Monday, July 22, 2013

The City of Brotherly Love... and Hotel Love

I promise you, I do not work for Kimpton. (I did look into one of their job postings for a media coordinator. I didn’t think checking Instagram every ten minutes is quite what they meant by 2-3 years marketing experience.) Nor do they give me anything other than what any other loyalty member gets. I just wanted to clarify since Kimpton hotels seem to be the only thing I can talk about recently. Today is no exception.

Our most recent trip was up to Philadelphia. I love the colors and style that this Kimpton is decorated with and the new rooftop lounge that just opened looks pretty sleek.  You can't actually see the skyline because of the rooftop design, but it's so trendy looking I can see why it's the new hot spot in town.  We had a complimentary hotel night at the Kimpton's Hotel Monaco, which included dinner at the hotel restaurant, the Red Owl Tavern, thanks to the Inner Circle loyalty program. Say the “secret password” at check in to get an extra surprise, in our case a bottle of wine. (The password for any Kimpton in July is “bicycle.”) We were pretty blown away at all the perks and extras which besides the room, dinner, and wine included some welcome chocolates and fruit.  After getting such great perks, we literally asked each other, "Why would we stay anywhere else?"


Clockwise from top left: Room at the Hotel Monaco, yummy snacks, their new rooftop space, Stratus, and fried calamari from the Red Owl Tavern

The trip itself was pretty quick. The hotel was literally across the street from the liberty bell and Independence Hall. The US Mint, Ben Franklin’s grave site and a few other museums were also within walking distance. I think next time we might try a Phillies game. We took a free tour of the Freemason building (free Free!), where Jason may have gotten “lost” while trying to find secret doors and passageways a la “National Treasure.” I didn't do a lot of research for such a short trip, but for those of you in the know, what else should we have done? The Art Museum would have been a good option, but it was just so so hot in the middle of July that the idea of walking that far sounded awful.


Clockwise from top left: Independence Hall, the Mint, Freemason's Lodge, where we "happened" to get separated from the tour group, and our lunch spot.  (Actually, we did get separated from the tour group and not on purpose at all.)

We went to Chris' Jazz one evening. It was a fun way to spend the evening and kind of made me feel like I had walked into the 60's. The musicians themselves looked like the type that probably had they heyday decades earlier, but still played with same passion and skill simply because they loved the music. It was the kind of place where old photos hang on wood panel walls, people sat down at tables, musicians told stories between songs, and the crowd clapped after the end of each set. This might happen at all jazz places, but I just assume the more "modern" places involve way too much noise, pushy crowds and everything else retirees and I don't like.

Obviously cheese steaks were pretty high on our priority list. We tried Gino’s and Pat’s a few years ago and were pretty disappointed in both. These two places are right across the street from each other and both claim to have the original cheese steak, so they’re the most famous, but also the most touristy and worst tasting. There’s a place in the north west corner of reading terminal that has pretty good cheese steaks though I think the best deal is the twelve inch sandwiches the street vendors sell for like five bucks.

Another good spot to get a quick, cheap lunch was Bahn Mi Cali. Advertised as Asian hoagies, they sold bahn mi sandwiches that were also about $5 for a foot long. They were tasty and the fresh veggie garnish was perfect for a summer’s day.

Bahn Mi Cali, Chinatown
Best for: lunch
Highlights: you can buy fresh fruit which they will cut for you right then
Average Entrée Price: $5
Rating: 3.5/5

Dinner at the hotel restaurant, Red Owl Tavern, made me wonder why we bother eating elsewhere when our experience with Kimpton restaurants are always as wonderful as with their hotels. We ended up trying a lot of the seafood, including a wonderfully creamy and buttery lobster pot pie that I know I’ll be craving weeks later. The puffed pastry shell was sprinkled with coarse salt and there actually was lobster in almost every bite. Mussels were flavorful but weren’t served with much broth, as if they were drained then just tossed with a few spoonfuls of whatever sauce was ordered. A fried calamari appetizer was light and crispy and came with a delicious avocado lime paste.

Red Owl Tavern, Historic area
Best for: Nice casual or drinks and apps
Highlights: Seafood
Average Entrée Price: $15-$25
Rating: 4/5

For breakfast, we went to the nearby Jones. Described by the waitress as a “classic American comfort food” place, the décor looked like a mountain lodge in the 60’s and the menu seemed to lack some the dishes I consider to fall into the classic comfort category (i.e.: mac and cheese). Their food was as confusing as everything else. We got the chicken and waffles. Both items were good separately, the chicken nicely fried and the waffles light and sweet. Rather than being served with syrup though, it came with a bowl of “gravy” that actually looked more like pot pie filling with chunks of chicken and vegetables. The combination was just confusing to my head and mouth. They did have a “Make your own bloody mary” menu where you use a check list to customize your drink which was a fun concept.

Jones, Historic area
Best for: Boozy brunch, when it won’t matter if you are confused by the restaurant
Average Entrée Price: $15-$20
Rating: 2/5

One place we enjoyed more for breakfast was the Dandelion Pub. The place looks like an old antique house. It actually probably was one and they just kept all the floral wall paper and paintings of the owners going out for a fox hunt. They had a dish called “Bubbles and Squeak” which was like a hash of seasonal vegetables with a poached egg and house made steak sauce. Weird name, but good dish.

Dandelion Pub, Downtown
Best for: groups, casual meals and probably hipsters
Highlights: Bubbles and Squeak
Average brunch entrée price: $12-$15
Rating: 3.5/5

It was a short trip, and for some reason both Jason and I always underestimate how long it takes to get there, but also a nice chance for the two of us to recharge. Speaking of driving, well kind of, do you love Wawa as much as I do? There aren’t any locally so I love stopping in when we do road trips. Do it feel a little weird to you though that they all look exactly the same? I always think I’ve been to whatever one we’re stopped at because they all have the same interior layout. But really, those machines that you can make your own sandwich are amazing! And no, I don’t work for Wawa either!

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