by Jackie Broo
It’s not easy being the cradle of American democracy.
Think of Philadelphia and you picture guys in wigs, short pants and silk stockings. In the past, Philadelphia has suffered from an image problem, at least if you’re looking for trendy nightlife and entertainment. But that’s changing. In 2005 Philly is putting the “PH” back in fun with plenty of food and entertainment.
And for those of us who love history, it’s as good as ever.
If you’re looking for things to do beyond the official events of the NAB Radio Show, or plan to stay an extra day or two, here are some ideas.
Philadelphia was founded in 1682 by English Quaker William Penn. Quakers were known for their tolerance of religions and ethic groups. The town eventually became known as “The City of Brotherly Love” because of this openness.
King Charles II gave Penn land that included 1,280 acres between the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers. Penn imagined a “green countrie towne” and his surveyor came up with a grid pattern that included five public squares, all still in existence. The city today is home to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed and the Constitution written; it retains its character as a waterfront and naval community even as promoters also point to its more recent renaissance and a reputation as a city of restaurants. The city is the fifth-largest in the country and second on the East Coast. For Arbitron it is Market No. 6, with a Metro 12+ population of 4.35 million.
The city has been home to musical greats like Dizzy Gillespie, Frankie Avalon, Teddy Pendergrass, The O’Jays and Patti LaBelle. Clubs continue to crank out the music.
Leading the pack for many club hoppers is Warmdaddy’s (4 S. Front Street, 215-627-8400), a place to kick back at the end of the day and listen to live blues and jazz. Other clubs of note are Chris’ Jazz Club (1421 Sansom Street, 215-568-3131); Zanzibar Blue (200 S. Broad Street, 215-732-4500); Ortlieb’s Jazzhaus (847 N. Third Street, 215-922-1035); Shampoo Dance Club (Willow between 7th & 8th Ave., 215-922-7500); and Tragos (38 S. 19th Street, 215-636-9901).
Philadelphia is a sports fan’s paradise, with major sports teams in baseball, football, basketball and hockey.
The football Eagles host the Raiders on Sunday Sept. 21. The baseball Phillies are on the road during the Radio Show, and return the following Monday to host the Mets.
As a sports-crazy town, the city has its share of sports bars. Grab a bite to eat at McFadden’s Restaurant & Saloon (11th St. and Pattison Ave., 215-928-0669) in the Phillies’ new ballpark.
Also check out Buffalo Billiards, 118 Chestnut Street, 215-574-7665; Cavanaugh’s, 119 S. 39th Street, 215-386-4889; Champions Sports Bar, 1201 Market Street, 215-625-6066; O’Neal’s, 611 South Third Street, 215-574-9495; Reunion Sports Bar, Holiday Inn Independence Mall, 4th and Arch Streets, 215-923-8660; and Tony Luke’s Beef and Beer Sports Bar, 26 East Oregon Ave., South Philadelphia, 215-465-1901.
Junk food aficionados rejoice. Philadelphia could be the junk food capital of the world. It boasts perennial favorites such as cheesesteaks, Tastykakes (Tastykakes Baking Company, 29th & Allegheny Ave., 800-33-TASTY), peanut chews, pretzels (Philadelphia Soft Pretzels Inc., 4315 N. 3rd Street, 215-324-4315), hoagies (Campo’s Deli, 214 Market Street, 215-923-1000 and Primo Hoagies, 21st and Chestnut Streets, 215-463-8488), cream cheese and America’s first successful bubble gum, Dubble Bubble, whipped up here by Walter Diemer of Fleer Co.
Forget the calories, forget the fat content. The Philly cheesestake is the king of “steak” sandwiches. A fresh-baked Italian sub roll stuffed with thinly sliced rib eye steak, cheese (or Cheez Whiz) and fried onions is a little bit of heaven on earth.
The king (and some say creator) is Pat’s King of Steaks in heart of south Philadelphia at 237 Passyunk Ave.
Other Places to Eat
Barbecue fans should be on the look out for Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse (7500 State Road, 215-287-1356). The former lunch truck has evolved into a proper sit-down joint for eating barbecue cooked from scratch in a hickory wood-burning pit.
Fine dining is alive and vibrant in the City Center and is led by the award-winning Le Bec-Fin (1523 Walnut Street, 215-567-1000), Philadelphia’s premier French restaurant, and the Food Channel’s Iron Chef Japanese namesake, Morimoto’s (723 Chestnut Street, 215-413-9070). Other City Center restaurants include Alma De Cuba (1624 Walnut Street, 215-988-1799), Brasserie Perrier (1619 Walnut Street, 215-568-3000), Davio’s (111 South 17th Street, 215-563-4810); Tangerine Restaurant (232 Market Street, 215-627-5116), Roy’s – Philadelphia (124-34 South 15th Street, 215-988-1814), and Shula’s Steak House (Wyndham Philadelphia at Franklin Plaza, 215-448-2700).
Stop, Shop and Drop
Grab some plastic and head out to Philadelphia’s shopping venues including the upscale shopping district centered on 17th and Walnut Streets, factory outlets and street vendors. Philadelphia shows its love to shoppers by not charging tax on clothing in stores.
Jeweler’s Row, bounded by Walnut, Chestnut, Seventh and Eighth Streets, includes the second-biggest concentration of diamond sellers in the United States after Manhattan’s West 47th Street. If none of the 300-odd jewelry shops have what you are looking for, you can browse the stylish, individually owned clothing and antique furniture shops in nearby Old City. The most original shops are clustered between Second and Third and Arch and Walnut Streets.
Rittenhouse Square features an area of beautiful boutiques, salons and restaurants, including al fresco brasseries that look out onto the greenery of a park.
Guys in Wigs Again
No, we’re not talking about a drag queen show. Philadelphia is the home of the Independence National Historical Park, where the first Continental Congress was held, the Declaration of Independence was signed and the Liberty Bell rang out. (The bell dates to 1753; the crack had shown up by 1846.) At the National Constitution Center in the Park, buy a ticket to view a live performance of a costumed 1776 actor and access to interactive displays for a fun crash course in history.
Philadelphia is a city of firsts. In addition to being the reputed birthplace of the American flag, stitched by Betsy Ross, the city was the site of the first presidential mansion. It’s home to the first public zoological gardens, founded by Benjamin Franklin (who would have been 300 this January) in 1874, and the first daily newspaper, which rolled off the presses in September 1784. Johann Behrent constructed the first American piano here in 1775, and Philadelphia was home to the first computer, ENIAC, which booted up in 1946.
Other firsts include the country’s first public grammar school, public library, life insurance company, volunteer fire department, hospital, medical and dental schools, university, mint, municipal water system and zoo.
And military history buffs should not miss the retired, mighty battleship USS New Jersey, just across the river in Camden.