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#myhometownguide for the City of Brotherly love directs you to the hidden food gems.
By Vicky Cohen & Ruth Fox
They call it the City of Brotherly Love. It’s historically known as the birthplace of American democracy. It’s famous for being home to the cheesesteak sandwich, water ice, soft pretzels, and TastyKakes. And over the past few years, it has rapidly become an absolute foodie town, where restaurants by top chefs like Marc Vetri, Jose Garces and Michael Solomonov (just to name a few) can be found.
But as you all probably know by now, as awesome a city as it is, Philadelphia isn’t our “real” hometown. We were born and raised in Barcelona, Spain. The reality is though, that over the past 15 years, Philadelphia has become our “adoptive” hometown. A city that we have come to love and appreciate.
So when we were asked by Honest Cooking and Fiji Water to talk about some of our favorite places in our hometown, we had to pay tribute to Philadelphia. But instead of talking about the big, super famous places that everyone knows, we decided to go with those awesome little places that locals love. You know, the “hidden gems” if you will, those little places bursting with personality, great food, interesting people and even more interesting and amazing stories behind them. Places that, in a way, reminded us a little bit of home.
These, are 5 of our favorites.
1. Greenstreet Coffee
We could have spent the entire morning enjoying our cappuccinos and chatting with Jeremy, store manager at Greenstreet Coffee in Philadelphia. He was able to somehow be the perfect host while taking care of the constant flow of “customers” that kept coming in. And we write the word “customers” in quotes, because the people coming in, seemed more like friends here. Most of them being greeted my name; being asked about their day and if they would like to have their usual drinks. I mean, talk about a place that reminded us of home! Located near Jefferson Hospital (one of the main hospitals in the city), Greenstreet Coffee is a small coffee shop that brothers Tom and Chris Molieri opened in May 2013. The shop features and array of coffees they roast in small batches at their location in South Philadelphia. Following their passion for coffee, the brothers started roasting about 3 years ago, selling mainly to restaurants, coffee shops and local Whole Foods stores.
The shop is their first retail location and since its opening, it has become a neighborhood favorite. Something that is not at all surprising. The bright colors and abundance of light coming in though the windows that surround the entire shop, give this small, cozy coffee shop a nice European feel. The friendly, neighborhood like atmosphere and the excellent quality of the coffee they serve is something that can’t be beat, and is definitely not easy to find. During our (way too short) visit, we learned a lot about coffee. Notes of watermelon, blueberry and chocolate were easily identified in the different coffee beans we smelled and tasted (no artificial flavorings needed here!). Jeremy’s passion and enthusiasm while explaining to us what we were smelling and tasting was just contagious and refreshing. And of course, it was present in the beautiful drinks he prepared for us. But perhaps the most fascinating thing we learned, was how deep their commitment to sustainability is. Both Tom and Chris travel all over to create relationships with coffee farmers and directly import their coffee, and to ensure fair dealings and practices. Coffee with a conscience, no doubt.
Because coffees are seasonal, Greenstreet offers a choice of at least 3-4 types of coffee that vary throughout the year. They like to keep things “interesting, fun and exciting” according to Jeremy. They hold complementary cuppings (or coffee tastings) to give people a chance to try all the different coffees they offer. So next time you’re in Philadelphia, make sure to stop by. We guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
1101 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Phone (610) 504-3934
2. Blackbird Pizzeria (Vegan)
First thing that happens when you walk into Balckbird Pizzeria: your nostrils gets hit with the amazing smell of fresh pizza dough baking in the oven. The second thing that happens, you look at the board and are tempted to order every single item written on it. Pizza, cheesesteaks, sandwiches, wings, chili… All made in house. All vegan. Now, you’re either totally excited to read this, or you’re rolling your eyes thinking “Blugh!!”. If that’s the case, think again. Because the truth is, vegan or not, when you have fresh, high quality ingredients and a brilliant chef working with them, you can’t expect anything other than flavorful, delicious food. All you need, is an appetite. And an open mind.
Chef Mark Mebus and friend Ryan Moylan opened Blackbird Pizzeria back in 2010. A highly experienced vegetarian chef, Mark worked at high end restaurants in both Philadelphia and New York, before contemplating the idea of opening a vegan pizza place. The idea became a reality when they found the perfect location, a former restaurant on 507 6th Street in Philadelphia. “Ryan and I pretty much remodeled this place by ourselves” , said Marc. “There was a lot of hard work involved, but we built it exactly how we wanted it”.
Blackbird offers a large variety of pizzas, sandwiches, salads and wings. All 100% vegan and, as an added “bonus”, all kosher as well. “We want to make sure everyone has a chance to enjoy our food. So getting a kosher certification was a no-brainer”
They try to keep their ingredients seasonal and local whenever possible. Their bread comes from a local bakery and the seitan used for their sandwiches and wings is made in house, as well as the pizza dough. “I’ve been working on perfecting the dough for a couple years. We don’t add any fat or sugar, and we let it ferment for 48 hours” Mark explained “I’m always trying to come up with new recipes by testing and experimenting with new ingredients” And it obviously works. Everything we’ve tasted at Blackbird so far, has been a hit. When we stopped by to chat with Mark, he offered us a slice of their best selling pizza, the “Haymaker”: seitan sausage, red onions, garlic butter, tomato sauce, vegan cheese and oregano. Simply delicious. A nice balance of flavors and textures. And the crust was out of this world. Nice and thin, firm enough to hold all the toppings. Just the way we like it. Just the way we grew up eating it!
We were also lucky enough to have a taste of the wings. Not having ever (ever) tasted wings before (regular or vegan), we were expecting something super greasy, spicy and slathered in sauce. Not even close. The guys prepared us a plate of the habanero-citrus wings. I guess we looked tough enough to handle the heat! And indeed we were. Thanks in part to the cooling, creamy avocado-cucumber dip that came with them. What an amazing combination. The wings were crisp but not greasy, covered in just the right amount of super hot habanero sauce. And the dip… well, that really took it to the next level.
Vegan or carnivore, next time you’re in the mood for casual, awesome food, make sure to stop by Blackbird Pizzeria. You will, for sure, go back again.
507 S 6th st
Philadelphia, PA, 19147
3. Sweet Freedom Bakery
Speaking of vegan treats. After you’re done enjoying your vegan cheesesteak, pizza or wings, how about indulging in some vegan pastries for dessert? Because, you know, there’s always room for dessert. Head over to 1424 South Street then, just about a mile away from Blackbird. Wait, did we say vegan? We meant vegan AND allergen free (no gluten, corn, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, casein, dairy or eggs). And if you’re about to do an eye roll again, hold on a second. Take a look at the cupcakes. Those cupcakes you see up there are probably some the most delicious we’ve ever had. Fluffy and moist, with creamy, decadent icing, bursting with flavor, without being overly sweet. Just awesome. Nothing you would expect from a pastry that is free of pretty much… everything!
This cozy little shop caters to those suffering from food allergies and intolerances, and is also certified kosher and vegan. Allison Lubert, co-founder of the bakery and a Certified Nutritional Counselor, saw the need for an allergy friendly bakery after being diagnosed with several food allergies herself. And after lots of experimenting and planning, Sweet Freedom Bakery opened its doors in 2010.
Four years later, they’re still going strong. They have already published their first cookbook, that was funded through a Kickstarter campain and they just opened a second location in Collinsgswood, NJ.
From a recipe developer’s perspective, we were amazed by the quality of the products we tasted when we visited the shop. Anyone who has ever attempted gluten free baking probably knows how challenging it is to come up with treats that aren’t dense, heavy and most of all, tasty! Experimenting quite a bit with different techniques and carefully selecting and testing their ingredients, the ladies at Sweet Freedom have been able to reach a perfect texture and consistency in their products. They use only high quality, all natural ingredients, like coconut sugar, maple syrup, ground flax seeds and cream of tartar to keep them “clean” and free from the most common allergens. From cupcakes, to cookies, donuts, bars, even ice cream. You name it, they bake it.
Need a cake or a large order for a special occasion? Make sure to give them a call. Their friendly staff will be happy to help you anything you need.
Sweet Freedom Bakery
1424 South Street (between Broad & 15th)
Phildelphia, PA 19146
4. Yards Brewing Company
Ok so now that you’ve had lunch and dessert, and you’ve (hopefully) been walking around for bit, how about a cold, refreshing beer? Better yet, why not take a tour of the brewery, learn how the beer you’re about to enjoy is made, and then sit down and drink it? If that sounds like a fun plan to you, Yards Brewing Company is the place to go. Yards Brewing Company was founded in 1994 in a garage in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia by the “Yards Guys”, friends Tom Kehoe and Jon Bovi. After moving locations several times due to the high demand, the brewery is currently located in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia, by the Delaware River waterfront, where the beer is also packed and shipped.
Not being huge beer connoisseurs ourselves, we really enjoyed taking a tour of the brewery (Yards offers free weekend tours of its brewing facility) because it gave us a chance to learn a lot. One of the coolest facts we learned about Yards, is that there are only 4 ingredients that go into their beer: grains, water, hops and yeast. That’s it. No preservatives, nothing else added (main reason why is basically only sold in the East Coast, to guarantee its freshness). An even cooler fact is how environmentally conscious they are. Yards is the first Pennsylvania wind-powered brewery. They are also big on recycling: their bar tops are made from repurposed bowling alley lanes; their tables are made stained and lacquered old doors; the pool table by the entrance? Is about a hundred years old. And even the spent grain is used by local farms as livestock feed. Those same local farms source a lot of the ingredients featured on their menu, like bison meat, whole grain breads and greens.
The chill atmosphere and friendly staff made our visit to Yards Brewing company a really fun Sunday afternoon activity. And we’re looking forward to tasting more of their different beers soon!
Yards Brewing Company
901 N. Delaware Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19123
5. Reading Terminal Market
Whether you live in Philadelphia or you’re in town just visiting, The Reading Terminal Market is definitely a place you can’t miss. For us, it’s pretty much the closest thing to the Spanish “mercados” we’ve found.
This huge public market located in the heart of the city offers an extensive variety of food options. From local meat, fish and produce vendors, to bakeries and (super popular) prepared food stands, everyone can find something to enjoy here. The amazing smells, the friendly atmosphere and, of course, the delicious foods will make your visit to the Market a unique experience. Of the dozens of vendors that can be found at the Reading Terminal Market, one of our favorites was “The Head Nut”. This little store offers an enormous variety of bulk nuts, candy and spices as well as an great selection of sauces of all kinds. Some of our favorite ingredients to use, as you probably know by now.
Another one of our favorites? Bassets Ice Cream, America’s oldest ice cream company and a fifth generation family business. Bassets has been in the Market since it opened in. 1893. And here’s a fun fact: President Obama stopped by for a scoop during his visit to Philadelphia in September 2010.
Reading Terminal Market
12th & Arch Streets