We visited Philadelphia and fell head over heels. Why, you ask? Well, we love the relaxed pace, the creativity that’s simmering just beneath the surface, and the attitude. The attitude! The dive bars, South Street, Passyunk, the wealth of history in every street corner. Go Philly!
Text and photo: Jonas Henningsson
Moses B. Smucker always carries a little smile around in the corner of his mouth. You see, he knows that his sandwiches are the best in town, and he knows that I’m going to keep coming back here for breakfast. There’s always a short line at Moses’s stall in Reading Terminal Market–and he so deserves it! There aren’t many seats, but everybody seems to be happy all the same.
Reading Terminal Market
51 North 12th Street
Manatawny Still Works
The name Manatawny comes from the native Lenape people’s name for this tributary of the Schuylkill river. It means something like “the place where we meet to drink.” The Lenape met there to slake their thirst, basically. And that’s sounds just right to us–today, we’re hanging out on East Passyunk Avenue, sampling the craft distillery’s Hidden River Gin and Keystone Whiskey. Jennifer Sabatino behind the bar is helping us do something about our thirst.
1603 East Passyunk Avenue
Halal food and the Best Dad in the World
One of my all-time favorite places to stop off for a quick lunch is nested in the shade of the trees that line Spring Garden Street. Here, Raza, who is originally from Pakistan, and who happens to be the best dad in the world, serves halal food: lamb on pita, falafel on rice, and, of course, Philly cheese steaks.
Spring Garden Street
This is a place to hang out all day and all night long. South Street has that perfect blend of grimy authenticity, creativity, and simmering goodness. Sex shops rub shoulders with beer joints and cafes, galleries, tattoo parlors, and the amazing, enchanted mosaic world of the Magic Gardens. All of this is steeped in a permissive and inclusive atmosphere. If I had to pick a street in Philadelphia to hang out on for the rest of my life, it would be South Street.
The Love: It’s True, Believe Us!
Love is in the air in this stylish establishment, which literally won our hearts at first sight (you enter into a busy, beautifully lit bar before mingling over to your table.) The menu is delightfully short and well put together–even the wine list is a labor of love! This gorgeous place is a popular spot for couples, and the affection is mutual: the Love has really hit the sweet spot in every single respect–the menu, the service, the atmosphere!
30 S. 18th Street
Reading Terminal Market
We love food markets, and the Terminal Market is no exception. A few great watering holes., some good restaurants, and the bustling, friendly atmosphere among all the vegetable vendors, oyster salesmen, sandwich specialists, and other merchants. This is a great place to start the day, and an equally great place to rest your legs and enjoy a beer in the afternoon.
Yards Brewing Co.
Sometimes all you want to do is sneak into a taproom and cool off with a smooth lager, or challenge your taste buds with hoppy ale, or simply dive in at the deep end with some complex stouts. Fortunately, Yards Brewing operate two suitable establishments in the city. While this brewery may be one of the familiar old breed, it remains one of the best when it comes to brewing well-balanced beers.
500 Spring Garden Street
The location is perfect: just across the street from the wonderful food stalls of the Terminal Market. We also love the bar, which has a remarkable selection of bourbon on offer. More than anything, we love the history of the place. The building, which is called the PSFS Building, was the first international-style skyscraper ever built in the USA, and is clearly inspired by both European modernism and Beaux-Arts. It was designed by architects William Lescaze and George Howe, and housed banks for many years. The Loews Hotel opened here in 2000.
1200 Market Street.
Fishtown is just awesome, and we’d love to spend every weekend here! It has a vibe all of its own: a laid-back mood that can only come from the confident knowledge that you’re onto something very good indeed. This area somehow manages to be a little out of the way from the rest of the city while also making you feel like you’re always right by the wellspring of Philadelphia’s zeitgeist as you wander around visiting its great restaurants and bars.
Passyunk Avenue in the south part of the city is another street we make a point of never missing. It stands out from Philadelphia’s grid of streets, but not just because it makes its way across the city at an angle. There’s always lots of stuff going on here, even though it’ll never be another Fishtown. In any case, Passyunk has a bunch of cool bars, a few dives, some hostels, and a gin mill or two. But it also has its share of vintage clothing stores, second-hand stores, boutiques, cafes, and galleries.