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A Food Blogger’s Guide to What to Check Out in Philadelphia This Weekend

By Lindsey Hechler | Guest Contributor, SavorySweetSisters.com

At Citizens Bank we love to celebrate our local communities and cities. As a bank, we’re also interested in helping you get out in your city, on your budget. With our Live Local series, we’ve partnered with local influencers to create guides to some of our favorite cities, and help you uncover the best food, entertainment, and hidden gems in your backyard or on your travels.

As you go through this guide, you can refer to this key:

$ - Budget

$$ - Moderate

$$$ - Splurge

Hi! Lindsey from @savorysweetsisters here. I became a Philadelphia resident just three years ago and have made it my mission to explore every nook and cranny of the food and lifestyle scene. Are you looking for what to do in Philadelphia this weekend? Below you’ll find a start-to-finish guide, from Saturday brunch through Sunday fun-day, including an Italian gem hidden under a bridge in Rittenhouse Square and a happy hour spot that has surprisingly excellent food.

Brunch: Sabrina’s Café – American $$

Multiple Locations

Stuffed with a sweet cream cheese and generously sprinkled with powdered sugar, the “let’s-get-one-to-share-for-the-table” Challah French Toast is Sabrina’s Café’s crown jewel. That is, in part, why Sabrina’s, which first opened in 2001 in the Italian market, is now synonymous with “Philadelphia brunch” and boasts five locations, three of which are in the city. There, patient Philadelphia weekenders form lines — which usually eclipse the front door and stretch down the street — while they wait to chow down. Not that Sabrina’s isn’t worth the wait, but some locations now allow you to call ahead or make a reservation through the “Nowait” app. In addition to the French Toast, try “the Philly” (think: cheesesteak meets pork roll meets breakfast) or the Buffalo Chicken Cobb Salad. With large portions, if you leave hungry, you did something wrong.  

Dinner: Double Knot – Japanese Restaurant $$$

Center City

Is this a cocktail lounge? A coffee bar? A sushi restaurant? A lunch spot? If, upon walking into Double Knot, you are pondering the above, spare yourself the time. The answer is “yes.” One of up-and-coming chef Michael Schulson’s several hits in Philadelphia, Double Knot is particularly known for its dimly lit, swanky-yet-castle-like atmosphere and incredible small plates. The upstairs, sporting an industrial, rustic-chic vibe, is mostly for walk-ins, with a large bar and a number of lounge-type tables. Downstairs, you will find the main dining area, the 12-seat L-shaped sushi bar, and another wet bar with a few seats nestled in the back corner. Try Double Knot’s namesake cocktail for a smoky (it literally comes to your table smoking) take on a Manhattan. Our favorite food items are the Duck Scrabble Bao Buns, Tuna Rice Crackers, Edamame Dumplings, Shishito Peppers, and Steak Skewers. For dinner, bring your friends and share everything (try to play nice). For lunch, Double Knot offers a lunch box that is tasty, filling, and at $7, one of the best lunch bargains in town.  

BYOB: Sotto – Italian Restaurant $$

Rittenhouse Square

Sotto, which means “under” in Italian, is a hidden gem that is definitely worth finding. Located a few blocks from Rittenhouse Square Park and tucked underneath the Walnut Street Bridge, this hole-in-the-wall B.Y.O. option with a wine list of its own is a great spot for pizza and other Italian dishes at a reasonable price. It is a tiny restaurant, so make a reservation if you plan to go on a popular evening. The walls are covered with old wine cases and corks, giving it a simple and relaxed vibe.

BYOB: Mercato – Italian/American Cuisine $$

Gayborhood

Bring multiple bottles of wine and be ready to feast on a meat and cheese plate before indulging in any of Mercato’s can’t-go-wrong pasta dishes. Taylor and I adore this restaurant. Mercato has a small menu but all of the dishes are interesting, packed with flavor, and — most importantly — authentically Italian. Mercato is best known for its Short Rib Ragu and Jumbo Lump Crab Garganelli. The entrees change to reflect the season and Mercato uses fresh, ingredients that are sourced daily. The restaurant is cash only, so hit the ATM before you arrive.

Outdoor: Frankford Hall – Biergarten $$

Fishtown

It might surprise you that Frankford Hall — the mostly outdoor biergarten on a busy strip of Frankford Avenue between Northern Liberties and Fishtown — is part of Stephen Starr’s restaurant group. But that’s Starr: utterly versatile in the space of all things dining and drinking in Philadelphia and beyond for the past decade. Enjoy a tall (and we mean more than two pints tall) brew from Frankford’s diverse group of beers on tap, which are mostly German, American, and specialty drafts. Frankford also features a nice wine list which you can order by the glass or bottle, and a small list of tasty cocktails, all of which feature — you guessed it — beer. While you drink, make sure to get a large soft pretzel that comes with an ooey-gooey cheese dip, and grab a spot at one of the many picnic tables in the rear of the house. In addition to offering games for you and your friends like ping pong, shuffle board, and Jenga, Frankford is also a great place to meet new people because of the layout and atmosphere.

Outdoor: Harper’s Garden – American Cuisine $$

Rittenhouse Square

One second, you’re in Center City’s industrial hub, with office complexes, business suits, and taxicabs; the next, you’re on vacation. That’s how we felt walking into Harper’s Garden, an indoor/outdoor hybrid that features modern dining delights, delicious cocktails, and a robust spirit list. Try an “Oaxacan Melody” for a drink on the spicy side. Harper’s Garden made its name as a go-to spot during the spring, summer, and fall for happy hour, but also holds its own for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a busy, competitive space of contemporary American cuisine. And, this just in: Harper’s Garden now offers $20 bottomless mimosas for brunch. Sign. Us. Up.

Dessert: John’s Water Ice – Water Ice Stand $

Italian Market

“Lemon. Cherry. Chocolate. Pineapple.” Say that out loud with us. “Wooder ice.” No, not Italian ice, or shaved ice, or sorbet. Just trust us; in Philadelphia, it goes like this: “Wood-er ice” (also known as water ice). You are now ready to check out the family-owned Philadelphia staple — opened in 1945 — known as John’s Water Ice. John’s has four main flavors (although there are rotating specials) and a no-frills, old-school storefront. That’s all we needed to fall in love at John’s and, when the weather gets warm, that’s where you’ll find us.

Make sure to follow us @savorysweetsisters

Lindsey Hechler, founder of @savorysweetsisters, brings her love of food with her to every city she visits. As a former New Yorker new to Philadelphia in the last three years, Lindsey sought out to explore all Philadelphia had to offer. As the title suggests, her blog and Instagram are a team effort: Lindsey and her sister, Taylor, use the platforms to explore food, travel, and lifestyle. Taylor still resides in New York, while Lindsey handles the Philadelphia scene. Lindsey agreed to be Citizens Bank’s tour guide and food expert for a weekend.

With the exception of direct quotes, any advice and opinions are of the guest writer.

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