Easy Escapes: Eat Your Way Through Philly
If you think Philadelphia’s food scene is all cheesesteaks and Italian ice, you’ve missed the city’s culinary awakening. Here’s a suggested itinerary that samples some of the city’s gastronomic delights.
Check in at the Four Seasons Hotel (fourseasons.com/philadelphia), where the executive chef plucks herbs and veggies fresh from the rooftop garden. The luxe property is centrally located at Logan Square.
Or try the Hotel Palomar Philadelphia (hotelpalomar-philadelphia.com) in Rittenhouse Square. The modernist-chic property has leopard-print bathrobes and free nightly wine receptions with truffled popcorn.
For dinner, consider the recently remodeled Walnut Street Supper Club (walnutstreetsupperclub.com), an institution that has hosted the likes of Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli. Italian specialties and steaks are served with retro glam by a singing waitstaff.
Around the corner, the hot bar scene at El Vez (elvezrestaurant.com) sizzles with a Vegas vibe beneath a towering rotating bicycle. Slip into a plush banquette for a blood-orange margarita.
Across the street—and number one on a National Geographic book’s list of the top ten places in the world to get ice cream—is Capogiro Gelato Artisans (capogirogelato.com). Try the Cioccolato Scuro, Bananas Foster, or Philly Cheesecake.
Hail a cab to Baltimore Avenue. Grab a coffee or a Maplehofe Dairy hot chocolate and a bagel at Milk & Honey Market (milkandhoneymarket.com), then browse the nearby Clark Park Farmers’ Market to satisfy your inner locavore. If the weather permits, you can dine al fresco in the park.
At 12th and Arch streets is the 1893 Reading Terminal Market (readingterminalmarket.org), the oldest farmers market in the US, where you’ll find a bazaar full of farm-sourced delicacies, from Pennsylvania Dutch pies to pickles. Sample oysters, Cajun jambalaya, Southern barbecue, French crepes, pad Thai, or Italian hoagies at more than 15 dining counters.
Before lunch, you might fill up on art at the newly relocated Barnes Foundation museum (barnesfoundation.org), scheduled to open on Logan Square May 19. Until then, you could check out “Van Gogh Up Close” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (philamuseum.org), through May 6.
Lunch might take you to Square 1682 (square1682.com), adjacent to the Hotel Palomar, where James Beard Award-winning chef Guillermo Tellez delivers his spin on a Philly icon with the Blue Ribbon Cheesesteak, made with organic chicken and duck confit, roasted peppers, and truffled white cheddar. Pair it with the garlic-Parmesan fries and finish, if you dare, with a caramelized-banana cream tart.
Jose Garces, winner of The Next Iron Chef, channels the French Laundry at JGDomestic (jgdomestic.com), with its emphasis on locally sourced food. The menu changes seasonally, but look for Wagyu carpaccio, lobster “cappuccino,” anything with Griggstown Farms chicken, and the yummy bourbon-caramel beignets.
For those whose taste runs more to modern Israeli fare, Zahav (zahavrestaurant.com) is a gem, with choices such as persimmon salad, oxtail soup, Brussels sprouts with whipped feta, and lamb kebabs with pistachios. Save room for the hazelnut-and-date rugelach.
Or try Talula’s Garden (talulasgarden.com), a new and enchantingly rustic spot on Washington Square known for its terrific cheese menu and entrées such as lobster pie and salmon with roasted sunchokes and pancetta.
After dinner, cocktails are the main attraction at Franklin Mortgage and Investment Co., a mood-lit and romantic speakeasy that dates back to Prohibition and was named one of America’s best bars by Esquire.
If beer’s your thing, lounge by a fire and sample the craft offerings at Hawthornes Beer Boutique & Gourmet Eatery (hawthornecafe.com), with more than 1,000 brews.
Linger for Sunday brunch at Daniel Stern’s R2L (r2lrestaurant.com), with sweeping views of the city from its 37th-floor perch on Rittenhouse Square.
On the drive home, stop at Philadelphia’s 100-year-old 9th Street Italian Market (phillyitalianmarket.com). You can stock up on delicious cheeses from Di Bruno’s and Claudio’s, hand-rolled pasta and sauces at Talluto’s, sausages from Fiorella Bros., and specialty game meats and pâtés at D’Angelo Bros. Open Sunday 8 AM to 2 PM.
This article appears in the April 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.