Best reason to drink with Penn kids:
Yes, Jose Garces’ super-festive University City restaurant is packed with boat shoes. But tell us the downstairs cantina isn’t worth it: $5 margaritas and some of the city’s best Mexican doesn’t come without some sort of price.
(3945 Chestnut St., 215-222-1657, www.distritorestaurant.com)
Best place to get mom tipsy and pick up the tab:
Trendy Prohibition-style cocktail lounges will come and go, but Southwark will always be our go-to for a classy cocktail poured by a professional. Yes, you can run up a bill here, but consider it a “no Red Bull” tax.
(701 S. Fourth St., 215-238-1888, www.southwarkrestaurant.com)
Best use of liquor and gelato:
We can’t believe we didn’t add this up before they did: artisan gelato + booze=best thing to ever happen to a straw. (Sorry, Tastykake shake!) The day Capogiro acquired a liquor license for its University City outpost was the day we officially gave up on any and all New Year’s resolutions.
(3925 Walnut St., 215-222-0252, www.capogirogelato.com)
Best case of vertigo:
It was a long day — no, a long week. The city is packed with Christmas shoppers. And, sure, the El is delayed. There’s nothing like a little perspective to remember that you actually love this city, and the bar at R2L offers plenty of it — along with a menu by Daniel Stern — perched on the 37th floor of 2 Liberty Place. (215-564-5337, www.r2lrestaurant.com)
Best people watching, famous division:
If you want to peep one of the five legit famous people who come through Philly a year — or just gawk at those ageless Rittenhouse women — pull up a chair at Stephen Starr’s French bistro. (Pro voyeur tip: Those heat lamps make for some surprisingly toasty outdoor seating.)
(227 S. 18th St., 215-545-2262, www.parc-restaurant.com)
Best people-watching, wildcard division:
We’ve got to hand it to this Fishtown bar/venue for hosting what amounts to a daily costume party we’re always psyched to attend. Not to mention the cheap drinks and music to watch it all parade by.
(951 Frankford Ave., www.myspace.com/thenewbarbary)
Best cheaper-than-cheap date:
The Troc’s Movie Monday
For less than a box of cineplex Milk Duds, this weekly event includes a movie and a buzz: The mere $3 admission goes toward a drink at the bar.
(Every Monday, The Troc, 1003 Arch St., 215-922-6888, www.thetroc.com)
Best buzzed Pac-Man:
Got, say, $7.50? Then you have one seriously difficult session of Pac-Man ahead of you, friend.
(259 S. 15th St.)
Best reason to rock the suburbs:
The Keswick Theatre
It doesn’t happen all that often, but we love when our tickets just happen to call for a trip to Glenside: You can take the train, there’s plenty of parking and real live trees. Although we’ll never admit it, for one night, joining the regional rail club makes all the sense in the world.
(291 Keswick Ave., Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com)
Best (and/or only) reason to hang out under the El:
Kung Fu Necktie
Try as Kung Fu Necktie might to lead you to believe otherwise, it’s actually the classiest, most relaxing place to grab a beer under the Market-Frankford line. Not that the competition was tough, but still — impressive.
(1248 N. Front St., 215-291-4919, www.kungfunecktie.com)
Best place to feel like a high-roller for $20:
10 Arts Lounge
The lounge at Jennifer Carroll’s swanky restaurant has all the glam with a tiny price tag. Splurge on a cocktail, add a mini lobster roll and prepare to people-watch. (10 Avenue of the Arts, www.10arts.com)
Shopping & beauty
Best instant makeover for your guy and his pad:
From home goods to hoodies, this Old City boutique has an impeccably curated selection for the boy in need of some style. Our advice: Pay a visit, ask Matthew what he’s wearing and add to shopping cart. (151 N. Third St., 215-829-0606, www.matthewizzo.com)
Best reason to go to “First Friday”:
There are plenty of galleries on Second Street, but you can find us at one of Shari Roulin’s events, which would be a good time even if they weren’t in her boutique stocked with trendy dresses, upscale labels and boots we want now. Boots we need now. Right now.
(55 N. Second St., 267-773-8675, www.rewardproject.com)
Best wax for wimps:
JuJu Salon and Spa
We’re not saying it’s comfortable, but between the Zen-like atmosphere and gentle soy-based wax, Juju offers a less-traumatic alternative to the traditional stick-and-rip.
(728 S. Fourth St., 215-922-3235, www.jujusalon.com)
Best highlights for your health:
This Girard Avenue salon uses organic bleach, which doesn’t burn your scalp, fry your tresses or smell nearly as bad for you. Make up for it with a beer right next door at Johnny Brenda’s.
(111 E. Girard Ave., 215-327-3730, www.plumesalon.com)
Best post-shopping chill session:
Terme di Aroma
Smack in the center of Old City shopping, Terme di Aroma offers the perfect antidote to last-minute holiday shopping: therapeutic massages, detox body wraps and facials — not to mention combo packages, if it’s been that kind of December.
(32 N. Third St., 215-829-9769, www.termediaroma.com)
Best way to be eco-friendly without looking like a hippy:
Now with a brand-new Rittenhouse outpost, Arcadia Boutique makes it even easier to dress both stylish and eco-friendly while also supporting local artists and designers. Sorry, hemp hoodie.
(819 N. Second St. and 265 S. 20th St., www.arcadiaboutique.com)
Best double entendre:
The day we stop giggling at this pet boutique’s name is the day we stop considering taking a nibble of their display of gourmet doggie doughnuts. In other words, never.
(Six locations in Philadelphia, www.doggiestyle2.com)
Best wrap-them-in-the-car gifts:
Art Star Boutique
Whether you forgot to pick up a hostess trinket or a gift for your mom, Art Star is chock full of cutesy ceramics, original art, prints, jewelry, plushes and other thoughtful things you may have picked up on Etsy if there weren’t so many damn embroidered potholders distracting you.
(623 N. Second St., 215-238-1557, www.artstarphilly.com)
Best holiday stress-relief for broke yogis:
Even if you break the holiday bank, you can still afford to hit your mat at this NoLibs studio: The package deals are a serious value, but it’s the unheard-of $7 drop-in fee that we can’t get over. Namaste, yoga Santa.
(725 N. Fourth St., second floor, 267-234-0196, www.sankhyayoga.com)
We may never run for a regional rail again: Jose Garces’ latest restaurant in the ground floor of the Cira Centre makes the most of its impeccably, obsessively sourced ingredients, from cocktails through dessert.
(Cira Centre, 215-222-2363, www.jgdomestic.com)
Best place to take your hungry vegan:
Although it’s all technically “vegan,” a better description of this upscale meatless mainstay might simply be “tasty.” Fresh seasonal ingredients shine, while its serene dining room, for-serious cocktail list and indulgent desserts make it a rare veggie date-night destination.
(611 S. Seventh St., 215-923-6117, www.horizonsphiladelphia.com)
Best way to get dumped by your hungry vegan:
Percy Street BBQ
If you’re going to go Texas barbecue, go big: At Percy Street, they pour “Hillbilly Gatorade,” serve pork belly by the pound and top the sweet potatoes with marshmallows.
(900 South St., 215-625-8510, www.percystreet.com)
Best gratuitous use of pork:
There’s plenty to talk about at Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran’s latest 13th Street undertaking. But we want to talk about the “pig popcorn”: bite-size little puffs of deep-fried pork skin sprinkled in an apple cider vinegar powder. Corn, it’s been real.
(110 S. 13th St., 215-546-9300, www.barbuzzo.com)
Best reason to visit your long-lost friends with a baby in Mount Airy:
Earth Bread and Brewery
It takes a lot to commit to a trip out to Germantown Avenue — like house-brewed beers and hearth-baked flat breads topped with everything from roasted garlic and pumpkin seeds to mascarpone and candied pecans.
(7136 Germantown Ave., 215-242-6666, www.earthbreadbrewery.com)
Best reason to get totally lost in the Northeast:
It’s the focused beer bar you’d expect from the guys behind the Grey Lodge Pub, plus more bratwurst and potato salad than you could ever dream would be stockpiled in Fox Chase. (7980 Oxford Ave., 214-437-1929, www.hopangelbrauhaus.blogspot.com)
Best winter hibernation takeout:
If you think gourmet Indian take-out isn’t breakfast material, think again: Ekta and their ridiculous delivery zones make it easy to not leave your house until April.
(250 E. Girard Ave., 215-426-2277, www.ektaindianrestaurant.com)
Best place to get sassed and like it:
Let us never forget what a fantastic oasis Good Dog and its classy (but no-nonsense) staff provides, even in the depths of football season in Center City.
(224 S. 15th St., 215-985-9600, www.gooddogbar.com)
Best bar brunch:
The Royal Tavern
While plenty of its peers will actually induce that threat of a hangover, Royal Tavern takes its morning-after French toast seriously. Vegetarian and vegan options go above and beyond, and the specials are worth waking up for.
(937 E. Passyunk Ave., 215-389-6694, www.royaltavern.com)