Travel Tuesday: Philadelphia

I have done a decent amount of traveling in my lifetime, but have never strayed too far from home for too long. When I took an internship at the Campbell Soup Company and moved up to Philadelphia for the summer that was the longest amount of time I have spent at the farthest distance from the DC/Northern Virginia area where I grew up (beating out the three weeks I spent at Oxford in 2007). I can’t say that I fell in love with the City of Brotherly Love during the 10 weeks I lived there this summer, but I did enjoy getting out of my comfort zone and exploring a new city! Luckily, I have awesome friends and family who came to visit and explore with me. The Center City/Rittenhouse Square/Art Museums/Historic areas were all very walkable and easily navigated – I don’t think I took a cab the whole summer. From the apartment I was renting at 15th and Chestnut, it was a 15-20 minute walk to all the major sites of Philly. Of course, that wasn’t always pleasant in the 90 degree heat, but we managed!

Culinary highlights (aka FOODZ):

Authentic Philly Cheesesteak

Authentic Philly Cheesesteak

Cheesesteaks! Okay this is a no-brainer, but clearly the Philadelphia Cheesesteaks are a must-eat when in the city. Pat’s and Geno’s are the most well-known cheesesteaks spots in the city, but the locals will tell you that Jim’s on South Street is better than both of them. I visited the place three times this summer, with three different sets of visitors. I ordered mine the authentic way, “whiz wit” with cheese whiz and onions. The gooey cheese and crispy bread make this a perfect sandwich!

Courtney, BVP, Ballen after walking to Jim's in the sweltering heat

Courtney, BVP, Ballen after walking to Jim’s in the sweltering heat

Brunch at Sabrina’s Café – Oh me oh my was this brunch delicious or what? When Court, BVP and Ballen first started planning their visit to Philly we began scoping out brunch locales and a few different people recommended Sabrina’s. Like many places in Philly, Sabrina’s is BYOB and on our walk to the restaurant we picked up a couple bottles of champagne for mimosas. Alongside our boozy drinks, we had some amazing food. Case in point: banana vanilla stuffed French toast.

Crazy good Stuffed French Toast

Crazy good Stuffed French Toast

Giorgio on Pine was the restaurant of choice for a tasty and classy Italian dinner with the girls. Since it was another BYOB place we brought a couple bottles of wine and started with a prosciutto platter and an Italian “BLT” salad with a lemoncello vinaigrette. The starters with both really good, but the highlight was definitely the house made pasta. All four of us raved about our dishes – even the gluten-free pasta was a winner! I had one of the evening specials: pasta with shrimp, spinach and tomato cream sauce. I am a pasta lover and this was literally one of the best dishes I have ever had. Rich and delicious, even the leftovers heated up well.

House made pasta with shrimp, spinach and tomato cream sauce

House made pasta with shrimp, spinach and tomato cream sauce

Philly Pizza from the folks at Pizza Brain who say they proudly serve “Pizzadelphia, Za”.  Okay, I lied about being able to walk everywhere, we actually drove to Pizza Brain which is on Frankford Avenue and is a bit North of Center City. We got the “Kira Tierston” which had red sauce, onions, a hint of brown sugar, smoked bacon and roasted Brussels sprouts. By now you all know I am a huge lover of roasted Brussels sprouts so this pizza was spot on! Pizza Brain is also BYOB, but we forgot to bring drinks. Since there were no wine and spirits or beer stores within walking distance, Adam and I walked into a bar up the street to see if we could maybe persuade them to let us walk out with a couple bottles of beer. Welp, apparently with Philly’s weird beer laws it is perfectly normal to buy a six pack directly from a bar so we were able to get some beer to wash down our pizza.

Brussels Sprout and Bacon Pizza

Brussels Sprout and Bacon Pizza

Other restaurant standouts were Parc and Honeygrow. Parc is right on Rittenhouse Square with plenty of outside seating for great people watching. It is a French café and we started our brunch with mimosas and the Breakfast Pastries basket which was filled with the most amazingly delicious sweet treats. I followed that up with an egg white omelet with ratatouille and goat cheese which was equally amazing. Parc is a Stephen Starr restaurant – he has a ton of places in Philly and recently opened Le Diplomate in DC which got rave reviews and is crazy hard to get into. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to try it soon! Honeygrow is a quickserve, locally sourced restaurant that I fell head over heels in love with. They do create-your-own stir fry and salads where you can pick your base, three veggies, sauce and two garnishes. My go-to order was rice noodles with eggplant, broccoli and spinach with sesame garlic sauce and pickled cucumbers. SO GOOD. So far it looks like they only have two locations but I am dying for them to open one in Baltimore.

Non-food sights to see!

Rocky Statue

Rocky Statue

Rocky Statue – Located at the base of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, below the famous steps that Rocky trained on in the movies is a statue in tribute to the iconic, fictional boxer. Of course we had to snap a pic with our best boxing poses.

Independence Hall

Independence Hall

Girls inside Independence Hall

Girls inside Independence Hall

Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell – Get your history fix by visiting these symbols of American independence. Visiting the bell is completely free, you just have to wait in (an often very long) line. Independence Hall tours are also technically free, but you can reserve your ticket in advance for just $4 which I would definitely recommend doing that as the allotted tickets for each day get doled out pretty quickly. Independence Hall is pretty freaking cool as it is where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated and ultimately signed into action. For anyone who had to watch the movie 1776 in elementary school – this place has special meaning. 😀 The tour is brief but definitely worthwhile. Jim’s Steaks is walkable from the historic area so you can get your history and your deliciousness in one fell swoop.

My cousin Sarah and me posing in front of the Liberty Bell

My cousin Sarah and me posing in front of the Liberty Bell

Love Park – The famous Love Park was only about a block from my apartment which made it a must see destination for all of my visitors. Like the Rocky Statue and the Liberty Bell, the Love statue is another Philly staple.

Mom and me at Love Park

Mom and me at Love Park

Another awesome place to visit in Philly is Reading Terminal Market. This is a huge indoor market with tons of vendors selling everything from produce to nifty gifties to soft pretzels and plenty of lunch and dinner options. I visited Reading Terminal a few times during the summer, once for lunch when Jeanette, Adam and I got what Adam Richman of the Travel Channel deemed the “best sandwich in America” at DiNic’s: roast pork with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe. When my mom and Sarah came to visit we got amazing piping hot donuts from an Amish bakery stand. Some of the best donuts of all time.

Okay so those are the highlights now go take a trip to Philly! And bring me back some Honeygrow stir fry!

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