Philadelphia. So close to New York City, it's considered by some to be a less cosmopolitan half-sibling to its glam big sister. In my 20's, a steady boyfriend decided to get an MBA at Wharton, leaving me no choice but to take the train from New York for visits. What I remember most was the trolly ride to the Italian Market for cheap and good food accompanied by unmarked red wine in unmatched jelly jars.
Now that I am married to a Philadelphia native, I know the city much better. Good enough to muse about living there some day. After all, there is much that Philadelphia does right that Miami has yet to learn -- cheap beer and a shot at most bars, green markets everywhere you turn, including the Reading Terminal Market, a colossal market in an old railroad station filled with Amish people selling meat and cheese, fresh vegetables straight from the ground, and stalls with some of the best cheap ethnic food in the U.S. (and a bar -- in the middle of the terminal), and very few uber-expensive restaurants that serve tiny food for people who would rather be seen somewhere than enjoy a nice meal.
I was curious to see what Tony Bourdain had to say about Philadelphia. First off, a rule to the hour -- there will be no cheese steaks, as in meat-on-a-roll-with-cheese-whiz that has become synonymous with the city. Also, Tony has a thing about Rocky Balboa and the whole "brotherly love" thing.
Instead, Tony will stay at the Four Seasons and visit the Italian
Market, which is actually a neighborhood lined with restaurants and
outdoor stands selling everything from fresh made sausage, to green
peppers, to seafood off the boat. Tony checks out DiBruno Brothers, which has
been around for about a century and features about 300 different
cheeses, olives, oils, and meats. Opting out of the Pat's vs. Geno's
cheese steak war, he instead heads over to Paesano's for a grinder of
chicken livers, marmalade, and cheese. "Lipitor. I sprinkle it on my
cereal," our friend boasts.
After a breakfast of pho at Pho 75, a
lunch from John's Roast Pork, and a few shots and brews,
there's art to be seen and history to be experienced. Tony goes to my
favorite spot, the Mutter Museum, located inside The College of
Physicians of Philadelphia. It's a medical museum, but you go
for the gross out factor of the skinned faces perfectly preserved, the
medical oddities like the horned man, and the giant 40-pound colon.
"That could be me," Tony quips as he reflects on what the hell you have
to eat to damage your lower intestines so badly.
You can't get away from
history in Philadelphia, but you can choose the history you want to
encounter. Tony opts to drink like the founding fathers at City Tavern,
which features an awesome collection of ales brewed from the recipes of
Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and George Washington before heading out
for a tour which highlights the prostitutes of the day. Trivia fact:
women of ill repute shaved because it was believed that less diseases
could be transmitted through a bald crotch. But then again, that was a
sign you were a harlot, so women wore merkins (crotch wigs) made from
(you guessed it) -- beaver!
You can't go to Philadelphia without
drinking. A lot. Tony heads to Stateside, a bar that features American
booze and craft beers for a shot of Pappy. As he enjoys his refreshing
libation, a guy says "my nipples are hard just watching you."
one missed opportunity in the hour is the lack of Reading Terminal
market or any market -- which is the best thing about Philadelphia. And
all that "brotherly love" shit? Well, the good natives of Philadelphia are more non-douchebaggy than
nice, as Tony finds out. There aren't a lot of velvet ropes and bottle service
means "bring your own" at many restaurants.
What you do get in Philly?
Good food, good prices, with genuine people less interested in playing
dress up and riding in schmancy cars and more interested in getting a solid meal and a drink.
And as for the cheese
steak? Go to Pat's (way better than Geno's) just once. Get the steak
with the whiz. Listen to your arteries clog as you chow down under a
mural of the Four Seasons. Check it off your bucket list as you make
your way to Mutter's to mull the 40-pound colon, wondering how much damage you just inflicted on your own.
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Here's a montage of Tony's best one liners from the Philly episode, including the ones about our founding fathers being drunk and syphilitic.