East Passyunk

By Joy Manning | September 11, 2017
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Black & Brew cafe’s mosaic-clad entrance
Black & Brew cafe’s mosaic-clad entrance

A bite of the new South Philly

When I moved to East Passyunk from Queen Village in 2006, I thought I was moving to Foodie Siberia. Little did I realize that this section of South Philadelphia was about to become the most exciting place in town to eat and drink. In one scene of the documentary King Georges, chef Georges Perrier compares East Passyunk Avenue favorably to Paris.

While that may be a stretch, for 11 years now I’ve watched the food scene flourish outside my own stoop. Today people come from all over the region to hang out here. In 2012, I wrote about “the Avenue” for Food & Wine magazine. My story was part of the magazine’s “Top 10 Foodie Streets in America” feature.

Those words would come back to haunt me a few years later when I began my search for a slightly bigger row house in my neighborhood; they were quoted in every real-estate listing I reviewed. Great! I created a monster and priced myself out of my own neighborhood, I thought. (It took two years, but we found the East Passyunk house of our dreams eventually.)

Whether you live nearby or are visiting from another part of the region, let me be your guide to the culinary delights you’ll find here. There are so many places to see and so many restaurants to visit that it’s impossible to taste all the good stuff in one day. I’m leaving many outstanding places out, but this one-day itinerary is a good start.

Honestly, if you love food, I think you should also buy a house here and spend your life enjoying this cluster of blocks. But if you’ve only got a day to take in all that East Passyunk has to offer, this is how I’d suggest you do it. By the time you head home, I bet you’ll be planning a return trip. Or may be setting up a Zillow alert for 19148.

East Passyunk Avenue’s famous singing fountain PHOTOGRAPH: REBECCA McALPIN
East Passyunk Avenue’s famous singing fountain
PHOTOGRAPH: REBECCA McALPIN

9AM: COFFEE AT BLACK & BREW CAFÉ

This welcoming neighborhood café was one of the first of the new guard to set up shop on Passyunk in the mid-aughts. Today, there are newer, flashier spots to get a trendy coffee drink, but Black & Brew remains my favorite—not only for its draft lattes and solid BLTs, but also for the sense of community I feel as I sit there hunched over my laptop or having a coffee meeting with an Edible Philly contributor.

10AM: SIT BY THE SINGING FOUNTAIN

No visit to East Passyunk can be complete without enjoying the neighborhood’s most famous landmark. Grab a bench or a seat at one of the chess tables and relax as the familiar stylings of Frank Sinatra fill the air from the fountain’s speakers. This is the ideal place to take the pulse of the neighborhood. You’ll see moms and dads with strollers, plenty of folks out walking their dogs, grandmothers getting a little sun, baristas with multicolored hair relaxing before their shifts and, very likely, me. I love to listen to the water splash and see all the faces in my community.

NOON: BRUNCH AT SATE KAMPAR

Plan your visit for a weekend day to enjoy one of my favorite brunches. There’s rarely a line for a table this time of day. It might be because the brunch menu doesn’t offer Sate Kampar’s signature item—its grilled meat skewers–but I prefer their bungkus (savory items such as braised beef or chicken, bundled with steamed rice and wrapped in a banana leaf ). I also love a daytime visit here so I can sip the exceptional Malaysian-style coffee drinks without worrying that the caffeine will keep me awake at night.

Bungkus and coffee from Sate Kampar PHOTOGRAPH: REBECCA McALPIN
Bungkus and coffee from Sate Kampar
PHOTOGRAPH: REBECCA McALPIN

Occasionette PHOTOGRAPH: PARIKHA MEHTA
Occasionette
PHOTOGRAPH: PARIKHA MEHTA

Vin Cafe PHOTOGRAPH: MARIA A. GARTH
Vin Cafe
PHOTOGRAPH: MARIA A. GARTH

2PM: SHOP AT OCCASIONETTE

This store is packed with the absolute cutest knickknacks, stationery and home décor you never knew you needed. It’s the ideal spot to stock up on a year’s worth of birthday cards and refresh your supply of “just because” gift items for your friends and loved ones, or get a head start on holiday shopping. You’re also very likely to pick up a few presents for yourself. Check out the small jewelry case with pieces made by local artisans.

5PM: LOCAL WINE AND KOMBUCHA AT VIN CAFÉ

This relative newcomer to the East Passyunk action specializes in local wines produced at Buckingham Valley Vineyards. If you plan to eat at one of the many BYOBs in the neighborhood, it’s one of just two places on the Avenue where you can pick up a bottle of wine (the Bottle Shop is the other). It’s also a great spot to hang out over a drink. Vin also sells locally made Sole Kombucha, both in bottles and on draft. The Fakie flavor is made with hops and reminds me of a summery, lightly sour beer. Live music events happen here a couple of nights a week—check the Vin Café Facebook page for the current schedule.

Chef Tod Wentz’s dexterity with French
food and technique is apparent in
understated stunners like the petite
omelet, one tender egg hugging a center of
sweet crab and vermouth-scented cream.

An array of first course dishes from Townsend’s menu PHOTOGRAPH: COURTESY OF TOWNSEND
An array of first course dishes from Townsend’s menu
PHOTOGRAPH: COURTESY OF TOWNSEND

7PM: DINNER AT TOWNSEND

With so many acclaimed restaurants in such a small area, it’s hard to recommend just one. If you have the stomach space, you might consider snacking at the bar at one place before dinner at another. But if you have just one evening meal in you, Townsend is where I’d send you. Chef Tod Wentz’s dexterity with French food and technique is apparent in understated stunners like the petite omelet: one tender egg hugging a center of sweet crab and vermouth-scented cream. The beverage program is just as serious. The wine list pleases the casual drinker and the wine nerd alike; cocktails are potent and flavorful. Those who skip alcohol should ask the skilled bartenders to mix up something with a combo of the housemade shrubs and syrups. If you don’t have a reservation, try to sneak in at the bar. There are often seats available, and it’s a lovely place to dine.

9PM: DESSERT AT ITV

Grab a barstool at chef Nick Elmi’s swanky bar, ITV, and order the single dessert on its menu. It’s always a seasonal variation of pot de creme, and it’s a silky, luxurious treat whether it is flavored with maple syrup, whey from local milk, or fresh berries. Drinks are also superlative here. I’m particularly fond of the alcohol-free cocktails made with Seedlip, the world’s first nonalcoholic distilled spirit. It’s the only place in Philly you’ll find it.

East Passyunk map

BLACK & BREW CAFÉ
1523 E. Passyunk Ave.
267.639.6070
blackbrew.net

THE SINGING FOUNTAIN
E. Passyunk Avenue & 11th St.

SATE KAMPAR
1837 E. Passyunk Ave.
267.324.3860
(No website)

OCCASIONETTE
1825 E. Passyunk Ave.
215.465.1704
occasionette.com

VIN CAFÉ
1926 E. Passyunk Ave.
267.861.0321
vincafephilly.com

TOWNSEND
1623 E. Passyunk Ave.
267.639.3203
townsendrestaurant.com

ITV 1615E
Passyunk Ave.
267.858.0669 i
tvphilly.com

Article from Edible Philly at http://ediblephilly.ediblecommunities.com/things-do/east-passyunk
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