Rittenhouse Condo Above Free Library Branch Puts You In the Trees and in the Stacks


When most people think of the advantages of living directly on Rittenhouse Square, they probably think of proximity to chichi restaurants and lots of excellent shopping. Which is reasonable. But they really also ought to include the Philadelphia City Institute branch of the Free Library in their list of amenities on the Square. It is certainly among the choicest features for this one-bedroom condo lofted just above the branch.

The branch is named for the Philadelphia City Insitute, which actually first opened up at 18th and Chestnut in 1855. According to the Free Library, the branch has occupied the first and basement floors of the 220 building since 1957. Incidentally, that is the centennial anniversary of when the PCI founders (The Young Man’s Institute, of course) decided to let the ladies attend the fancy lectures. The Institute also hosted occasional concerts as well as night school. The branch is a gem not only for its David McShane mural (you might know him as the artist behind the Phillies mural project) but because it was designed by Institute member Erling H. Pedersen. He happens to be an architect who is also known to have worked on the Academy of Music, the Fairmount Water Works and the Valley Green Inn, among other city institutions.

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French Classics Prepared by a French Master


According to Craig LaBan, Pierre Calmels is hitting on all cylinders at his new Le Cheri. LaBan’s list of favorites appears to be most of the menu.

I can’t remember a better steak tartare than Le Chéri’s finely diced filet, edgy with Dijon and glossed with raw yolk, mounded atop the crispy potato lattice of fresh gaufrette chips. The onion soup is deeply sweet from onions caramelized for hours, but balanced with wine and stock, then sealed beneath the nutty tang of molten Comte. Familiar steak-frites gets an upgrade with earthy bavette (flat sirloin) and shallots soaked in Marchand de Vin gravy. The potatoes “Darphin,” crispy rails of shredded spuds in clarified butter, are the hash-brown sticks of my dreams. The choucroute is a classic crock of kraut beer-stewed to brown with bacon, foie gras fat, and house-made duck-pork sausage, then topped with a crispy blade of braised pork belly and mildly salted but flavorful duck confit.

Three Bells – Excellent

Calmelses’ Le Cheri: Back to Bistro [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Le Cheri [Foobooz]

Tasso Ham Panini Is Back at Plenty


House cured and smoked pork shoulder, smothered in Cayenne dry rub.

In early February we told you that Plenty was dropping its excellent Tasso Ham Panini. The news left us bitterly disappointed and we considered descending on the sandwich spot with pitchforks raised. Luckily that won’t be necessary as the tasso ham panini is back for at least a limited time. The official reasoning is that its for Mardi Gras but with the tease that it might be extended, we’re putting this one in the win column.

Plenty – Rittenhouse [Foobooz]
Plenty – East Passyunk [Foobooz]

Stately 121-Year-Old Spruce Street Stunner


Rittenhouse Square: where the stately elm trees are almost as old as the 19th-century homes and where a fully finished basement level is marketed not just as an in-law suite but as potential au-pair quarters.

This nearly 6,000-square-foot home features four floors above ground as well as the underground suite. There are seven bedrooms with five full baths and a powder room. Of course any home in Rittenhouse worth its salt also includes a library and a garden, and this one comes with its own 100-year-old elm.

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Free Hand-Cut Fries at Shake Shack Today

Handcut Fries at Shake Shack | Photo by Evan Sung

Handcut Fries at Shake Shack | Photo by Evan Sung

The Shake Shack at 20th and Sansom may have been Philadelphia’s first but it is the last to offer non-frozen fries. But that’s over today as Center City’s Shake Shack is on the fresh-cut bandwagon.

And in honor of the changeover, Shake Shack Center City is giving away free fries with the purchase of a Brooklyn Brewery ShackMeister Ale.

The offer runs until the keg is kicked.

Shake Shack – Center City [Foobooz]

Having a Ball at Le Chéri


According to Trey Popp, the Art Alliance may have finally found its restaurant in Pierre and Charlotte Calmels’ Le Cheri. Popp bestows three stars on the French bistro, despite being served testicles under the guise of “pistachio fries.”

Calmels cuts his boudin noir—another “Bizarre” selection—with extra flour, pushing the sometimes-crumbly texture of that blood sausage into the realm of dense chocolate cake. Best I’ve ever had.

And if there’s ravioli on the menu, get it—even if it sounds boring, like the delicate cream cheese ones whose tangy fillings turned out to be infused with truffle peelings one night.

Three Stars – Excellent

Restaurant Review: Le Cheri [Philadelphia Magazine]
Le Cheri [Foobooz]

Tales From The Cupcake Wars: Crumbs Bake Shop Goes Dark In Rittenhouse


Remember what a big deal it was when Crumbs Bake Shop came to town? We reported on the announcement, tracked the location in Rittenhouse Square and it even made the news when their awning went up. Cupcake aficionados were honestly excited about this publicly-traded, bi-coastal operation coming to Philly.

Well, now the Rittenhouse location is closed. It lasted just over a year in its space, and such a rapid departure for a proven operation like Crumbs has us thinking: Does this closure say something about us as a city?

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Classic Cinema Movie Night (And Themed Cocktails) At Franklin Mortgage This Sunday


In December, they did Top Gun–a classic of American cinema–with excellent themed cocktails based on the movie. And now, the crew from Franklin Mortgage is going back to the well once again for a Sunday Movie Night event featuring the completely insane Cage/Travolta masterpiece Face/Off. There’s gonna be cool drinks for just $11 a pop, pizza from the guys at Pitruco, Mike Treffehn and Catherine Manning behind the stick, and all the madness that comes of anything involving Nicolas Cage.

So, Sunday night, January 26. Make your plans now. And check out the cocktail menu below to get you in the mood.

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