NFT Philadelphia Old City / Society Hill

Old City / Society Hill

Essentials
Old City is beautiful, steeped in history, and filled with dining and nightlife. This means that while there you'll need to avoid both tourists and Jersey club-goers, but don't let that deter you. Christ Church Park is a quiet place to reflect, and dammit, you need to visit the Liberty Bell if you haven't already.

Sundries/Entertainment
Home to perhaps more whipped-up-to-frothing bars/clubs per capita than any other area of the city, as long as you like your scenes loud and your booze pricey, you've got it all here. That said, The Khyber is a great spot for not only music but also comedy, The Victoria Freehouse is a fun British-style pub, and you'll silently assent to See more.

>Sugar Mom's nifty subterranean setting.

Chloe continues to be a perennial favorite amongst foodies and those trying to dodge Old City while in Old City. Nibble great (and pricey) tapas at Amada. Hit the make-your-own-Bloody-Mary bar during brunch at National Mechanics. And devour a sundae from Franklin Fountain.




         


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Mural, Mural on the Wall

By Augustin Kendall
Illadelphia, Filthadelphia, City of Brotherly Love ... whatever Philly is to you, there's a mural for it somewhere. Amidst the spectacular three-story-high or building-long murals that ooze local culture, there are some off-kilter gems you won't find in the official tours. Augustin Kendall brings you an alternative mural tour that will not only satisfy your artistic appetite, but your thirst and sweet tooth cravings as well.
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The City of Brotherly Bargains

By Lisa Franklin
Philadelphia has the reputation of being a cheap city, but it’s still hard to find a bargain. Sure, we’re obese and wear long crewneck sweatshirts, but chi-chi restaurants and boutiques are rebranding our image and forcing out our ingrained frugality. Where to turn when we’re hankering for an inexpensive lunch or a used CD that’s rightfully cheaper than its shiny new twin sister? Gems, finds, and steals exist throughout our fair city. The destinations below will ensure that, at the end of the day, we can enjoy a soft pretzel and a 6-pack of Yuengling without a gaping hole in our collective pocket...
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Global Dining

By Kristin Detterline
When I was younger, and still at the mercy of my parents with regard to dinner, they’d drag me across “the bridge” (that’s family-speak for driving to Philadelphia from Jersey) to eat. It took two decades for me to snap out of my South Philly-based restaurant obsession, at a time when the city is finally getting some national props for its culinary chops. And not just for its spaghetti-and-meatball haunts. There are exotic restaurants to discover in every ‘hood – and the best ones aren’t always the most expensive.
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Philly's Rock-and-Roll Five-Spot

By Alex Morales
NYC? Fuggetaboutit. Chi-Town? Yawn. LA? So like, totally not. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re looking for the tippy-top of the indie-rock & pop pyramid, it’s all about Philly. From airplay on NPR and college radio to beer-soaked venues nationwide and spots on the upcoming SXSW festival, 2005 has seen our myriad scrappy troubadours gathering steam. And, if I’m not a monkey’s nephew, bigger and better things await in ’06.
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Black Lung Special

By Caren Beilin
Philly is the last hip city in this generally po-dunk America where you can smoke inside public places. Before the inevitable smoking ban takes effect, celebrate some of Philly's hottest spots to light up and fill your lungs with a black lung special.
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On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Krista Apple
Photo:  Krista Apple

Old City Cheese Shop
The name's a misnomer. Not that they don't sell cheese--they do: a small but mighty selection of French, Italian and American cheese from Gouda to good Pecorino. But there's ever so much more. Best loved by this reviewer for their lunch special, you can pick up a sandwich and soup for $7 on weekdays. (Sandwiches are pre-made, and might on any given day include a choice of prosciutto & provolone, mozzarella caprese, or a ham & cheese croissant. On weekends, sidle in for the best-kept brunch secret in the city: a tiny outdoor garden, snug enough for four tables and a small trickling corner fountain, await your feasting pleasure. The prix fixe menu selections are accompanied by coffee or tea, freshly squeezed orange juice, and a fresh baked muffin. It's the best way, outside of a Eurorail pass, to escape your urban drudgery. In the end, maybe they're right. "Old City Cheese and Brunch and Sandwich Shop" might be a propos...but it just doesn't have the same ring.



Posted By:  Krista Apple
Photo:  Krista Apple

Pierre's Costumes
Let's face it. Halloween might be the most likely time of year we find ourselves in need of vampire teeth and full-body Viking armor...but it's not the only time. Praise be to Dionysus, God of spectacle and misrule, then, that Pierre’s Costumes is open year round, catering to the costume junkie in us all with true panache. Does Santa need to visit for Christmas in July? Pierre's can hook you up. Jonesing for a Marie Antoinette tea-and-cake party? Need to prank the boss with a visit from the Energizer Bunny? Look no further. And if all you need is cheap pirate trinkets or Sexy Nurse lingerie, well, you’re still in luck. But just dare. Dare to leave the store without your Viking Armor.



Posted By:  Meg Favreau
Photo:  Meg Favreau

Penn's Landing Marina
I realized I had been working a lot when I started thinking about going kayaking on part of the notoriously dirty Delaware River for 20 minutes as a "tiny mini vacation." Hell, it wasn't even kayaking on the river itself, but on a squared-off piece of marina water at the base of the Independence Seaport Museum--a somewhat twisted way of Mayor Nutter giving Philadelphians better access to the Delaware waterfront. But dammit, it was nice. Being able to hop off the El, walk for a few minutes, and get in a boat and paddle around for a while honestly did feel like a tiny mini vacation. The program is unfortunately over--the last day was August 16--but I'm already looking forward to next year. And you should be too. Oh, and it's totally free, so you have no excuse. Start planning your tiny mini vacation for next summer.



Posted By:  Meg Favreau
Photo:  Meg Favreau

Penn's Landing Marina
I imagine that one of the low-to-middle rings of hell consists of being smothered by sweaty, sticky-fingered children as they press progressively closer and closer to you, eating ice cream that you yourself are not allowed to enjoy. If you would like to prepare yourself for this particular hell, I suggest that you visit the annual Fourth of July Ice Cream Festival at Penn's Landing. Oh, I probably shouldn't be so harsh. After all, you do get to try as many delicious ice cream flavors as you can eat..that is, if you have the stamina to push yourself through the crowds of sweaty families who stand like Lindsey Lohan's bodyguards between you and the ice cream. And yeah, your entry fee does go to charity. Sigh. Maybe I'm becoming an agoraphobic cynic. Or maybe I just hate being touched by sticky-fingered children.



Posted By:  Allison Lowrey
Photo:  Allison Lowrey

Olde City Tattoo
Long gone are the days when tattoos were taboo. These days, sporting a tattoo is almost as common as being a brunette. But just because ink is mainstream, that doesn't mean that all tattoo parlors are created equal--in terms of both artistic quality and cleanliness. Whether you're looking to get that cute little Tweety Bird forever etched into your ankle, or you're rolling the dice and getting a Chinese symbol that may or may not mean what you think it does, or you've decided to get a complex sleeve that symbolically displays all of your life’s major accomplishments, the folks at Olde City Tattoo are up to the challenge. Print out your design, make an appointment, and head in to turn your pasty skin into a work of art. Armed with the knowledge that you're getting inked by some one of the city's most reputable spots, you'll feel good knowing that the image you'll be stuck with for life is top-notch.



Posted By:  Abby Baker
Photo:  Abby Baker

Triune
If you've never had a massage, you can start by experiencing Triune. If you've had a massage, then say good-bye to your old masseuse because they've got nothing on the amazing staff at this quaint muscle-rubbing place in Old City. Since the daily stressors often times get the best of me, I find myself high-tailing it for a 30 minute neck and shoulder rub-down at least once a month. Yes, I'll pay $35 for a half-hour's worth of someone kneading my sore muscles, and so will you once you try it. If you prefer, you can even get an hour's worth of body work done, you lucky bastard. Because Triune is so flippin' awesome, they also offer chiropractic and wellness services. Yes, some of us are that effed up. Now, go get you some crack; I promise you won't regret it.



Posted By:  Allison Lowrey
Photo:  Kenneth Wyner

Buffalo Billiards
Buffalo Billiards should be, in theory, like my own private Disney World. I walked in and my eyes lit up with all the bar had to offer: tons of TVs, a variety of bar games and amusements, good beers on tap, and edible bar food. The bartenders were cheerful and helpful. So with all its potential, I was disappointed to scratch my head and wonder why I wasn't having fun there. Maybe the numerous flat-screen TVs led to lots of gaping and gawking, rather than stimulating conversation with friends. Maybe people were so intently focused on their pool/darts/shuffleboard/foosball/Photo Hunt games that they could not convey they were enjoying themselves. Maybe the ten bucks for chicken fingers that were probably nuked in the microwave seemed a bit steep. Whatever the case, it was unnaturally quiet in Buffalo Billiards, despite the fact that there was a decent crowd in the place. I won't give up--there's too much potential!--but I won't be hurriedly putting on my running shoes to get back there, either.



Posted By:  Allison Lowrey
Photo:  Allison Lowrey

Spasso
Italian places are a dime a dozen in Philadelphia. South Philly is crawling with BYOBs--the air is ripe with garlic and oregano. But when you don't have a bottle of Pinot sitting around and you're too lazy to drag your ass to the liquor store, let Spasso sate your pasta craving. They have a huge wine list, so that you'll be able to compliment your meal perfectly. Vegetarians and vegans might not fare so well at Spasso--or they might be tempted to convert back to their carnivorous ways for a few hours--since the menu is loaded with delicious meat, fish, and mollusk dishes. But don't fret if you decide to forgo meat, if you don't want tomatoes on your pasta, or if you have any other high maintenance, Meg-Ryan-from-When Harry Met Sally-requests. The restaurant and its staff, all of whom will charm you with their authentic Italian accents, will bend over backwards to accommodate any of your special requests...and they'll do it with a smile.



Posted By:  Allison Lowrey
Photo:  Allison Lowrey

The Irish Pol
When you're racking your brain for an affordable spot to grab drinks with friends, Old City almost certainly does not spring to mind. That's why Irish Pol is such a gem--you get a convenient location, ultra affordable food and drink prices, a wall of draught beers to choose from (literally!), and a crowd that's smart enough to realize that $10 for one beer does not a wise investment make. Not quite a dive bar, but not a snooty gastro pub, either, the atmosphere at Irish Pol is just what you need to take the edge off a FUBAR week at the office. Unlike most Old City spots, you won't find heavy techno beats or dancers who take themselves too seriously. Instead, you'll find $1 hot dogs during Flyers games, a popcorn machine, and a beer suggestion box. Not to mention, you can't beat the ambience. Jagermeister bottles have been transformed into light fixtures and provide the perfect mood lighting for kicking back and drinking up. Whether we're in a recession or living large, Irish Pol is the kind of bar where you want to--and can afford to--become a regular.



Posted By:  Abby Baker
Photo:  Abby Baker

Triumph Brewing Company
Upon first walking into Triumph, you'll smell something funny. Don't fret--you're not in the middle of the country inhaling fertilizer. Actually, what you're smelling is hops. At Triumph, they brew their own beer and that means it's two things: Strong and good. Grab a glass of Honey Wheat if you like it light, or perhaps you're feeling festive and are in the mood for some Pumpkin Ale. Happy hour here boasts some excellent drink specials, but do be forewarned--shots here, unlike their beer, are weak and overpriced. Stick to the beer and, if it's available, the cozy green couch in the back. After a long work week, who needs anything more?



Posted By:  Meg Favreau
Photo:  Meg Favreau

Downey's
I've only attended it a few times, but I am so over hipster karaoke. It's crowded, you have to wait for forever to sing a song, and it's usually on weeknights. Sure, there's the bonus of getting to sing Dead Kennedys (or whatever other punk bank you listened to in 9th grade), but for me, that's not enough to make me want to pack in like a sardine while uber-drunk college seniors make their way through tunes. This is why I hereby throw my karaoke approval behind Friday night karaoke at Downey's on South Street. “Woah!” you might think. "South Street? Irish bar? That sounds like a lot of horribleness." Usually, yes. But in this case, it's not. The event is frequently not crowded, the vibe is unpretentious, and the song book is massive. Hip and unhip alike: go forth and sing.



Posted By:  Abby Baker
Photo:  Abby Baker

Mrs. K's Koffee Shop
Nothing cures a big appetite like good old-fashioned diner food. Especially if your hunger stems from a wild night of boozin'. Not to fear: diner food not only tastes like your mom’s home cookin', but satisfies even the most hung-over of patrons. The best part--it’s cheap. Yes, you can really get two servings of eggs, a generous portion of greasy bacon, a few slices of toast and a cup of coffee all for under five dollars. And if you're like me, chances are you'll appreciate this cheap fare, since most of your hard-earned money went towards a couple over-priced martinis the night before. Oh, and speaking of drinks, did I mention the coffee at this place is arguably the best cup of coffee in the city? Yes, and it's only one dollar! So while the nightlife scene in Philly tends to be a bit costly, it's good to know that Mrs. K's will be serving up full meals that won’t break your bank.



Posted By:  Jamie Papoutsis
Photo:  Jamie Papoutsis

Spasso
If you are craving Italian, I highly recommend Spasso. What appears at first to be a quaint, one room Italian bistro morphs into three separate, distinguished dining rooms. Our waiter, who must have previously trained at the Macaroni Grill, plopped himself down in a seat at our table to introduce himself and take our order. It was moderately awkward. I was expecting him to scribble his name in crayon across the table cloth; thankfully he didn't. My meal (chicken with artichokes in a creamy tomato sauce) was delicious and came with an accidental side of penne due to a slip up by the food runner. This unfortunately spurred extra interaction with weird waiter man. Either way, the portions are plentiful and well worth taking a doggy bag home.



Posted By:  Allison Lowrey
Photo:  Allison Lowrey

Paddy Whacks Pub
...Whack a paddy, that is. Now, listen up: South Street is hardly the section of the city you go to avoid tourist traps. Cheesy bars, hokey sex shops, and an abundance of tattoo parlors make South Street a haven for angst-ridden suburban teenagers. With all the tourists lurking nearby, Paddy Whacks might not seem like the obvious venue of choice for die-hard Philly sports fans. But with spacious rooms and more TVs than a Best Buy showroom, Paddy Whacks is a great spot to eat, drink, and cheer on your team. Paddy Whacks offers reasonable prices, but if you're pinching pennies extra hard these days, head to their website and register to win a free happy hour for you and your friends. Free! Whether you bleed green, orange or red, Paddy Whacks is a place you can feel at home while you yell at players through the TV with like-minded people who feel your pain and, on occasion, share the joy of being a Philly sports fan.



Posted By:  Abby Baker
Photo:  Abby Baker

Mizu Sushi Bar
I wasn't a big fan of sushi...until I discovered Mizu. This tiny little BYOB is the kind of place you might go on a first date, because even if your date sucks, you'll at least be in the company of some delicious raw fish. Being that this is Philly, Mizu creates its own version of the famous "Philly Roll," substituting the cucumbers for avocado. Brilliant! When making salads, Mizu doesn't skimp and uses "real" lettuce instead of that iceberg crap that many other sushi venues use. In addition to a crisp, clean ambiance, another great feature is the take-out. It's quick and efficient. All in all, Mizu has something for everyone (even those of you who can’t score a first date).



Posted By:  Meg Favreau
Photo:  Meg Favreau

Woolly Mammoth
Let me begin with what I hope will become a classic Philadelphia blessing: "Proud and weary citizens of Philadelphia/May you never find your car overturned in a sports riot/May you eat well, and often/And may you never, ever find yourself on South Street." Okay, okay, I know: South Street has its uses. Pearl is a great art store, the TLA (sometimes) and the Philly Improv Theater (quite often) have good shows, and the clearance area at Bare Feet Shoes has good finds (if you can get back there). But when I think about free-time activities I enjoy, 'forcing my way through gaggles of New Jersey teenagers' is last on my list. Still, sometimes the best of us find ourselves on South Street, and sometimes we have needs: drinking. Specifically: grabbing a six pack. Thus I recommend to you Woolly Mammoth, which has a lovely selection of bottled beers and will gladly mix them into a take-out six-pack for you. I don't necessarily recommend drinking here--every time I've gone, the music has been astonishingly loud, and Tattooed Mom's is right up the street--but let them fill all of your brown-bagging needs.

 




Posted By:  Abby Baker
Photo:  Abby Baker

Fork
What we have here is the smaller, slightly cheaper version of the ever-so-classy "Fork Restaurant." This is a good thing, especially for those of us who wish we could spend our lunch breaks fine-dining and sipping wine. At Fork you can grab high-quality food, such as "Turkey, Brie, Gala Apple" sandwich and a glass of Pinot Blanc all in a matter of minutes. If you have time to spare, take a seat at one of the plush tables, or just hover around the community table as you chow down. Unfortunately, this plush lunch will cost you a tad bit more than that tuna sandwich from the lunch truck. But let's be real--you know you deserve it!



Posted By:  Jamie Papoutsis
Photo:  Jamie Papoutsis

Mrs. K's Koffee Shop
This is the perfect place to spend any morning, sipping a cup of coffee (which is served in a mustard colored plastic mug), and watching the people go by from the gigantic front windows that shower the restaurant in light. The only place to crouch is on a circular stool that is mounted to the floor and helps to contribute to 1960's luncheonette vibe that exudes from every crevice. You can only order the first two meals of the day, but for all your slackers out there, breakfast is served until closing time. The prices and the menu are simple--there is no Dijon sauce for your ham sandwich or little orange wedge to decorate the side of your plate, but sometimes white bread and tuna salad is just about as good as it gets, especially when it costs under $5!



Posted By:  Rebecca Troutman
Photo:  Rebecca Troutman

Farmicia
I'm going to get serious now about a dire situation in regards to Philadelphia's cultural and edible shortcomings. I'm not talking about the lack of Thai food. I don't have nearly as much concern about restaurant licensing policies. What plagues me is this: Despite having high-quality restaurants, several strikingly good pizza makers and cornering the market on pretzels… somehow no one in this town can make a decent bagel. I learned recently that this could be due to many factors: steaming rather than boiling, different city water quality, laziness. Unfortunately in the masses of rolls with holes you will not find a quality bagelry. Though Metropolitan Bakery makes the best bagels in Philly, they are strictly against toasting them or prepping them for you in any way. Enter: The Metro Cafe at Farmicia! When faced with a craving that cannot be sated by any other glutinous treat, Farmicia will TOAST your Metropolitan Bakery bagel, give you some cheap cream cheese with a knife, and send you on your way. This is decidedly the best we can hope for.



Posted By:  Abby Baker
Photo:  Abby Baker

National Mechanics Bar and Restaurant
If you've been scouring the city for a fun, upbeat bar, sans crowds, then I've found the perfect spot for you: National Mechanics. Located in a building that looks like it could be a museum, this drinker's haven is easy to miss. However, once inside, don't let the decor of dead insects and creepy pictures confuse you--this is a bar, although it might feel like you've just landed in a scene from Beetlejuice. With plenty of booth-style seating, National is the perfect happy hour scene, especially if your happy hour turns into hours. Late night at this joint is the perfect mix of '80s and '90s music, and due to the small crowd, you'll even have enough room to bust out that M.C. Hammer move you've been practicing for decades. Beers, bugs, and bad dancing--how else do you want to end your work week?!




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