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Long Weekend In The Cheesesteak Capital

Updated: Nov 9, 2020

With Labor Day Weekend quickly approaching and with zero plans in sight, Justin and I started brainstorming on where we should go that was under three hours away by car. I wanted to head to Charlottesville, Virginia, while he was leaning toward Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After much going back and forth, we decided that Philly was the way to go.

With COVID-19 causing traffic to be relatively light, we made it to Philly in no time during rush hour on Friday. We arrived at the Kimpton Hotel Palomar and checked into our room. The staff was very friendly and the check-in process was very smooth. Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 restrictions, valet parking was not an option, but there was a garage only a block away. Kimpton hotels are also usually known for their fun happy hours, but, again, due to COVID-19, those were not happening during our stay.

Being that it was Friday night, we decided to do a nice rooftop dinner with a friend who lives in the area. She suggested we try Continental Midtown. It did not disappoint. The French Onion Soup Dumplings were delicious and tasted just like the soup. Yum!

We also ordered several entries to split: the Jumbo Lump Crab Pad Thai, the Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps, the Lobster Mac n’ Cheese, and the Cheesesteak Eggrolls. You cannot go wrong with any of these dishes, but the Pad Thai was the winner in my book. Please don’t judge a Maryland girl for eating crab in another state. With our bellies happy and fulfilled, we called it a night soon after the dinner (after encountering some interesting characters on the “mean” streets of Philly).

Crab Pad Thai

The next day, while Justin was finishing up some work, my friend and I ventured to a Farmer’s Market in Rittenhouse Square. I am not usually one for Farmer’s Markets, as they are too crowded and too early, but I will say I did enjoy walking around this one in a beautiful park. We also grabbed much needed coffees at La Colombe Coffee Roasters. My latte was delicious. Several hours into walking around with no food in our bellies, we decided that it was time for lunch.

Upon a recommendation from another Philly friend, we ventured to Tommy DiNic’s in Reading Terminal Market to try Travel Channel’s “Best Sandwich in America.” It was a roast pork sandwich with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe. Normally, I am not a fan of the bitterness of broccoli rabe, but I very much enjoyed every bite of my half of the sandwich (Justin devoured the rest). As expected, we needed a sweet treat to follow, so we took some bites of my friend’s baklava that she bought at Kamals Middle Eastern Cuisine (also at the market). So flaky and pretty.

Roast Pork Broccoli Rabe Sandwich from Tommy DiNic's
Baklava from Kamals Middle Eastern Cuisine

My friend left us at this point, and we ventured to Magic Gardens to check out the murals and the mosaics. This was a great opportunity for photos. The gift shop is also adorable and reasonably priced. We made sure to buy a knick-knack to take home.

Magic Gardens

After a full day of adventuring, we needed to freshen up and change, so we made a short stop at our hotel, and then took an Uber to the Water Garden at Spruce Street. The Water Garden was truly awesome. Beautiful views, great drinks, good snacks, and just a very relaxing environment. They even had hammocks. So fun!

Napping in the hammocks at the Water Garden

After spending several hours there, we started walking to dinner. We had been craving sushi for a few weeks at this point, so we knew that the well-known Morimoto would hit the spot. This is Masaharu Morimoto’s flagship restaurant and has some incredible offerings. We ordered four different rolls, sashimi, the edamame, the wagyu dumplings, and a dessert. Our favorite roll strangely enough was the seasonal vegetable roll. Usually I am a salmon plus anything roll girl, but this vegetable roll was just perfect. If you are in the mood for fresh fish, run to Morimoto (after you make a reservation).

On Sunday, we planned to spend most of the day at a winery about thirty minutes outside of Philly. We grabbed some bagels (a breakfast bagel and a lox bagel of course) at Manhattan Bagel, a black and white donut at Federal Donuts (this place also has finger-licking good fried chicken), and started the drive to the winery.

Black and White Donut

The Penn Woods Winery experience was just what we needed. We started with a tasting that included an individual charcuterie plate and five different wines. The tasting included two reds, two whites, and one rosé. The tasting was about thirty minutes and very informative. We then got escorted to our table to enjoy the rest of our 2.5 hour reservation. Music was playing, the wine was flowing, and the weather was perfect. We could not have asked for a better time.

Wine Tasting

After spending three hours at the winery, we headed back into the city to meet another friend at The Olde Bar. Another great spot with yummy drinks, must-try lobster fries, huge tater tots, and a large selection of oysters. The whole area by the bar was very lively and great for people watching.

Lobster Cheese Fries

After snacking at The Olde Bar, it was time for a real dinner and we had been waiting to try Amada all weekend. Amada is Iron Chef Jose Garces’ spin on tapas. If you find yourself in the area, definitely try it out. We ordered the Charcuterie Board (of course we did), the Lamb Meatballs, the Spanish Omelette, the Wild Mushrooms, and the Duck Confit. The Charcuterie Board was absolutely beautiful and delicious. Surprisingly, although all of the dishes were extremely tasty, the winner was the mushroom dish (not pictured). I would never have guessed that.

On Monday we woke up sad that it was our last few hours in Philly before we had to head home. We started the day by checking out the Mutter Museum, which is a museum of medical history. Some of the exhibits were extremely disturbing, and others were very relevant to the current pandemic. Most important lesson we learned is that “Spit Spreads Death.”

After the museum and growing hungrier by the minute, we decided our last meal in Philly should be a cheesesteak. We took an Uber across town to Campo’s Philly Cheesesteak (in operation since 1947) and received just what we needed -- an authentic experience. We ordered the Mamma Mia Hoagie, the homemade pasta salad, and the Cheesesteak. Not only were all of these items aesthetically pleasing, but they were equally as delicious. Full and happy, we took a short walk around Penn’s Landing, and then said our goodbyes to Philly.

If you are looking for a two to three-day road trip close to Baltimore, check out Philly. The people, the food, and the sights are worth your while.

Most importantly, don’t forget to see the world, and eat the food.

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