In July 2015 we were able to make it to three East Coast cities: Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Portland (Maine). Here’s what I wrote two years ago about stop #1:
To be honest, I had forgotten how much important history happened in Philly. I knew the Liberty Bell was there, but had completely forgotten about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the first halls of Congress, and all that really important foundation of the country stuff. So it was in fact perfect that we decided to do an overnight trip during the Fourth of July weekend.
Our hostel was right across the street from the historic Christ Church, which counted many American revolutionaries as part of their congregation including Ben Franklin. His nephew’s printing press is still located nearby and is in working order! We couldn’t resist buying a hand printed Declaration of Independence. Our time in Philadelphia was getting off to a very patriotic start.
When in Philly, one has to eat Philly Cheesesteak. The only problem is… Nathan and I don’t really care for cheesesteak. It’s bland and boring. But we gave it one more shot since we were in its birthplace. Unfortunately, despite going to my namesake (namesteak?) stand, Carmen’s Cheesesteak did not change our minds.
The good news was that we were in Reading Terminal Market, which has dozens more food stands to choose from. We headed over to DeNico’s which had the longest line but it moved very fast. A roll piled high with roasted pork and parmesan flecked broccoli rabe was much more satisfying.
As we meandered the streets after lunch we were naturally guided to City Hall. From 1890 to 1905 this was the tallest structure in the world. It was built before steel construction so to support such a feat the brick and stone walls had to be enormously thick. Most remarkable of all, though, is the oddly outsized statue standing proudly on top of the building. While the structure comes across as somewhat inelegant to the modern eye, its stature demonstrates how important Philadelphia was at the turn of the 20th century, when the steel industry gave it great power and before being overtaken in economic strength by NYC, Chicago, SF, etc.
The area southeast of the city hall, called Rittenhouse Square, is full of picturesque cobbled streets, cool shops (I really liked Open House on 13th St for great souvenirs and gifts) and hip restaurants. Nestled among these is the ambiguously named Franklin Mortgage & Investment, a high end cocktail bar following the popular speakeasy theme. The drinks are very well done and Nathan was so inspired by the Peanut Butter & Jelly Cocktail that he immediately began a bourbon-peanut butter infusion when we arrived home.
After drinks we tried Zahav, mostly on the recommendation of one of my favorite bloggers, David Lebovitz. How can you resist if a chef you admire says they have “life changing hummus?” I’ll give my opinion in a nutshell: the hummus is good (but I think Ottolenghi’s recipe is just as good), the salad mix plate is awesome, and the rest was tasty but overpriced. I might go back for a light meal with the salad plate, but that’s it.
The surprise food find of the trip happened by chance. Looking for a quick breakfast, we happened to walk by High Street on Market. Turns out they make all their breads in house and even get freshly milled flour from local sources. The pudding and the pastries we tried were excellent. I really want to go back to order one of the amazing looking breakfast sandwiches that were being delivered to neighboring tables. Fortunately, they just opened a NYC branch so now that’s even easier.
I went to Philadelphia with expectations of seeing the Liberty Bell and eating cheesesteak, but not much else. The city truly impressed me with its vibrant cobbled streets and yummy food. There are places I didn’t even get to try while there – Federal Doughnut for fried chicken, Franklin Fountain for ice cream sundaes,…and maybe I’ll find something healthy too :) I’ll just have to get another Philly fix.