Where to Find the Best Food During Center City Sips

Sky Garten will be open tonight and serving

Sky Garten will be open tonight and serving potato pancakes, brats and pretzel sticks

We are now a little over a week into Center City Sips. The drinks ($3 beer, $4 wine and $5 cocktails) are flowing and when the threat of unyielding downpour subsides, the weather should be great.

The true beauty of this event though is not just the drinks, but the endless half-price appetizers to soak it all up. While it is easy to find snacks to accompany the booze, it can be hard to track down the places with great appetizers. Nachos, mozzarella sticks, and wings are a dime a dozen during Center City Sips. It takes time and dedication to weed out the duds.

We’ve helped you out by narrowing down the list of a few places that are going to give you more than a warm plate of mozzarella sticks for your hard earned dollars.

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So Have You Eaten There Yet?

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We have a wall at the office entirely given over to a Post-It Note snapshot of everything happening in the Philly restaurant world at this given moment. Hundreds of yellow squares, on which are written the names of restaurants, initials, arrows and mysterious heiroglyphs that only Art and I (and mostly I) can understand.

The Post-Its move. Get grouped, get broken up. The restaurants we love and the restaurants we hate are all represented (in wildly unequal numbers). Restaurants that are coming–addresses chosen, opening dates optimistically scheduled–have their own space, as do established and open restaurants whose reviews are in the works. Lately, that particular section of wall has been growing crowded. There are just so many goddamn restaurants coming (it’s spring, that happens) that it feels overwhelming.

So with six months of (mostly) weekly reviews behind me, and dozens of new openings incoming, I figured this might be a good time to look back and highlight the best moments of the past six months–places that you might’ve missed, places that you really ought to get to (if you haven’t already) before the lure of new-new restaurants becomes too overpowering.

So let’s start with…

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Aldine Getting in the Local Spirit

Jennifer Sabatino has the bar stocked with local spirits at Aldine | Photo via Jennifer Sabatino

Jennifer Sabatino has the bar stocked with local spirits at Aldine | Photo via Jennifer Sabatino

Over the last several weeks, Jennifer Sabatino has been overhauling the liquor stock at Aldine. The former bar manager of Stateside (which specialized in American spirits), is remaking the liquor selection at Aldine to be all-local. Sabatino has more than twenty local spirits behind the second floor bar now and is working on overhauling the cocktails to take advantage of the recent explosion in Pennsylvania and New Jersey spirits.

During a visit yesterday, Sabatino was particularly “fired up” (in the parlance of her husband, chef George Sabatino) about Bluebird Distilling’s Juniperus Gin (Phoenixville), an aromatic spirit first distilled from rye. She also had nothing but praise for Manatawny Still Works’ small batch #7 whiskey (Pottstown). Despite its young age, the cask strength whiskey didn’t come across as harsh or burning.

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Aldine and Saint Benjamin’s Will be at Amis

Saint Benjamin's and Aldine at Amis.

Saint Benjamin’s and Aldine at Amis.

Aldine and Saint Benjamin’s Brewing are teaming up for 2016’s first Industry Night at Amis. Tonight, Monday, January 4th, Aldine’s George Sabatino will be serving up tasty bites while Saint Benjamin’s pours discounted beers.

The event kicks off at 10 p.m., bring proof of hospitality employment as admission.

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Spend Christmas Eve with Stargazy Pies at Aldine

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South Park’s Cartman would appreciate this pie fest.

In what we hope becomes a long running tradition, on Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24th, Aldine chef/owner George Sabatino is inviting his long time friend Sam Jacobson, chef/owner of East Passyunk’s British pie and mash shop, Stargazy, to come over and celebrate the holiday.

And instead of turkey, ham, seven fishes or even Chinese food, there will be pies. An all-you-can-eat pie buffet to be exact. The event will cost $40 per person and will include Stargazy staples plus special pies like, pulled beef cheek; chorizo and mussel; chana masala (vegetarian), and winter pumpkin with house ricotta (also vegetarian).

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Back to the Future: Aldine Revisited

Warm romanesco : butternut squash vinaigrette : sunflower seeds : toasted oat milk froth | Photo by George Sabatino

Warm romanesco : butternut squash vinaigrette : sunflower seeds : toasted oat milk froth | Photo by George Sabatino

I have never before been stricken speechless by beets, but I was at Aldine. Big beets—chunks of them cut like kebab meat, that require days of preparation (marination, dehydration, poaching, having bedtime stories read to them, whatever) to give them the texture of rare steak. Beets that taste of pickle-y bitterness and garlic and a lingering, building chili heat. They came on a plate as beautiful as all the plates at Aldine, a shallow bowl in which they sat clustered together, punctuated by razor-thin slices of radish and a smear of sour yogurt and curled puffs of beet chips that I would’ve gladly eaten from a bag while sitting on my couch.

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Aldine Is Celebrating Year One with a Halloween Party

The Sabatinos dogs at Aldine | Photo by  Emily Teel

The Sabatinos dogs on the wall at Aldine | Photo by Emily Teel

George and Jennifer Sabatino’s Aldine turns one this Wednesday, October 28th. The Sabatinos are throwing an Anniversary/Halloween party to celebrate. Instead of sit-down dinner service, for $35 guests can enjoy an unlimited buffet of selections from Aldine’s fall menu. Among the dishes offered:

  • Potato and leek croquettes with herb aioli
  • Chicken liver mousse on focaccia with sweet and sour red onions
  • Roasted baby carrots with sour cherries and almonds
  • Squash tartine served on house made grilled bread

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Drinking Seasonally: Cool-Weather Cocktails In Philly

Fall Cocktails at Heritage | Photo via Heritage

Fall Cocktails at Heritage | Photo via Heritage

A man can’t live on gin and tonic alone.

Well, he can, I suppose. And god knows I try. But the changing seasons here don’t just affect what’s for dinner at Philly’s better bars and restaurants, they also mean changes to cocktail lists across the city. We poked around a little bit, and here’s what we found: Almost a dozen cool-weather cocktails that you should be drinking this weekend.

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