The Philly Pho Fare: Trip Planning
Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge Terminal 4 SIN
Vietnam Airlines A321 Economy SIN-HAN
Qatar Airways B77W Business Class HAN-DOH
Qatar Airways A350 Business Class DOH-PHL
Aloft Philadelphia Downtown
British Airways Business Class Lounge PHL
Qatar Airways A350 Business Class PHL-DOH
Qatar Airways Arrivals Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways Complimentary Doha Stopover Package (Westin Doha)
Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Business Class Lounge DOH
Vietnam Airlines Business Class Lounge HAN
Silk Air B737 Business Class HAN-SIN
Philly is a great town for exploring. The city is very walkable, and the amazing thing is I didn’t have to use public transport at all the entire time I was there (except to get from the airport to downtown). Most of the times, I walked to where I needed to go and where the distance was too long I used Lyft (which gives $50 off your first 10 rides, capped at $5 each- google online for the code as it tends to change).
If you’re into American Revolutionary history you’ll find plenty to like about Philly. I did see the Liberty Bell, and the Museum of the American Revolution, and did a couple of free walking tours that covered attractions like the Betsy Ross House and Congress Hall and Ben Franklin’s burial site, but I think I’d rather talk about the food because the founding fathers fought for the freedom for Americans to pour cheese on everything.
Here are my favourite Philly eats:
Go here for the french toast, stay here because you’ve eaten too much to move.
Sabrina’s is the go-to place for breakfast in Philly, and with french toast this amazing it’s not hard to see why. They use challah bread, put some cinnamon sugar on it and presumably inject it with drugs or something because it’s completely addictive.
1608 South St, Philadelphia
Entree BYOB was this little new American eatery I found on Yelp that was a short walk from my AirBnB, and was without a doubt the best meal I had in all of Philly.
The food was so amazing I ended up going twice. The first time round I had fried calamari, with Peppadews, Balsamic Reduction and Sriracha Aioli…
…and the second I had the wild shrimp dragon style, which were fried and tossed with Sweet and Spicy Scotch Bonnet Mango Glaze.
The first time I had Lobster Fra Diavol’o, which featured maine Lobster Tail, Jumbo Shrimp, Mussels, Calamari W/ Sicilian Style Fra Diavolo Sauce over Squid Ink Linguini…
…and the second time I went with honey marsala glazed half chicken, with Mashed Potatoes, Grilled Asparagus, Lemon Herb Chicken Jus. The chicken was moist and juicy, and the skin was crispy.
The show stopping number for me was the fried oreo desert, which I simply had to have both times I went. Yes, a fried oreo. It’s done funnel cake style, where the oreo is immersed in a dough ball and deep fried.
Then served with vanilla ice cream and oreo dustings. I don’t know what it is they do, but this is crack. The not too heavy coating of the oreo with the occasional crunch of oreo bits embedded into the batter combined with the vanilla ice cream to create what I swear should not be legal.
Vernick Food and Drink
2031 Walnut St, Philadelphia
Vernick Food and Drink is THE restaurant to get a table at in Philly, and despite booking well in advance the only slot I could get was 5pm on a weekday. That was good enough for me though, as I’m the sort who plans activities around mealtimes.
I started with a bay scallop ceviche, which was served with blood orange that gave the dish a nice tang.
Vernick is known for their toasts, and the Maryland crab toast didn’t disappoint.
For the main I tried to be healthy and go for the fish, which was a grilled black sea bass, butter-braised cabbage, broccoli rabe, dijon broth.
The meal won’t be your cheapest, but there could be no arguing with the quality.
509 S 2nd St, Philadelphia
I found myself in the States on Thanksgiving day for the first time in my life, and decided to find a restaurant serving a traditional thanksgiving meal. You’d be surprised that plenty of restaurants do open for thanksgiving, it’s not quite the shutdown that we in Singapore experience during CNY.
Twisted Tail had decent reviews and wasn’t too far, so that’s where I headed.
The set meal of $49 before gratuity and tax was homely enough, but I was surprised that the serving of turkey was small. Like even for Asian eaters this was small. There were unlimited sides though, and you could have all the kale salad, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes and beans you could eat.
2536 Kensington Ave, Philadelphia
It wouldn’t be the Philly Pho Fare without pho, and surprisingly Philly has one of the highest concentrations of Vietnamese immigrants on the east coast. Thang Long came highly recommended, so that’s where I headed. It was only as my Lyft was driving through the neighbourhoods to get there that I realised, man, this really isn’t the kind of place you want to walk around in after dark. So only visit Thang Long, if you do, during the day.
The pho was excellent. A rich broth, springy noodles and a generous serving of beef slices. Apparently, the owner gets up at 4 a.m each day to start making the soup.
Reading Terminal Market
51 N 12th St, Philadelphia
This place is just amazing. It’s crowded, delicious and overwhelming. I don’t even know where to start. Think of the Chelsea Market in New York, only on steroids.
Miller’s Twist- If Auntie Annie’s is the only pretzel you have ever known, you owe it to yourself to try Miller’s Twist.
None of this weak, mass produced anemic crap that we get in Singapore. Think of a hot, buttery pretzel topped with cinnamon sugar that just yields to your every bite. Heavenly.
Hunger Burger- Is one of those social enterprise minded burger joints, but that doesn’t distract them from producing a burger as good as any out there.
Here’s my very simple bacon cheeseburger. For me In N Out will forever have the title of best burger ever, but this must have come very close. I’m convinced there’s something special about potato buns. That warm, doughy goodness coupled with juicy meat and just the right amount of secret sauce was an exquisite combination.
Dutch Eating Place- Is a mainstay for breakfast among locals and tourists alike.
Their chief export is the apple dumpling, as made famous by many media outlets.
What’s an apple dumpling? In true clickbait style, the answer might surprise you. The best I could gather, it was a pastry filled with soft apple chunks and an abundance of apple sauce.
I did not like the apple dumpling. It was way too sweet and tasted like an apple that had gotten way too ripe.
Fortunately, their other breakfast items were much better, as this order of cinnamon sugar dusted french toast suggests.
The other interesting thing is that the staff wear the garb of the Amish, but still use tools of the devil like credit card machines and florescent lighting.
DiNiC’s– Can I just say something about this? This was my most anticipated meal in Reading Terminal Market having read countless reviews about how amazing the roast pork sandwich here was supposed to be the best in the country.
I did exactly as instructed. I got the roast pork sandwich. I got the peppers. I eagerly took a big bite into the massive sub. And got a whole mouthful of disappointed.
It was bland. Tasteless. Devoid of any flavour whatsoever. Maybe Americans have different taste buds from the rest of us (I’m reminded of my visit to Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami where the much raved about stone crabs turned out to be hopelessly bland for me), but I don’t get how this can be anywhere near the best roast pork sandwich in America. All I know is that I took a few bites and gave the rest of the sandwich to a homeless man outside.
I mean, I wanted to give them a chance to make it right. So I went back the next day and got the pulled pork sandwich, which is supposed to have more flavor. Same problem. Bland, bland, bland. Yes, there was juice, but there was no flavour at all. Do yourself a favour and skip this one, it doesn’t deserve the hype.
Flying Monkey Bakery- Although this place is known for their whoopie pies, I wasn’t quite feeling the concept.
Instead, I went with a chocolate chip cookie dough brownie, which was insanely decadent. A small amount of chocolate fudge lay on top of a whole load of chilled cookie dough. The dough was moist and rich and oh so amazing.
Famous 4th Street Cookie Co- Where you get, what else, cookies. I’m tremendously unadventurous so I got the chocolate chip variety, and I bake a mean chocolate chip cookie so let me tell you when I say these were excellent I don’t say that lightly.
210 W Washington Square, Philadelphia
I paid a visit on a freezing cold Philly night and was delighted with the fresh produce on offer. As the name suggests, Talula’s is obsessive about its produce, and I don’t think I’ve had more amazing vegetables in my life.
The main I went for was the Pan-Roasted Pennsylvania Trout, Creamy Lacinato Kale, Smoky Bacon-Fried Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Shallots and Sherry Vinaigrette. I doubt there’s anything that isn’t improved with the addition of bacon, but this dish was entirely on point. The side order of Carrots & Kale: Rainbow Baby Carrots, Feta, Cumin and Wilted Kale was to die for.
There’s so much more to say about Philly and many other places you should be exploring. I’d personally recommend the Eastern State Penitentiary which was at one point in time the model prison for the rest of the world (there was a period where talking was banned, before they figured that made people go loopy). There’s an excellent audio tour narrated by Steve Buscemi.
I mentioned the Museum of the American Revolution as well in the intro- this is a relatively new attraction in Philly but well worth a visit if you want to learn more about how America came to be (and what those MAGA people keep harping on about).
You get to see lots of dioramas of George Washington. The museum even has his original Valley Forge tent.
Philly may not be the most well known of places to most Singaporeans (well, except for those who go to the SMU of the West) but it’s certainly one that rewards those who explore it. It’s easily accessible from New York via a short flight or train ride (train probably makes more sense).
That’s a wrap for the Philly Pho Fare! See what adventures a random mistake fare can give?