At the beginning of November Chris attended a conference in Philadelphia and I tagged along. We enjoyed the city so much and ate such great food; it might have been one of the best culinary trips we've been on. I had no idea Philly was such a foodie city – I stand corrected!
What made the trip extra fun was the bonus of spending time with cousins. My cousin Scott lives in Philadelphia with his wife Jen and teenage daughter Lily. I don't get to see them often so it's always a treat when I do. I love talking to them about their jobs since Scott is a theater actor and Jen is a theater producer/writer/director/actor. Plus my cousin Emily and her husband Brian were in town for the same conference as Chris! Emily and I grew up together in Austin although now she and Brian live in Nashville (where I definitely want to visit!). We ate dinner together most nights and did some sightseeing as a group. Isn't it lovely to truly enjoy the company of your family? I feel so grateful for the extra time with these cousins of mine.
We found Philadelphia to be really walkable which we loved. Luckily we had perfect fall weather during our trip too: low 50s, sunshine, and no rain. We stayed a little southeast of Rittenhouse Square on a quiet residential street but were still within walking distance of lots of restaurants. I was surprised how quiet it was at night despite being in the middle of a big city. Our AirBnB was clean, comfortable, and cozy. It was perfect for the two of us and the owners were really responsive and helpful – I'd recommend it! The location was also convenient to a Whole Foods were we stocked up on snacks and breakfast food.
Every meal we had in Philadelphia was delicious. I'd love to share where we ate...
Square Pie. I read this repeated recommendation in a Cup of Jo city guide about Philadelphia and knew we had to go. It's cozy neighborhood restaurant that seemed filled with regulars. The pizza is on thick foccacia with cheese and sauce all the way to the edge. Yes, please. Chris and I shared a Caesar salad and the small mushroom pizza.
V Street. My cousin and his family have lived in Philly for years and we met up with them here. He said they love V Street's sister restaurant Vedge and had been wanting to try V Street. This is a nicer restaurant with a great cocktail menu and fantastic food inspired by street food around the world. Oh, and it just happens to be a vegan restaurant. We ordered lots of plates to share with the table including shwarma, spicy noodles, grilled tofu, and crispy tofu tacos. Everything was SO GOOD.
Good Karma Coffee. Roomy coffee shop near our AirBnB. I loved the honey bee latte with honey and cinnamon.
Sabrina's Cafe. Cozy and bustling brunch spot where you'll want to get on the virtual wait list ahead of arriving. I had the mushroom omelette and a short stack of whole wheat pancakes. We were tempted by the cream cheese stuffed toast but after seeing it arrive at someone else's table and seeing that it was GIANT we decided to pass. I think it could be shared among a table of four!
City Diner. Roomy, no frills diner serving the diner food you'd expect but does the trick. I had the french toast and ate every bite.
Reading Terminal Market. Pronounced like "red-ing"so you'll sound like a local. A food stop must while you're in town! This is a converted train terminal now jam-packed full of take away restaurants and food shops. We had an amazing vegan reuben at Luhv Deli for lunch one day and the next I had a delicious lunch of crepes at Profi's Creperie (grilled veggie plus my favorite nutella + banana). Bonus was that this spot wasn't crowded.
Giuseppe and Sons. Upscale Italian food in a classy setting. Great happy hour upstairs with affordable and generous portions. I shared the eggplant parmesan with my cousin and it was excellent (and I don't often like eggplant).
Harper's Garden. Seasonal new American fare that can be enjoyed inside or under the patio arbor filled with twinkle lights – sit outside if you can! Interesting cocktail menu with non-alcoholic drinks too, thank you very much. We loved everything we ordered and shared among the four of us: friend plantain chips, the kale beet salad, roasted fall squash toast (winner of the evening; I've been meaning to call and ask for the recipe), black bean burger, and buffalo ricotta flatbread.
Federal Donuts. Hot, fresh donuts made to order? I'M THERE. We hit this spot after dinner at Square Pie where Chris and I split their three donuts that are always available made to order (since they were out of everything else): cookies and cream, cinnamon brown sugar, and strawberry lavender. I loved that the donuts weren't too heavy and were thoroughly rolled in the different flavored crumb toppings. Chris says he wished the donuts were more laden with toppings but he didn't not eat his half of the donuts. ;)
Big Gay Ice Cream. Just around the corner from our AirBnB! They serve outrageously topped cones and cups of soft serve with things like pretzels, peanuts, and dulce de leche. It was great. The soft serve has a really interested texture too and seemed to never melt – ? We never figured out what kind of magic that is.
In between great meals we also took in some sights...
Constitutional Walking Tour. I love learning things from an enthusiastic person and I'm so glad we took a walking tour. This included stops at so many of the historical sights you want to see in Philly: Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin's House, Betsy Ross's house, George Washington's house, and more. We learned a lot!
Barnes Foundation. This was perhaps the most interesting art museum I've been too and certainly the one with the most densely displayed art work. All from the collection of one man, the museum is set up as a replica of his house and the exact display of art. And most of the pieces are from famous artists you've heard of. In one wall you'll see Renoir, Picasso, Degas, Monet, and Miro (!!!). It felt like a great bang for our buck in terms of seeing great art in a relatively small space. They also have a neat system where you use your phone camera to look at a piece of art and then information about the piece pops up.
Philadelphia's Magic Gardens. A completely unique experience. Even the bathroom is a work of art! The Magic Gardens is the incredible built mosaic creation of one man, Isaiah Zagar, pieced together over several years and now open to the public. Zagar apparently still lives nearby in the neighborhood. Every surface of the indoor and outdoor space has been turned into art work with tiles, pieces of broken dishes, bike wheels, bottles, and other objects. I'm so glad we made time to stop in. This was another recommendation from the Cup of Jo post and also a short walk from our AirBnB.