Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Walk Through Northern Liberties

Let’s take a walk through Northern Liberties – it’s just ten stops on Market-Frankford and it’s more than worth the trouble.
First, and foremost, I must give credit to my excellent culinary guide, Jamie from City Food Tours. I had heard good things about NoLibs for months, but never managed to actually go before I went on the Taste of Northern Liberties tour.

Prior to this, I had never gone on a food tour in Philly or anywhere. In fact, I was a bit skeptical – there are numerous CHOW boards knocking the saps who pay for tours and offering suggestions for DIY-ing tours in any city. My expectations were neutral, but after actually going on the tour, I am a hearty endorser. Think of it has having a really enthusiastic and knowledgeable friend take you on a tour of their favorite neighborhood. The food is delicious, but only a taste; however, there is nothing like a taste to leave you wanting more.

I had a great time on the tour and I recommend it if you want to see a lot of NoLibs in one afternoon, but I realize some of you are self-starters and will want to explore the neighborhood on your own. Below are my suggestions, all of which are sampled on the tour (except PYT).
PYT – Although the tour does not sample this burger joint, it is a must-stop. It’s situated in the Piazza at Schmidt’s, which is a good place to start your exploration of NoLibs. Slide into a booth at PYT and try one of their “adult shakes,” like the “Cookie Monster” – vanilla ice cream, oreos, vanilla vodka and irish cream.

North Bowl – You wouldn’t think that a bowling alley would land a spot on a food tour… but this place is kitschy and clean. On the tour, you get to sample tater tots and two local beers at this bowling alley. Try the Yards on tap. I can’t wait to come back and actually bowl.

A Full Plate – This restaurant holds a dear place in my heart because it is the closest thing I have found to the “real thing.” Growing up in Alabama with two parents from New Orleans, I came to know good southern food: biscuits, hush puppies, jambalaya, pulled pork BBQ. I have been very disappointed with the versions of those foods in Philly, because, let’s be honest… who wants to consume food that is that bad for you, if it’s not the best thing you’ve ever tasted? Hence, my affection for A Full Plate – they it make it worth it. AFP does it right with their jambalaya. Great depth of flavor, spice and mouth feel just like the real thing. Their hush puppies are the best I’ve had in Philly – though a little on the sweet side. The tour stops here and gives you a taste of friend green tomato, mac n’ cheese and hush puppies – but I recommend you swing by and try the full menu.

Do you have a favorite restaurant in NoLibs that I missed? Tell me about it in the comments!

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