when planning a birthday road trip for j, philadelphia has come out as the easy winner two out of the last three years. within the confines of the city are lots of j’s favorite things to explore — history (american revolution specific), craft beer and great food.
here’s a little glimpse of how we spent a weekend in philadelphia, and recommendations for you to check out on your next trip to the city of brotherly love.
to start, i picked up a copy of the phildelphia inquirer’s walking tours of historical philadelphia by edward colimore. since we had already explored “the nation’s most historic mile” on our last trip (national constitution center, liberty hall, carpenter’s hall, etc.) we decided to check out the “north of market” and “society hill” tours. these walks are an awesome way to learn interesting historical facts and see the city. my favorite stop was elfreth’s alley on the “north of market” tour. this charming cobble stoned street is the oldest continuously occupied residential street in the country. make sure your cell phone is charged — there’s a number you can call while exploring elfreth’s alley for an audio tour (you’ll see it listed on some of the houses)! while our tour book mentioned that homeowners in the area occasionally invite tourists inside their homes for a closer look (and despite us loitering around trying to look like we were the prime and most awesome invitees in the world), we had no luck with that. we did, however, decide that if we ever hit the lottery, we’d purchase one of the homes. fingers crossed! tours of elfreth’s alley are available in early june during fete days, when homeowners open their doors and guides in colonial dress give tours.
aside from checking out the history of philadelphia, we spent lots of time enjoying the city’s food and drink selection, which is quite impressive. here are some of our favorites:
prohibition taproom, 501 n. 13th street :: open until 2 a.m., this is a great spot for a late night dinner, and represented so much stuff that i love about philly! lots of veg items! we enjoyed polenta fries and beer battered green beans (tempura style) for an appetizer. j had baked mac and cheese for an entree, and i had the “grilled cheese of the day”, which was made with brie, homemade blood orange jam and dandelion greens. sweeeeet! the waitress was awesome — edgy and looking like a punk, she was articulate, knowledgeable, and seriously spoke to the foodie in me. (and this is exactly what i love about philadelphia — what sometimes seems like a rough exterior will often fool you.) loved this place!
green eggs café, 1306 dickinson street and 719 n. 2nd street :: started with the white chocolate soy peppermint hot chocolate which was amazing. again, lots of veg options! i had the ultimate tofu scramble, my first ever (believe it!), which was fantastic! the creme brulee french toast looked awesome, as did the quinoa porridge. too many options!
mcgillin’s old ale house, 1310 drury street :: the most historical tavern you’ll find in philadelphia, it’s been open for more than 150 years and is philadelphia’s longest continuously running tavern. the staff was great and the vibe was irish (and proud of it!). check out the unique history of the tavern here.
maoz vegetarian, 1115 walnut street :: dear maoz vegetarian, please, please open a shop in albany! i love this place! it’s a falafel shop where you can order yours in a pita, with salad or by itself, and then check out the self-serve salad bar to dress it up. it’s delicious and all completely veg!
yards brewing company, 901 delaware avenue :: this philadelphia brewery is off the beaten trail but well worth the ten-minute cab ride. tours of the brewery are available and the tasting room is big and offers lots of room to hang out and enjoy a saturday afternoon. bonus: they serve food! j’s favorites were the ales of the revolution: general washington’s tavern porter, poor richard’s tavern spruce ale, and thomas jefferson’s tavern ale. the ales of the revolution are also available as a flight at the city tavern.
city tavern, 138 south 2nd street :: construction of the tavern was originally completed in 1773, and shortly after when the constitutional congress found it’s way to philadelphia, it became a meeting place for many of its delegates. while the building has since been demolished and rebuilt, this is still a very cool place that’s modeled around the look and feel of the american revolution. the menu even boasts a fried tofu dish and claims, “in a 1770 letter to philadelphia’s john bartram, benjamin franklin included instructions on how to make tofu.”
eulogy, 136 chestnut street :: a top rated belgium beer bar with more selections on draft and in bottle than you can imagine. the beer menu is literally pages long, and you can look up selections based on name, type and rating. lambics are a favorite of mine and i got to try the cassis variety here, which was awesome.
national mechanics, 22 s. 3rd street :: my favorite restaurant of the weekend! according to their website, “built by famed architect, william strickland, in 1837 the national mechanics building has seen banks, churches, clubs, bars and fires pass between its walls, and it’s still standing.
the peculiar name for the establishment stems from the building’s original incarnation in 1837 as mechanics national bank. in fact, as the building was built before the invention of the camera, the earliest picture of the bank was in 1901, when the building featured a particularly snazzy sign reading “mechanic$ national bank”. unfortunately, the sign is no longer with us, but the spirit of the craft still is.
the décor is an allusion to all things mechanical from the homemade lighting fixtures to the strange devices running throughout the space to the uniquely designed bathrooms. all of these elements combined with a laid back and off kilter philosophy make this bar what it is.”
true, true and true. food and drinks were both awesome. plantain chips with guacamole appetizer was outstanding. everything about this place was cool. check out the picture of one of the light fixtures below.
pat’s king of steaks, 1237 east passyunk avenue :: the philadelphia cheeseteak is something that needs no introduction, especially from a vegetarian! i will, however, tell you how to correctly order a philadelphia cheesesteak so you don’t appear to be a total tourist. your cheesteak order should consist of three words. no more, no less. the first word is the number of steaks you want, so if you want one cheesteak, your first word is “one”. the second word indicates the type of cheese you would like on your cheesesteak. while there are several options, for the most authentic philly cheesteak, your second word should be “whiz” (meaning, cheese whiz). the third and final word is “with” or “without”, meaning with our without onions. ”with” is considered the most authentic. so, if you want the full philly experience, your order should go something like, “one, whiz, with”. got it? good!
for a great vegetarian cheeseksteak, try monk’s cafe at 264 s. 16th street. we didn’t make it to monk’s on this trip, but i can tell you that it’s delicious!
while we didn’t spend a whole lot of time in our room because we were so busy checking out all the city has to offer, when we had absolutely no energy left, we headed to le méridien philadelphia, 1421 arch street:: originally a ymca, the hotel is housed in a 10-story georgian revival structure. the front side of the hotel has a view of jfk plaza (love park), while the back side looks out onto a brick enclosed atrium. if you’ve got a room on the back side (which we did), the sunlight spills into the atrium and your room.
parking tip – there’s a public parking lot a few blocks from the hotel that charges only $5/day on weekends, which is much less than the hotel’s valet service (and they’re just going to park your car there anyway). when you come out the door of the hotel, take a right on arch, then make a right on 16th, then another right on spring. the garage will be on your left.
we also did some great shopping! i won’t go into all the details, but, the philadelphia anthropologie is by far the coolest anthro, architecturally, that i’ve ever seen. that’s located in the rittenhouse square area, as well as lots of other high end shops and staples of mine such as lush. we made a stop at philly cupcake, and i thought the concept behind the shop was adorable. there’s cases along the wall of the tiny shop, each with doors on it, and the cupcakes are inside the cases. i wanted to love this place, but, the cupcakes, sadly, tasted like a box mix, and they got my order wrong. boo. they were friendly, though, so points for that! on a more positive note, we also visited doggie style in that area of town, a really cool shop for your canine friends. my favorite shop of the weekend was open house on 13th street. stationery, candles, housewares, t-shirts, funky jewelry, and cool gifts. totally, my kind of shop! i came out with only a few letterpressed cards, but i could’ve spent a considerable amount of money in there. oh! they also have some sweet philly-themed specialty items. check this place out!
so, that’s a bit of love from the city of brotherly love! such a great place! hope you enjoyed checking out what we liked, and that you’ll get to check it all out firsthand sooner than later!