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Hello, dear readers, and welcome to my most Philadelphia newsletter ever. I’m heading there this weekend and thought I’d share some of my plans and tips, as well as the more useful and entertaining advice of a real, live Philly resident. I’ve never lived in the city but I’ve spent a lot of time there over the years while hop-scotching up and down the Eastern seaboard. And while New Yorkers love to joke about their little cousin to the south, the city has seriously upped its culinary and museum scene in recent years and is 75 percent less likely to be referred to as “Filthy” in casual conversation among snobby New Yorkers. So let’s go!
I’m bee-lining for Zahav, which has earned rave reviews from … everyone. Eater named it one of the best restaurants in the country, their eponymous cookbook won the James Beard cookbook of the year award, Chef Michael Solomonov is the star of a documentary, and on and on. Here’s a recipe for their hummus, which no fewer than three people have described to me as “life-changing.”
I’m pretty excited about that one. We’ll also be making a pilgrimage to Stogie Joe’s Tavern (pictured above) which I’m somewhat less excited about but they make this upside-down square pizza that my husband really likes so there you have it. If you also appreciate a good pizza that’s basically the same as other pizza but a little different, this is the place for you. And we have no shame, so we’ll also be checking out Pizzeria Beddia, because pizza.
Here’s a map to all our picks:
We’re definitely grabbing an over-the-top breakfast sandwich at High Street on Market, where I always contemplate buying a loaf bread until I realize that I don’t need an entire loaf of bread to carry around Philly for 36 hours. Tempting every time, though. But that’s the extent of my sandwich advice. I’m not going to tell you where to get a cheesesteak because frankly, I find it nearly impossible to care about narcissism-of-small-differences food rivalries, but also because I will most likely not be seeking one out myself. Both my travel companion and favorite Philly resident are vegetarians, so that’s largely what I end up eating in the famously meat-loving city. Weird, I know, but let’s go with it, as the vegetable-forward cooking trend has alighted on this city just as it has elsewhere. On that note, the great Pennsylvanian Jeremy Low will now weigh in:
As Philadelphia oscillates between late monopoly capitalism fanfic and dystopian YA novel set piece (don’t read the comments, they’re super racist, much like the city itself), I’ve been asked to write about the state of vegetarian dining in the City of Brotherly Oh God What’s Happening.
Philadelphia has some excellent vegetarian fare! There’s obviously the stand-outs like Vedge (they have a cookbook; it’s fantastic) and its cheaper, bistro off-shoot V Street, both of which serve some of the best food in the city, vegetarian or no. Everyone says get the cauliflower and they are correct; you should get the cauliflower. And Vetri has a vegetarian tasting menu, but that costs about half my rent, which, lol, Philly’s cheap, but not that cheap. I’m sure it’s amazing. No, I’ve never been there. You’ll love it, though.
Or you can find some fantastic Ethiopian food at Abyssinia in an atmosphere that I can confidently describe as an over-large, West Philly living room. I think the most expensive beer’s like four dollars and the food is fucking great. (There’s also an over-small living room upstairs that’s maybe one of the best bars in the city.) And I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention Mama’s Vegetarian, rightly known for Mama’s excellent falafel. It’ll be busy during lunch, but it’s worth it.
Lastly: no fewer than two, possibly as many as three, of my friends have worked at Miss Rachel’s Pantry and, if you can swing a reservation, it comes with my heartiest of recommendations.
Good luck, and good eating. Cara?
Thanks, Jeremy! I can confirm that Vedge is fantastic and you should order the cauliflower and I plan to check out the rest. I can’t really comment on any of the weird stuff he mentioned because my knowledge of Philadelphia politics basically begins and ends at the Liberty Bell. However, I can say that I plan on dragging Mr. Low to what may be the best cocktail bar in America (in part just because that profile is awesome).
And a few quick non-food items: we’re hoping to visit the stunning Barnes Foundation, an impressionist and early modern wonderland. Unfortunately, the much vaunted show of Mexican revolutionary art at the Philadelphia Museum ended recently, so we’ll be skipping that fine institution, but it’s a great place to spend an afternoon strolling through enchanting architectural installations, including a Japanese tea house and French monastery. And the Mütter Museum has an exhibit on magic and medicine so you know that’s happening. The iconic Joseph Fox bookshop is a great one to check out in the Rittenhouse Square area. Because there’s nothing I love more than a literary tie-in while traveling I’ll be searching the shelves for a copy of John O’Hara’s Appointment in Samarra, about a self-destructive weekend in a high-society Philly suburb. I am nothing if not true to my brand.
That’s it for this week! See you next week for more of the best in politics, food, and travel. Send me stories you want to see here @caraparks.