JUST BACK FROM: Philly. A city entrenched in American history, Philadelphia is known equally today for its students, sports teams and sandwiches as it once was for its Founding Fathers. With no power in her Lower East Side apartment after Hurricane Sandy, Editorial Producer Charlotte Steinway decided there was no better time to explore the city to the south.
Buzz. While Portland has Stumptown, Durham has Counter Culture and Los Angeles has Intelligentsia, Philadelphia has its own equally acclaimed purveyor of caffeine-laden delights—La Colombe Torrefaction, the 18-year-old roasting company intent on making coffee based on taste, not trends.
Play. On the border of Fishtown and Northern Liberties, two of Philly’s most up-and-coming hipster ‘hoods, Frankford Hall is the city’s one-stop-shop for an afternoon of gaming (ping pong, Jenga or fooseball), boozing (choose from 12 taps and 10 bottles) and noshing on their recently-launched brunch menu. The best bit? The expansive outdoor portion of Stephen Starr’s year-and-a-half-old beer garden isn’t off-limits during the colder months: they bring out heat lamps and light the campfire-like fire pits just in time for marshmallow-roasting season.
See. Take a tour of mosaic artist Isaiah Zager’s largest work, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens—a labyrinthine mosaic space spanning three city lots—for what might be a never-ending game of “I Spy.” The 3,000 square feet of mosaic art (which utilizes every medium from bottle caps to bike tires) took 14 years for Zager to complete, and finally opened its South Street location to the public in 2008.
Eat. While Philly is famous for its cheesesteaks, the city’s many sandwich shops shouldn’t be overlooked. Center City’s Reading Terminal Market is home to both the perennially popular Tommy DiNic’s and local gem The Original Turkey, where Thanksgiving comes early amid their array of turkey sandwiches and combo plates. Later, hit up one of Paesano’s Philly Style’s two no-frills sandwich shops in Northern Liberties and the Italian Market for a menu that makes you forget cheesesteaks even exist.
Drink. Northern Liberties’ Frankford Hall and South Street’s Brauhaus Schmitz will satisfy your hankering for a hefeweizen, but serious hops lovers should head to one of city’s many craft beer bars. The Pub on Passyunk East has a divey atmosphere with a surprisingly good brew list (I especially liked the Sly Fox Incubus, which clocks in at a heavy-hitting 10.3% ABV), while Varga Bar serves up impressively-hopped IPAs, craft cocktails and stellar small plates. And while Philly’s wacky alcohol laws allow you to buy a six-pack at a bar, stock up on serious suds at a more traditional beer store, The Foodery.
Stay. Inside the city’s former stock exchange building in Philly’s historic City Center ‘hood, the 306-room Sofitel hotel mixes French-infused decor and dining options with traditional American accents including Shaker quilts and Quaker-inspired furniture. For quainter lodgings, head to 1715 Rittenhouse Square, just south in Rittenhouse Square, a 23-room bolthole in a Georgian carriage house.