Founded on Quaker ideals of tolerance, the City of Brotherly Love has a tradition of embracing difference. Nowhere is this more evident than Center City East where ancient and modern exist side by side. Bustling Chinatown is home to a melting pot of Asian communities steeped in age-old custom. Nearby, the gay-friendly neighborhood of Midtown Village teems with chic boutiques and trendy hotspots. The Pennsylvania Convention Center and SEPTA’s Jefferson (aka Market East) Regional Rail Station are located here too, and help make the area a gateway to the city.
It’s easy to overlook the door at Double Knot — a coffee shop by day, Japanese restaurant by night. Inside, though, a haven of tranquility awaits. Sink into a leather armchair and enjoy the morning paper with a cup of hand-poured coffee. Or get a head start on happy hour with the Double Knot Punch, a refreshing alcoholic blend that changes daily. Come 5 o’clock, reserve a table in the chic, candlelit subterranean izakaya where the small plates of robatayaki (grilled skewers of meat, seafood and vegetables) are perfect for sharing.
120 S. 13th St.
Don’t let the unremarkable interior of Ray’s Cafe & Tea House fool you. This Chinatown institution is the real deal. Proprietor Grace Chen siphon brews coffee from some of the world’s most sought-after beans (the full-bodied Jamaican Blue Mountain is worth every penny of its $10+ per cup price). If you’re feeling adventurous, try the bubble tea, a Taiwanese specialty made with tapioca.
Quick Tourist Moment:
For a quintessentially Philadelphia experience, head to Reading Terminal Market. Dating to 1890, the market is a microcosm of Philadelphia’s rich culinary heritage, with many family businesses stretching back generations. Whether you’re braving your first scrapple (don’t ask) or chowing down the award-winning DiNic’s Roast Pork sandwich, you can literally taste Philadelphia’s history. For dessert, try the Pennsylvania Dutch favorite, Shoefly Pie, or the cannoli from Termini Brothers Bakery.
12th and Arch streets
In the mid-19th century, Cantonese immigrants settled Arch and Race streets between Eighth and 11th, giving rise to Philadelphia’s Chinatown. Stroll these streets today, and you’ll find a vibrant pan-Asian community. Whether you’re looking for Chinese dumplings, Japanese ramen, Vietnamese pho or Korean barbecue, you’re spoiled for choice. Don’t forget to pause for a selfie at the Chinese Friendship Gate, a symbol of the “brotherly love” between Philly and Chinese sister city, Tianjin.
Chinese Friendship Gate
10th and Arch streets
Want to see the city’s art, but the summer weather has you dreading a day indoors? Not to worry. To the folks at the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, Philly is one big gallery (they’ve even turned the median of Broad Street into a colorful canvas). For a sample of the more than 3,600 murals produced by this artist-community collaboration (which began as an anti-graffiti initiative), sign up for a two-hour walking tour. Or discover your inner artist on July 27 as Mural Arts hosts a paint day on the north side of City Hall.
For sheer variety, nothing surpasses the casual eateries along Philly’s 13th Street restaurant row (between Chestnut and Locust). Whether you’re looking for Spanish tapas (Jamonera) or the best gelato this side of the Colosseum (Capogiro), you won’t go wrong here. At Bud & Marilyn’s, the decorator may have raided a 1970’s split-level ranch, but there’s nothing antiquated about its quirky comfort food. Mediterranean favorite Barbuzzo serves up a salted caramel budino (to call it pudding would be disrespectful) which is justifiably legendary.
105 S. 13th St.
119 S. 13th St.
Bud & Marilyn’s
1234 Locust St.
110 S. 13th St.
Midtown Village (the blocks between Market and Pine streets stretching east from Broad) is the beating heart of Philadelphia’s gay nightlife, and nowhere is the beat stronger than at Woody’s. A Gayborhood staple, Woody’s attracts a friendly crowd and welcomes anyone (regardless of orientation) who enjoys a good time. The downstairs bars are low key, but once upstairs ($10 cover), get ready to sweat. The dancefloors are packed and DJs spin a pulsing mix, from old-school hip-hop to Top 40 pop.
202 S. 13th St.
Oenophiles, rejoice! Amidst Philly’s beer-and-a-shot dives and cocktail lounges are some truly excellent wine bars. With an international list featuring more than 60 wines by the glass, Vintage is one of the best. There are flights for the indecisive, wine-inspired cocktails for the adventuresome and even a respectable beer list for your friend who likes her bottles with a brewed-on date. Vintage also offers a French-American bistro menu in case your happy hour turns into dinner.
129 S 13th St
Looking for the perfect antidote to a day in the trenches of the US political process? Queue up with your fellow “Inferior American Imperialists” for cocktails at Hop Sing Laundromat, the self-described “World’s Greatest North Korean Cocktail Bar.” You have to ring the bell at the unmarked door and be prepared to be screened (yes, it’s that kind of place), but that’s part of the fun at this cash-only speakeasy.
Hop Sing Laundromat
1029 Race St