Over the summer I found myself back in the city of brotherly love, aka Philadelphia, where we kicked off the fourth season of Cheap Eats. I’ve been going to Philly for years; it’s where my wife is from and where my in-laws still reside. Often called the sixth borough because of its proximity to NYC, Philadelphia’s food scene is deep with diversity and culinary talent. I spent a day eating and drinking in the neighborhood of Fishtown and it was a great hop I had to share with you.
the spot: Dawa Sushi and Ramen 1204 N. Front St. Philadelphia PA 19122
the eats: Nigiri Sushi
the bucks: $$$ it’s sushi, so figure on $50+ a head before beer + sake
the full nelson: solid sushi in funky Fishtown
Philadelphia can get bougie. It can also get down n dirty. Dawa sits right in the middle with commendable sushi in a funky setting. Look at the website and you might expect something very polished as far as dining room aesthetics go. Frankly I walked in confused to where the dining area even was. I wasn’t sure what to make out of Dawa until this hit:
Toro, Snapper and Mackerel nigiri sushi hitting levels I’d expect to find in LA’s sushi row. Great nigiri sushi is about simplicity and quality. Ratios of fish to rice are critical, as much so as the quality of rice and of course the quality of the fish. I was pretty damn pleased at Dawa.
At least enough so to go for another round. Buttery Ora King salmon, Sea Bream and fatty Yellowtail hit just as hard. Sushi is never cheap, but when it’s this good, I’d find a way to make myself a regular at a place like Dawa. The quality to price is ratio is straight up bang for your sushi buck.
the spot: Lloyd Whiskey Bar 529 E. Girard Philadelphia PA 19125
the eats the drinks: Cocktails
the bucks: $10+ for stiff drinks
the full nelson: Drinks this stiff are worth the money
I’m not too picky about bars these days. When it takes a sitter to go out, the thrill of being at bar is often just enough. We are however more than a decade deep in the era of mixology. That means if I’m gonna spend $10 on drink . . it’s gotta be more than bourbon on the rocks.
We went light at dinner which meant we could only survive one round at Lloyd’s. These drinks were stiff and frankly worth the price. On the whole the Philly cocktail game impresses like you were in NYC but for like 2/3 the cost. I’ll make an Old Fashioned or two at home but they don’t come close to one’s like you get at Lloyd’s.
the spot: Garage Passyunk 1231 E. Passyunk Ave Philadelphia PA 19147
the eats the drinks: beers
the bucks: priced across the board from $4 tallboys to fancy pants craft + imports
the full nelson: killer beer selection + BYO cheesesteaks
So it turns on a Sunday in Philly not everything is open ,or at least open late. Which lead us out of Fishtown and over to the Garage Bar on Passyunk, in the Italian Market neighborhood. The beer selection and really the presentation is pretty darn impressive. I was counting the beers on the menu and stopped after like 23. Oh, that list is alphabetized and I was still in “the Bs”.
My only regret was not testing out Garage on Passyunk Ave’s BYO cheesesteak policy. While their other location has food, this one doesn’t but they make up for it by allowing customers to bring in their own cheesesteaks. Not too hard as you are close to two famous cheesesteak spots: Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s. Me, being on the wrong side of 40, meant skipping that at this hour and letting the beer keep our smiles going into the night.
Philadelphia is a killer combo of cool and grit. A great town to start restaurant hopping and have it evolve, or devolve depending on your mood, into a great bar hop. If you’re visiting the city or are even a local looking to get into the city for an evening, Id make a night of it over in Fishtown.