So you’re going to see Awolnation later this month. Great! But where do you cop show-night food and drink?
Philly has always played at the top tiers of the live music game, but recently the scene here got even more impressive with the October opening of the Fillmore Philadelphia. Located in the former Ajax Metal Company building on Delaware Avenue, the industrial-chic complex is home to two performance venues — a 2,500-capacity concert hall and a smaller, 450-person club, where Questlove is the DJ in residence. All in all, pretty cool.
But when you start thinking about what to eat or sip, things at the Fillmore get a little more sketchy.
There’s a bar inside called Ajax Hall, and it makes a decent effort to be non-generic — the taps pour Yards, Victory, Dock Street and Troegs and you can order cocktails made with spirits from Philadelphia Distilling (which will soon open a tasting room nearby). As for the prices of these local favorites? Good luck finding out before you end up having to empty your pockets, because there’s no menu or list posted online. A call to the Fillmore’s front desk was met with refusals to relay pricing information.
Right next door is Travinia Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar, a South Carolina-based chain with more than a dozen locations that opens for the first time on November 8. It’s currently BYOB until the liquor license comes through, but eventually it will offer a wide selection of (decently priced) wine by the glass, plus a few crafts and cocktails (price not revealed). On the food side, there’s the standard small plates menu of calamari, crab cakes and Caesar salads, buttressed by pastas, flatbreads and steaks. If you want to avoid walking on any actual sidewalk or seeing anything with actual Philadelphia character, sure, this is a perfectly fine place to do your show pre- and post-gaming.
Truth: One of the best things about seeing a show right in the middle of the city — as opposed to, say, at a stadium in the sports complex or over the river in Camden — is that you can hit up independent bars and restaurants before or after. You’re likely to get better deals and find a better selection. Bets are you’ll fall into better conversation, too.
Here’s an insider’s guide to the best places within a 10-minute walk of the Fillmore.
If you’re dressed up
Whether it’s for crudo with wine or steak with IPA, these places offer an atmosphere nice enough to impress any first date. Not to say you actually have to dress up for any of them — this being Philadelphia (and none of these spots being Hop Sing Laundromat), you’ll feel perfectly welcome even if you are wearing sneaks and day-old jeans.
A fern bar made good. No, really. Dozens of plants line the wall behind the loooong bar, and live jazz from a small stage in the open dining room sets the mood. Go for chef Sean Magee’s food, the 36-tap beer list, or just the urban lodge vibe.
914 N. 2nd St., 215-627-7500
If there was a visual definition for the word “sultry,” this Spanish wine bar would be it. Lace. Rose petals. A giant mosaic mural featuring the namesake bull. (What, tell me those horns aren’t sexy.) Wine is the main play here, but the food is worthwhile, too.
1030 N 2nd St., 215-923-1313
Used to be a shot-and-beer hangout, now it’s a high-end hipster haven. But in a good way, as in, you’re as likely to find a septuagenarian professor under the fedora as you are an angsty millennial. Killer cocktails and a concise but creative menu. Bonus: Get 10 percent off your check before or after the show when you show your day-of ticket.
129 W. Laurel St., 267-273-1632
Walk a few extra minutes up Frankford Ave to land at this resto-bar-butcher shop. Yes, if you get there early enough, you can glimpse meat being wrangled in the butcher room ensconced in the center of the wood-filled dining room. Sustainable meat makes for good eats, and the drinks follow suit.
1310 Frankford Ave., 267-314-5086
Since when does a German bierhall count as a relatively fancy spot? When it’s a Stephen Starr venture. Use your giant stein of brew to ward off the bro crowd as you stake your claim with Jenga, ping-pong or the speed with which you can dispose of a gigantic Bavarian pretzel.
1210 Frankford Ave., 215-634-3338
If you’re dressed down
Just chillin with old buds or prefer slack to swank? Swing through these havens, which range from just-below fancy to straight up dive.
If you judged by the sleek style and incredible flavor of the tacos alone, this would count as the most deluxe joint on the list. Both the mezcal and beer selections keep pace, but the place is grounded by simple decor and no-nonsense service.
19 W. Girard Ave., 267-324-3530
As long as you don’t let whatever show’s playing upstairs to distract you from the main event (it’s probably sold out, anyway), this is probably the most laid-back spot around to find truly great food. Match it with a pick from the all-local, all-draft beer list, a house-roasted coffee drink or one of several wines on tap.
1201 Frankford Ave., 215-739-9684
Look up “dive bar” in the dictionary and you’ll end up right here. If matchy-matchy makes you twitchy-twitchy, you’ll appreciate the random seating options, and if laid-back bartending makes you pony up an extra buck or two for a tip, the servers will appreciate you.
1356 N. Front St., 215-634-6430
Spend one evening here and you’ll wish it was your local. Multiple bars across two floors and a covered deck make just about any seat cozy, and the food and beer selection are second only to the well-curated soundtrack.
901 N. 2nd St., 215-238-0630
Arcade games. Beer. More arcade games. More beer. Toss in a slew of bicycles locked to the racks outside, and you’ve got the idea of this watering hole. It’s also the closest to the venue, so if pre-concert time is on the wane, this is where to go.
1114 Frankford Ave., 215-634-4400
Mix colorful walls, tons of tequila, an impressive beer list, cheap and easy Mexican food and a little edgy grunge, and you get this NoLibs sister to popular East Passyunk bar Cantina Los Caballitos.
931 N. 2nd St., 215-629-0500
If you’re about to be dressed in pajamas
Forget to eat dinner and didn’t feel like shelling out on the show floor? If you just want to catch some grub on your way home, there are some easy options for satisfaction before dropping into bed.
Food trucks at Frankford and Girard
There are almost always at least two — and usually more — trucks gathered at this intersection, offering everything from tacos to pierogies to jerk chicken to mac and cheese. Just make sure you have cash (or hit up the ATM across the street).
Need a stool or a booth to help make food inhalation easier? That same corner is home to a relatively new outpost of a famous Northeast cheesesteak mecca. Slide into the diner-style dining room to score late-night eats (including vegan options), weekends through 3 AM.
1 W. Girard Ave., 215-423-5637
If a slice sounds nice, this tiny pizzeria doles out some of the best classic triangles around. Options range from standard ‘roni to crazy combos like pastrami and pickles, and service goes until 1 AM on weekends.
903 N. 2nd St., 215-627-1393