Fork in the Road thinks you should get out of town this summer, even if it’s only for a day. In this Summer Fridays series, we’re covering the best spots to eat in popular day trip locations. See more Summer Fridays ideas in our archives.
In less than the two hours it takes for Rocky the Musical to send you back to 70s era Philly, you can transport yourself to the modern day city of brotherly love by bus, train, or your best friend’s car — and that makes it day trip-friendly. When you get there, you’ll need to eat: Here’s the rundown on where to find everything from brisket ramen to red eye danishes, an edible tour that’ll leave you plenty of time left to conquer the Art Museum steps. Head down early; the last train to New York leaves at midnight.
Whether or not you have a ticket for the big 13-course show here, the glass-walled Bar Volver (300 South Broad Street; 215-670-2303) welcomes all. And smoking is even allowed in the form of your first sip this trip by way of a smoked marcona old fashioned. Before your bartender stirs Old Overholt rye with almond bitters, he or she will flavor your glass with the air of an alder wood plank torched before you.
The price is right here, too: Four-star New York restaurant bars don’t offer shareable plates — like this platter of open-faced shaved Wagyu, smoked salmon, and Spalaccia ham sandwiches — for under $10.
If you do decide to splurge on the dining room at Volver (and we’d make the trip just for that), you’ll need a ticket in advance. That guarantees you won’t have to wait until breakfast for your table, though a dish called milk & cereal will still be part of your dinner. Add your own splash of white asparagus milk to a bowl of creamy quail egg and crunchy rice flakes afloat with bacon, chicken oyster, truffle, and thyme marshmallows.
If you’re looking for Jose Garces after dinner, you might find him at Chinatown speakeasy Hop Sing Laundromat (1029 Race Street; no phone). You likely won’t run into any lost tourists from nearby Reading Terminal Market here, either, because the Volver dress code still applies here.
Once you’ve pressed the buzzer and passed the unmarked gate you’ll find Hop Sing’s enigmatic proprietor Lê overseeing chilled red grapes freshly pressed for the bar’s signature drink, the Henry Box Brown, and a newly debuted shots program discounting the most premium well booze in the U.S., including $6.66 nips of Glen Grant 16, and Yamazaki 12 for just $9.99. Just be warned that the cash only establishment has a few other policies beside its dress code — no photos and no phone calls.
Check out the flips, too: This creamy fizzy Saigon Flip mixes Gosling’s Family Reserve and El Dorado rums with condensed milk and a bottle of club soda on the side so you can craft just the right froth.
While the city’s best bar is in Chinatown, the best Asian food is not. And never mind sampling Stephen Starr’s New York imports Morimoto and Buddakan, or Momofuku export Serpico, when you can dine instead on more virtuously inauthentic eastern fare like fish flake fries, barbecued pig tails, and pork and pickle dumplings in chili oil at Cheu Noodle Bar (255 South 10th Street; 267-639-4136) .
Owners Shawn Darragh and Ben Puchowitz are still months away from opening their South Philly dim sum bar, but those small plates share menu space with soulful bowls of brisket ramen, coconut curry, and these mouthwatering hand-torn noodles layered with lamb’s neck and pickled mustard greens.
Trek further downtown past Independence Mall and follow the aroma of roasted potato bread toward High Street on Market (308 Market Street; 215-625-0988). Next door to its sister restaurant, chef Eli Kulp’s and owner Ellen Yin’s Fork, High Street’s a casual bakery cafe where Sullivan Street Bakery vet Alex Bois has mastered a number of sandwiches: potato bread supporting a cultured buttered grilled cheese, the pretzel roll packing beet cured salmon, and the semolina loaf housing these duck meatballs coated in melted Lancaster Young Swiss and liver and onions.
Take breads, rolls, and bagels back to New York, but we’ll bet your pastries — like a coffee gravy red eye danish bursting with Benton’s ham — won’t last even the bus line.
Wander up 2nd Street from High Street to Northern Liberties and you’ll soon reach The Piazza at Schmidt’s. Recently deloused of its Brooklyn Flea satellite, the massive open-air apartment complex resembles a stadium-sized Hoboken, its interior courtyard equipped with a 40-foot LED TV screen is easily mistaken for a beer garden, and is home to PYT, the nationally lauded (and SNL-mocked) burger bar famous for weekly specials like bacon shell tacos. Breach the Piazza’s outer wall after dinner and you’ll discover PYT’s sister bar Emmanuelle (1052 North Hancock Street #67; 267-639-2470), a sultry crimson cocktail den manned by Farmer’s Cabinet veterans Phoebe Esmon and Christian Gaal.
Esmon’s menu attracts a more mature palate with drinks like Attack Ships on Fire, shaking watermelon juice and jalapeño with Rhum Clement Premier Canne and garnished with a house-pickled watermelon rind. (And not only does Esmon pickle, she even crafts fig preserves and pepper jelly for the bar’s cheese plates.)
And, by the time you read this, Emmanuelle will have introduced its twice-nightly Grumpy Hour, when a classic list of curmudgeonly old man drinks like martinis and Manhattans are only $8.
Here’s another reservation worth traveling for: Put yourself in the hands of Le Bec Fin vet Nick Elmi and book a weekend table at the Top Chef champion’s recently opened Laurel (1617 East Passyunk Avenue; 215-271-8299), where you’ll savor the charred skin and tender flesh of this Hudson Valley duck breast, painted with peas, spruce, and black garlic. A la carte during the week, come Friday and Saturday night the dish features in a $75 seven-course tasting menu alongside albacore tuna dusted with fast-melting horseradish snow and a fast disappearing caramelized white chocolate pudding.
If you’ve spent your afterrnoon shopping Walnut Street to the edge of Rittenhouse Square, head to a.bar (1737 Walnut Street; 215-825-7035). Since the cocktail and raw bar opened last fall, it’s given the Fork crew a Center City foothold where you’ll find classic dishes like spirals of east and west coast oysters by the dozen and tuna tartare with squid ink crackers.
You’ll also find High Street’s creativity applied here to crustaceans, including this lobster roll doused in smoked uni mayo and stuffed in a charred potato roll, paired with a complementary sweet and herbaceous Parkside blending Flor de Cana rum and Velvet Falernum with celery juice and tarragon.
If summer Fridays away from the city mean vegging out and not passing out, America’s cheesesteak capital still has you covered. Kick off your day at Rittenhouse Square’s Hip City Veg (127 South 18th Street; 215-278-7605) for healthful indulgences like green smoothies, banana whips, and orangecicle shakes, and spoil yourself for dinner at Vedge, (1221 Locust Street; 215-320-7500), considered the best vegan restaurant in America for sweet and savory seasonal hot plates like seared hearts of palm, warm ramp tarts, and cherry jelly doughnuts with horseradish cream.
Or if your idea of vegetarian food is simply donuts, head to Center City’s Federal Donuts (1632 Sansom Street; 215-665-1101), and do it fast. There’s two styles of house ‘nuts here: fried-to-order, sugared fresh ’til close, and seasoned with rotating sweet spices like Indian cinnamon and strawberry lavender; and “fancy” donuts, like these chocolate covered strawberry frosteds made early and sold out not too much later.
Federal Donuts also sells fried chicken coated in savory glazes like chili garlic and buttermilk ranch.
Consider taking the newly introduced chocolate cake donut for the road.