Monday, April 20, 2009

To do: discover Philadelphia

philly's love park (photo from

This weekend, I discovered Philly. Being from DC and a frequenter of NYC, Philly was always one of those stopover towns. It’s where everyone went to college or where everyone grew up but where no one ever stays. I never understood why people love this city so much. At first glance, it’s not the prettiest, it’s crowded, and it’s not known for much besides Rocky, some cray-cray sports fans, a guy that likes to fly kites in the rain and of course, that famous broken bell.

Well, was I pleasantly surprised! For the last couple of years, I’ve been visiting a few friends that have recently moved to Philly from DC (i call them abandoners). It’s always been a quick jaunt out to dinner or to someone’s house for an event. Don’t get me wrong, those things are all fun but there was never any time to really feel the brotherly love.

kayakers on the schuykill river near boathouse row

(photo from the official visitor site of greater philadelphia)

This Saturday, I had a window open, ipod blasting, singing at the top of my lungs, drive up 95 (the weather helped with the good mood). The city was in full swing with routes 76 and 676 being packed like sardines. I had to take a detour to get to my friend’s house and drove though the museum area and down Kelly Drive. For those that don’t know, Kelly Drive is home to boat house row and follows the Schuykill River. It’s pretty much a huge riverfront park. There were tons of bikers, walkers, families, dogs, and rowers out and it was a pretty nice drive despite the traffic. Recommendation: take a walk along Kelly Drive and watch a regatta.

Soon after I arrived in Manayunk, we hopped on the bus to get into Center City to eat near Rittenhouse Square. Rittenhouse Square is a pretty large park area and the surrounding streets are home to some good shopping and some good living. The plaza was buzzing with people with no visible spots to sit by the time we got there. There were people laying out, listening to the street musicians, or just reading a book in the sun.

basilia cocktail at Parc

We decided on getting an outdoor table at Steven Starr’s Parc adjacent to the square. Steven Starr is well known for reviving the foodie scene in Philly. His restaurants are known for great food and a great vibe; Parc happens to be his homage to a French brasserie with great outdoor seating. Spent quite a while here just hanging out. I’ve eaten brunch here before and it’s probably one of the best brunches I’ve had. For a late lunch in the sun at Parc, I recommend: tuna tartare (friend raved about it) and the basilia cocktail (elderflower liquor and vodka with fresh basil and cucumber).

town hall with ben penn (inside joke)

After drinking and noshing at Parc, we decided to move onto Market East to hit up the Apothecary Bar + Lounge roof deck. Apothecary is kind of a trendy, themed restaurant with strange medical sounding ingredients in their cocktails. I spent a lot of time looking up terms on Wikipedia to decipher what I was imbibing. For some fun, adventurous drinks, go to Apothecary and try: a Booty Collins - a spicy drink with green tea infused gin, passionfruit, yohimbe, valerian root, and cayenne. It’s noted as not being for the faint of heart so I only had one.

An hour or so into a long conversation about Crank (the movie, not the drug after much confusion), we actually got kicked off the APO rooftop because of a private function but decided we weren’t done enjoying the weather.

sunset from jeff's bainbridge street roof deck

We walked to a friend’s house (passing the Broad street and its neighborhood block parties in full effect on the way) to see his rooftop deck before moving on to a late dinner. After literally climbing a ladder through his sky light/sunroof-esque “door” --a challenge with a beer in one hand, a camera in another and a while wearing a dress -- we end up upstairs staring at Philly’s skyline at sunset. Recommendation: find a friend with a roofdeck.

With the sun set, and more than a few drinks under our belt, we hit the road again to get a real meal at the Pub and Kitchen. We grabbed more drinks, discussed their logo (a pabbit!), and had a wonderful dinner. Friends raved about the pulled pork sandwiches and frites with truffle dijonnaise. I had the pub salad (you can never go wrong with apples, goat cheese, walnuts and homemade dressing) and the perfect - so perfect - scallops w/ morels. Also, this is great place to hit up for late night drinks -- nice setting, not overly crowded or pretentious, and they play 80’s music (hee!). My recommendation: just go to the Pub and Kitchen. You can’t go wrong.

All-in-all, it was a perfect Saturday in a gorgeous, totally underrated city. I recommend a visit soon!


  1. you said 'frites with truffle dijonnaise,' and i almost fainted.

  2. you made me just love philly a lot right now.