Food & Friendship in the City of Brotherly Love
I'm not sure exactly what I expected for my first visit to Philadelphia, but I certainly hadn't anticipated the City of Brotherly Love to be so darn opinionated about food, shops, and even art. Within a few hours of announcing my trip, I was inundated with social media messages from locals suggesting -no, ordering - where to go and what to eat. Talk about a passionate crowd! This first visit was far too short (I'm already musing a return visit) but even a brief stay had the makings of a fantastic girlfriend getaway.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the clean, comfortable Hyatt Regency at Penn's Landing (now a Hilton hotel). The real appeal of this location is the amazing views - be sure to ask for a high floor with a room overlooking the river so you can see the historic tall ships! Life along the river is fun and lively and the hotel has complimentary bicycles for guests who are eager to explore. In the event of rainy weather (which sadly we encountered), head to the pool area for a swim with a view and a foosball table.
Where to Eat
Warning: This section is bound to create conflict! Philly is a city of serious foodies! Here are some of the fabulous places we discovered during our short visit.
Cheu Noodle Bar: I'm going to go ahead and say it. The black garlic wings at Cheu are THE. BEST. WINGS. that I've ever had. EVER. Their sauce is so delicious I could drink a bowl of it every day.
But you don't go here for the wings (or the jasmine ice tea, which was equally delicious). Cheu's specialty is of course their noodles and my bowl of coconut curry noodles with peas, herbs, and peanut sambal was divine. Endlessly messy, but worth every single splatter. At $11 for a huge bowl, this is one sweet - make that spicy! - deal.
Vernick Food and Drink: I'm not sure if there's a magical formula for calculating deliciousness per dollar spent, but if there was Vernick would surely win. For the price point, it may just be the most delicious meal I've ever had. It's one of only half a dozen restaurants I've been to where there is no salt and pepper on the table - and I only noticed it after the fact. Everything was perfectly seasoned and remarkably fresh.
The small plates of loaded toast (like charred spinach and fontina), raw seafood (like arctic char and dill), and mini plates (like warm ricotta, rhubarb, and basil) are perfect for sharing during a girlfriends' getaway. They also have large plates, with options such as roasted pork chop, spring peas and beans, and prosciutto jus starting at $26.
The desserts were equally tempting and my choice, a creme fraiche panna cotta with spiced fresh apricot, was unusual, creative, and hugely delicious.
The service was absolutely phenomenal and little touches, like double checking if anyone in the party had allergies and bringing over a surprise scoop of prickly pear gelato just because the stafff heard us chatting about the unique flavor, made a great meal soar to new heights.
Parc Bistro: It's a shame I visited Parc on a Wednesday, because this is the kind of place you could linger in for hours on a Friday night, shaking the week off, polishing off another bottle of wine and a second -or third! - basket of bread. But our Wednesday night visit did have one distinct advantage, as the standing special is lobster risotto.
Ryan is allergic to shellfish, so the only time I can indulge my lobster cravings is when I'm spending time with the girls. While I enjoyed trying lobster in a whole new way, I have to confess I wish I had ordered the traditional 1/2 lb lobster instead - risotto I can have any time, but lobster is really special!
Parc's legendary bread was everything I had imagined (though it could benefit from a second ramekin of butter on the side). The menu of classic French desserts provided many temptations but I finally settled on the Pot de Creme. The combination of white coffee ice cream, bananas, cocoa nibs, and even gold leaf was delicious and, not being overly sweet, made for a nice finish to a rich meal.
For bonus points, finish up the night with a second dessert. Nearby Capogiro Gelato has a sea salt gelato that you absolutely must try. No really, trust me!
What To Do
How is it that one of the most prolific art galleries in the world plays second fiddle to a photo op? Chances are, you've seen the Philadelphia Art Museum on hundreds of occasions, thanks to Rocky Balboa and scores of imitators. Go ahead, run up the stars and cheer, but then buck the trend and actually head inside the building
You could easily spend several days at the Philadelphia Art Museum (they even provide a two day pass option!) but since our time was limited, we explored for a few hours at random, first wandering into a room of Picasso sketches, then another filled with antique armor. If you ever imagined art galleries to be dull, boring spaces, the diverse collection and the unique artifacts at the Philadelphia Art Museum will change your mind!
Philly is one of those cities that blew me away and surpassed every expectation. I hadn't realized just how vibrant the local food scene is and, between bike rides and foosball and museums and galleries, there are plenty of fun, affordable activities to ensure everyone in your group has a memorable visit.
Alright Philly Foodies -it's time to weigh in! Where should I eat on my next trip?
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