My Favorite Philly Brunch Spots

If you talked to me just a few years ago I would have told you that I absolutely hated brunch. You must be thinking I was crazy but the problem was I just didn’t like breakfast foods. The only time I ate anything more than a toasted English muffin plain with no butter and no nothing, was when my family traveled overseas. I just couldn’t get enough of that thick cut bacon in London! But back on American soil I was a strictly roll-out-of-bed and grab something quick and easy. I’m still like that on most days unless it’s a Saturday or Sunday. Those days are reserved for my growing brunch obsession.

There are some great places to go for brunch around my hometown (anybody ever wait in line for an hour or more at PJ’s?!) but if I really want to do brunch right, I head into the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia. I’ve probably profiled a half dozen or more favorite places to eat in Philly by now but I wanted to dedicate a post entirely to my favorite brunch spots. Every time Nick and I hop in the car and head across the river for some delicious breakfast and lunch food, I feel like I’m going on vacation. If I could, I’d make it brunch-in-Philly day every day.

1. Standard Tap. Oh I love Standard Tap. Once you get past it’s sometimes pretentious hipster vibe, you’ll love it too. Located in the heart of Northern Liberties, it has a distinctly local feel cultivated by the farm-to-table food and local brews on draft. They make some killer brunch cocktails too but I’ve only heard that as you know I prefer my beer. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and they’ll be serving up some delicious pork chops or have an amazing omelette. While they do have some recurring items on the menu, Standard Tap’s commitment to using locally grown ingredients means that everything is fresh and new and so, so good. Also you have to check out their small side patio off the upstairs bar. It is perfect for all times of the day but especially for brunch drinks.

strangeloves menu

2. Strangelove’s. The thing that makes Strangelove’s perfect for brunch is that it feels sophisticated without being stuffy. It just feels right to head in there and plop yourself down at a table or at the bar for delicious huevos rancheros or, my favorite, shrimp and grits. It’s owned by the same person who owns Memphis Taproom, Resurrection Ale House, and Local 44 so it always has great beers on tap. Seriously though, the shrimp and grits. Also the artwork. And the beers. Okay, everything about Strangelove’s is amazing.

Brunch Places in Philadelphia

3. Parc. Want to have brunch in Paris? No need to head to the Philly airport, Parc has you covered. I’ve had every meal at Parc and it never disappoints. It’s situated right on Rittenhouse Square with a gorgeous view of the park and all the sophisticated (and not-so-sophisticated) Philadelphia residents walking their dogs and reading their Sunday papers. Parc makes you feel like you’ve been transported to a cozy bistro in Paris with marble topped tables and wicker chairs and delicious French food. It can get pretty loud inside and so far I’ve found it impossible to get one of those outdoor cafe tables but I adore Parc in spite of it. It’s the cheapest trip to Paris you’ll ever take.

Best Brunch Places in Philly

4. Jerry’s Bar. If you want to feel like you’re just a Philly native hanging out in a bar with a classy and delicious twist, head to Northern Liberties and Jerry’s Bar. It’s fairly new to the neighborhood but you wouldn’t know it by how comfortable it feels on its little street corner. It’s got a gorgeous marble-topped bar, our preferred seat for brunch, but there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. Also they have a little sit patio area that is my other favorite place to sit. I have never ordered anything I don’t like at Jerry’s except that time I ordered an omelette as big as my face and couldn’t finish it. But I still loved it. My only demand for when you go there: order the walnut sticky bun. And then find out what day they’ll be serving it for dessert toasted with a side of vanilla ice cream. You’ll thank me.

5. North 3rd. Hipster brunch more your style? You came to Philly for the hipsters right? Well, head on over to North 3rd on, where else, North 3rd street in Northern Liberties. It looks like a dark creepy bar inside and well, it is, but it has some great food and great drinks too. Brunch is my favorite because I love their mimosas and also their crispy chicken sandwich is to die for if you don’t like the typical brunch foods. Last time we went my friend ordered blueberry pancakes and almost converted me over to being a pancake eater. It can also be highly amusing and/or awkward to eat at North 3rd if they choose to seat you in what Nick and I call “the Boobie bar.” Let’s just say the back bar has a lot of topless paintings which can make for an awkward brunch with your mom. Not that I know from experience or anything.

Kraftwork Philadelphia

6. Kraftwork. I think Kraftwork might have been the restaurant that converted me into a brunch lover. The menu is simple but the food is fantastic. I’m salivating over here thinking about my favorite mushroom grinder. Oh, mushrooms, spinach, and red peppers! Also the french fries! Do you still believe that I’m trying to live a healthier lifestyle? No, well me neither. The thing that makes Kraftwork so much fun for me for brunch is the 21 or so beers on tap. You’ll always find something you like and if for some reason you don’t then just sip on a mimosa. Also if you’re looking for an industrial chic bar with no frills, this is your place.

Best Brunch Places in Philadelphia

7. Johnny Brenda’s. Johnny Brenda’s is such a mixture of places: a fantastic restaurant with outdoor seating, a corner bar with red vinyl bar stools and a pool table, and a music venue. I’ve never been to a concert there (concerts are held in a room upstairs) and I’ve spent a few late nights hanging out in the bar area but my favorite time at Johnny Brenda’s is always the brunch. When the weather is nice they open up their huge windows and you can watch the Fishtown people go about their business on Girard Avenue. The outdoor seats are also great for when you want to stretch brunch out into a day of drinking in the sun.

 

After looking over my list I realized I’m featuring a lot of bars in the Northern Liberties/Fishtown section of the city. I can’t lie that this is usually the part of the city that Nick and I frequent because there’s a bunch of bars in a small area, there’s plenty of free parking if you know where to look (and how to parallel park) and the food is never fussy and always good. Other runners-up for great brunch places in the city would have to be Good Dog Bar (center city), Smokin’ Betty’s (center city), Jack’s Firehouse (Fairmount), and Cantina Los Cabillitos (East Passyunk). Hope to see you this weekend in Philly!

You Can Find Me in the Kitchen

In My Kitchen

There is nothing I love more than taking the time to cook something in my tiny, cozy kitchen. I come from a family where home cooking is a given and I always knew I would grow up to cook. If I close my eyes I can see a typical evening from my childhood: I would dance down the hall to whatever music my mom had on (either Joni Mitchell or Bruce Springsteen or maybe eclectic piano) to see what was causing those good smells. My mom would be standing in front of the stove, taking command of the kitchen in her red apron. About an hour later all four of us were sitting around the table in the dining room talking about our day, ignoring the dog as he begged for scraps. Cooking is so much more for me than just having something to eat.

This year I vowed I would spend more time in the kitchen and try a new recipe every week. I can proudly say that I have tried many new things so far. New ingredients, new techniques, new recipes, I’m working on becoming the kind of cook my mom and grandma can be proud of.

In My Kitchen

Weirdly enough it makes me sad when someone tells me they don’t like to cook. Then I think that thought is weird; do runners feel bad when I tell them I don’t like running (but do it anyways)? There’s so much pride in cooking something that tastes and looks delicious. I love hearing someone say, “You made this? It’s wonderful!” Cooking is definitely my language of love.

This week I started thinking back about where it all started. I started simply enough: watching my mom and grandma and then picking up a cookbook when I was ready to embark on my own. The cookbook of choice? Paula Deen’s Lady and Sons Cookbook. I started with homemade banana pudding and worked my way around to Texas chili.

One moment that’s most vivid in my mind from the beginning of my “cooking career” was staying up late when I was doing my internship down in Georgia to make my first pudding from scratch. If you don’t know, making pudding from scratch is a long process that requires you to stand and stir until the mixture heats up. I turned country radio on low and stirred and listened to the sounds of a hot, sticky Georgia summer night. I think right there was when I discovered what passion and love mean.

In My Kitchen

Having a passion, finding love for something, is so important. It is so easy to go through life not really engaged in anything. Getting up in the morning, going to work, doing your job, coming home, sleeping, and starting it all over again. You don’t have to have a passion from childhood. Joining the Tone It Up community has introduced me to so many women who are sharing and living their passion, whether healthy or just lovely. While I am on a journey to be healthier and happier, I am not going to abandon my kitchen. I’m going to use this new journey to become a part of what I already love. There may be less banana puddings in my kitchen but whatever comes out will still be full of love.

Good Eats: Strangelove’s

strangeloves menuNick and I are creatures of habit when it comes to Philadelphia. We like our select neighborhoods and when we get a chance to zip down to the city, we will happily settle our behinds on the bar stools of one of our favorite haunts. But recently I started to reminisce about the early days of our relationship when we were getting to know each other along with learning more about the city of brotherly love. Every neighborhood was new and different and exciting. Now Philly is a big city and as much as I like to say I’ve seen it all, there’s still plenty to explore which is how we found ourselves grabbing a bar stool at Strangelove’s in the Washington Square West neighborhood of Philly, in the area that surrounds Jefferson Hospital.

strangeloves philly

strangeloves bar philadelphiaNick and I headed to Strangelove’s for brunch, my favorite Sunday meal. I’m trying to make it a tradition but my wallet just won’t let me. Strangelove’s is like most Philly restaurants: a cozy restaurant with a good New American menu tucked into tight row home. It had a gorgeous marble bar which is where we parked our behinds. Strangelove’s emphasizes its beer menu and I was more than happy to try some of their hoppy selections.

Now comes the best part: they have shrimp and grits. Believe me when I say that Georgia left a lasting impression on me and an undying love for shrimp and grits. It is nearly impossible to find a good dish of shrimp and grits above the Mason Dixon line (well, honestly, anywhere outside of Georgia) just like you can’t possible find a good cheesesteak outside of a 40 mile radius from South Philly, which is pushing it. But somehow Strangelove’s nailed it. It had the most delicious sauce with fresh red and green peppers and these massive shrimp. Of course Nick joined me with some Southern love and had a po’boy with the most delicious and crispy homemade chips fried up in house.

strangelove menu philadelphia

strangeloves menu philadelphiaBesides the delicious food and great beers, Strangelove’s was relaxing, cozy, and the perfect place to bring friends (next time!). Plus it had the most gorgeous art from local artists, even in the bathroom. Oh and they’re funny too (don’t get your undies in a brunch!). It’s like a hole-in-the-wall bar with an upscale feel. And it got Nick and I out of our usual neighborhood. If you’re in Philly and looking for something a little different that feels like your usual spot, Strangelove’s is the place to go.

strangelove art

Strangelove’s – 11th street (btw. Walnut and Locust), Philadelphia – @strangelovesbar

 

 

 

 

New Year, New Recipe: Spicy Shrimp Burritos

shrimp burritos yellow rice black beansMy challenge of trying a new recipe each week is rolling right along. Though I have a confession to make: I have yet to follow a recipe all the way through without altering some part of it. Whether it is the amount of spice, substituting one ingredient for another or adapting the recipe to fit my needs, I am the kind of cook who just has to have it her way.

That’s what happened when it came down to these shrimp burritos. I knew I wanted to cook shrimp, I wanted some sort of Mexican dish, and I wanted my black beans. Oh, and I had a lime. So I took a bunch of recipes I found on Pinterest and this is what I came up with.

Ingredients:

For the shrimp:

About 3-4 shrimp per burrito, uncooked, peeled and deveined

1/4 teaspoon of chili powder

1/2 teaspoon of lime juice

salt and pepper to taste

vegetable oil for the pan

For the beans:

vegetable oil for the pan

8 oz. of black beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup diced onions

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth

(Yellow rice is Goya brand and my very favorite!)

In a lidded pan, put about a tablespoon of vegetable oil and heat over medium heat. Saute onions and garlic and then add the beans, cumin and broth. You should add just enough broth to half cover the beans. Let them cook down for about 15-20 minutes. 

Sprinkle the cleaned shrimp with chili and the lime juice then toss to coat. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Saute them in vegetable oil heated over medium heat. The shrimp will cook quickly. 

On a whole wheat tortilla, put a few shrimp, a scoop of the beans and some rice. Enjoy!

New Year, New Recipes: Turkey Meatballs

One of my resolutions for this year was to get back to cooking and trying new recipes. I’m a pretty good cook, if I do say so myself, and tend to find myself throwing things together based on old favorites. This was exacerbated by the fact that I started a new job in September and have been so exhausted at the end of the day that I can’t contemplate fooling around with a new recipe. Tried and true took over in my kitchen and while there is nothing wrong with that, I want to challenge myself to become an even better cook. I’ve tried a few recipes, including pulling out the old crockpot for some carnitas tacos, but one thing I thought was worthy of being shared on the blog was turkey meatballs.

healthy eating turkey meatballsI never thought I would allow ground turkey in my kitchen. I am and always will be skeptical of healthy things. It’s a seriously bad habit. I will try most sugary things but put “healthy” in front of something and it gives me pause. But Nick and I are trying to be healthy so I grabbed a package of ground turkey at the grocery store and then hit up Pinterest from some inspiration.

My love of meatballs knows no bounds (please keep that in its culinary context) and I knew that lots of people make turkey meatballs and love them so it seemed like the perfect place to start. I modified and combined two recipes that I can’t seem to find anymore and also used my knowledge from making ground beef meatballs. The best shot of inspiration I had when I was mixing up my meatballs was to add a dash of cumin. Cumin is so delicious and smokey and ended up making these taste full and complex like a fatty beef meatball. So I threw a dash of cumin, finely chopped onions, egg, and breadcrumbs in with the turkey and sent up a prayer that we wouldn’t have to eat turkey sandwiches for dinner when it all failed.

turkey meatballsIt all turned out okay and actually kind of delicious. With a little of my delicious homemade sauce and some spaghetti, eating (somewhat) healthy never tasted so good. Something that I did a little differently was that I baked these meatballs and then let them marinate in the sauce for about ten minutes. That made all the difference in getting a good saucy meatball. Just thinking about this meal is making my mouth water!

While I’m never going to proclaim that I’m eating “clean”, I’m trying to add some healthy elements in here and there. And no, I’m no food blogger, as evidenced by my photos. But I would like to give a dash of culinary advice as I head on this journey of trying new recipes: use what you know. You’re always a better cook than you think you are and it’s all one big experiment anyway. Try things based on what you know and you’ll (probably) be pleasantly surprised by the results. Happy eating!

 

 

Good Eats: Easy Weeknight Meals

Usually my “Good Eats” posts will profile a great restaurant that I’ve visited and loved. Today I decided to do something a little bit different and talk about some really easy and really good meals I’ve put together for dinners during the week. I like to think my cooking is some pretty “good eats” and I wanted to get a chance to relate my love of good food to you friends who can’t visit the restaurants in my neighborhood.

During the week, I like to keep my meals super easy and super cheap. As much as I love to drag out my cookbooks and explore different recipes, after a long day of work, that’s not always going to happen. What I like to do is evaluate what I think is going to happen and plan my meal difficulty accordingly, which usually means that Friday is basically the easiest meal I can think of. So for weeknight meals, I come up with meals that have a few easy ingredients but are big on flavor and quick, quick, quick.

* Since I never take any pictures of my quick easy meals, I’m borrowing these pictures from Pinterest. All pictures link to the recipe for the dish and, while I may not have tried these recipes, they look delicious and are probably worth a try!

The Classic Stir Fry

The thing that makes a stir fry super easy is that you can pull whatever vegetables and/or meats that are taking up space in your fridge, chop them up, and cook them to perfection and it will taste delicious. I’ve put this meal in this week’s plans since I have one leftover chicken breast hanging out in the freezer. Why do supermarkets sell packs of three chicken breasts? Poor couples like Nick and I inevitably have one lonely chicken breast that we have to use up some way. A quick stir fry is the perfect way to use it up. Add in some chopped veggies and it’s very filling.

Here’s how to make it quick and easy: Start by making some rice per package directions, which you’ll add into the stir fry later. If you have leftover rice from another dinner or takeout, you can easily use that too. Heat a large pan over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add some vegetable oil in and once it’s nice and hot, add in any veggies you like. I always have green peppers, carrots, and onions lying around so those are staples of my stir fry. Once they’ve been heated through and are starting to soften (onions will be translucent), add in your chopped chicken breast. Cook this thoroughly and then add in some stir fry sauce. I’ve been trying many different styles at the grocery store and have found that they are almost all delicious so you can’t go wrong. Let that cook for about 1-2 minutes more then add in your cooked rice. Combine all the ingredients, serve, and enjoy!

The Burger

Nick and I would enjoy a burger every night of the week if it wasn’t frowned upon. Burgers are just so easy to whip up and I’m not talking about those frozen hockey pucks. All you have to do is grab some ground beef and shape them into the perfect sized patty for you. Add some salt and pepper and, if you’re feeling a little decadent, pop some tiny cubes of butter into the meat per Paula Deen (I know, I know, not the best source for healthy eating but it makes for a great burger). You can place the patties under the broiler or heat them in a pan over medium high heat. Nick and I have been using the griddle plate we got for Christmas and getting great results. Burgers are pretty awesome because you can add to them: fry up some bacon, roast some mushrooms, saute some onions, whatever you like and make them a part of your meal.

Grown-up Chicken Fingers

Sometimes I am feeling super lazy but don’t want to seem like it. That’s when I decide to bread and fry something, making it look like my table belongs in a fancy Italian restaurant instead of the somewhat dusty apartment where it really lives. My favorite thing to do is slice a chicken breast into strips, coat them with flour, dip them in egg, and coat with panko bread crumbs before frying them up in a little hot olive oil. Pair with plain pasta and it looks like I tried when really I just made a grown up version of chicken fingers. I’m probably going to try this with eggplant soon, so I know what to do when I have my vegetarian friends over.

Having quick cook meals for the weeknight is an essential for me. Sometimes I want to spend that extra time laid out on the couch doing nothing rather than stirring a pot in the kitchen. Do you have any go-to weeknight meals?

Good Eats: Halo Pub

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Most of my Good Eats posts have focused on restaurants I’ve visited in Philly. As much as I love exploring great eateries in the city of brotherly love, I have to admit there are some pretty good places in my neck of the woods. I’m very excited to present to you a great place for some delicious ice cream right here in my great state: Halo Pub. Nick and I decided to do a cheap date night which meant dinner at home followed by a quick trip down the road to Halo Pub in Hamilton Square. Growing up in Princeton, I used to grab a scoop and hang out with friends in their cozy downtown outpost. I feel very lucky that, even though I moved, I’m not far from their second location. We each grabbed two scoops in a cup; mine was my favorite Halo flavor, plain M&Ms, and Nick chose mint cookies and cream, another excellent flavor. It was quiet there for about 15 minutes before the after dinner rush started shuffle in and join us at the farmhouse tables.

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Halo Pub is the classic ice cream parlor with a perfect farmhouse flair. This is no Baskin Robbins: all of the ice cream is churned locally at their New Jersey farms and sold in their two parlors (one in Princeton and one in Hamilton Square, NJ) and in a larger-than-life barn/retail store in Trenton that also sells their other dairy products and local food goods. They offer all sorts of flavors though, everything from Chocolate Chocolate Almond to Raspberry Peach to Cookie Dough. Soft serve is also available as is frozen yogurt, if you want to be healthy and all. But the weather, it’s so cold outside, you say. Well, don’t worry because Halo Pub also pours a mean cup of coffee, hot chocolate, or hot cider. Nothing could be better than the price though: ice cream will usually only cost you around $2.

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The homegrown, small batch, local and cheap goodness is one part of what makes you want to visit all the time. The other part is the adorable Hamilton parlor that makes the whole experience feel more like you’re having ice cream in your cow-obsessed granny’s farmhouse. As my last visit was at night, it was rather dark and I had trouble capturing the crazy cow memorabilia that adorns the walls along with figurines resting in hutches. Hanging from the ceiling you’ll find old kitchen utensils and small farming implements. There are plenty of small cafe tables and benches to hang out on and scoop up your ice cream.

If you want the true, local New Jersey ice cream experience, I highly recommend Halo Pub. It’s a great place for groups or a date and you’ll never regret any of their flavors. With the weather slowly heating up around here, it’s time to go!

Halo Pub

Hamilton Square: 4617 Nottingham Way, Hamilton Square, NJ

Princeton: 9 Hulfish Street, Princeton, NJ