Given the vast amount of horse country Chester County boasts (and boasts, and boasts), its actually surprisingly difficult to find places that allow non-horse-owning amateurs to hop in a saddle and fulfill their John Wayne/Tracy Lord equestrian fantasies. Enter Gateway Stables: The Kennett Square riding center provides everything you might need for a nice leisurely ride the horse (generally quite docile), the beautiful countryside, a short pre-ride briefing, a guide, helmets, and handlers who can hand-lead small children, should you own some. You bring the boots. 949 Merrybell Lane, Kennett Square, PA 19348, gatewaystables.com.
There's a reason why when you cross the border into certain distant exurbs, every other car on the road is sporting a trunk magnet with the double-R logo of Railroad Street. This place has everything you want in a great beer bar -- a dozen-odd rotating taps, a huge bottle list packed with weird stuff, a staff that actually knows about all that weird stuff, some salty things on a menu that's better than it needs to be, and a back room filled with vintage pinball machines to play when you're drunk. 36 Railroad Street, Linfield, PA 19468, railroadstreet.com/.
There are plenty of B&Bs in Bucks County, but this is the only one that's earned four AAA diamonds. On the outskirts of New Hope, the inn's five verdant acres, heated outdoor pool, moonlit deck, attentive staff, and impeccable accommodations (from $295) exceed expectations. Breakfast is courtesy of the hens out back. For dinner and drinks, pay a visit to the iconic Boathouse Bar and Hamilton's Grill Room (8 Coryell Street, Lambertville, 609-397-4343). But also be sure not to miss new Middle Eastern gem Marhaba, which is BYO (77 South Union Street, Lambertville, 609-397-7777). 518 Lurgan Road, New Hope, PA 18938, theinnatbowmanshill.com.
Where else to go but Fishtown? Start with the $2 tacos and tasty $4 margaritas at Loco Pezs lively happy hour (5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 1 to 3 p.m. on weekends; 2401 East Norris Street, 267-886-8061) before challenging your date to a few rounds of Asteroids and Donkey Kong (and beers, of course) at Barcade (1114 Frankford Avenue, 215-634-4400). If things are going well, proceed to nearby Kung Fu Necktie (1250 North Front Street, 215-291-4191) for some affordable live music many shows are just $10. 00000,
We absolutely did not need any more “New American” restaurants in this town. Mostly because that description means, essentially, nothing these days — it’s a semantically null phrase most often used for restaurants that don’t really know what they are. But Texas chef Randy Rucker knew exactly what he was doing when he brought River Twice to East Passyunk — opening a deeply personal spot that features modernist impulses, house-made pickles, butter beans escabeche, and his mom’s recipe for bread dumplings. In its moment, it was as idiosyncratic as it was startling, as welcoming as it was delicious, and while it pivoted to takeout during the unpleasantness, we’re hoping hard to see it open again one day soon. 1601 East Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19148, rivertwicerestaurant.com/.
Running a family-friendly dining spot is harder than it looks: Cater too much to the kids, and parents want to blow their brains out; cater too much to the parents, and parents still want to blow their brains out (because if the kids ain't happy, ain't nobody happy). This neon-bright '50s-style Mount Airy spot gets the blend just right: The kids' menu (which comes on an old-school Viewmaster cool!) offers up crowd-pleasing kid fare like chicken nuggets and mac-and-cheese, while the regular menu has enough ambition and variety (including great veggie options, like an eggplant grinder) to make grown-ups happy, too. Mom-and-dad bonus: great craft beers and boozy adult milkshakes. 7619 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19119, trolleycardiner.com/.
If you were traveling abroad when the coronavirus landed in the U.S., there was good reason to panic. Fear of spreading the virus brought international travel to a sudden halt, making returns to North America nearly impossible. Just when things couldn’t look more bleak or uncertain, there came the tiniest glimmer of hope from the least-expected source. Eastern Airlines, a small Wayne-based carrier (think 10 planes and a staff of about 200), came to the literal rescue. Through careful coordination with the State Department and local officials, Eastern organized rescue flights, and to date, they’ve flown nearly 24,000 once-stranded American citizens from Central and South America back to the States. goeasternair.com/.
Yes, it’s obvious. And yes, you have to dodge hordes of hyperactive children and hawkers slinging overpriced Gatorade. But the best place for an alfresco sweat session in this city will always be the Art Museum steps, 72 tiny limestone mountains that will kill your calves and tone your butt. At the bottom, you roll your eyes at the selfie-taking out-of-towners. On the way up, you curse the goddamn class trips blocking your ascent. But once you’ve made it, you turn around – legs aching, lungs burning – and look back over the city and feel like you’ve conquered it. And that will never not be a rush. So go practice yoga on some fancy rooftop, or do your Pilates in the park. As for me, I’ll be running the Art Museum steps with the tourists. See you at the top. – Gina Tomaine
At some Chinese restaurants, there are two separate menus the one given to American diners, and the secret one reserved for Chinese-speaking patrons. Not here: All diners get the same menu, which has both Americanized kung pao and lo mein and bona fide dishes you'd actually find in China. While you may find comfort in ordering your tried-and-true dishes (and they're great here), good things happen when you leap over that Great Wall to the other side of the menu. Cases in point: perfectly snappy shrimp in a hot pepper sauce, sizzling beef with charred scallion, and tea-smoked duck that'll have your taste buds on the road to Shanghai. 260 North Pottstown Pike, Exton, PA 19341, handynasty.net/.
There are times when we resent how obsessed this city can get with pizza. How in 2020 — an era in dining when we ought to be fawning over Sri Lankan curries and Nigerian jollof rice — pizza still consistently gets top billing.
And there are other times — like … now, when the world feels so unsteady — that we’re very happy seeking solace in the basics. Finding comfort in pizza. Letting Philly’s pizzaiolos, you know, take care of us in our time of need. Because if nothing else, pizza is as comforting as comfort foods get.
When we were still in the red phase, some shops, like Pizzeria Stella(420 South 2nd Street) in Society Hill, Barbuzzo (110 South 13th Street) in Midtown Village, and Wood Street Pizza (325 North 12th Street) in Callowhill (which, not for nothing, is one of the city’s best classic pizza shops), provided us with DIY pizza kits that kept us occupied and well-fed during the quarantine. Wood Street’s Dean Kitagawa even commissioned his wife, Sarah D’Ambrosio, to create artwork on some of the pizza boxes. “It was a small thing we did to establish a connection with our guests — a connection we lost when we pivoted to just doing takeout,” he says.
Philly found comfort in pizza even when the style of pizza was completely new to us. Much as it did in almost every other major food city in the U.S., Detroit-style pizza took over Philly. Of course, it got the aged-dough/high-quality-ingredients treatment we’ve become so used to seeing; witness Dan Gutter’s focaccia-like frico-crusted pies from Circles + Squares (2513 Tulip Street) in Kensington, or even his less Detroit-y pan pizzas — à la Pizza Hut — at Pizza Plus (1846 South 12th Street) in East Passyunk, or the fat, deeply caramelized squares at Sidecar Bar & Grille (2201 Christian Street) in Grad Hospital. The ranch-drizzled, banana-peppered monstrosity at Emmy Squared (632 South 5th Street) was a delicious addition to Queen Village.
Neapolitan pizza, a food trend that came as quickly as it left this city, found new life at Gigi Pizza (504 Bainbridge Street), across the street from Emmy Squared. They do a sort of hybrid NYC-meets-Napoli pie baked in a wood-burning oven, with a crust that’s somehow both airy and stiff — essentially, a big middle finger to the chewy, soupy pies favored by the Neapolitan pizza gods.
We saw our fair share of illegal pizza activity, too, which has become something of the norm in this city after @pizza_gutt paved the way back in 2017. Instagram “pizza shops” like @pizza_jawn and @freelancepizza_ began delivering pies (baked who knows where) to their thousands of eager followers.
And in maybe the longest slog of quarantine, Joe and Angela Cicala, the chef-owners of Cicala at the Divine Lorraine and former owners of Brigantessa in East Passyunk, launched an illicit pizza “speakeasy” out of their backyard in South Philly, with proceeds to help pay their laid-off staff. On its first day, the Cicalas sold 200 pizzas in 40 minutes. They sold out again on the second day. And on the third day, seven cops and two city health inspectors shut the operation down. Pizza-obsessed, indeed.
Sometime in my mid-20s, three faint but distinct lines decided to plant themselves on my brow, stretching from temple to temple across my forehead like a fence without posts. I sometimes stand under the harshest light in my bathroom, dapping on a variety of products to see if with the right combination they might plump back out, like little troughs just waiting to be filled. They never do. Well, they never did, I should say Five years ago, on the advice of a friend, I went to Rescue Rittenhouse Spa's Danuta Mieloch, a Polish-born aesthetician who worked in Paris and Manhattan before opening Rescue here nearly a decade ago. Her facials are the only thing that has ever made the lines fade to near-nothingness. I realize this sounds absurd, especially because we're not talking about injectables or lasers or anything you've seen on Real Housewives. The magic comes courtesy of a non-invasive, utterly relaxing 60 minutes filled with exfoliating, a little microdermabrasion, and lots of moisturizing. The result is Beyonce-level luminosity and smoothed-out skin. One glows no exaggeration for weeks. Chances are good that I'm not writing anything you haven't read about or experienced yourself: Danuta (or Dana, as she's known to clients) long ago became an instant Philly classic. Friends told friends, and suddenly you had to wait six months to get an appointment But Rescue the closest thing I've ever found to redemption for all those sunburns in my youth is always worth it. 225 South 17th Street, 2nd Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103, rescuerittenhousespa.com/.
While COVID-19 decimated the city’s restaurant scene, it also helped push Philly’s antiquated liquor laws just a bit into the 21st century. Here’s how.
The Lawsuit | The PLCB always acted as the middleman between wine dealers who sold specialty bottles (you know, the natural, biodynamic wine made by small producers) and places where you’d normally buy those bottles (restaurants and bottle shops). So when COVID-19 shut down all Pennsylvania state stores back in March, dealers in Philly were no longer able to sell their product, and independent wine retailers couldn’t restock their shelves. Two dealers, MFW Wine Co. LLC and A6 Wine Co., said “Enough!” and sued the motherfriggin’ PLCB.
While the suit is still moving slowly through the system — the PLCB appealed the ruling of the Commonwealth Court — the implications of PLCB-free wine commerce in the Philly restaurant industry are huge. Because even right now, in 2020, wine delivery is still nonexistent for retailers and restaurants. Right now, there’s still essentially no wholesale discount. Right now, retailers are paying gratuitous fees (and passing the cost on to us). And a lawsuit like this — which, mind you, has a good chance of succeeding — might very well change all of that.
To-Go Cocktails | The problems inherent in working within the PLCB’s convoluted systems were only exacerbated when coronavirus came along and shut down our nightlife scene entirely. Something had to give.
On May 21st, Governor Tom Wolf signed into law a piece of legislation that allowed restaurants and bars that had lost at least 25 percent of their average monthly sales due to the pandemic to sell cocktails to-go. Which means that for the first time since Prohibition, you can walk up to a bar in Philadelphia and order some martinis for the road, and nobody — not even a PLCB officer — can stop you from living your life. The to-go-martini kind of life.
Wine Shops! Finally! | When the PLCB temporarily closed all its stores, these shops stayed open and kept us drinking and drunk during the apocalypse. And they deserve all the attention in the world.
• Vernick Wine, 2029 Walnut Street, Rittenhouse
• Tinys Bottle Shop, 3124 Richmond Street, Port Richmond
• Di Bruno Bros., 9th Street Bottle Shop, 920 South 9th Street, Bella Vista
• Fancy Wine Club at Bloomsday, 414 South 2nd Street, Society Hill
• Le Caveau, 614 South 7th Street, Bella Vista
• Fishtown Social, 1525 Frankford Avenue, Fishtown
• Wine Dive, 1506 South Street, Grad Hospital
• Jet Wine Bar, 1525 South Street, Grad Hospital