Saturday, June 4, 2011

Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll

On June 2, I attended the first of four monthly Baltimore Avenue Dollar Strolls. Organized by University City District, the Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll features the delicious offerings of fifteen local businesses lined up between 42nd and 50th streets. For just one dollar, strollers can purchase a sample of food from local favorites like Dock Street Brewery or the new Mood Café.

I found it easy to convince a friend who was staying at Penn for the summer to come with me, and the two of us walked from campus towards Baltimore Avenue, pockets loaded with dollar bills. While the campus was quiet and calm, the scene as we approached the nearest vendor, Green Line Café, was bustling and exciting. A small line had already formed at Green Line Café’s sidewalk booth where vendors were offering cold drinks and small sandwiches. I eagerly handed over a dollar and received an iced coffee, perfect refreshment for the warm but breezy day.

As we continued down the road, we noticed much longer and more intimidating lines that had formed for other restaurants nearby. I glanced jealously at passerby sampling veggie pakoras from Desi Village and spring rolls from Vientiane Café. We decided to walk to 50th street and choose just a few places to wait for food while we made our way back. As I recognized familiar faces and caught up with friends also enjoying the festivities, I began to appreciate the strong sense of community in West Philadelphia. The vendors, especially, were extremely happy to serve food and warmly greeted familiar customers.

As I made my way back east, seriously craving a lassi and ice cream, I was already planning my next trip back to West Philadelphia so I could fully enjoy the dishes and friendly atmosphere of the local restaurants. We waited in line at Milk and Honey for a cone of Bassett's ice cream and each received a scoop of Mint Chocolate Chip or Orange sherbet. We finished our cones just as we made it in line at the Desi Chaat House where we noticed people leaving with generously filled cups of mango lassi. I paid two dollars for a lassi and a freshly fried samosa. The drink was rich and subtly sweet, just slightly chilled while the samosa was crispy and savory, filled with well-seasoned potatoes, onions, and peas.

My experience along Baltimore Avenue on Thursday night was really enjoyable. Fortunately, the UCD will be hosting this event three more times during the first Thursday of each month. If you have time and just a few dollars to spare, I definitely recommend taking a stroll and enjoying wonderful food and company.
-Jenny Chen
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