Having grown up on a coast where a six-hour car ride can bring you through five different states, I often surprise myself when I think about the East Coast territories that I’ve still yet to visit. Until last Saturday, Philadelphia was one of those places. It probably would have remained as such, had [ironically] one of my West Coast friends not gone and invited me along.
Once a med student there, my dear friend Sunny gave me a crash-course in Philly eats, with a handful of historical landmarks thrown in on the side. We had barely more than twenty-four hours to see and do everything, but I think we managed quite well.
After discovering that our hotel was situated directly across the street from Reading Terminal Market, I wasted no time before grabbing my camera and heading over. Established in 1893, it’s an enormous food market brimming with every variety of food and drink purveyors one can imagine. Seemingly endless walkways reveal French linens, local coffee, Soul Food and chocolate, among many other things. And as Pennsylvania is home to a large Amish population, I noticed several of the stalls operated by young girls in bonnets, aprons and starched dresses. (Fun fact: my last name Paup is Pennsylvania Dutch.) I wandered a bit, picked up an Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pie from Flying Monkey Bakery, and headed back to our room. The whoopie pie was not consumed until much later and to be honest I found it to be overwhelmingly heavy and sweet. Personally I need to have either a cookie or a cupcake, but not both at the same time.
For dinner Sunny took me to the storied outpost for mussels and beer: Monk’s Café. Earlier in the evening I made the foolish declaration that “I do not like to eat at restaurants without a wait.” I was rewarded for this statement with an hour-long wait for our table. No matter though, the time passed quickly as we enjoyed a selection of craft beers on bar-stools at the restaurant’s raucous bar. I should also mention that once we finally were seated, the food was indeed worth the wait. For a table of six, two small pots of mussels were ordered, one with a Brussels broth and the other with a Thai Curry broth. If these were considered “small” I cannot imagine what large pots would have looked like. With the mussels came Belgian fries and fresh bread, all of which we eaten with abandon. How any of us made it to a second course is beyond me; I felt the blissful affects of a food coma after about mussel number ten…
Fighting fatigue and shades of an Irish flu (my mom’s maiden name is McCormick after all…) Sunny and I woke up Sunday morning and shuffled back over to Reading Terminal in search of caffeine. We stopped at Old City Coffee, where the beans are roasted on-premises and both delighted in cups of fresh espresso. We drank these as preparation for our walk to brunch at Farmicia where, upon sitting down were served more decadence, this time on plates rather than in pots. I ordered Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon and a glass of prosecco [obviously]. I also felt a Thanksgiving-worthy food crash post-meal [obviously].
We essentially had one day to cover as much ground as possible, so after walking around to various landmarks like the Betsy Ross House, Elfreth’s Alley and a newly-built pier, we drank water and continued on. We are troopers. As the afternoon began to set in, we settled into a French café named Rouge and each enjoyed a drink over-looking Rittenhouse Square Park. With the sunlight dappled by the trees and couples strolling by with dogs of all shapes and sizes, it was a supremely relaxing and satisfying hour of the day.
…But it didn’t end there! Before heading back to the hotel to pick up our bags, we made two more stops: the first was at Metropolitan Bakery, where I filled a small bag with a Fig Bar, Sour Cherry Chocolate Chip cookie and of course a Chocolate Chip Walnut cookie. The latter was delicious, however the first two were considerably more impressive. While I expected the soft, chewy consistency of a Fig Newton, what I discovered instead, were fig preserves wrapped in an egg-washed pie-crust. Boom. The sour cherry cookie was definitely my favorite of the three though, and biting into the warm, crunchy exterior revealed large flakes of sharp sea salt. It took all self-control not to inhale the entire thing before dinner.
Our second stop post-park-drink and consequently our last stop of the day, was at an Asian-fusion bistro called Sampan. Though not on purpose, we arrived just in time for happy hour prices, which was AWESOME. $4 specialty cocktails? Yes please. Brussels sprouts caramelized in sugar and soy sauce? Done. We ordered an abundance of “small plates” which actually weren’t small at all and everything was excellent. Lobster dumplings, Thai-spiced wings, chicken satay with aioli… you get the idea. It goes without saying that we left Philadelphia very full indeed.
So full, that I hopped on a bus back to New York and didn’t wake up until we’d reached the Holland Tunnel.