CITY GUIDE: Philadelphia

Today’s City Guide is brought to you by Swabreen Bakr of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!

A lot of what Philadelphians enjoy revolves around the sports teams, food and drinking. The food and craft beer scene along with a rapidly expanding craft coffee scene has garnered our city a slew of national accolades so I’ve highlighted some personal favorites. These are spots I’ve been to many a time; the quality, selection and service are always top notch. I’ve also featured a new destination in our city, the Race St. Pier along with some great places to shop.

A great area to grab food is Midtown Village; it spans about two to four blocks east, west, north and south around 13th and Sansom street in Center City. Pop into any one of the restaurants there, you can’t really go wrong. The cuisine ranges from Mediterranean to Mexican to Japanese.

Coffee Culture

What coffee is in Philadelphia right now compared to what it was just a year and a half ago is remarkably different. A lot of small coffee houses opened up shop in the Fall of 2010 and the Winter of 2011, and completely changed the way some of us drink coffee. They introduced us to roasters like PT’s Coffee, which ships many award winning coffees from around the world to our fair city and they also gave us a taste of Stumptown and Counter Culture. We were introduced to different brewing methods for preparing fresh individual cups of coffee; like the Chemex at Elixr, the pour-over beehive station at Bodhi and the clever dripper at Spruce St.

I recommend checking out Shot Tower Coffee, Bodhi Coffee, Spruce St. Espresso and Elixr Coffee. They all have something slightly different to offer product-wise and coffee prep-wise but what you’ll consistently get is the commitment to providing excellent and freshly brewed coffee to each customer.

Craft beers and Cocktails

Our craft beer scene has been growing for a while, in fact we’re pretty spoiled when it comes to beer in this city. Pretty much every bar worth its salt has to have a solid selection of beer in order to survive and be taken seriously. We have award winning local breweries here like Iron Hill, Yards, Philadelphia Brewing Company, Dock Street Brewing Co., Flying Fish, and Victory Brewing among others. Try some of the best beers around at Monk’s, Devil’s Den, McGillins Old Ale House, Varga Bar, Triumph Brewing, and Eulogy. I wouldn’t advise asking for a Miller Lite, Bud or Coors in most of these places though, the bartender will not take to it kindly (even if they have it). You can also grab some delicious casual food at the aforementioned places.

Our cocktail scene was not comparable to other cities until the nationally acclaimed The Franklin Bar came along with its enticing speakeasy vibe. After this bar re-introduced cocktail mixing as an art form to be honed; a lot of people took notice, and it really changed how the city viewed and consumed cocktails. There are some great places where you can go to get a great cocktail along with a great selection of domestic, local and import beers. Check out: Farmer’s Cabinet for a great selection of European craft beer and amazing cocktails; they have two bars one for beers and one for liquor. Tapestry is another place with a huge selection of domestics and imports and a nicely priced cocktail list and very affordable food. Percy St. BBQ specializes in canned beer which has largely been freed from the stigma it had of tasting metallic. Percy’s features many award winning craft canned beers which are well worth trying while you eat some of their amazing Texas-style barbecue.

For cocktails exclusively check out Ranstead Room (with Mexican small plates as a food option), SouthWark (DO have dinner and cocktails here) and of course The Franklin Bar (no food options at the moment).


As well respected and lauded as we are for our food and drink scene, one area where we still have to catch up in is fashion. However we do have wonderful independent boutiques where you can purchase some very unique items from local designers, as well as fashionable brands like Pamela Love, The Hill-Side, A.P.C., Pendelton, among others

I recommend checking out the boutiques on N. 3rd St. in Old City. Lost + Found, Franklin Square, Sugarcube, Art in the Age, Third St. Habit, Vagabond, and the gorgeous men’s vintage shop Briar Vintage. They all run up and down this street. If you get hungry, try something delicious from Wedge + Fig, then go down N. 2nd street and check out some of the galleries and /reward/ boutique for a nice European selection of clothing and accessories. The galleries in this area are always theming with activity and free booze during the first friday of every month!

Race St. Pier

From the same architects who gave NYC the High Line, last summer we got the beautiful Race St. Pier. It’s in walking distance from the N. 3rd shopping district. City officials are trying to get residents to take advantage of our waterfront areas a bit more with projects like this and the Schuylkill Banks located on the western part of the city. Both places are nice to just take a break and relax in the sun when the weather permits. I suspect the Race St. Pier might become a sun bathing destination for those who don’t have cars to get away to the shore. It’s also a bit romantic at sunset.

Swabreen Bakr is a writer and photographer for the Philadelphia lifestyle and music blog Keep up to date with daily photos and events from Philadelphia on her blog

Featured image by Vlastula.

January 5, 2012