Killer Wasps

killer-wasps-cover-amy-korman-400x602When antiques store owner Kristin Clark stumbles upon Barclay Shields, Bryn Mawr’s newest real estate developer, lying unconscious beneath the hydrangea bushes lining the driveway of one of the area’s most distinguished estates, the entire town is abuzz with intrigue and gossip.

In this excerpt from Amy Korman’s new novel, Killer Wasps, Kristin and her three best friends — Holly, a glamorous chicken nugget heiress with a penchant for high fashion; Joe, a decorator who’s determined to land his own HGTV show; and Bootsie, a preppy but nosy newspaper reporter — have joined forces to solve the crime. And since they’ve been invited to a cocktail party at the home of Barclay’s soon-to-be-ex-wife Sophie Shields — well, what can they do but go to the soiree, drink, and snoop?

The debut novel by Korman, a former Philly Mag senior editor, is available from Witness Impulse on September 16th.

“THESE ARE MY FRIENDS, Holly Jones and Joe Delafield,” I said to Sophie. “Sophie Shields,” I added unnecessarily to Holly and Joe. “And you know Bootsie.”

“Good to meet you. And nice to see you, Beebee,” Sophie added to Bootsie, who nodded and then rudely took off, making a beeline for the house with a determined look.

“I think she’s hungry,” I explained, embarrassed. I knew exactly what Bootsie was up to. It had nothing to do with the buffet, and everything to do with rummaging through Sophie’s belongings.

“Your friend with the flowered outfits doesn’t waste any time!” giggled Sophie good-naturedly, watching Bootsie dash past the loaded hors d’oeuvres table and up a flight of stairs into the house. “I guess she must need to use the little girls’ room! ’Cause the party’s outside, not inside. But that’s okay!” The only thing Bootsie was interested by in the bathroom were the contents of Sophie’s medicine chest, and that would be only the first stop on a full forensic snooping tour of the house. Hopefully Sophie didn’t mind Bootsie rifling through her shoe cabinets and flinging open the drawers of her nightstands.

“This is so nice,” I said to Sophie, gesturing to the pool, where more guests had arrived, including Honey Potts, in a Bermuda-shorts ensemble, and Mariellen Merriwether, in her usual tasteful linen dress accessorized with opera-length pearls. The Colketts were there, too, futzing around with some potted boxwoods.

“You look amazing!” I added to Sophie, not sure what else to say about her appearance. She looked attractive enough, to be sure, but amazing was the best I could muster up at the moment.

“It’s Versace!” blinked Sophie. “Listen, I gotta go mingle, but I’m so glad you came over to my humble abode!”

“Speaking of which,” said Joe smoothly, “Sophie, who’s your decorator on this, um, fabulous place? Let’s get a drink.” He took her arm and guided her down to the pool as he started his pitch.

“Sophie’s husband has mafia ties!” I hissed to Holly as soon as Sophie was out of earshot. “That is, he probably does.” I gave her a quick update as we made our way along a slate walkway flanked by Colkett-installed peonies.

“I love it,” said Holly happily. “This town is seriously lacking in organized crime. Just think of how great it would be to have an occasional drive-by shooting!” I was about to remind her that we weren’t exactly Drea de Matteo and Edie Falco, but she’d lost interest already.
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The Fall of the Main Line Drug Ring

Montco D.A. Risa Ferman with an AR-15 rifle and drugs seized by the police.  / Associated Press

Montco D.A. Risa Ferman with an AR-15 rifle and drugs seized by the police. / Associated Press

On the afternoon of April 21st, 18-year-old Timothy Brooks arrived at a courthouse in Ardmore, a mile east of his alma mater, the Haverford School. His appearance — khaki pants, blue blazer, square jaw — suggested good breeding. Walking alone, in handcuffs, he lifted his head and smiled at the assorted cameras before him. “Why are you smiling?” a reporter asked. Brooks said nothing and marched forward into the courthouse.

Twenty-five-year-old Neil Scott, Brooks’s alleged co-conspirator and fellow Haverford graduate, showed up looking less composed. Escorted by police, he covered his face with his blood-orange prison jumpsuit — his bail was set higher than Brooks’s, and his parents had declined to pay it — and told the assembled media to “get the fuck out of my face.” Then he popped out two middle fingers and concluded his remarks with a drawn-out “Fuuu-uck you.”

The perp walk was a fittingly theatrical start to the day’s proceedings. Scott and Brooks, along with nine suspected sub-dealers, were being charged with running a drug ring that aimed to supply marijuana, cocaine and Ecstasy to some of the finest high schools, colleges and weekend house parties in Greater Philadelphia. (The prosecutors’ allegations were outlined in painstaking detail in a 77-page affidavit.) Brooks called the operation the Main Line Takeover Project, and soon, so would everyone else. “Every Nug on the mainline is about to come from you and me,” he’d texted Scott last fall. “We will crush it,” Scott echoed in a separate text-message conversation. “Once you go tax free it’s hard to go back.”
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What Does My Kid’s Apartment Say About Me?

Illustration by Alexander Purdy

Illustration by Alexander Purdy

I’m standing in an aisle at HomeGoods, holding a spoon rest. It’s a pretty thing, bright orange, shaped like a sunflower, and it only costs $3.99. I don’t happen to need a spoon rest, and anyway, my kitchen’s red, not orange. But my daughter Marcy’s kitchen has one orange wall. This would look perfect in it.

I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have a spoon rest. She doesn’t have a lot of stuff. She and her husband, Basil, are just a year out of school now, working their starter jobs, living in West Philly amidst hand-me-downs and thrift-shop buys and found-on-the-street reclamations, the way most people do at that age. They’re perfectly happy, but I know Marcy would like to have more — to have nice things. They will, someday. Meantime, I’m buying this spoon rest for her.
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The Top Ten Philly Sports Announcers of All Time

MASTERS OF THE MIC: From left, Kalas, Hart, Reese, Andersen, Ashburn and Franzke.

MASTERS OF THE MIC: From left, Kalas, Hart, Reese, Andersen, Ashburn and Franzke.

The voices carried me home. Dating back to high school, on most weekends in the summer I’d drive to the Jersey Shore and relax with friends and family who owned or rented houses there (see: mooching). Seaside Heights, Ocean City, Sea Isle, Avalon, Wildwood — I’ve slept on porches and tight couches and in sheets decorated with conch shells. Sundays meant the dreaded trip home, and the worst stretch was usually where the Garden State Parkway meets the Atlantic City Expressway. Traffic crawled. The air conditioner in my black 1994 Chevy Cavalier was broken. It’s a safe bet I was dehydrated, from the sun or booze or both.

Far more important to me than a cool blast of air was my radio. Music was the soundtrack for the ride to the Shore; Sundays were for the Phillies, and for Harry. As the heat and my stress level rose, Harry Kalas turned my sweatbox-on-wheels into a Buddhist monastery where baseball was peace and Harry the K’s play-by-play was a Zen koan. You can still hear his voice, like that of a grandfather or dad who told stories that held you rapt, or a friend who could talk sports for hours: “Struck’im ouuuuut!” During that long drought between 1993 and 2007, when the Fightins mostly stunk like a Vet Stadium bathroom, you tuned in not just for baseball, but for a version of the game as described by Harry. It was often better than what you’d see with your own eyes.

By contrast, a lousy broadcaster can ruin the experience. Like former Sixers color man Eric Snow, who was so dull he once apparently put himself to sleep. On the air. Or the current Phillies television crew, who should begin each inning with a narcolepsy warning. (Google “Matt Stairs Wing Bowl” for proof of a far more entertaining guy than you’ve heard so far. Jamie Moyer? I think he may have a future on NPR.)

With the window now officially closed on the Phillies’ ’08 championship era, and with no basketball, hockey or meaningful football till the fall, it feels like we’re all stuck in a hot car on the Philadelphia sports highway — going nowhere and not happy about it. Which makes this the perfect time to recognize the local TV and radio play-by-play men and color analysts who’ve made our best sports memories better and helped us survive the lean years. To rank them, I’ve looked at three categories: voice (smooth delivery, unmistakable sound), calls (moments that will live in Philly sports history), and general awesomeness (would you want to have a beer or play a round of golf with this guy?).

What makes a broadcaster special is more than the ability to interpret the infield fly rule or describe the action; it’s the weird, deeply personal one-sided relationships that fans develop with him over time. These broadcasters will likely never know you, but they’re part of your family for the big game and your co-pilot on long drives home.
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One of Us: Cecily Tynan

Illustration by Andy Friedman

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Cecily Tynan. I had a Great-Uncle Cecil in England, and they just added the “y.” My parents actually thought they invented the name, but I’ve met some other Cecilys since, including some named after me, which is very flattering.

I am a … perfectionist.

My standard Wawa order … is a turkey Shorti, wheat.

When I turned 45 this year … I felt better than I did when I was 25.

I live in … a stone house with a pool and a lot of woods for our three dogs to run.

Before I go on TV each night, I always … check my teeth. I like to eat spinach salads and pistachios, and let’s just say those aren’t good things to eat right before you go on the air.

On Sunday mornings … I love to cook bacon and eggs for my family, but I have to ration the bacon. My kids are big bacon eaters.

I am perpetually … 10 minutes late. But never for newscasts.

Each summer, I love to … water-ski. Slalom waterskiing is my new obsession. I am really sore every Monday morning in the summer.

If I weren’t doing this … I would probably be working at an animal shelter. I’m tempted to buy a big farm so I can adopt more, but I don’t think my husband is going to let that happen.

My worst subject in high school was … geometry. I still have nightmares about it.

I shouldn’t tell you this about Jim Gardner, but … he can sing most Broadway show tunes.

The first album I ever bought … was Bryan Adams. The one with “Summer of ’69” on it.

I drive … a Lexus SUV with close to 220,000 miles on it. I’m very practical.

One food I love to eat but shouldn’t … is I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! spray. I have to say, I like it on everything. I consider it liquid gold.

My workout routine … is a mix of running, boot-camp class and boxing.

I love buying … clothes for my kids at the Target across the street from the studio. My son likes anything Shaun White, and my daughter likes anything Hello Kitty. I buy a pound of coffee and a cart full of clothes.

My secret talent … is that I can write pretty well in cursive with my toes. But I have really horrible feet, because I went from ballet dancing to running. I have E.T. toes.

The farthest I’ve ever run … is 50k, 31 miles. It was years ago in Maryland, my first and only ultra. I won it because it was two loops, and after the first loop, all the other women kept going, but I stopped and had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a Gatorade. Well, all the women in front of me bonked, and the peanut butter won the race.

The truth about predicting the weather … is that we are right most of the time. People say, “If I could be wrong 90 percent of the time and still have my job, I would love that.” But the truth is that we are almost always right.

Originally published in the August 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

Growing Up in Philadelphia: The Lost City

Children playing in the Art Museum fountains, August 1973.

Children playing in the Art Museum fountains in August 1973. Photograph by Dick Swanson/The National Archive

Eddie Gindi seems genuinely excited as he stands at the dais in the Union League. The executive vice president and co-owner of Century 21 department stores is explaining why a new Philadelphia location at 8th and Market is the logical next step for a chic discount chain that until now has stuck to New York and New Jersey. “I saw with my own eyes,” he says, “the massive money and time being spent to make Philadelphia a retail center.” Philadelphians, he says, are fashion-savvy, creative and artistic: “They get it.”

The audience at this meeting of the Central Philadelphia Development Corp. laps it up. The gauzy visions of a prosperous and dynamic Center City that once seemed like pipe dreams have, in large part, become reality.

Center City’s population is growing. Developers are breaking ground on skyscrapers. National retailers like Intermix and Michael Kors are coming to Walnut Street, where rents soar above the national average. Last year, Philadelphia was feted in the New York Times, the Toronto Star, the Guardian, the Washington Post, Food & Wine, the Globe and Mail, Condé Nast Traveler, Bon Appétit, and countless online outlets. GQ wrote, “Philadelphia has more going for it now than ever.”

Every now and then, a well-dressed woman will stop me and ask for directions: “Where is the shopping street? I think it’s called Walnut?” I’ll point the way, and then imagine her browsing at Barneys and Lagos, then having a drink at Rouge’s sidewalk cafe before heading back to her room at the Hotel Monaco. “Who is this woman?” I’ll think. Does she imagine she’s in some sophisticated, classy city? I suppose so.

For some native Philadelphians like me, all of this is difficult to absorb. This city has been the butt of jokes for so long — going back to W.C. Fields, after all — that it’s still hard to believe that newcomers and investors finally consider it worthy.

I mean, I’ve been singing Philly’s praises since I was a kid, but the moniker “Filthadelphia” (and its concomitant reputation) was so widespread, it was the first thing a new friend brought up to me when we met during my semester abroad. In Spain.

Yet I sometimes miss the grimy Center City of my youth. I liked its gritty spirit.

I WAS BORN AT Hahnemann Hospital in 1968, swaddled, and taken to a studio apartment, where I slept in a dresser drawer until the crib arrived.

My parents bought a house on Rodman Street soon thereafter, and all the photos from my toddler days seem to show one neighbor or another lying flat on his back, with a big smile, obviously intoxicated by some natural plant.

The late ’60s and early ’70s in Philadelphia were pretty relaxed. The Lombard Swim Club had a topless section. My friend’s dad picked us up in his car one day without any clothes on. Parents kept their stashes in the open. Kids discussed open marriages in art class, and the 2000 block of Sansom Street was the bohemian center of the west-of-Broad universe, with head shops, cafes and clubs that leaked strains of poetry, jazz, disco, and the smoke of that natural plant.

There were also those nightclubs and discos: Élan, Black Banana, Artemis, Revival, London Victory Club — which, in glossy Studio 54 hindsight, must make Center City sound somewhat glamorous. It was anything but.



Philadelphia’s decline was well under way by the time I was born. Manufacturing was collapsing, the population was falling, and the tax base was turning to dust. Frank Rizzo dominated City Hall, first as police commissioner, then as mayor. Crime spiked. There wasn’t the money to pay for things like clean streets. Racial strife and police brutality were endemic. Center City fared better than most neighborhoods, but it wasn’t immune.

Schuylkill River Park, now family-friendly with its dog park (with special areas for big and small dogs) and creative landscape architecture, was rather seedy. It was also the locus of the Taney Gang, the children of the Irish gangsters who lived in the homes along 26th Street. They ruled that neighborhood. It was the kind of place where if you wanted to rape a girl or light a homeless guy on fire, you could get away with it. They tortured me and my friends during grade school because we had no choice but to encroach on their turf: Our school was at 25th and Lombard, and recess was at “their” park.

Fitler Square wasn’t much better. Patty Brett, the owner of the uniquely unchanging Doobies at 22nd and Lombard, remembers packs of wild dogs running loose in the area: “There were many abandoned churches and gas stations in our neighborhood. Lots of graffiti on everything, and a general fear of walking down the street late at night. People were mugged a lot, and women didn’t travel in most Center City areas alone.”

In my high-school years, street crime was so commonplace that we hardly took note of it. My boyfriend was pulled into an alley between Walnut and Chestnut and held at knifepoint; my necklace was ripped off while I was walking; my mother was mugged; purses were torn from shoulders; people threw bottles into store windows on days when the Phillies lost. The sense of lawlessness was pervasive. When we walked to school at 17th and the Parkway, dealers would try to sell us drugs (and I have no doubt they sometimes succeeded).

City Hall was a mess. That beautiful building’s courtyard was the kind of place you either avoided or walked through as quickly as possible, dodging mysterious puddles and smells, with soot or something like it crunching beneath your feet. Last summer, Kurt Vile played a concert in that now clean, bright courtyard, and I looked at the people in line at food trucks, friends meeting up and hugging each other, people dancing, and I thought, “What the hell happened to this place?” That courtyard has gone from 12 Monkeys to Frank Capra on Ecstasy. A lot of Center City has.

I MEET SO MANY people now who have moved to Philadelphia in the past 10 years — and stayed. I’m both stunned that they chose Philly and aggravated by all their c­omplaints — which, if they’ve moved here from Portland, can be quite numerous.

It’s dirty. There’s too much crime. The buses and subways are gross. There’s trash everywhere. People don’t pick up after their dogs. There are rats in Rittenhouse Square. There aren’t enough bike lanes.

Bike lanes? BIKE LANES?

Recently, a seersucker-and-madras-clad man at a Mural Arts event I went to railed against graffiti’s “cancerous, corrosive effect” on Philadelphia. He got puckered and red in the face and stomped out of the room. I guess he wasn’t here in 1976, when KAP the Bicentennial Kid tagged the Art Museum and the Liberty Bell. When I was a kid, the graffiti was so omnipresent, it became the city’s signature.

Likewise, when transplants complain about SEPTA subway cars and buses, I marvel. Back then, these were not only the primary vectors for graffiti, but had torn and broken seats and rusted poles. In 1980, this magazine called subway trains “slums-on-wheels.” Buses weren’t much better. (I got to smoke my first cigarette on the 40.) The transit stations and concourses were so much more dismal back then that now when I find a SEPTA station unpleasant, I recall what used to be and think, “Aw, that’s just a tiny puddle of pee. It’s almost cute.”

We’ve got it so good, it’s unreal. So why do I long for the old days?

In part, it’s basic childhood nostalgia. But I think it’s also that we Center City kids of the ’70s and early ’80s enjoyed a lot of freedom in our comparatively down-at-its-heels, unmanicured downtown. Today, I can get stopped at the doors of an upscale hotel or silently ejected from a fancy boutique with an icy glare. Back then, it was like there was no one on duty. It was great fun.

THERE WERE A PAIR of arcades on Chestnut Street between 15th and 17th: the dark, dirty Zounds, and the shiny new Supercade. Zounds was rough. You could get your wallet stolen, or at the least your pile of quarters. People might offer you drugs. You might take drugs. But it felt like home. Supercade was too fresh and clean. Too eager. We didn’t trust it. (This suspicion of nice things began early.)

Once the quarters were spent, or stolen, we could head over to Day’s Deli at 18th and Spruce to get fries. Or we could go to Deluxe Diner for milkshakes; the Midtowns I through IV; one of the two Little Pete’s; or even R&W, which was kind of repulsive but good for private conversations in the empty back room. Now R&W is the Japanese restaurant Zama. The food is better, but kids don’t go there to spill secrets over a shared can of seltzer and a ham and cheese sandwich.

Day’s Deli was my favorite, until it closed; the rumor was that someone affiliated with the restaurant had “put the profits up his nose.” It adjoined a convenience store, and in back were rows of booths where you could while away hours smoking cigarettes with Jasons, Jennifers and Michaels. At the time, we felt our conversations were only a shade less sophisticated than My Dinner With Andre.

During the Mummers Parade, my friends and I would zoom through the halls of the Bellevue-Stratford hotel, dashing between parties full of strangers in the rooms that faced Broad Street. There was always a lot of food and drink, and no one noticed the kids who’d sneak in and out, grabbing rolled salami off of linen-draped deli trays.

One year, we heard “a judge” was hosting one of these parade-watching parties. Only one of us was brave enough to go in; the rest waited outside, flat against the wall, like felons in a lineup. Our friend came out with big news: There was a baggie of cocaine in the room. Cocaine! Wow! I remember thinking we might get in trouble, and also feeling jealous that my friend seemed to be able to identify cocaine.

PEOPLE OFTEN FEEL sorry for me because they assume Center City wasn’t a real neighborhood. But it was. Many of us went to preschool, elementary school and high school together. Mostly latchkey kids, we stuck together after class ended. We knew every corner of each other’s homes, including whose Rittenhouse Square rooftop made for the best water-balloon launching pad.

Jason’s exotically beautiful mom lived on Pine Street, but his dad’s place was on the Square. Sandy and her three sisters lived at 22nd and Delancey, across from Valerie and, randomly, Julius Erving, who’d open the door sometimes, be very tall, and close the door again. Susan and Lizzy were on Panama, right across the street from each other, while Liz No. 3 lived at 17th and Pine with her mom and stepdad and the largest dining room table I’d ever seen.

The boy I loved unrequited all through high school was on 21st and Delancey. The girl who took me to Houlihan’s on the Square with all the cool kids lived at 18th and Delancey, across the street from towheaded Laura and her little brother Adam, both of whom have passed away, which is a sentence I shouldn’t have to write while I’m still in my 40s. Sweet Tom, who took me to both proms and was basically my first husband, lived at 25th and Lombard. And so on.

The point is, it was plenty neighborhoody. And instead of a suburban Dairy Queen parking lot, we had Rittenhouse Square.

This was the center of our universe. This was where we went to try new things — to kiss, to reveal secrets, to drink, to smoke. This was the place to reconnoiter, the hub, the treehouse club, the HQ. Life unfolded there.

The Square had no profusion of roses in front of the lion statue. The pillars around the fountain were chipping, like teeth losing their enamel. Tumbleweeds of garbage traveled by. The old benches, the ones without armrests in the middle, were wide and deep enough that homeless people could sleep on them. And they did.

Later, the park would get a curfew; we’d get in trouble for standing bare-legged in the fountain; we’d be turned out while tux-wearing dancers ate fancy food. One thing remains the same, though: the rats. I admire them for sticking it out.

ONE BOY WHO accompanied our Bellevue wanderings was the son of a South Street fortune-teller. He was missing several teeth. He gave me my first French kiss at the TLA, back when it was a movie theater that showed cartoons during the day, repertory film at night, and Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight.

The boy moved to New York, which was sad (according to my diary), but I miss the old TLA more. In fact, I miss all the movie theaters of my youth. There were so many: the Eric Twin Rittenhouse at 19th and Walnut; Sam’s Place and the SamEric at 19th and Chestnut; Eric’s Place at 15th and Chestnut; Eric’s Mark 1 at 18th and Market; the Goldman Theatre at Broad and Chestnut; the Roxy (when it showed films from odd places like Canada); more I’m not thinking of. Now these places are a CVS, a Mandee, an empty lot, a soon-to-be-demolished historic relic.

Not surprisingly, we saw movies constantly, and relied upon them as instructional manuals. Senior year, a friend and I went to see Hannah and Her Sisters. I was just starting to understand that I’d have to become a grown-up, and I didn’t really know what that meant.

In Philly, it was hard to tell what adulthood was. There was no single grown-up world, no monolith. This was no bland suburb, no Peyton Place. Sit in the Square, as we did, and it was a pageant: People were black and white, gay and straight, rich and poor. Many were hobbled by some kind of frailty. There was the Duck Lady (who quacked); the Pigeon Lady (who stood for hours with pigeons all over her); the Wow Bum, who just yelled, “Wow!”; any number of “bag ladies” who’d walk through the Square laden with belongings; the men who exposed themselves. Then there were our parents, the incense vendors, all those hookers on Broad and on 13th, my Quaker teachers with the puzzling facial hair. Which kind of adult would I be? How would I find my way?

I sat and watched Hannah and Her Sisters in the theater at 19th and Chestnut and found a tiny fragment of a road map. Yesterday, in the same building, I found a bottle of sunscreen.

AS A PERSON WHO works in Center City — and who writes about real estate and economic development — I can’t claim to be disappointed by downtown’s success. By any measure, Center City is booming, and that is a good thing. I don’t want to step in dog waste, or walk 10 blocks before I can find a trash can. I don’t want a Rittenhouse Square ringed by abandoned construction sites rather than beautiful hotels. I want people to live here, to thrive here. I want jobs and revenue and, yes, maybe digital signage, if that’s what it takes to lure serious investment into more challenging parts of town.

But there’s something about the national retail chains, about the people in teal, about the loss of diners and movie theaters — in all their sticky-floored glory — that makes me feel Center City has edged a bit too far toward the post-Giuliani NYC model of moneyed, sterilized urbanity.

Or maybe I just miss my old neighborhood.

Originally published as “The Lost City” in the August 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

Best of Philly 2014

best-of-philly-2014-cover-400x525

Yes, folks, here we are, back at it again. Who has the crispiest fried chicken? What’s the best bar for day-drinking? Where can you go for eyebrow-sculpting? Sexy party shoes? Free spinning classes? Herein lie the exhaustively investigated answers … as well as a series of bests chosen by you, the voting public, via online polls and our biggest-ever taste test. (Spoiler alert: Nobody in this city turns down free whoopie pies.) And while we’ll readily admit that the process of finding, vetting and honoring this region’s ever-growing array of all things excellent is really more of an art than a science (and art, of course, is subjective), we’ll nevertheless fiercely defend and celebrate each and every one of our 275 picks. We think that for the most part, you will, too. Especially that fried chicken.

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The Best Food and Drink at the Jersey Shore for 2014

Mike's Seafood in Sea isle. Photography by Trevor Dixon

Mike’s Seafood in Sea isle. Photography by Trevor Dixon

Cape May

It’s not actually a law, but it seems no one gets out of Cape May without first visiting the Mad Batter. Located in the Carroll Villa Hotel, this is the spot for a relaxing (if ever so slightly fancy-pants) dinner. Go for the crabcakes, a textbook example of the proper assembly and preparation of this oft-ruined dish.

For a more Summer Rental sort of experience, there’s always the Lobster House. The long, low-slung restaurant side of the operation, with its big windows and red-checked tablecloths, is lovely — and hugely crowded on any nice summer day. But it’s the Schooner Bar aboard the old Schooner American sailing vessel that combines kitsch and alcohol in one successful formula.

One of the big reasons foodies head to the Shore is for crabs. If this is your motivation, hit up H&H Seafood. It’s hard to miss (it’s the place with the big sign that says LIVE CRABS) and serves big paper bags full of steamed crabs to eat on the beach (or wherever else you feel like eating them).

Avalon

You already know you’ll be eating at the Diving Horse, so you might as well just make your reservations now. This has been the go-to dinner spot for a few years, and it deserves all the love it gets.

If you’re looking for something else, there’s Café Loren for the BYO enthusiasts (and people who really like that family-owned, Shore-town vibe), or the Princeton and Bobby Dee’s Rock ’N Chair for bar-crawlers (the latter being a degree more classy than the former).

Sea Isle

Fish Alley is as seafood-and-beer-laden as it sounds — and will not disappoint.

First stop: Mike’s Seafood for crab legs, fries, crab legs and crab legs. Go early, because the line gets long, and grab a spot at one of the picnic tables overlooking the water. (See the “Family” section for more info on when kids eat free.) Marie’s Lobster House is a few doors down from Mike’s. While you lose a little of that classic crab-shack atmosphere, the food here is just as good, and all that neon in the front windows makes it easy to navigate.

Can’t seem to get off the beach? You don’t have to. Bubba Dogs is a mobile wienery parked right on the sand at 59th Street.

Strathmere

Why Strathmere? Because there are two notable places for eating and drinking. First, there’s Mildred’s, which is one of those little old restaurants that wear their weathering of Sandy on their sleeve like a badge. It’s absolutely beloved for the exceedingly friendly service, the family vibe and the solid (if predictable) Italian menu — you can’t go wrong with a bottle of white and a plate of linguine with clam sauce.

For something a bit … grittier, you have to go to Twisties Tavern. It’s the kind of joint where you drop in for one drink and then wake up 20 years later having become an every-night regular, with a table all your own and a couple shifts a week behind the bar. There are powerful cocktails, fish on the walls, patio seating that looks out over the bay, and a menu that’s more comprehensive than you might think.

Ocean City and Somers Point

If you’re in Ocean City, you’re most likely shuffling the fam between the sand and Boardwalk — so save your mornings for something all your own. The Varsity Inn is a classic small-town diner that operates under a perpetual siege by locals and tourists who come here for big, filling, cheap plates of eggs, pancakes and toast. The Fractured Prune is famous for its crazy, delicious handmade doughnuts, in flavors like chocolate-covered cherry and French toast.

As for those two other meals of the day? If you can get off the beach, hit either Smitty’s Clam Bar or Charlie’s Bar, both in Somers Point and both cash-only. You go to Charlie’s for the wings and cold beer — and for the 70-odd years of corner-bar history. Smitty’s is a super-casual BYOB and a favorite among locals for the simple clam-shack menu and the fact that you’re encouraged to drink while waiting for a table.

Ventnor and Margate

In Ventnor, classic tastes and newer ones compete for attention. For the latter, hit Megu Sushi for well-assembled modern Japanese cuisine in an unassuming (read: sandwiched between a liquor store and an Italian restaurant) setting. If you’re tempted by the former, there’s chicken-and-chops at Johnny’s and crabcakes from Bobby Chez (which, despite the commercialization, is still first-rate). Or class it up at Steve & Cookie’s — just make sure to save room for dessert.

For daytime eats, go to Junior’s for corn dogs, or sit and wait for Dino’s Subs & Pizza, which delivers right to the beach and has a tuna hoagie that deserves its own national holiday.

Atlantic City

A.C. is home to most of what passes for big-name dining at the Shore — we’re talking Buddakan, Luke Palladino’s steakhouse, Iron Chef Garces and others — but these show-stopping temples aren’t the only go-tos for gastronauts.

New and independent places like chef Kevin Cronin’s Iron Room at the Atlantic City Bottle Company and the Vagabond Kitchen & Tap House are for those looking to keep away from the slot monkeys. Vagabond isn’t fine dining (no place with a sandwich of brisket, pulled pork and peppered bacon called the Three Way is aspiring to that kind of cred), but it’s got easy bar food and the largest beer selection in the area.

Still, if you find yourself falling into the gravity of the casinos, there are some restaurants worth checking out. Palladino has places at both Revel (Luke’s Kitchen & Marketplace) and Harrah’s (the eponymous Luke Palladino), though his most beloved is probably the original Luke Palladino — a 60-seat trattoria in nearby Linwood. There’s Il Mulino at the Taj Mahal for super-upscale Italian, and the new Eastwind offering mainland Chinese at Resorts.

You’ll find a smorgasbord of named chefs at Revel (Marc Forgione, for one), but Jose Garces has made it into a mini-Philly with outposts of Village Whiskey, Amada and Distrito, plus the new-ish dim-sum-and-dumplings joint Yubōka.

Read more from our Summer 2014 Jersey Shore Guide.

One of Us: Patti LaBelle

Illustration by Andy Friedman

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Patti LaBelle. I was born Patricia Louise Holte. Patti LaBelle came from Harold B. Robinson, a car dealer in Philadelphia, who was our manager at the time. He gave me the name. It means “beautiful.”

I live in … Wynnewood. I’ve lived here for about 30 years. It’s okay, you can tell people that. Let them come and find me.

I grew up in … Southwest Philadelphia, at 5819 Washington Avenue. Kenny Gamble and I used to hang out at my mother’s home. We were finding ourselves.

My mother always taught me … to be nice to others and to maintain my innocence. Don’t go out there all trashy and the wrong way, so that people wouldn’t perceive me as a hooker.

The prettiest place in Philadelphia … is Kelly Drive, where those little houses are. I don’t drive, so someone takes me there. I never wanted to drive. I tried once and I ran into a tree.

My secret junk-food craving … is Cheetos, hot and spicy.

When people call me a diva … they may be correct. I’ve paid the dues, as have Gladys, Aretha, Barbra and Bette. So it doesn’t bother me. It bothers me when they call some of the newcomers divas who should never deserve it. I’ve been a diva for about 30 years.

If you’re coming to my house for dinner … expect to eat like a pig. I wrote three cookbooks, and I just released a line of hot sauces, marinades and barbecue sauces at Walmarts across the country. I love to cook. I make special crabcakes and fried corn. Fried porgies. Mmm.

My favorite song I’ve ever recorded … is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” It’s so positive. I sang it for Coretta Scott King and her children, and it was beautiful. I promise you, I felt like I was flying, levitating.

To stay in shape … I walk my dog, Mr. Cuddles, my shih tzu. And I walk in my pool. I can’t swim. Otis Redding tried to teach me when we were touring years ago. He said, “Just let go.” Well, I let go, and I almost drowned him.

For my 70th birthday in May … I ate crabs in my backyard.

The thing many people get wrong about me … is that I’m soft and easy to trick, a pushover. But don’t get it twisted: I see everything that people are trying to do.

If you really want to annoy me … chew crunchy hard pretzels loudly. It drives me crazy. People who chew lettuce or pretzels and don’t even hear
themselves—it grosses me out. I can’t take it.

On Friday nights … I watch Shark Tank. And then I watch TCM movies on Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday night.

If you’re pouring me a drink, make it … iced tea. Diet. I used to drink red wine like crazy, but I stopped eight months ago, cold turkey. I never got high off of it, and I said, why am I putting all of these calories into my beautiful body? But now and then, if I have a bushel of crabs, I’ll have one beer: a Sapporo.

The biggest problem with the music industry today … is that they let all these sorry acts through.

The first concert I ever went to was … Diana Ross. Kenny and I went together.

My hair has always been … a wig. Onstage, at least. They are easy.

My relationship status is … empty. I’m not looking. He will find me. I’m not looking, honey. No looking for Miss Patti. But I’m open. Very much so.

Originally published in the July 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

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