If South Philly conjures images of Rocky running through the Italian Market and Mummers strutting down Broad Street, get ready to rethink your preconceptions. The neighborhood still boasts a proud Italian-American heritage, but waves of Mexican and Asian immigrants have added a multi-cultural flavor. More recently, millennial transplants have energized one of the city’s most traditional enclaves, bringing in their wake gastropubs, vintage clothing boutiques and artisanal coffee shops.
Chhaya Café offers organic, locally roasted coffees in three different brew styles. And tea lovers will find it hard to choose between evocatively named blends like Blue Lady (lavender and grapefruit) and Tear Water (earl grey and violets). If you think picking a nominee is tough, try deciding between nine varieties of waffles on the brunch menu.
1819 E Passyunk Ave
Combine your coffee break and happy hour at Ultimo Coffee @ Brew, a space sharing concept that makes you wonder why no one thought of it before. Get your morning jolt from a cup of hand-poured Counter Culture coffee while stocking up on six-packs at the in-house craft beer boutique. Routinely topping lists of America’s best coffee bars, this airy hybrid is well worth the trip.
1900 S 15th St
Quick Tourist Moment:
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
If South Street, once home to beatniks, hippies and punks, has largely lost its counter-culture vibe, its bohemian roots are still on display at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. Proving one man’s trash is another’s surreal art project, visionary artist Isaiah Zagar, whose mosaics dot South Street, has assembled found objects, hand-made tiles and mirrors to create a kaleidoscopic dream world. Love it or hate it, you won’t find anything else quite like this spellbinding public art space.
1020 South St
Record your Rocky-themed Vine with a run through the Italian Market. Just be sure to slow down long enough for a taste of this multi cultural enclave. South 9th Street blends the old-world charm of Italian bakeries, cheese shops, and pasta makers, with Mexican tacquerias and Vietnamese noodle shops. For lunch, you can’t go wrong with an Italian Hoagie (look for a place that uses Sarcone’s rolls). Or step out of your comfort zone with barbacoa tacos. Whatever you choose, summer in Philly wouldn’t be complete without a refreshing water (pronounced “wooder”) ice.
South 9th and adjacent streets between Fitzwater and Wharton Streets
In Italy, the tradition of taking evening strolls to shop, dine and visit friends is called the Passeggiata. On Wednesday, July 27, join the Passyunk Passeggiata for a late-night (until 1 a.m.) street fair stretching the length of East Passyunk.Centered around the Singing Fountain (at Tasker St), the festival features a farmers’ market, live music, extended boutique hours, happy hour specials and al fresco dining.
Fiercer than the battle between Donald and Hillary is Philly’s longest culinary rivalry: the (literal) faceoff between cheesesteak pioneers Pat’s and Geno’s. Stop by the corner of 9th and Passyunk to decide for yourself which is best. Insiders know to visit during off hours (they’re both open 24/7) for shorter lines. Just remember to order “whiz wit” (that’s cheese whiz and fried onions to the uninitiated) for the authentic Philly experience.
Pat’s King of Steaks
1237 E. Passyunk Ave.
1219 S. 9th Street
Looking for place to wash down your cheesesteak with a brew? Pop across the street toGarage. Housed in a former (you guessed it) garage, this can-only joint is for purists who like their beer as God intended: encased in aluminum. There’s even a food cart inside. Check out #indacart on Twitter for daily specials. Best of all, in addition to the obligatory pool table, gamers can try their luck at pinball and skeeball.
1231 E Passyunk Ave
Victor Cafélooks like the old-world Italian restaurant of your dreams: red checkered linens, celebrity and family photos lining the walls, diners sharing bottles of Chianti. Until your waiter breaks into an aria from Rigoletto and you think, what exactly is going on here? The waitstaff at Victor are some of the area’s most talented performers, and courses are punctuated with operatic performances. Add an excellent selection of traditional Italian favorites and you have buon appetito!
1303 Dickinson St
Brigantessais one of South Philly’s newest stars. Named for Michelina Di Cesare, a freedom fighter during Southern Italy’s 19thcentury struggle against Northern-led unification, this forneria (an eating place centered around a wood-fired oven), serves up Mediterranean specialties such as Neapolitan pizza and blood-orange spaghetti with Maine lobster, sea urchin, Fresno chilies and parsley.
1520 E Passyunk Ave
An ever-changing list of microbrews, and a chalkboard menu with unpretentious nibbles like sweet bologna sliders, makeAmerican Sardine Barone of the city’s most comfortable and welcoming gastropubs. On summer nights, pull up a lawn chair and enjoy the casual back yard, which doubles as a vegetable and herb garden for the kitchen.
1800 Federal St
If a week at the Convention has you feeling particularly patriotic, check outStateside, whichearns its name with a strictly domestic list of spirits (with an emphasis on Bourbon and Rye), craft beers and wines. Try the “Don’t Tread on Me”, a blend of Rittenhouse Rye, citrus, egg white and bitters. And don’t miss the kitchen’s small plates, which feature fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.
1536 E Passyunk Ave