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Walking-around recommendations for downtown Philadelphia?
August 31, 2012 5:00 PM   Subscribe

Walking-around recommendations for downtown Philadelphia?

I'm going to a four-day conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. Events end daily around 5ish, and I'd love some recommendations for things to do within walking distance, especially:

Quiet coffeeshops for reading
Chill bars for a quiet drink, local beer
Sushi, Indian food, bakeries, awesome local food

I've not visited the area before, so any tips or suggestions are welcome. I will not have access to a car, is public transportation easy to use?
posted by odinsdream to Travel & Transportation around Philadelphia, PA (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Coffeeshop: La Colombe, Rittenhouse Square.

Chill Bar: I loved Liberties Bar & Grill in Northern Liberties, but it's not really walking distance from the Convention Center. But it was super relaxed and authentic with old dark wood fixtures and super-cheap beers. Including a lot of interesting local stuff. I believe they also had the Phillies game on when I was there? The cheesteak burger (blasphemy, I'm sure) is one of the best cheeseburgers I have ever had in my entire life.
posted by Sara C. at 5:15 PM on August 31, 2012


Public transportation is easy enough to use (still token based, as Philly is in the dark ages) but the subway is pretty limited in where it goes. At the convention center, you will be close to Chinatown, where the only restaurant I can speak for is Vietnam Restaurant, which I quite enjoy. You will also be right at Reading Terminal Market, which is a definite Philly highlight.

If you're interested in the history part, you will also be close to the Liberty Bell/Independence Hall/Constitution Center, etc.
posted by pitrified at 5:33 PM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I work in center city - can't help too much with specific coffeeshops and bars but I'll try and orient you to the neighborhoods around the Convention Center. Hopefully others will have more specific suggestions.

Convention center is at 12th and Arch, more or less. Definitely go to the Reading Terminal Market during the day, great place for lunch.

After 5 PM, these are the 3 areas I'd try that are close by. 1) I'd suggest walking a few blocks south - cross Market St. and Chestnut St., you're not going to find too much there. After that the streets will be Sansom, Walnut, Locust, Spruce. You should find a lot of places in that area, from 13th, 12th and continuing to around 10th or so. There are some Indian restaurants along Walnut and maybe Locust but I can't vouch for how good they are.

2) A little longer walk (but less than a mile) is the Rittenhouse Square area already mentioned. This starts around Broad St to past 19th St. from Walnut and continuing south several blocks. Lots of restaurants, bars, and coffeeshops all over the place.

3) Another slightly longer walk (but also less than a mile) is Old City. Go to Market St and head east (the numbered streets get lower heading East). Lots of bars and restaurants are concentrated in this area from about 4th to 2nd St., a few blocks on either side of Market. There's an Indian restaurant I like at 2nd and Chestnut called Karma.

You can't go wrong with taking a walk in any of these areas - you should stumble on some great places. In all these neighborhoods I'm always seeing cool looking coffeeshops but since I'm not a coffee drinker I can't remember exactly where.

Oh, and as someone mentioned - you'll be very close to Chinatown, which begins just a block or two from the Convention Center.

And yes, public transportation is easy to use if you wanted to go a bit farther. There's a subway line that runs under Market St and good bus service. Google "Septa" for some maps, that's the name of the transit system.
posted by daikon at 6:09 PM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Man, I used to take everyon who came to my house for a walking tour of Philadelphia that went right by the convention centre. If we rotate things a bit, then the first stop is Reading Terminal Market which is right there. From there, you will head east on Market into old city, taking note of the Constitution Centre and peering in through the window at the Liberty Bell Museum (seriously, you can see it through the window, don't stand in line. Directly to the south, clearly visible across the commons, is Independence Hall.

There is an optional detour at this point where you can keep going east. There is a pretty neat (and free) Benjamin Franklin museum at the site of his old house at 3rd and Market. After taking that in, you can walk down 2nd Street to Walnut and take in the strangeness of a club district in the middle of old city, one of the most historical sites in the USA. go east on Walnut to Front St. and then Down Front to South, admiring still more of old city. South Street, you will take west from Front to 7th. This was once the coolest part of Philly, though it has started to lose its shine. Even so, there are plenty of pubs and tattoo shops and record stores and whatnot and it's still pretty cool.

Heading north on 7th, you will run into Washington Square park, which is one of the four big parks marking the original boundaries of the city. Thousands of unidentified soldiers from the revolutionary war are buried in unmarked graves under this park and so it has a reputation for being haunted. There is an eternal flame which warrants a moment of silence.

Exit the park through the north East corner and head up 6th street to Chestnut. Independence hall will be on your right. Detour over.

Take in Independence hall, and admire the statue of whatshisname the commodore who founded the U.S. Navy. From here you will head south one street to Sansom and then west on Sansom Street, passing through the oldest diamond district in America and then past many of the trendiest dining and drinking spots in the city. You will cross Broad Street, being sure to look north and take in the majesty of City Hall, and then stop in for a pint of microbrew at the Nodding Head (15th and Sansom).

At this point you will head north one street again and find your self on Chestnut. Walking west along Chestnut, you will pass though some very upscale boutique shopping areas before eventually finding yourself at 20th street. You will stop there and get a sandwich at Primo Hoagies. It is the only real hoagie and surely you are tired after all that walking. If you want, you can buy a can of beer at the takeaway next door and then eat and drink on the steps of the church one block west.

Keep going west two more block to 22nd street. Head north and seriously consider stopping in at the Mutter Museum (on 22nd between Chestnut and Market). If you only see one museum in Philadelphia, this is the one to see.

Continuing north up 22nd will bring you to Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the perfect position to admire the stunning architecture of the Art Museum. You're not going to the Art Museum today though, not after all that walking. If art museums are your thing, it needs at least a day on it's own. Instead, turn southeast and walk back towards City Hall. Take note of all the great sculpture, fountains and statuary along the international way.

Soon enough you will find yourself at City Hall. It's really something. Walk into the courtyard, admire the masonry. Then head out the east side and, what do you know, you're back where you started.

It's been a good day.
posted by 256 at 6:20 PM on August 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


That is not a good area after 5. (Just not much to do.) You should go to another area and cab back. (Vietnam is the best walking-distance restaurant I can think of. Hop Sing Laundry just opened in Chinatown and is supposed to have good cocktails. Probably crowded though.)

Northern Liberties is good, but getting a little bro-ish on weekends. The can't-go-wrong bar there is Standard Tap. Meets all your bar requirements. Make sure you sit upstairs for the ultimate in relaxation. North Third is good too. I've never heard of the one Sara C mentioned but I haven't frequented NL in a while.

Avoid Old City on weekends (basically gets annexed by Jersey), but on weeknights, National Mechanics is great. Han Dynasty is amazing Sichuan. Eulogy has uncountable beers and solid Belgian pub grub.

Center City is not terribly large, but bars are hit-or-miss. Monk's is a definite hit. Franklin Mortgage has amazing cocktails. Village Whiskey (a Garces joint) has great burgers and copious whiskey. Tria is a good wine and snacks bar, with a few excellent beer selections. I went to its West Philly sibling today for dinner. Make sure you have some Capo Giro gelato. I find Stephen Starr restaurants to be overrated. Any bar is going to be pretty relaxed on a weeknight but bustling on the weekend.

Lots of coffee shops serve La Colombe coffee. The actual La Colombe shop is usually quite crowded. Ultimo has arguably displaced it for great beans, but that's way out of your way.

For Indian I like Indian Restaurant (yep, really) and Tiffin. Neither especially close, but both will prob deliver to you. Karma is good too.

If you venture to West Philly (bus or trolley is your best bet, but be sure to plan your return in advance; SEPTA website or Google maps are indispensable) Local 44 and Dock Street are great. Dock Street have their own brews and Local 44 has an attached bottle shop now.

Avoid cheesesteak Vegas (Pat's/Geno's). Not worth it. I would also avoid South Street, but that's just me and I'm a misanthrope.
posted by supercres at 6:25 PM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. makes the best cocktails in Philly in my opinion. Pretty quiet (speakeasy-style) but could be a wait.

Capo Giro
is the best for gelato and you can also sit at a table with coffee.

I have become really fond of Nook for a relaxing coffee or tea and pastries. Reading Terminal is really the best place for pastries though--check out Flying Monkey, for instance.

Walk around Chinatown for the food; my friends are fond of Rangoon.
posted by mlle valentine at 6:26 PM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh and I should second Monk's, which is awesome if beer is more your thing than cocktails; ditto for Tria for wine and cheese. (And I see I should give supercres credit for mentioning the Franklin and Capo Giro first as well! Clearly I am redundant,)
posted by mlle valentine at 6:28 PM on August 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


(Ah, but it was worth it for the Rangoon mention, which I somehow forgot. I don't get up the way as much as I'd like!)
posted by supercres at 6:32 PM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is great! Thanks everyone so far!

Any suggestions for breakfast near the convention center?
posted by odinsdream at 6:42 PM on August 31, 2012


Reading Terminal, definitely! The Dutch Eating Place (Amish, obviously, not low-country) is cheap and great. Mmmm, the homemade butter.
posted by supercres at 7:06 PM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you have a bit of time to kill, take a tour of the Masonic Temple. It is an unbelievably stunning building.
posted by usonian at 7:46 PM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Head north and seriously consider stopping in at the Mutter Museum (on 22nd between Chestnut and Market). If you only see one museum in Philadelphia, this is the one to see.

Agreed, though I'd add that, if you like art at all, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a must see. It's one of the best collections in the US, especially if you like modern/contemporary/minimalist/conceptual art. Though there's tons of Impressionism and cool Shaker furniture and other more accessible stuff. If you like Marcel Duchamp it would be a crime not to go to the PMA. Also, I believe right now there's a Gauguin exhibit on. But seriously, the Philly Museum is one of the great museums. It's not entirely walkable from where you're staying, and not terribly accessible via public transit. But if you have a way of getting there, you absolutely sure.
posted by Sara C. at 11:27 PM on August 31, 2012


Agree with previous posts: Monks, Reading Terminal, Indian Restaurant, Capo Giro, etc.

You might want to check out Nodding Head brewpub (run by the same folks as Monks) they have a rotating list of interesting brews that is quite good.

Vis a vis sushi, a cheap take out sushi joint is Vics at 21st and Sansom. Solid sushi for not too much. And they deliver.

For "local" philly cuisine, you can't go wrong with DiNic's roast pork sandwich in Reading Terminal--in addition to the crusty hoagie roll & requisite meat, you can request to add sauteed spinach or broccoli rabe, a grilled pepper, and sharp provolone. A monster sandwich that beats the usual "wiz, wit" (with cheez-whiz & onions steak sandwich) that is often associated with Philly.

Zinc is a fine place for a quiet french bistro dinner at 11th & Locust that I would recommend and somewhat off the beaten path of the flashy Center City scene. If you are into well executed Israeli/middle-eastern/eastern Mediterranean food (non-kosher, if that matters) Zahav is a great place if somewhat pricey and its sister establishment Federal Dounts (haven't personally been) has been favorably reviewed by the NYT and my friends seem to say it is legit. Also, for cheap, filling and delicious eats in chinatown, check out Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House at 10th and Race st. Handmade noodles served with soup and veggies and meat. They just moved to the expanded location and their menu goes beyond their well-known noodle soups. You might check that out.

All of the places (with the exception of Federal Donuts) are all within a 15-20 minute walk of the convention center.
posted by scalespace at 12:04 AM on September 1, 2012


Sushi: If you're price insensitive, Morimoto has some excellent sushi. It's a collaboration between Iron Chef Morimoto and the prolific Philadelphia restauranteur Stephen Starr. I mention Starr because he has huge influence on the Philadelphia dining scene due to the fact that he runs a LOT of the city's successful restaurants.

Italian Sandwiches: Paesano's has some interesting choices, I love the Liveracce and the Paesano in particular. If you want a cheesesteak, do yourself a favor and get a pork sandwich with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe instead (as noted in a previous comment, you can get this in Reading Terminal Market which is a fantastic place for you to go to lunch, due to selection, quality, and proximity.)

Beer Bars: Eulogy and Monk's are Belgian joints, they're both small (Eulogy is smaller) and tend to be crowded. Standard Tap usually has a decent selection of local brews. I might suggest The Boilermaker.

Generally speaking, most of what you want to visit as a first-time Philadelphia visitor is in a few areas: Old City and Northern Liberties (chestnut to arch, 2nd and 3rd streets... near the Constitution Center, City Hall, Liberty Bell) have lots of bars and restaurants. The Rittenhouse Square area (literally on the square, plus a few blocks down the nut streets) have shopping, bars and restaurants. The Philadelphia Art Museum and the Barnes Collection are both on the same boulevard.
posted by grudgebgon at 5:42 AM on September 1, 2012


quiet coffee shop open after 5 - Almaz Cafe on 21st right above Walnut is extremely calm and relaxed, and also has Ethiopian food in addition to the usual coffee shop fare. Cafe Loftus on 15th right above Walnut is also nice but doesn't stay open very late. Oh, and there's a new place on Logan Circle (roughly 18th and Race) called Sister Cities Park that is really nice, and stays open til 7 or 8. The building is beautiful and has a great view of the circle, and they serve lots of local food and drinks. In Old City I like Cafe Ole, on 3rd near Race.

Indian food - Philadelphia Chutney Co on Sansom between 16th and 17th has great dosas and other south Indian food.

Pastries - In addition to what everyone else mentioned, there are two Bonte' cafes that have liege waffles, one on 17th right below Sansom and one on Walnut between 9th and 10th. And if you find yourself in Old City there is a place called Tartes on Arch between 2nd and 3rd that is absolutely fantastic. It's a tiny pink building and your order through the window.

Bars - go north on 13th, over the sunken Vine St expressway, past Callowhill St, to Prohibition Taproom (it's only a few blocks). It can get crowded Friday and Saturday nights but is otherwise quite, with great food and nice people. It seems to be in the middle of nowhere but is my favorite bar in the city. Monks is also not to be missed if you are into beer.

Sushi - a Japanese friend who is a fish dealer for many sushi restaurants in the city only goes to Umai Umai, which is around 21st and Spring Garden.

Public transit is easy, both the north-south Broad Street Line (orange) and the east-west Market-Frankford (blue) line go through the station at 15th St, and the Market-Frankford stops at 11th and 13th right by the convention center. Anywhere you'd want to go is no more than a 15 min train ride. If you get bored with Center City, you can take the Broad St line down to the Tasker-Morris stop and walk east to the center of the Italian neighborhood in South Philadelphia. There are lots of good restaurants and bars down there, and it has a different feel than Center City.
posted by sepviva at 10:30 AM on September 1, 2012


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