4. John’s Roast Pork. 14 Snyder Ave. Monday – Friday only. Get there early! They say that they’re open until 3pm, but when they run out of sandwich makings they close up shop! John’s Roast Pork is by far our favorite roast pork sandwich in the citaaay… It’s so…porky. There’s a lil somethin special in that jus…it feels like love and affection…add them greens and sharp provolone and you’re on your way to a glorious lunch. If you must have a cheesesteak, let it be known that John’s cheese steaks are really great as well. Down there on Snyder amid the chain stores and shopping centers, the plywood image of a deliriously happy pig rises from the cinderblock…He beckons you. Heed his oink…
5. Reading Terminal Market. 51 N. 12th Street. It’s great food, and another part of Philadelphia history to check out. We can’t imagine ever tiring of this joint, especially if you love to cook, eat, or just oggle fresh local produce. It can be quite a crowded scene at times, and almost overwhelming with so many merchants to check out, so many bites to try, but really that’s what can get ya kinda intoxicated about the trip- such vast variety and quality. Navigate through, make the rounds, circle through a couple of times to make a plan before finally deciding what to eat and buy. Here’s our suggestions, especially if you don’t have time to make it to all the other places in the city. Get a few things and share:
- Tommy DiNic’s: Delicious roast pork sandwiches w/ broccoli rabe & sharp provolone. One of the reeeeally delicious roast pork sandwiches in the city. If you think you won’t like it, you’re wrong. Try it.
- Salumeria: Very good hoagies here. Get the italian with house dressing.
- Dutch Eating Place: Great, homey Pennsylvania Dutch-stlye breakfast. Hearty stuff, pancakes, apple dumplings…mmmmm
- Beiler’s Bakery: More Pennsylvania Dutch goodness! Apple fritters, whoopie pies, try the ones made out of chocolate chip cookies.
6. Sabrina’s Cafe. Two Locations. 1804 Callowhill or 910 Christian Street. Brunch! Brunch and more Brunch! Great coffee, stuffed french toast, omelets, frittatas, daily specials. A really popular spot on the weekends, especially. There can be a long wait, it’s worth it… They don’t take reservations, but you can call ahead and get your name on the list to cut down on that wait time.
7. Honey’s Sit and Eat. 800 N. 4th Street. A little bit out of the way from other Philly attractions but if you happen to be in Northen Liberties, check it out. It sounds like a crazy concept of a menu, a restaurant that specializes in Southern, Southwestern, and Jewish food specialties? Well, it WORKS! Delicious breakfast options include some really good huevos rancheros, enfrijoladas, biscuits and gravy, whitefish salad and bagels, latkes, and the usuals. And it’s all delicious. A really cool spot. Very organic. Very local. And run by the nicest bunch of kids you’ll ever meet.
8. Famous 4th Street Deli. 700 S. 4th Street. Corned beef hash from 4th Street is enormous. Dig that smoked salmon hash with sunnyside eggs too. Ahh, the breakfast/brunch here is definitely one of those cancel-your-plans-for-the-rest-of-the-day deals. You’re headed back to the land of nod. When you wake up you’ll have leftovers! Also famous for being the first to bring Corned Beef to Philadelphia. If you’re from NYC you can probably skip this one, but for everyone else, put it on your list, its another Philly institution.
9. Amada. 217-219 Chestnut Street. This could end up being one of the greatest dining experiences of your life. Put your trust in Chef Jose Garces and order the Chef’s Menu. Then prepare for the non-stop parade of tapas that will follow. Don’t be afraid to try things that sound strange or that seem like things you wouldn’t like. Chef Garces consistently surprised us and it was a thrilling experience. Call ahead for reservations.
10. Bibou. 1009 S. 8th Street. An absolutely wonderful French restaurant. This tiny, intimate restaurant is run by a lovely French couple. Charlotte runs the front of the house while her husband, Pierre is the head chef. Bibou serves beautifully prepared French food- fresh, simple, exquisite. CASH ONLY & BYOB. You’re welcome to bring your own wine. Great service, great food. Get the escargots with fava beans, the duo of foie gras, boef; try one of their daily specials. It’s all excellent.
11. Zahav. 237 St. James Place. Zahav’s a cool, beautiful restaurant. You may experience the feeling of being transported because of the place’s atmosphere alone: walls of Jerusalem stone…wood & stone & stained glass & a market scenes… Chef Solomonov’s restaurant feels comfortable & casual, yet special all at once. Service is so perfectly attentive and the food, most importantly, is amazing. One could live on salatim & humus alone. Wide array of fantastic fresh little salads… and dig the turkish humus, especially served with the wonderful wood oven laffa flat bread. Definitely recommend ordering one of the tasting menus.
12. The Pub on Passayunk East aka “The P.O.P.E.” 1501 E. Passyunk Avenue. GREAT BEER SELECTION. Hipsters abound at this Passyunk Square neighborhood bar, but have no fear, it’s a friendly place with a good jukebox and an amazing array of craft and micro brews, both bottled and on tap. Many draughts change seasonally, and bartenders will often offer samples if you’re unsure of which beer to order. Above average bar food and excellent people-watching makes this a great place to hang out with friends.
13. Dirty Frank’s. 13th and Pine. Dirty Frank’s is a true dive. Inexpensive drinks, daily specials, cheap pitchers. I mentioned, it’s cheap? It’s comfortable, accessible, and often has art from local artists on it’s walls inside… Outside sports a mural depicting President FDR, Frank Zappa, Aretha Franklin, and a hot dog. So that alone makes it worth a gander.
14. Monk’s Cafe. 16th and Spruce: One of the best beer bars in the country. Monk’s has hundreds of domestic craft and even more imported beers from all the over world on the bottle list, as well as about 20 beers on tap. Great Belgian-inspired food, including 10 different types of mussels with amazing pommes frites, and also some great burgers.
15. Jones. 700 Chestnut Street. If you’re in town with kids, take a trip to Jones. One of many great restaurants designed by Stephen Starr, you’ll feel like you’ve walked into a jazzed up version of the Brady Bunch house. The retro-modern look comes with great homestyle favorites on the menu like mac ‘n cheese, meatloaf or a full Thanksgiving Dinner. If you’re there for brunch the monkeybreads are a must. And its near the Liberty Bell to boot.
16. Center City Pretzel Co. 816 Washington Avenue. You can’t visit Philly without having a hot pretzel and Center City Pretezel makes some of the greatest real soft pretzels in Philly. They are not in Center City, by the way. If you can get there between the hours of Midnight and Noon weekdays, the change in your pocket can buy you a warm, delicious pretzel. A little crisp and salty outside, soft yet dense and chewy inside…These Philly pretzels are freakin perfect.
17. Cheesesteaks. If you want to see the famous Pat’s and Geno’s, that’s fine. Head over and take some great pictures. But if you want a great philly cheesesteak, skip ‘em both (and Jim’s Steaks too). We’ve found that the best steaks are found in the local pizzaria’s usually outside of center city. Conestoga Style Pizza in Bryn Mawr is just one example of many. But if you’re looking for something a little more cinematic, the buzz around town is that the places worth checking out these days are Chubby’s, Chinks, and Steve’s Prince of Steaks . Try them out and let us know which place has your favorite cheesesteak. We remain undecided.
18. Water Ice. Just look for a sign that doesn’t look too fancy, and you’re most likely going to get great water ice, particularly below South street. We recommend Italiano’s (2551 South 12th Street) but they usually close up shop in the winter. Sadly, all the good places do.
While we could spend weeks in Philly doing nothing but eating and drinking, you probably want to do something in between meals. Lucky for you, there’s plenty to do.
1. Philadelphia Art Museum. 26th St and the Benjamin Franklin Pkwy. Sure you can do the gimmick of running up the stairs like Rocky Balboa. Stand at the top with your arms raised victoriously, I won’t chastise…BUT THEN GO INSIDE! If you are in an unbrilliant-rut, this beautiful place might bust you out of it. Try to do it ALL. Take it all in. It’s an eye-feast. Every first Sunday of the month is “pay what you wish,” which makes for a packed museum, but that’s cool too. Resist the urge to trip a Rocky-stairs-runner. Today you are cultured, genteel.
2. The Franklin Institute/Please Touch Museums. If you have kids, these are possibly two of the best children’s museums in the country. At the Franklin, check out the giant walk through heart exhibit, which has been a part of the museum and thrilling children ever since it opened in 1954. The nearby Please Touch Museum is full of educational places to play. Climb in, try, touch, and experience each exhibit, all of which are fully interactive and designed to stimulate imagination and teach understanding.
3. Fairmount Park. After you’re done running up the Rocky steps and checking out all that is the Philadelphia Museum of Art, walk around to the ‘back yard’ of the museum for a beautiful view of the Fairmount Waterworks, the famous Boathouse Row, and a corner of the great Fairmount Park. There is more than you could ever hope to do in one visit, but at the very least, dip a toe in, walk around and enjoy the river views.
4. The Barnes Foundation. With the status of this remarkable art collection constantly in flux, we’re not 100% sure what’s what. To understand what we mean, go watch the documentary The Art of the Steal, or at least check out Ron Bennington’s interview with Director Don Argot. It seems that you can no longer see this incredible art collection exhibited in the former home of the collection’s curator (Albert Barnes, now deceased). after art lovers lost a long hard fought battle to keep the art in its former home. The collection is in the process of being moved to its future home on Benjamin Franklin parkway near the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The new facility doesn’t open until May 2012, but we think the court case may be pending. Regardless, if for any reason the opportunity should ever arise again to view the art in its former home in Merion, make it a priority. If not, it will be interesting to see the collection in its new home. The saga continues…
5. Philadelphia’s Magic Garden. 1020 South Street. MAKE SURE you check out this lovely place. There’s more colorful mosaic than you can imagine. Has to be seen to be believed. Mosey and gaze at the twinkly, colorful everywhere of mosaic. Yes, mosey through the mosaic. That’s what I said. You’re walking through one of (Philadelphia’s own) Isaiah Zagar’s works of art. And it’s just fantastic.
6. The Penn Palestra/University City. Philadelphia is a great sports town and while you certainly can (and should) take in an Eagles, Flyers, Phillies or 76ers game, we actually recommend something a little different to sports fans. Check out the historic University of Pennsylvania Palestra in University City. Since its opening in 1927, The “Cathedral of Basketball” has hosted more games, and more NCAA tournaments than any other facility. It still hosts about half of the Big 5 matchups. Afterwards, stroll through University city and the beautiful U Penn main campus.
7. The Philadelphia Zoo. If for no other reason, it’s worth visiting just because it is America’s first Zoo, literally. Yep it opened in 1959 and it’s incredibly charming,with plenty to see and do. Great for kids of any age with interactive exhibits, swan boats, camel rides, a train and plenty of facilities along with wonderful animal exhibits.
8. Macy’s/Wannamakers. It’s not often you find a Macy’s on a list of things to see and do, but this isn’t your ordinary Macy’s. If you’ve seen the 80′s movie Mannequin then you might remember the spectacular setting of scenes in the film’s fictional Prince & Co. department store with soaring ceilings, balconies and majestic grand court. Prince & Co might have been fictional but the location was real and continues to exist. Stand in the center of the grand court and imagine you’re back in a day when a department store had a touch of magic to it. Check out the 2500 lb bronze eagle statue in the grand court, and the world’s largest playable pipe organ, played twice daily. The Christmas Light show– a tradition since 1956 is well worth the trip.
9. Places to sit, stroll, shop, watch. Philadelphia has an endless list of places to just walk, and here’s just a few suggestions to get you started. Benjamin Franklin Parkway (spanning from City Hall, diagonally to the Philadelphia Museum) Walnut Street (upscale shopping and eateries from Rittenhouse Square to Broad St), Pine Street (smaller shops, street vendors and more from Broad St to 4th), South Street (touristy but fun, from 10th to the river), Rittenhouse Square (a great place to sit and soak up some sun), Passyunk Square (many cool little shops, restaurants, bars), City Hall (a beautiful historic building, and where parts of 12 Monkeys was filmed).
That’s it, for us, but here is a collection of some things our readers sent in on twitter to recommend where to go to do Chicago The Right Way. Let us know if you love or hate anything mentioned here. And of course, let us know what we missed!
@YankeeGKM Best burger in Philly is the Churchill Burger at Pub and Kitchen.
@Jer872 Best Italian: ralph’s best hoagie: sarcones best punks: the dead milkmen
@Jeffcasey53 A tour of Eastern State Penitentary is a most!
@Caprichosa77 Chifa is a great Peruvian fusion place
@Klivangm Steve’s Prince of Steaks on the bvld
@KurtisMuller add Euology Belgium Beer Heaven at 2nd and Chestnut for Philly done right
@FGSalvage Great Philly eats and retro clubbin’ at Silk City Diner
@SerotoninsGone Amada. So good. For great late night drunk food, D.P. Dough. Over 40 calzone varieties plus make your own.
@LBIBASS Best cheesesteak @ Chinks and the milkshakes are great too.
@Jervember belgian beer bar: monks or eulogy; Beer, wine and cheese bar: tria; Diner: morning glory; Tapas: amada
@taxeljones Best martini bar – Bleu Martini, Best Movie Theater – Ritz at the Bourse
@jay_spliff Best of Philly – The Mutter Museum – they’ve got the skeleton of a midget standing next to the skeleton of a giant.
From Charli555 Nick’s Roast Beef 20th and Jackson
From JustinP Pork sandwich= Denics; Dive Bar = Oscars; Monk’s = best beer list, maybe in America, excellent mussels
From JeffM The comcast building lobby with the HUGE television monitor
From ShayneS Sushi at Toyo Japanese Restaurant, 13032 Bustleton Ave, they’ve ruined normal sushi for me. I can only eat their specialty rolls, they are so good; Crepes at BeauMonde, 624 South 6th Street, Philadelphia;
From Tom best pizza osteria
From SeanM Best nanobrewery is Mellody Brewing
From WillG Best get-in, get-out from I95 cheese steak. Jim’s Place. Exit 9A, Wanamaker Ave & Industrial Hwy, Essington.
From AndyD Crab fries and football at Chickie and Pete’s
From KevinK Sushi: To Kai in the Northeast section. Not only is the sushi off the charts, but the staff is the nicest you’ll meet. Brwery: Tied between Philadelphia Brew Company in Kensington or Yards in Northern Liberties.
From JimS Sonnys Cheesesteaks
From Michael F (thank you michael F for so many great recommendations!) Monks Cafe, Bistro La Minette (low key great value, french), Sabrinas, Osteria (out of this world housemade pastas), Tony Lukes (roast pork, broccoli rabe and provolone sandwiches), Cochon Restaurant, Resurrection Ale House, Dock Street Brewery, La Colombe coffee, Pub and Kitchen