It’s been a rollercoaster of a year in Philly, politically speaking, and the craziness shows few signs of slowing down. As nightly protests continue in the leadup to Donald Trump’s inauguration, no one knows what the new administration’s policies will mean for Philadelphia. Issues that loom large include our status as a Sanctuary City and our underfunded public school system.
If you’re feeling emotionally exhausted, may we suggest a little TLC.
From mini splurges to classic values and hot new favorites to traditional hits, here’s a 21-step program for self-medicating your way through the 2016 holiday season. Treating yourself (and friends and fam) to these Philly originals won’t fix the government, but they will guaranteed make you feel better, at least for a little while. And these days, every bit counts.
Donuts at Beiler’s Donuts
Just watching members of the Amish family that runs this Reading Terminal Market stand roll out their dough is therapeutic, but sinking your teeth into one after it’s fried, glazed and stuffed with jam is even better.
Ribs at the Rib Stand
What can’t the Amish do well? While you’re at RTM, pre-game the donuts with a helping of the juicy ribs (big ones, baby backs or pulled off the bone in a sandwich) at this BBQ stand. NB: Both this and Beiler’s are closed on Sundays.
Consomme at South Philly Barbacoa
Soup for breakfast? On cold winter days, it’s totally acceptable, and even better when it’s this incredibly rich lamb consomme — the clear broth is the sleeper hit at this now-famous taco shop from Ben Miller and Cristina Martinez.
Salted caramel budino at Barbuzzo
Oftentimes too much hype leads to disappointment, but that’s not this case with this layered Marcie Turney dessert. Make sure to send your spoon all the way to the bottom of the jar with each bite, so you get a taste of the pudding, whipped cream, cocoa crumbles, chocolate and salted caramel all at once.
Ribeye steak at the Capital Grille
Don’t get stuck in the old-fashioned dining room at this Broad Street staple. Just pull up a stool, order a glass of cabernet (ask the bartender what’s best), smile as a napkin turns your bar seat into a fancy place setting, and prepare to dig into one of the best steaks in town.
Soup dumplings at Tom’s Dim Sum
Set in a tunnel beneath the Convention Center, the former home of Dim Sum Garden has a new name and a new, nicer dining room, but it’s still got plenty of charm. Most importantly, these broth-filled pockets of umami are still just as transportive.
Croissants at Artisan Boulanger Patissier
Most of the pastries from Vietnamese-born, Paris-trained Andre Chin are worth the trip a few blocks south of East Passyunk, but none more than the croissants, which crackle at first touch and then give, spiraling apart in a coil of buttery flakes.
Martini at Rouge
It’s not even that the bartenders at this Rittenhouse scenester mix their drinks with care — although they do, since their regulars can be very picky. It’s just the momentary feeling of living in the lap of luxury you get when sipping a three-olive cocktail from a quiet perch overlooking the square.
Margherita pizza from Pitruco
Seek out this roving food truck with a wood-fired oven built into the back and order one of these fresh mozz and basil classics. The chewy, flavor-rich dough seems substantial, but all four quarters of the pie will disappear before you know it.
Duck liver parfait at the Dandelion
Plenty of people will be watching your every move at this Stephen Starr pub in Rittenhouse, including the attentive servers, but that shouldn’t stop you from sighing in delight when you taste the ethereal mousse spread on thick points of fluffy toast.
Gelato at Capogiro
So it’s cold out. So what. Scoops of deliciousness from this frozen treat specialist are worth a shiver — or just eat them while relaxing inside one of the friendly cafes. Tip: You can combine two flavors in a small, so try one gelato plus one sorbetto for the ultimate in flavor/texture excitement.
Meatballs at Villa di Roma
You can take out the crew for a great dinner at this Italian Market mainstay, sure, but there’s even more pleasure to be had when you just pop in on your own and back up a (cheap) drink at the bar with an order of gigantic meatballs in gravy. Go to town, no one’s watching.
Pound cake from Stock’s
Hit up this fifth-generation family-owned Port Richmond bakery for the densest, most buttery, richest version of plain white cake around. Might as well get a couple while you’re there — that way no one has to know you couldn’t wait to get home to take a few tastes.
Hot roast beef at Cherry Street Tavern
Sliced fresh, dropped on a kaiser with cheese and then dunked into the beef jus so it’s soft enough to inhale, this perfect bar food at corner of 22nd and Cherry is more diminutive than other Philly sandwiches, but — maybe because of its compact size — even more satisfying.
Black lava cashews from Di Bruno Bros.
Buy a small container or a full bag, but know the one issue with these candied nuts from the third-gen gourmet grocer — which have a sprinkling of black lava salt to make their flavor jump — is that however big a container you buy, that’s probably how much you’re gonna eat.
Blackened green beans at Grace Tavern
If you think fries or chips are the best companion for burgers, you probably haven’t tried the just-spicy-enough, way-too-addictive-to-be-veggies beans at this Grays Ferry pub. Plenty good on their own as a snack or appetizer, too.
Chocolate halva babka at Essen Bakery
For serious rejuvenation, skip the slice and pick up a whole loaf of this dense, rich, twisted-into-knots Jewish cake from this tiny East Passyunk storefront — that ensures you’ll have plenty left over to make the best French toast you’ve ever experienced the next day.
Bon bo hue at Cafe Diem
Note: For spice fiends only. Clear your nostrils along with your mind by hovering over the bowl of fiery beef broth at this Washington Avenue Vietnamese noodle house. Then pick up spoon and chopsticks and dig in — with lots of water nearby.
French 75 at Le Cheri
Don’t worry about a reservation for the dining room — or get that too, if you want — but sidle up to the small marble bar off the side of this French haven hidden in plain sight on Rittenhouse Square and revel in a flute of bubbly dosed with cognac and lemon.
Creamed chipped beef at the Dutch
Who knew shit on a shingle could be so transcendent? The team behind this recent makeover of a corner lunch joint in Pennsport, that’s who. And this is how: A sizzling savory Belgian waffle with scallions baked in gets topped with creamy bechamel studded with locally-sourced dried beef bits.
Baked Red Cat at Hungry Pigeon
Morning pastries at this Queen Village newcomer are tops in the city, but at night is when you can get this absurd combination of gooey, melting cheese from Birchrun Hills paired with thick, crusty house bread and a bit of sweet jam on the side.
The Special at Bob & Barbara’s
As much as any fancy lounge, a dive bar is fantastic for getting out of any funk, and this South Street West icon is best enjoyed by sucking down the famous drink combo it created. Shots of Jim Beam backed up by tall boys of PBR just don’t taste as good anywhere else.