The Ultimate Comfort Guide: The 42 Most Comforting Places in Philly
We dug deep for this list. Took a good, hard look at spots we keep going back to — or would love to go back to, given the chance. They had to pass a rigorous test: They had to tempt us as strongly as soft, warm flannel sheets on a chilly winter night. And they couldn’t be too obvious, which ruled out the comfort food at Jones and the Vault at the Ritz-Carlton. Here are our favorite places to relax and unwind and forget about the rest of the world for a while. Hopefully, you’ll discover a few places you’ve never thought of — or even heard of.
1. The Library Lounge: Cocktail hideaway
Ironic, isn’t it? This old-boy lounge inspires us to kick off our stilettos and curl our feet under in a big faded-leather chair, while the blazing fireplace and oaky single-malt warm us from head to pedicured toes (Park Hyatt at the Bellevue, Broad and Walnut streets; 215-790-2814).
2. Woolverton Inn: B&B bliss
However quaint the B&B is in concept, inns of this sort often offer rooms that are too close for comfort. Not here, however, where guests may reserve one of five cottages, each with its own Jacuzzi. And one or more fireplaces. And a king-size feather bed. And a view of the 300 acres of surrounding farmland, sheep and all (6 Woolverton Road, Stockton; 888-264-6648).
3. Groom: Shave and a haircut
Joe McMenamin achieves the ideal mix of old-school and metro at his out-of-the-way men’s barbershop. One chair, one couch, one simple menu that pleases and eases even the most rugged of guys (1315 Walnut Street, suite 119; 215-545-5070).
4. Cinemark 16: Well-behaved movie audience
Movie-goers at this multiplex display the amazingly courteous habits of turning off cell phones and keeping their mouths shut during the flick — a trend we hope gets passed along to other blockbuster theaters
(711 Evesham Road, Somerdale; 856-784-7964).
5. Vagabond: Yarn for novices
Any beginning knitter knows shopping for a project can be an intimidating experience. Vagabond’s gracious co-owner, Mary Clark, takes the scary out of choosing stylish and simple patterns, wool and needles, and always has an extra space on her couch for anyone upgrading from scarves to sweaters (37 North 3rd Street; 267-671-0737).
6. Hideaway Music: Pretense-free music recommendations
At last: a boutique record store without the High Fidelity attitude, a place where you can confess your lounge music/George Michael/Patsy Cline obsession to owner Brian Reisman, who, without a hint of reproach, offers suggestions (8428 Germantown Avenue; 215-248-4434).
7. Wake-Up Yoga: Morning stretch
Gentler than a run, more healthful than an espresso, the 6:45 a.m. vinyasa class at this Fairmount rowhome studio starts with the sunrise and ends with restful savasana, your eyes covered with a black eye pillow, your day about to begin (2329 Parish Street; 215-235-1228).
8. R5: Train seats
Unfair but true: SEPTA assigns the lion’s share of its most comfortable Bombardier trains — the ones with larger, cushier seats — to the Paoli/Thorndale line. (Of course, any train seat feels all the more comfortable when the Expressway’s backed up.)
9. Rescue Rittenhouse Spa Lounge: Hi-tech facials
Fear not the microdermabrasion, microcrystal power peels, or bio-lift firming. High above the Center City bustle, Rescue has a clubby, private atmosphere. When you’re swaddled in white terry cloth and committed to the capable, gentle hands of Danuta Mieloch, skin transformations go down as smoothly as a cup of green tea (255 South 17th Street, 2nd floor; 215-772-2766).
10. Effie’s: Cozy dining
The converted carriage house behind the main dining room of this Greek BYOB is the perfect spot to munch on grilled pita, fried calamari and stick-to-your-ribs moussaka by the woodstove (1127 Pine Street; 215-592-8333).
11. Benna’s Cafe: Java jolt
This two-month-old coffee shop has quickly become an early-morning and midday stopover for South Philly settlers, thanks to its tried-and-true formula of Old City coffee served in thick pint glasses, Di Bruno sandwiches at lunch, local art and easy conversation (8th and Wharton streets; 215-334-1502).
12. 3 Bears Park: City playground
The centerpiece of this quiet Society Hill square is its popular jumbo jungle gym, ingeniously constructed on a cushioned surface that takes the ouch out of falling down and going boom (Delancey Street between 2nd and 3rd streets).
13. Thorfinn Karlsefni statue on Kelly Drive: Place to pass out, alfresco
The soft grass at the foot of Einar Jonsson’s Viking sculpture is ideal for an afternoon picnic — or passing out after crew practice.
14. The Ritz-Carlton: Bathtubs
Score a Superior room with a view at this most central of Center City hotels, choose a butlered bath from the room menu, and enjoy a long soak with a marvelous view of the city skyline (10 South Broad Street; 215-523-8000).
15. Marshalton Inn: Old-world bar scene
Just beyond West Chester, this circa-1790s inn boasts a petite bar that’s as cozy as the day it opened. Exposed beams, original plank floors, escargots in garlic butter, and martinis are among the old-fashioned comforts (1300 West Strasburg Road (Route 162), Marshalton; 610-692-4367).
16. Barclay Prime: Modern bar scene
Dark, soothing, leathered, bookish and wonderful, this is an impeccable modern take on the 1930s-style bar. Soak up the atmosphere and relax in luxury (237 South 18th Street; 215-732-7560).
17. Salon Royale Court: Pedicure rooms
Part beauty ritual, part indulgence, Cindy and Ginny’s hour-long pedis at this converted 1842 mansion take place in glass-
enclosed rooms on the second floor, beneath crystal chandeliers. You also get a massaging leather armchair. And reflexology. And warm towels. Need we say more? (1822 Spruce Street; 215-893-3800)
18. Great Tea International: Zen sanctuary
One of those nooks that regulars would rather we didn’t divulge, this downstairs tearoom is as chill as an urban escape gets, with its lulling waterfalls, paper lanterns, origami garlands, and prodigious menu of green, oolong, black, white and herbal teas (1724 Sansom Street; 215-568-7827).
19. Saint-Genis-des-Fontaines Cloister: Public meditation space
Seven hundred years ago, monks prayed and mediated in the marble courtyard that now resides on the Art Museum’s second floor. Take a hint from the brothers: Stop here to reflect by the fountain (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 26th Street and the Ben Franklin Parkway; 215-763-8100).
20. PATCO: View from the Ben Franklin Bridge
In those few minutes suspended between home and Center City, with the river stretching below and traffic pulsing alongside, Jersey rail commuters exhale a collective sigh and simply enjoy the vista.
21. Fork: Eating alone
Seven nights a week, the concrete bar at the center of this Old City bistro holds the equivalent of an impromptu dinner party. Diners, both pairs and solos, belly up to their linen-napkin placemats, swapping stories with bartenders and becoming friends with their neighbors by dessert (306 Market Street; 215-625-9425).
22. The Quarter at the Tropicana: Movie seats
A.C.’s first IMAX theater is getting the full treatment: ergonomically correct, extra-wide, tall-backed reclining bucket seats — with beverage holders, of course (Brighton Avenue and the Boardwalk; 800-526-2935).
23. The Borgata: Bed
Borgata CEO Robert Boughner takes sleep seriously. He tested 30 mattresses before furnishing each guest room with Sealy’s custom-made Elite Plush. He also insists on crisp white 300-count Egyptian cotton, sublimely fluffy duvets, and — yawn — overstuffed pillows (1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City; 609-317-1000).
24. Royal Tavern: Neighborhood pub — with wine
The ultimate in compromises: This restored Bella Vista pub offers bottles of Pabst Blue Ribbon, a rocking jukebox, juicy burgers — and a small yet elegant wine list (937 East Passyunk Avenue; 215-389-6694).
25. The Point: Concert seats
The three couches alongside the stage of this coffee bar/concert hall are, hands down, the best place to catch live, mostly local singer-songwriters. Just be sure to stop by well in advance to reserve your sofa (880 West Lancaster Avenue, Bryn Mawr; 610-527-0988).
26. Curtis Center: Instant calm
The building’s lustrous Favrile glass mosaic, based on a painting by Maxfield Parrish and laid out by Louis Comfort Tiffany, is proof positive that public art has a noble purpose, even if that purpose is giving us a momentary visual escape from urban hubbub (601 Walnut Street).
27. Aronimink Golf Club: Women’s lounge
Slipper couches, swagged windows, pretty mirrors, private loos, plenty of space — these recently added appointments make one of the area’s most exclusive private golf clubs all the more exclusive (and make us girls want to spend the day powdering our noses) (3600 Saint Davids Road, Newtown Square; 610-356-8000).
28. Bluezette: Banquettes
As if the city’s best chicken and waffles weren’t comfort enough, Bluezette’s pristinely all-white room, with inviting soft white banquettes, makes patrons feel they’re dining within a cloud. A very chic cloud (246 Market Street; 215-627-3866).
29. Four Seasons: Spa lunch
You could spend your midweek lunch break enjoying “The Flash,” a half-hour facial, half-hour massage, and light lunch by the Four Seasons pool — with complimentary valet parking. But you might as well take the rest of the day off to work out in the hotel’s private gym, and maybe even swim a few laps in the pool before sinking into a well-deserved happy hour by the fire in the Swann Lounge (1 Logan Square; 215-963-1500).
30. US Airways Club: Airport oasis
Twenty-three thousand square feet of armchairs, Wi-Fi, free newspapers, full bars, CNN, plus sweeping views of the runway are among the benefits of membership to this seven-year-old lounge (Philadelphia International Airport, between terminals B and C).
31. Robertson’s Flowers: Atrium
The sun pours through the glass roof of the oxygen-rich back room of this Chestnut Hill flower shop, making it feel — if only for a moment — like a secret garden on a perfect day in June (8501 Germantown Avenue; 215-242-6000).
32. Jenkintown Library: Old-world charm
Jenkintown’s 202-year-old neoclassical library seems to come straight from the storybooks shelved upstairs in its children’s section. A few years back, librarians thought about refinishing the main room’s thick wooden reading tables — the ones with green glass lamps, Windsor armchairs, and tops etched with decades of messages and initials. They decided against it (460 Old York Road, Jenkintown; 215-884-0593).
33. Young’s Candies: Old-fashioned sweets
Homemade marshmallows. Holiday hard candy. Personalized peanut-butter eggs. Real Philadelphia buttercreams. This perfect old-fashioned candy shop is the ideal spot to feed your inner child (2809 Girard Avenue; 215-765-2012).
34. Marrakesh Restaurant: Authentic atmosphere
An incense-spiced Moroccan hideaway that’s the real deal. Patrons lounge, opium den-style, on pillow-covered frashes, order wine by the bottle, and end their multi-course meals with mint tea (517 South Leithgow Street; 215-925-5929).
35. Chris’ Corner: Good reads for kids
Pint-sized chairs and grown-up service make this quaint Rittenhouse-area bookstore — founded by the late Chris Saad, who earned her Ph.D. with a dissertation on child disability in literature — a haven for young readers (1940 Pine Street; 215-790-1727).
36. The Greeks: Pub vibe
A more neighborly bar you couldn’t imagine: booths for privacy, murals for a vintage feel, Lager on tap, meatloaf for dinner. Yum (239 Haverford Avenue, Narberth; 610-664-8655).
37. Melograno: Wicker sofas
The trick to enjoying the often hour-plus wait on weekend nights at this cozy Tuscan BYOB: Be prepared. Equipped with an extra bottle of prosecco, a blanket (if it’s chilly), and your favorite dining companion, grab a seat on one of the charming wicker couches out front on the sidewalk — you might not even want to get up and go inside for dinner (2201 Spruce Street; 215-875-8116).
38. Cake: Sweet bakery
We can’t decide what’s cozier: The burnt-orange walls and worn wooden built-in banquette, the tasty homemade soup served each day at lunch, or the feeling in our bellies after we’ve feasted on the heavenly sticky buns and frangipani blueberry tarts at this Chestnut Hill hideaway (184 East Evergreen Avenue; 215-247-6887).
39. Boat House Bar: Oldie but goodie
In a vine-covered house above the canal, this antiquated bar, its velvety rooms filled with boating paraphernalia, is the spot for a hot toddy on a cold, blustery evening. Its old-world charm and rustic sex appeal make it a charming winter destination — or a place to cool your heels over a champagne cocktail while waiting for your table at the Hamilton Grill Room across the way (8 1/2 Coryell Street, Lambertville; 609-397-2244).
40. Fairlane Grill: Nostalgia food
Sidle up to the counter at this family-run, 28-seat diner, order the best bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich on a kaiser roll you’ve ever had, and feel transported back in time, to when the simplest things — worn upholstered booths, good service, black-and-white milkshakes — were the best (617 Bethlehem Pike, Erdenheim; 215-233-5863).
41. Gateway Stables: Plump pony
You’d think sitting on an unintimidating little pony would be the most buttock-pampering way to take a beautiful trail ride at Gateway Stables in Kennett Square. Not so: You need Butterball, a pleasingly rounder-bodied quarter horse, to make this trip through du Pont countryside as cozy as possible ($35 per person; includes the guide) (949 Merrybell Lane, Kennett Square; 610-444-1255).
42. Grooveground: Cool coffeehouse
Minimalist-cozy, this coffee shop-cum-CD and DVD vendor is a favorite hangout for the not-quite-ready-to-head-home-from-the-BYOB crowd. As DJs spin ambient grooves, customers nosh Miel pastries and sip La Colombe espresso (647 Haddon Avenue, Collingswood; 856-869-9800).