Notable Philadelphians on the People and Places That Got Them Through the Past Year

We asked Kiley Reid, Adam Joseph, Martha Graham Cracker and more to shout out their favorites.

what got me through the pandemic

These notable Philadelphias tell us what got them through the pandemic. Illustrations by Cameron K. Lewis

We asked some notable Philadelphians what local institutions helped get them through this long year. Here’s what they had to say.

best of philly through pandemic

Kiley Reid

Kiley Reid, author
“During the lockdown, we were incredibly locked down; we didn’t go into any restaurants or see many people. But one thing I can’t wait to get back to, hopefully soon, is Malelani Café. Incredible Mediterranean food. Knockout black bean hummus.”

best of philly through pandemic

Bi Jean Ngo

Bi Jean Ngo, actress
“We really loved getting delivery from Bistro Southeast. It was such a great comfort to get an order of grilled pork banh mi, some goi cuon — summer rolls — and then a delicious seafood boil of peel-and-eat shrimp, clams and mussels, with corn and potatoes. The banh mi is made with the airiest, crisp Viet-style baguette, and the grilled pork was juicy and well-seasoned. The summer rolls were so fresh, and the seafood boil is a little bit of buttery heaven.”

best of philly through pandemic

Matt Cahn

Matt Cahn, owner, Middle Child
“The Philly Game Shop was an absolute boredom-savior during quarantine. They definitely exist for the real board-game heads — with more games than you can play in a lifetime — but they never looked at me funny when I went in there to buy the classics: chess, Yahtzee, etc. Which is more than I can say about how we look at people when they order salads.”

best of philly through pandemic

Martha Graham

Martha Graham Cracker, drag queen
“My fave neighborhood discovery is a tiny street with a tiny hidden park in South Philly. You enter from 8th and Sears, and you’re in this strange, quiet triangle of trees. It’s super-sweet.”

best of philly through pandemic

Adam Joseph

Adam Joseph, Action News meteorologist
“Jim Cannavo at Lilly Pool and Spa is the best! Fast service fixing anything that breaks with the pool. Over the pandemic, we needed a new filter, motor for the pool vacuum and heater for the pool. He always came ASAP and had parts at the ready. That pool and hot tub were lifesavers for the past year and a half for the family.”

best of philly through pandemic

Lisa Scottoline

Lisa Scottoline, author
“I was home with my daughter Francesca during the pandemic, and we both read more than ever. Main Point Books in Wayne, Towne Book Center in Collegeville, and Reads & Company Bookshop in Phoenixville offered curbside delivery, took telephone and online orders, and even held virtual signings. Booksellers are essential workers, and the survival of these bookstores keeps books in our communities.”

best of philly through pandemic

Kurt Evans

Kurt Evans, chef, Down North
“Something that helped me get through the past year was my trainer, Tariq Moore (IG: @Grindhard_bodie). We went to high school together, and his gym is Redemption Body Wellness Center in West Philly.”

Adam Weiner, frontman, Low Cut Connie
“I love hearing my pal Patty Jackson on WDAS. Hearing her voice throughout the quarantine has been such a comfort. She plays old school party R&B and tells you everything is gonna be alright and I believe her…My buddy the Geator has been doing fantastic Zoom interviews throughout the quarantine. The guy is 80 years old and found a way to keep us entertained talking with legends like Dionne Warwick, Frankie Valli, Kenny Gamble…”

Rebecca Rhynhart, controller
Center City Orthodontics. Dr. Thomas opened the office up in spring 2020 in the height of pandemic to do an emergency fixing of Julia’s expander.. he was great, couldn’t ask for better help and service during the pandemic!”

Hurricane Schwartz, meteorologist
“Abington Memorial Field. My wife and I got to walk on the track several times when the weather was decent. Great track surface-flat-nearly empty.”

Brittany Lynn, drag queen
Meesha Aesthetics, who gave me my first touch of a little ‘filler’ so I can look my best to film my first movie, Parrot, that hits film fests this summer. Or Faces by Fo that gave me the gayest of eyebrows via microblading.

Lisa Deeley, city comissioner
“Reading Terminal Market is my first choice because they were a godsend during the vote counting in the Nov 2020 election. The donuts at Beiler’s were the fuel that powered the count!”

Alex Holley, Good Day Philadelphia co-host
“I had never been to Hawthorne’s before the pandemic, but once things started to reopen, I discovered their brunch, and it’s amazing. I love their chicken and waffles. I’m from the south, so it means more to me when people get it right, because I’ve had a lot of bad ones. And their biscuits are perfect and they do this potato salad that sounded weird at first — it’s arugula and potatoes and Gouda cheese — but it’s really good.”

Sean Agnew, Union Transfer owner
I legit love Al Morganti. Co-host of 94 WIP’s famed Sports Talk Morning show…. Not necessarily for his comments or views during the main drive time show. From 5:30 to 6am he does the ‘Overlap’ and ;Something Shows’ by himself. It’s just Al by himself chiming in with his thoughts of the morning. Some sports but A LOT excited and optimistic thoughts about the COVID progress which was being made WHILE poking fun at some of the ridiculousness of the city’s response. It really helped, especially around Jan/Feb/March. It was the perfect blend of ‘look it’s getting better!’ blended with a healthy skepticism that all Philadelphia seem to love. A++++ !”

James Ijames, playwright
“Jaylene Clark Owens and Justin Jain’s virtual show/podcast Poppa Pank. It’s so delightful to see these two actors in a new light and it’s so much fun.”

A version of this story published as “What Got Me Through” in the August 2021 issue of Philadelphia magazine.