It’s Pumpkin Spice Season! Here’s Where to Find Fall’s Favorite Flavor in Philly
Pumpkin season is finally here and these Philly restaurants understood the assignment.
Pumpkin spice season waits for no one. She doesn’t care if you’re ready for her. She doesn’t care if the heat of summer is clinging on. She doesn’t even care if you like her or not, in fact, the disdain over pumpkin spice season just makes her stronger.
Come mid-August, pumpkin spice begins to percolate on menus, and by September it’s a full-blown invasion. And I, for one, eagerly and unapologetically welcome the return of our autumnal overlord. Fall is my favorite season. I am a sucker for leaf peeping, cable-knit sweaters, hayrides on crisp days and bonfires during those chilly nights. And though most of those moments don’t hit until mid-October, the strong scent and flavor of pumpkin spice gets me in the fall spirit.
Pumpkin alone doesn’t have much flavor. It is a mild fruit (yes, botanically speaking it is a fruit). It’s earthy and a little nutty with a hint of sweetness. That is why it needs an aromatic blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and other warming spices to punch up its flavor — a potent blend we recognize as “pumpkin spice.”
The first pumpkin spice recipe ever recorded appeared in Amelia Simmons’s cookbook, American Cookery, in 1796 and was applied to a “pompkin” pudding dish that closely resembles today’s pumpkin pie. Since then, the genre has expanded beyond the humble pie to include lattes, donuts, cakes, ice creams and even cocktails.
To best indulge in autumn’s favorite flavor, here are restaurants celebrating pumpkin spice in all her glory.
Rex at the Royal, Grad Hospital
Rex at the Royal is so into pumpkin spice season that they’ve made a menu dedicated to it. Their pumpkin spice menu features a pumpkin spice latte, an herbal pumpkin spice hot tea, a pumpkin spice sweet tea, and an effervescent homemade pumpkin spice soda. All of these drinks are made with organic pumpkins and no artificial flavoring. 1524 South Street
Bluebird Distilling, Phoenixville
The crisp fall air hits different when you’ve got a spiced drink in hand, which is why Bluebird Distilling’s Spiced Pumpkin Dark Rum is a must-have for the season. With notes of pumpkin, molasses, and spices, this rum is great to sip straight or incorporate into seasonal cocktails and baking. 100 Bridge Street
Vibrant Coffee, Rittenhouse and University City
The prevalence of pumpkin spice lattes during this time of year demands that coffee shops get creative. Enter Vibrant Coffee’s maple pumpkin spice latte made with fresh espresso, a blend of house-made pumpkin syrup and real maple syrup, and a spice blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. It’s a fall drink that’ll warm you inside and out. 222 West Rittenhouse Square and 2955 Market Street
Càphê Roasters, Kensington
Note to coffee shops – if you’re going to do a pumpkin spiced coffee of any kind this season, you must do it exceptionally well. Càphê Roasters is a Philly Mag favorite and when it comes to their spiced pumpkin cà phê sữa, they do not disappoint. The aesthetically pleasing beverage comes in a tricolor gradient of traditional Vietnamese coffee, a shaken mixture of condensed milk and spiced pumpkin purée, and is topped with a pumpkin cold foam. 3400 J Street G1
Crocus, Farmers’ markets in multiple locations
Crocus Eatery is known for their all-vegan takes on traditional Pennsylvania Dutch dishes. And though you have to love the ham-less “Sham Spread” and the meatless Dutch pot pie, it’s the whoopie pies that keep people coming to their farmers’ market table week after week. Each month, a new seasonal whoopie pie is introduced. And the seasonal whoopie for October is the much-anticipated pumpkin whoopie made with two fluffy slabs of pumpkin cake and filled with a light, airy maple frosting. Rittenhouse Square on Saturdays, first and third Saturdays at Clark Park, second and fourth Saturdays in East Falls, second and fourth Sundays at Headhouse
The pumpkin spice crème cocktail at Blondie will make you really appreciate the cocktail-for-dessert genre. This sexy little vodka number has a mix of fresh pumpkin purée and creamy half-and-half, and is flavored with vanilla and agave syrup. And, as if it couldn’t get any better, it’s topped with whipped cream and a cookie. 4417 Main Street
Mifflin Tavern, Pennsport
The calendar says fall but the heat of summer still clings on into late September and even early October. For those hot fall days there’s Mifflin Tavern’s frozen pumpkin-pie sangria — a pinot grigio, apple cider, cinnamon whiskey and vanilla vodka punch made with pumpkin purée, spices, caramel and a spiced sugar rim. 1843 South 2nd Street
Talula’s Garden, Washington Square West
Anytime a dessert is served in a hot skillet I have to order it. At Talula’s Garden, they’re serving a warm blondie skillet topped with pumpkin spice ice cream and maple pumpkin seeds. And if you’re on the go, you can stop by Talula’s Daily next door where you can get a pumpkin cupcake topped with a cream-cheese frosting and candied pecans. 210 West Washington Square
Federal Donuts, Multiple Locations
Wild that it took this long, but Federal Donuts introduced their first ever pumpkin cake doughnut this season. Used for their pumpkin roll fancy doughnut, this sweet pastry is covered in a thick vanilla bean cream cheese glaze with a light dusting of aromatic pumpkin spice. The pumpkin cake doughnut paired with the ultra-rich glaze makes for a gooey fall dessert.
Batter and Crumbs, Point Breeze
Batter and Crumbs, the all-vegan bakery and cafe, has created the best way to start a fall day: pumpkin spice overnight oats with a creamy pumpkin cold brew. Both are creamy, pumpkin-flavored delights with fall spices and a hint of sweetness. 1401 Reed Street
New June Bakery
If you’re planning on ordering a cake this fall, why not get a festive olive oil pumpkin and chocolate-chip cake from New June Bakery? A cinnamon and vanilla cream-cheese frosting glues together each layer of moist olive oil and pumpkin-spiced cake. The whole cake is a delight, but the real treat? The large chocolate chips distributed throughout. Hitting a hunk of chocolate in the midst of the spiced cake is like finding a sweet treasure. Pick-up only
Somerset Splits, Port Richmond
Ice cream is no longer limited to the summertime. It’s a treat worthy of all seasons. Somerset Splits, the ice cream parlor that goes buck wild with their sundaes, has two pumpkin-themed desserts on the menu. The Gritty Sundae starts with their pumpkin ice cream as the base. It’s mixed with Milkbar’s liquid cheesecake, a condensed milk and brûlée fluff with hefty chunks of Oreo brittle. Then there’s the Ice Spice Sundae, a more classic take on the pumpkin spice genre (or at least classic compared to Somerset Splits other ice cream concoctions). This one also starts with the pumpkin ice cream but incorporates a pumpkin spice roll, chocolate chips and more of that brûlée fluff. 2600 East Somerset Street
Sweet Box Bakery, Washington Square West
Sweet Box has pumpkin cheesecake bars that are as Instagrammable as they are tasty. If you want a dessert that packs a lot of pumpkin spice, this one is for you. The creamy cheesecake is loaded with cinnamon and spices, made even sweeter and creamier with a cinnamon-mascarpone whipped cream. 339 South 13th Street
Franklin Fountain, Old City
If you’re having a small dinner party this fall, pre-order one of Franklin Fountain’s pumpkin ice-cream cake for dessert. Shaped like a pumpkin, it’s made with tart pumpkin-butter ice cream and has layers of butterscotch and caramelized white chocolate-covered gingerbread pieces, candied ginger and spiced pecans. For $60, the cake serves six to eight people. It’s only available by pre-order and pick-ups start September 30th. 116 Market Street
Merzbacher makes the kind of bread that you can eat by itself and feel satisfied. Which is why their hearty pumpkin spice muffins are front and center on the stage of seasonal breads. This bread isn’t an accompaniment, nor is it the vehicle by which other accoutrements are transported to your mouth (though it could be) – this bread is the main event. 4530 Germantown Avenue
Weckerly’s, Fishtown and West Philly
This weekend, Weckerly’s is bringing two pumpkin-spiced goodies to their menu. They’ll have a pumpkin-pie ice cream made with local heirloom pumpkins and pieces of house-made pumpkin-pie bars folded in. To give the scoop more of an autumnal vibe, they’re adding cider and whole spices to the mix. They’ll also have a sandwich called the PSL, which will be half pumpkin ice cream and half coffee ice cream (made with Càphê Roasters’ Vietnamese espresso) with a layer of salted caramel, all held together with cinnamon cookies. 9 West Girard Avenue and 265 South 44th Street
Forsythia, Old City
The next installation of Forsythia’s French AF dinner series combines both pumpkin and truffle seasons. Taking place on Wednesday, October 11th, La Fête de La Citrouille & Truffe will be a prix-fixe five-course meal including pumpkin-beer-braised mussels with black-truffle tartine, roasted scallops with pickled pumpkin and pumpkin seeds with black-truffle bone-marrow butter, a hay-roasted rabbit crêpe with roasted pumpkin and truffle honey, and more. 233 Chestnut Street