Easy Escapes: Eat Your Way Through Philly

The 9th Street Italian Market is just one of the culinary stops you should make when experiencing the tastes of Philadelphia. Photograph by Dave Lakatos.
The 9th Street Italian Market is just one of the culinary stops you should make when experiencing the tastes of Philadelphia. Photograph by Dave Lakatos.

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.

Friday Evening

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.

National Geographic calls Capogiro Gelato Artisans one of the top ten places in the world to get ice cream. Photograph by Douglas Takeshi Wolfe.

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.

Saturday

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.

Saturday Evening

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.

Sunday Morning

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.

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