Outside of Philadelphia’s notable contributions to modern Black music—This is the city that gave us The Roots, Jill Scott and sponsored all of our early 2000’s neo-soul crochet fantasies—it largely exists in the shadows of its larger metropolitan sisters like Washington, D.C. and New York City. So on a snowy weekend in February, I packed up my pooch and joined some friends for what was intended to be an art-filled weekend but became a re-introduction to a destination that deserves more than just 48 hours.
Where To Go
Our weekend in Philly largely revolved around a visit to the Represent: 200 Years of African American Art exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the other marquee exhibition, Ink and Gold: Art of The Kano. Aside from the iconic “Rocky Steps,” the Philadelphia Museum is an often overlooked institute with an impressive permanent collection and layout designed to spend an entire afternoon inside with multiple gift shops, two cafes, a cafeteria and a notable restaurant called Granite Hill. The Represent show is arguably smaller than it should be, comprising two of the smaller gallery spaces versus the Kano exhibition which fills a more expansive wing. Still, the show is definitely worth a visit but those looking for a large scale, intensive exhibition of Black art will be left wanting more. While the work of the legendary Kano society of Japanese court painters is intricate and beautiful, the work of important American artists such as Henry Ossawa Tanner, Elizabeth Catlett, Barkley Hendricks and Aaron Douglas deserve a longer visit. Take advantage of the smaller space and get close to the works like you might not be able to at other institutions.
Other spots to hit:
• Forget the diet and go in at Geno’s Steaks in South Philly.
• Indulge in some vintage shopping in Old City.
• Get your tourist/drink/shopping/eat on and hit South Street.
• Head to Germantown and get into this historical Black Muslim enclave with vendors and shops selling the best in oils, spices, fabrics, foods and more. Covered arms and legs may make you more comfortable.
Where To Eat
A few years ago I learned the hard way that brunch in Philly is complicated, for example many of the popular spots don’t serve bottomless mimosas. So the restaurants that do serve alcohol are often the busiest and even during the beginning of what turned out to be a serious snowfall, the crowd at Parc, our choice, was as dense as it would be on a sunny afternoon. But after scanning the menu, the cocktails were just the icing on the cake. This place has one of the most serious brunch menus I’ve ever seen, gliding though French classics with North African and Italian touches, it’s no wonder it was backed to the brim. Parc’s design and atmosphere boast a French brasserie style with standard black and white tiled floors and wicker chairs plus attentive service that left our fairly large party—three picky eaters and a curious baby—satisfied and ready to return.
227 South 18th St | Philadelphia, PA 19103
After cooking a bowl-licking-good five-course grand dinner at the 2013 Barbados Food Wine & Rum Festival, chef Jose Garces became an instant favorite of the Parlour crew and I personally vowed to make the trip to Philly, home to nine of his sixteen restaurants. After a long day of art and city walking, my crew and I found ourselves at Distrito, Garces’ modern Mexican restaurant with an atmosphere straight out of a Mexico City fun house complete with a taxi cab booth, swinging chairs and a wall of Mexican wrestling masks to greet you upon arrival. While the margaritas (it was National Margarita Day, they were 2-for-1 and good) were the hit of the table, Garces’ contemporary take of traditional Mexican dishes like esquites (corn salad), tacos and huarache (fried dough with various toppings) will satisfy even the most discerning foodie as he doesn’t shy away from what makes those staples work while adding small touches that make you rethink Mexican cuisine overall. And while Garces is the culinary heavyweight behind the food, it’s not reflected in the bill, making it worthy of a repeat visit this summer.
3945 Chestnut St | Philadelphia, PA 19104
Where To Stay
While I usually use my hotel stays to accrue flight miles—unless I’m in Miami where I’m #TeamStandard—I’ve found myself increasingly forgoing the major names for smaller shops like Kimpton properties for one main reason, they make it simple. The Kimpton Rewards program is easy to enroll in and track, reservations are a breeze to make and cancel. My habitual early arrivals have all been accommodated and because I travel with my pooch Miko often, their notable pet friendly policy makes it work. But this weekend, instead of the Palomar where I’ve stayed before, I opted to stay at its chic and more luxurious cousin, the Hotel Monaco. Located in the historic center of Philadelphia, history buffs will be happy to have both the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall within walking distance but the real draw here are the nicely sized rooms. They are fun enough for you to enjoy a weekend in and, while on the smaller size, make good use of space with generous sized bathrooms and forward-thinking service and amenities. You won’t get a St. Regis style like butler but if a weekend away from home complete with a comfy bed, a rooftop lounge and complimentary pet beds sound cool, then Hotel Monaco is the spot.
Hotel Monaco Philadelphia
433 Chestnut St | Philadelphia, PA 19106
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