NFT Philadelphia University City

University City

Essentials
If "University City" seems a bit forced to you, you're not crazy--the neighborhood didn't even exist until the mid-1950s when it was created as a marketing ploy. From time to time things have been tense between students and neighbors thanks to "Penntrification," but mostly the area remains a small safe haven for collegians.

Sundries/Entertainment
The University City District's main goal is to take everything Center City does and make a bastardized version of it. While this leaves a sour taste in our mouths, one can't forget that the area is full of excellent restaurants, bars, food carts, and theatres. Oh, and frat parties: Lite beer in the house!




         


This Neighborhood Featured in...
University City Food Truck Primer

By Meg Favreau
My boyfriend claims there is a food truck proprietor who can read his mind. It was a bright winter day on the cusp of spring, and he was singing the chorus of Talib Kweli’s “Sunshine” over and over with the words “good sunshine” in his head. When he stepped up to this truck, the proprietor looked at him and said, “How are you enjoying the weather? There’s some…good sunshine,” and gave my boyfriend a look of knowing that bore into his soul. My boyfriend swears by this. He also swears that the sandwich was very good...
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Freewheeling Philadelphia

By Andy Greenberg
"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best," wrote Ernest Hemingway. Philadelphia has little in the way of contours. Even so-called Society Hill and Chestnut Hill hardly offer a climb. But Hemingway's idea applies nonetheless: With your feet spinning below you, the wind rushing past your (helmeted) head and the fear of death by taxi-door in your heart, Philadelphia's bustling landscape suddenly shifts into new focus. After navigating Center City on a bicycle, experiencing the city from the confines of a car is like listening to music underwater. Philadelphia, as much as any city in the world, is best traveled by its bicycle lanes...
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On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Meg Favreau
Photo:  Meg Favreau

Honest Tom's Taco Shop
One could argue that simplicity is the mark of any good restaurant. If you do one thing, and you do it well, that thing should be able to keep your business buoyantly afloat. Thus Honest Tom's tan truck appears day after day, serving a small-but-delicious variety of flour-tortilla tacos. There are breakfast tacos in the morning, and a changing selection of fresh lunchtime tacos, with possible fillings including chicken, fish, steak, and sweet potato. What else does Honest Tom's serve? Good coffee. That's about it. The truck is on Drexel's campus when classes are in session, Monday through Thursday from 8 am until 2 pm, and at Clark Park on Saturdays for the same time period. That's really all you need to know. See? Simple.



Posted By:  Emily Callaghan
Photo:  Emily Callaghan

Ajia
Comically bad service--who doesn't enjoy a little every once in a while? If you're a person who finds joy in the absurd, I cannot strongly enough recommend Ajia, a Japanese Fusion BYOB. On any weeknight, you're bound to be one of 3 groups/couples; the place seems to run at 10% capacity. And be prepared to be shocked, offended, and perhaps surprised at the service. The only waitress is notorious and apathetic: She will clear your eating partner's plate without a word before you're done, neglect you in dire thirst and bark, 'READY?' three times before you indeed are ready to order. But the food is delightful and pretty cheap. The Salmon Teriyaki comes out smokin' hot and will leave you wanting to order a second plate, if not out of hunger, of yearning for more of the taste. The waitress will deliver the check far too soon, but feel free to sit for another hour and down that bottle, or box, of wine…it's open late. The sushi is top-notch, the music--a random mix of smooth R&B and Asian, and the amusement of careless and cold service--priceless.



Posted By:  Meg Favreau
Photo:  Meg Favreau

Penn Bookstore
Unless you have your administrative assistant print out each day's On Our Radar content for you, my guess is that you are on the Internet right now. And if you are on the Internet, you might like VIRAL INTERNET CONTENT, the stuff that spreads like a literal plague across broadband. One of the things that amazes me about viral internet content is how quickly non-internet media will eagerly snatch up popular internet things. For example: did you know that the Stuff White People Like guy is on his third book tour already? Yup, third. If you want to see him, go to the Penn Book Store Wednesday at 7 pm. Make sure to ride your bike and wear your New Balance shoes. You know, if you're into those things.



Posted By:  Jamie Papoutsis
Photo:  Jamie Papoutsis

Magic Carpet
They say you can tell a good establishment by the line outside the door (or at least that used to be the theory before the ban on smoking). True, food trucks blow this theory out of the water, but there's no mistake as to why the line at the Magic Carpet truck is longer than Hillary Duff's hair extensions. If you can suffer though the painful wait you will be rewarded with little tins of Mediterranean goodness. When the grill really gets fired up, you may just get a sprinkle of sweet sweat as it cascades down from the cook's curly locks in your falafel. He does his best to wipe the beads away as he turns around to shout that the double order of spinach pie is read. If you try not to think about the sanitation aspect, I assure you that you are in for a real treat.




Posted By:  Jamie Papoutsis
Photo:  Jamie Papoutsis

Trophy Bikes
When my bike seat was stolen the other day, I marched my humbled bike and pissed off self to Trophy Bikes to get fixed up. Who would have known that Philadelphia is the number one city in the country for bike theft? The staff at Trophy Bikes did; alongside jazzing up my wheels with accommodation for my hinny, they taught me all sorts of tricks for making sure I was not victimized again. Never again was I made to feel like an imbecile for not better protecting myself, nor was my wallet gouged in getting my ride in one piece again. Trophy only sells new bikes, so if you've recently found your parking space sans your transport vehicle, walk on over. They'll take care of you.



Posted By:  Meg Favreau
Photo:  Meg Favreau

Bridgewater's Pub
Here's a great people-watching game: seeing who likes to get hammered by themselves in a train-station pub. The location for this game is Bridgewater's, the fancy pub in 30th Street. One time when I was there, there was a 20-something man who I assumed was some sort of rock-n-roll star, chowing and drinking, sloshed enough that at one point in the middle of his meal, he wandered outside of not just the pub, but the whole station (I assume to vomit). And of course, there are the scores of martini-slurping businessmen who sit at the bar, watching the news or whatever game is on. Now, this experience might not sound worthwhile--who wants to people-watch at some overpriced, mediocre Amtrack outpost? But here's the thing--the food and drinks at Bridgewater's are great. From exotic meat (Ostrich, anyone? No? How about alligator?) to a nice selection of imported German beers to one of the best veggie burgers I've had in the city, it's definitely a worthwhile place to consume. I recommend going during lunch--they run some cheap sandwich specials, like the tasty foccacia grilled cheese pictured. Yup.



Posted By:  Abby Baker
Photo:  Abby Baker

Saturn Club
Who would've thought you could grab your daily cup of coffee, get a haircut and a manicure in the same place? Well, thankfully Rebecca Wright did. As founder of The Saturn Club, she should be dubbed a local genius. Not only is this cafe a haven for Penn and Drexel students who need to stock up on caffeine in order to write that paper due in one hour, it's also an excellent place to score a new hairdo after that heart-wrenching break-up. While many salons in Philly are charging a month's rent for a haircut, Saturn Club's prices are reasonable, even for those of us who used to go to Supercuts. The fact that they are cheap is one thing, but what matters more is that they are good. I've been going here for a few years and have never been dissatisfied with a cut or color. So go ahead, spend the money you'll save on a coffee and a scone. Just like their haircuts, those are delicious.



Posted By:  Jamie Papoutsis
Photo:  Jamie Papoutsis

Bolt Bus
BoltBus is quickly outgrowing its status of being Philly's best-kept cheap transportation secret between Philly and New York. No worries about being left on the side of I95 with a broken axel (or is that just in Oregon Trail) as these buses are brand spankin' new. Owned and operated by Greyhound, the bus leaves from 30th Street between Market and Chestnut permitting passengers the perk of skipping the urine invested, homeless shelter of the Greyhound station on Filbert Street. If you book your ticket far enough in advance, you get to ride for a dollar. You can't even ride the decrepit Septa for a buck. Each seat is equipped with electrical outlets that unfortunately enable annoying chatterboxes to gab on their cell phones without fear of a dead battery. I hear they are installing an electric shock system in the next batch of buses to ward off this behavior. Uninterrupted wireless Internet makes for a tech junkie dream ride. Now you can successfully pull off "working from home" and no one will be the wiser. The clientele is predominantly a 20-30 something crowd, so if match.com isn't working out for you I suggest booking a few tickets stat!



Posted By:  Meg Favreau
Photo:  Meg Favreau

Rae
Attention ne'er-do-wells and fancy business folks! Finally, there is a place you can drink together: Rae. Situated in the high-class Cira Center, Rae is the sort of place I wouldn't normally recommend if for nothing else than the pretension factor. I mean, if you go to dinner at Rae, you can order a $1010 bottle of wine. That's just silly. But at lunchtime Rae offers $2 martinis. $2! That price makes the martini the perfect lunchtime libation for a businessperson needing to take the edge off before a big merger meeting or a hard-drinking, freeloading ne'er-do-well. The food is pretty good too (Truffle pizza? Yes please!), but expensive. Businesspeople, this shouldn't be a problem for you, but here's my tip for the ne'er-do-wells: keep a Big Mac in your pocket and eat it in the bathroom.



Posted By:  Meg Favreau
Photo:  Michael Bradley

White Dog Café
Most of us know by now that Philadelphia Brewing Company beers are a great way to go for some locally produced intoxication. But what about if you’re not a beer person? Enter Bluecoat Gin, a liquor from the great Northeast. This Wednesday local-food champion the White Dog Café is hosting a great introduction to the spirit during a “Meet the Distiller” happy hour. For $20 you get two summery cocktails mixed with the blue-bottled stuff, a bunch of hors d’eouvres, and tax and gratuity included. Plus you’ll have the opportunity to tipsily ask the distiller himself stupid questions about his juniper-infused gin. You have to reserve your spot if you want to do this, so call 215-386-9224 to get that all in order, and get ready to drink up.



Posted By:  Meg Favreau
Photo:  Meg Favreau

Zocalo
At the risk of sounding like Andy Rooney, let me ask this: why do restaurants keep giving us so much food? I don't know many people who can eat a typical entree--even a lunchtime entree--without complaining about being totally stuffed afterwards. The ideal, of course, is that we only eat until we're full and take the rest home with us, but that doesn't happen as often as it should. What usually happens instead is that we order more food than we can eat and let our ample scraps get thrown away. It's crazy because the problem would so easily be solved by restaurants either cutting portions or offering different options for portion sizes. Which brings me to this point: Zocalo has really good lunchtime portioning. Recently I ordered the empanadas, and not only were they delicious, but they were also the perfect size for a lunchtime meal. Plus Zocalo has totally sweet outdoor seating, a good tequila selection, and great desserts--desserts which, yes, I had room for.



Posted By:  Meg Favreau
Photo:  Meg Favreau

Intermezzo Café
I should begin by admitting that I haven’t been to Intermezzo’s late shift happy hour. With my work schedule the way it is, drinking from 5-7 a.m. means I’m an alcoholic, not a post-work reveler. But for those folks in Philly who do work the overnight shift, I think that Intermezzo’s happy hour is such a great idea. I mean, why should overnight workers be denied a post-work libation just because most of the world is trying to wake up when the late-shifters want to wind down? That’s why Intermezzo offers its fully stocked bar of beer, wine, and liquor not just to the normal-bar-time crowd, but the early morning folks as well. Five a.m. lager not for you? Grab something from Intermezzo’s coffee-shop menu instead. That’s right. It’s a bar and a coffee shop. Try not to stay there all day.



Posted By:  Meg Favreau
Photo:  Meg Favreau

Harold L. Zellerbach Theatre
I need to begin this post by saying that the concert I am about to write about is for a worthwhile charity that you should consider supporting. Okay? Now then: did you know that Kevin Bacon is in a band? Yes, the man who should be making Footloose 2: Ankle Problems is instead recording albums that have titles like Forosoco, “a word created from the genres [the band] consider[s] influences: Folk, Rock, Soul, and Country.” Seriously, Kevin? Forosoco? If you're pulling that, I'm going to start titling my posts “Sablo” for sarcastic blogging. Don't get me wrong, I totally advocate going to this show (April 4th at 7 and 9:30 PM). Like I said, it’s for charity, and buying a ticket will let you see the man brave enough to make Tremors live and in person. But I should also probably warn you that just like the guy who wrote that Black Crowes review recently, I'm talking about this show without ever listening to any Bacon Brothers’ music. The only differences between me and the Black Crowes reviewer are that I’m being honest about not listening to the music, and I’m not writing for Maxim. I totally could though: “OMG TITTIES and EXTREME SPORTS.” See? Easy. As for the Bacon Bros, for more information: http://www.bancroftneurohealth.org .



Posted By:  Rob Baniewicz
Photo:  Rob Baniewicz

New Deck Tavern
Bad karaoke can be transcendently amazing if done right. I eat it up with the vigor usually reserved for talented singers. And I participate whenever possible. This is why the New Deck Taven’s Tuesday karaoke nights kill me. There is no stage. In the center of the bar, amongst the crowd, the DJs set up. Probably the worst place for a stage. The MC of the event the nights I've been there is a pain in the ass. He is unabashedly smarmy, and has control issues turning off the microphone if you curse mid-set or do anything not to his liking. The last straw is the pigeon-hearted participants. They go up only on dares and as drunken jokes, and giggle throughout in an oh-my-god-i'm-so-drunk-i-can't-believe-i'm-doing-this sort of way. This may be fun for your sorority or fraternity members, but not for the rest of us, much like the entire event. All I'm asking for is a little intervention... and to never hear a group of girls sing 'Baby Got Back' again.



Posted By:  Rob Baniewicz
Photo:  Rob Baniewicz

Drexel Dragon Statue
Question: What does Drexel University have in common with the Renaissance Fair? Geeks as far as the eye can see? Yes. But what else? Dragons! Drexel has a pretty bad-ass mascot (seriously—Tar-heel? Nittany Lion?) to make up for its habitually out-performed teams. So what did the university decide was the best way to honor its fearless representative? An amazingly gaudy gold statue located at 34th and Market. Next to the statue is where your family makes you stand for a photo on graduation day. Don’t worry—at least it’ll look cool to your Ren Faire friends.



M4M

Posted By:  Rob Baniewicz
Photo:  Rob Baniewicz

Mad Mex
Drunk food. It's a very tricky subject. There are some things that look good around 1am but will destroy you (and your toilet) the next morning. But you know, if you're going to do something, do it right. This is where Mad 4 Mex comes in. This restaurant is your one stop shop for all your intoxicated desires. First off, the Mexican food is your standard fare. To enjoy it properly, however, you must indulge in one (or more) of the specialty beers, and of course, a margarita. Ask any Penn or Drexel student about the “Big Azz Margarita” and they’ll tell you about drunk dials, blackouts, and the unforgiving hangover. You might regret the booty call to your psycho ex-girlfriend (I blame the tequila) but trust me, you’ll find yourself at this place again and again.



Posted By:  Meg Favreau
Photo:  Meg Favreau

Philadelphia Main Office
My neighborhood post office is a pain in the ass. It’s only open during normal business hours (when I’m at work), and until noon on Saturday (when I’m sleeping). Does the US Postal Service think that only night janitors, bartenders, and the elderly need to send mail? Are they afraid of the torrent of packages that would befall them if they actually stayed open an hour or two later, making themselves convenient for the general public? Okay, maybe they aren’t: I recently found out that the main post office at 30th Street is open until 10 pm every day (even Sunday!). Yeah, it can be a pain to get out there, but it’s a good resource to have if you need to send mail and aren’t a night janitor, a bartender, or elderly.



Posted By:  Meg Favreau
Photo:  Laura Hylan-Cho

Penn Ice Rink at the Class of 1923 Arena
I knew I was not destined to be a sports fan when, in middle school, my friend’s father took me to a baseball game. I sat there, bored out of my brain, until the announcer decided to play the Imperial March from Star Wars over the loudspeaker. I hummed along loudly, then slumped back into boredom when the song was done. My die was cast: I was a nerd. I’ve lived pleasantly since then, reading comic books and avoiding competitive sports, until I attended a Philadelphia Freeze hockey game last year. To my surprise, I really enjoyed it. Now, a large part of this enjoyment came from the fact that skittering along the ice, the puck looked like it had a mind of its own. That’s when I realized: hockey isn’t just a sport, it’s a game of CHASING A HAUNTED PUCK THAT CAN GO WHEREVER IT WANTS. Throw in the fact that people are on skates, and I believe I have finally found the sport I can be a fan of. And you might be a fan too. The Philadelphia Freeze’s games are free, so check out their schedule on their website .



Posted By:  Rob Baniewicz
Photo:  Rob Baniewicz

International House Theater
Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Mario Bava. If the previous string of names doesn’t come across as Italian gibberish to you, you know a thing or two about a particular genre of film. In fact, I might go so far as to say you have a sicker then normal relationship with the Horror genre. So let me skip trying to teach you anything by rattling off films and a multitude of alternative titles and just get you your quick and easy doctorate in the subject of Horror. Go to the Exhumed Films 24-Hour Horrorthon for their 10th Anniversary at the International House in Philly this Saturday. That's right folks, 24 hours. The trashy, gory, artsy, and fantastically campy world of horror will be explored and dissected through 13 films that's as much a test of endurance as it is a test of your stomach. Spice in old trailers and the impeccable taste of the curators and you have yourself an amazing show. So come and celebrate Exhumed Films and join them in what will be a unique, once in a lifetime Philly event.



Posted By:  Meg Favreau
Photo:  Meg Favreau

Spiral Q Puppet Theater
There are a lot of important, yet totally boring ways to volunteer in Philadelphia. I’m not saying that to be a jerk (although yes, I totally sound like a jerk). But picking up trash in your neighborhood is something that feels good because you’re making the place better, not because it’s fun to handle old cigarette butts. So if you want to do something that’s both fun AND helpful, get involved with Spiral Q Puppet Theater. Their biggest event of the year, Peoplehood, is coming up on October 20th, and they’re looking for volunteers. I helped out with Peoplehood last year, and it was great. Thousands of kids and adults came out to participate in the puppet parade through West Philadelphia, and the event culminated in an anti-violence puppet pageant in Clark Park. Peoplehood symbolizes everything that Spiral Q is about: community building, bringing art to underserved Philadelphia communities, and working for social change. Right now Spiral Q is looking for folks to build puppets, help organize this year’s parade, and other awesome jobs. You can learn more at their website. And FYI, just because you start playing with puppets doesn’t mean you should stop picking up those cigarette butts.




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