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    Where to eat in Philadelphia: guide to the best clubs and speakeasies in the city

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    Joel Fulleda

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    Philadelphia (or Philly) is the sixth largest city in the United States by population and one of the oldest. Its proximity to New York makes it an ideal destination as a weekend getaway from the Big Apple or as a destination in its own right thanks to its rich history (the Declaration of Independence was drafted here in 1776) and stimulating art and culinary scene.

    The latter has also developed thanks to the influences of Italian immigrants, giving life to traditional dishes such as Philly cheesesteak and hoagies. However, there is no shortage of refined restaurants, craft breweries and elegant speakeasies.


    • Sampan Graffiti Bar
    • La Colombe Coffee Roasters (Fishtown)
    • Reading Terminal Market
    • Vesper
    • Bassetts Ice Cream
    • Spruce Street Harbour Park
    • The best cheesesteak

    Sampan Graffiti Bar

    If after a day of museums and walks you want to refresh yourself before returning to the hotel, look no further. This is the place to be if you love relaxed atmospheres, graffiti and Asian food. The Sampan Graffiti Bar it is tucked away in an alley next to the Sampan restaurant and is most famous for its happy hour (Monday to Friday from 16 to 19 pm).

    It is not easy to find it because the “Graffiti Bar” sign is quite small, but just slip into the narrow street between the red brick walls. The menu features special Asian dishes created by chef Schulson and range from satay (skewers) to dumplings. Accompany these saucers to share with special cocktails or sake. Try the Kung Pao chicken wings and the beef dumplings.

    Opening Hours: Sunday, Monday and Tuesday from 16 to 22 pm, Wednesday and Thursday from 16 to 23 pm, Friday and Saturday from 16 to midnight.
    Address: 124 S 13th St
    Prices: from $ 3 to $ 25, here the complete menu

    La Colombe Coffee Roasters (Fishtown)

    As much as I may love espresso and traditional Italian bars, nothing beats American coffe shops (or cafes) in terms of hospitality and taste in design. Exposed beams, wooden tables and brick walls make of La Colombe a Fishtown one of the nicest cafes I've ever visited. It is located in a very quiet and definitely not touristy area.

    La Colombe also has outlets in New York, Chicago, Washington, Los Angeles and Boston, but its headquarters are right here in Philly. It was one of the first companies to adopt the so-called direct trade, which consists in the supply of coffee based on direct contacts with farmers. The coffee is excellent and is served in beautiful decorated ceramic mugs.

    To a cup of joe (so Americans often refer to a cup of coffee) or their popular draft latte (coffee and cold milk on tap) pair one of the delicious scones.

    Opening Hours: Sunday-Thursday from 7 to 19, Friday and Saturday from 7 to 21; happy hour Monday-Friday from 17 to 19 pm.
    Address: 1335 Frankford Avenue
    Prices: coffee $ 2,50 to $ 4, sweets $ 2,50-$ 3

    Reading Terminal Market

    I have described it in the past as a "foodies paradise". The Reading Terminal Market it is in fact ideal if your stomach has no bottom: it will be difficult to resist the delicacies that the stands put on display, so once you enter, leave out the guilt feelings.

    Opened in 1893, this market serves as both a hub for Philadelphia residents to purchase fresh produce, and as a space for a lunch break for tourists or workers. It is a real tourist attraction that is worth visiting even with a full stomach. Here you can also taste the famous Philly Cheesesteak at Carmen's (the line is usually long but it has to be done) and finish the meal with one of the donuts produced according to the Amish tradition of Pennsylvania at Beiler's Bakery. These cost only $ 1 each.

    Opening Hours: every day from 8 to 18
    Address: 51 North 12th Street
    Prices: vary by stand


    Impossible to resist the charm of speakeasies. In cities like Philadelphia and New York there are many, but (rightly so) it's not always easy to find them. A local girl suggested the Vesper and I decided to try it after dinner. You will have two options: stay at the bar on the ground floor or go downstairs passing behind a bookcase and whispering the password on the phone. Try asking the person at the entrance if they can tell you.

    When I went, the speakeasy was closed, so I was "satisfied" with the main bar. The atmosphere is intimate, with soft lighting, jazz music and a nice bar with alcohol in sight. You can eat or just drink something. My choice fell on an Old Fashioned and a beer accompanied by house tortillas and guacamole.

    Don't know what a speakeasy is?

    The speakeasies were the places where, during the 20s, in the height of prohibition, alcohol was illegally sold. Today times have changed but speakeasies still retain some characteristics of the original: they are often small, almost impossible to find, have an intimate clientele and an unmistakable atmosphere.

    Altri speakeasy, suggeriti dai locals: The Ranstead Bar, The Franklin Bar, Hop Sing Laundromat

    Opening Hours: the restaurant is open Monday-Wednesday from 17 to 22, Thursday-Saturday 17-23, closed on Sunday; the bar is open every day until 2 am.
    Address: 223 Sydenham Street
    Prices: to drink from $ 13 and up

    Bassetts Ice Cream

    Photo by viviandnguyen_

    And the America's oldest ice cream parlor and for this alone it is worth the visit. The Bassett family started making ice cream in 1861 in their garden thanks to the inventiveness of Lewis Dubois Bassett and today they can boast a distribution that expands throughout the United States. The most famous point of sale is the one at Reading Terminal Market, which opened in 1892 and is now run by two grandsons of Lewis Dubois, Michael Strange and Roger Bassett.

    The flavors range from the classics such as strawberry and chocolate to the more particular such as eggnog (a famous liqueur that is drunk at Christmas in America) and pumpkin.

    Opening Hours: Monday-Friday from 9 to 18, Saturday from 9 to 18 and Sunday from 9 to 17.
    Address: inside Reading Terminal Market 45 North 12th Street; bars and ice cream parlors sell Bassetts Ice Cream and are scattered throughout the city. Here is the complete list.
    Prices: 5-7 $

    Spruce Street Harbour Park

    This "urban beach" is born along the Delaware River where locals and tourists have been relaxing during the summer evenings since 2014. You can lie down on one of the fifty hammocks scattered throughout the park and chat under the light of the thousands of light bulbs hanging in the trees or stroll along the boardwalk.

    Of course, there is no shortage of restaurants and bars. In fact, it is here that some of the most famous chefs in the city have decided to offer their delicacies, from tacos to pizza, to traditional hot dogs. Like the events, the restaurants also change from year to year, but among these the evergreens are for example Harborside Pizza, Federal Donuts (for donuts and fried chicken sandwiches) and SS Franklin Fountain (ice cream).

    Being open only in summer and until early autumn, I recommend that you come and eat here in the evening to enjoy the light show to the fullest and to avoid suffering too much from the heat. Ice cold local beers will definitely help you.

    Opening Hours: from May to October
    Address: Spruce Street & S. Columbus Boulevard
    Prices: vary by stand

    The best cheesesteak

    In addition to Carmen's cheesesteak, these are two must-see places to eat the best cheesesteak in town:

    • Pat’s King of Steaks
      Pat and Harry Olivieri are the proponents of the famous cheesesteak and founders of this restaurant opened in the 30s.
      It is located at 1237 E Passyunk Ave.
    • Geno Steaks
      Right across from Pat's King of Steaks is rival Geno Steaks, which opened in 1966. Today it is run by Geno's son, Joey Vento.
      It is located at 1219 S 9th St.



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