NFT Philadelphia Center City East

Center City East

Chinatown, the Gayborhood, Independence Park--Center City East is stuffed with many tiny, distinct neighborhoods. Washington Square might not have Rittenhouse flair (although it does come close), but it does have a tree planed from a seed that was brought to the moon. Franklin Square, meanwhile, has the only mini-golf in the city.

Hop Sing Laundromat offers fancy, crafted cocktails. Woody's is a mainstay of the Gayborhood, and is large and welcoming for all. Anything goes at Dirty Frank's. For live music, head to Milkboy or the Trocadero. For a more Irish perspective, go to See more.

>Fergie's but please be aware that there really is a Fergie and he is, in fact, quite Irish.

Philly's food scene comes alive around here. The mega-hyped Vetri lives up to its reputation, while the original Morimoto still chugs along. And then there are several blocks of delectable Chinese, all of which Vietnam seems to trump (although do check out Lee How Fook). See also Rangoon's wonderful Burmese fare. BYOB in Philadelphia is a source of civic pride and Lolita is one of our favorite spots, where great house-made margarita mixes are anxiously awaiting your tequila to come home.

Bare Feet is a cheap, super fun adventure in kicks and threads, and Mitchell & Ness sells throwback jerseys that can't go out of style. If you're a student trying to fill an empty apartment, check out Uhuru. The delightful PHAG sells hip vinyl furniture, kooky martini glasses, and more. Macy's is Center City's only true department store; it retains some of the allure of the late, great Wanamaker's.


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Mural, Mural on the Wall

By Augustin Kendall
Illadelphia, Filthadelphia, City of Brotherly Love ... whatever Philly is to you, there's a mural for it somewhere. Amidst the spectacular three-story-high or building-long murals that ooze local culture, there are some off-kilter gems you won't find in the official tours. Augustin Kendall brings you an alternative mural tour that will not only satisfy your artistic appetite, but your thirst and sweet tooth cravings as well.
The City of Brotherly Bargains

By Lisa Franklin
Philadelphia has the reputation of being a cheap city, but it’s still hard to find a bargain. Sure, we’re obese and wear long crewneck sweatshirts, but chi-chi restaurants and boutiques are rebranding our image and forcing out our ingrained frugality. Where to turn when we’re hankering for an inexpensive lunch or a used CD that’s rightfully cheaper than its shiny new twin sister? Gems, finds, and steals exist throughout our fair city. The destinations below will ensure that, at the end of the day, we can enjoy a soft pretzel and a 6-pack of Yuengling without a gaping hole in our collective pocket...
Gayborhood Watch

By Alex Morales
Other than being dubbed NYC’s sixth borough, Philadelphia’s also been called a “small town masquerading as a big city.” The local queer scene is no exception. Everyone knows everyone or knows someone who hooked up with someone who you used to date, and OH MY GOD there he is standing across the bar chatting up your other ex. Now if you’re going to plunge headlong into this sordid world of loud music, strong drinks, and heavy drama, there’s some stuff you ought to know. But I ain’t one to gossip, so you ain’t heard it from me.
Stranger in a Strange Land

By Ann O'Malley
Welcome to Philadelphia, where the summers are sweltering, the winters are wicked, and the people are about as sweet as SEPTA is dependable—which is to say, not at all. To someone new to the area, Philadelphia may be a charming place, a pillar of our country’s history in the form of wide, tree-lined streets, Victorian homes, and quaint specialty shops. It is this. But it is also a hard place, the kind of city where people don’t smile if they aren’t happy, and where an in-your-face attitude prevails. We may be home to the Liberty Bell and the National Constitution Center—places, it should be noted, that are strictly for tourists—but the real points of pride are the Eagles, Tastykakes, and Jill Scott. Web contributor Rachel Healy shares some observations she's made about Philly since moving there: the people, the politics, the way of life. These are the things she wishes someone had taken her aside and told her--much like office gossip does on your first day on the job. To read more, click on the PDF link below...
Freewheeling Philadelphia

By Andy Greenberg
"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best," wrote Ernest Hemingway. Philadelphia has little in the way of contours. Even so-called Society Hill and Chestnut Hill hardly offer a climb. But Hemingway's idea applies nonetheless: With your feet spinning below you, the wind rushing past your (helmeted) head and the fear of death by taxi-door in your heart, Philadelphia's bustling landscape suddenly shifts into new focus. After navigating Center City on a bicycle, experiencing the city from the confines of a car is like listening to music underwater. Philadelphia, as much as any city in the world, is best traveled by its bicycle lanes...
Dive Right In

By Margaret Battistelli
Ah, the dives. Those little urban retreats where you can get a beer for a buck and your chicks for free. They're dirty and funky and more fun than you should be allowed to have for that little money. Web Contributor Meg Battistelli explores four of her favorite Philly dive bars.
Global Dining

By Kristin Detterline
When I was younger, and still at the mercy of my parents with regard to dinner, they’d drag me across “the bridge” (that’s family-speak for driving to Philadelphia from Jersey) to eat. It took two decades for me to snap out of my South Philly-based restaurant obsession, at a time when the city is finally getting some national props for its culinary chops. And not just for its spaghetti-and-meatball haunts. There are exotic restaurants to discover in every ‘hood – and the best ones aren’t always the most expensive.

On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Krista Apple
Photo:  Krista Apple

Massage Arts Center of Philadelphia
Massage. You know you want one. But (if you’re anything like me), you know you could never afford one. Until now. As little as $35 guarantees an hour-long session with a masseuse-in-training at the Massage Arts Center of Philadelphia. Bring them your tired, your poor, your stiff of muscle and weary of heart. And no need for student snobbery here. In four visits (and counting), this stiff girl's experience has been par excellence. (And trust me, the twisted knot where my spine once was gives them a serious run for their money.) If you're truly trainee-wary, you can always pay more for time with a fully accredited member of their staff. Sessions are available Sunday through Friday, but call ahead; they are available by appointment only. So count your pennies and schedule your Shiatsu already. What are you waiting for?

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Courtesy of Green Label

Trocadero Theatre
Do you like awesome '80s groovin' synth music from Montreal? Then keep reading because NFT and Green Label are teaming up to give away a pair of tickets to the big Chromeo show at the Trocadero on July 27th. Here's the deal: Sign up for the NFT newsletter, follow Green Label and NFT on twitter, and wait for the exciting trivia question that will be delivered in your email inbox very soon. Be the first person to answer the question, and you'll be the big winner! And if you don't win the tix, you can still get the new album dropping on September 14th. Click here to listen to a few sample tracks.

Posted By:  Augustin Kendall
Photo:  Augustin Kendall

Cafe Mocha
Like many (all?) non-chain coffee shops, Cafe Mocha bills itself as a gallery for local artists in addition to being a nice place to sit and drink a beverage. I've seen some interesting art here, but that's not why you should go. They've struck a perfect balance of important elements, whether by luck or design, I do not know. There's the ambience--interesting art, musical variety depending on staff, different spaces to park yourself in; the edibles--bagels, pastry, coffee, a good tea selection, and vegan treats; and the random elements that pull it all together. Location: This block of 10th Street feels like what a big city block should feel like; practically everything I might need to find on any given day is there. Random surprises: Every once in a while, there's a serious party going on here at night (far after their listed closing hours). To recap: VEGAN TREATS (that is supremely important, since vegan treats are a scarcity in this part of the city), bagels, secret after-hours parties. Anybody can serve up a nice coffee beverage and some art that may or may not be worth looking at. But Cafe Mocha is a dark horse in the Philly coffee hierarchy. So go keep them in business. Full disclosure: This place doesn't do the best with everything (the vegan treats are a bit expensive), but it does a whole lot, and sometimes that's just more important.

Posted By:  Augustin Kendall
Photo:  Augustin Kendall

Beaux Arts Vintage
It's a video store. No, it's a purveyor of antique kitchenware and other assorted items that fall into the home goods category. No, it's both. I don't live in this neighborhood, so it took me a while to actually go into Beaux Arts. I had this misguided idea that it was a retail store, even with the word 'video' in its name (I'm not totally obtuse, just look at the window display). When I finally did, I was charmed, by the random silver as much as the video store itself. This place is has a surprisingly good selection for its size, and a staff that can actually talk to you about movies. It's like walking into a video store from the olden days (you know, ten years ago or so). You won't find all the latest Hollywood flicks here, but you will find arthouse and foreign films galore, along with a good selection of TV shows. Essentially, both the name and visual representation are perfectly reflective of what's inside (unlike my title, which probably gave you no idea of the subject of this review). And that, my friends, is the way it should be.

Posted By:  Nathan Fried
Photo:  Nathan Fried

I believe legend has it that three women descended upon Chinatown in the '90s, all with a different cultural flare for Asian-inspired cooking. Being close friends, they decided to create an Asian fusion restaurant like no other. Enter Rangoon. Named after the largest city in Myanmar, Rangoon specializes in Burmese dishes. Myanmar, being in close proximity to Malaysia, India, and China, has a culture and fare tantamount to a blending of these unique regions. This may be the prime reason why I would fight through center city traffic every day just to get a taste. The dishes, although a bit pricey, take the good from all the Chinatown delights and leave the bad in the back alley of Appletree Street. Some dishes are spicy, some hot, some sweet, but each one leaves your taste buds feeling like they just went on a month long tour of the far East. My personal favorite is the Mango Chicken. The only real complaint is their dining area, which could use a bit of design. It's nice, clean, but not impressive--just a big open eating area. But perhaps its charm is in its simplicity. Still, for $10-$15 a dish, they could invest in some standard waterfalls or koi ponds.

Posted By:  Augustin Kendall
Photo:  Augustin Kendall

Locust Bar
For those who take cigarettes with their alcohol, Locust Bar is a breath of stale, smoky air. Since 2008, Philadelphia bars have been smoke-free zones, except for few and far between spots like this dive bar. On the inside, Locust Bar is much like you might expect from the outside. The beer is cheap. The regulars are old, young, strange, and often unnervingly friendly to strangers. It's right on Jefferson University campus, so you'll run into college crowds on weekends (and sometimes in the middle of a weekday afternoon). The bartender will remember you. If you like karaoke, Sunday's your night; quizzo is on Tuesday. It's dark, narrow, and stinky. What more could one ask for? Locust Bar is a haven in the middle of Center City's pretentious drinking spots.

Posted By:  Augustin Kendall
Photo:  Augustin Kendall

Though you wouldn't know it, Maoz is actually a chain. Most locations, however, are in other countries. Philadelphia was graced with the first US Maoz in 2004. They do one thing only: falafel. And they certainly do it up. Maoz gives you the pita and falafel balls, and you make a gourmet sandwich with their salad bar (complete with at least five or six sauces). Aside from the fact that it's a do-it-yourself meal, the salad bar has a greater selection of tasty additions than any other falafel place I've ever eaten at, by far. This location even has enough space to sit down. Nice change. They recently started serving sweet potato fries as an alternative option to their standard Belgian fries. Those who don't appreciate the wonder that is the sweet potato fry will not understand the importance of that information. Go to this Maoz if you want to sit down to eat, or bask in the overly-bright, geometric green atmosphere. Go to the Maoz on South Street if you want to take your food to a nearby stoop, or walk down the street with it like a tourist. And if you're going to do that, you might as well laugh at the people lined up outside of Jim's Steaks (only a block away) who don't know that there are better things to eat in Philadelphia than a roll stuffed with frizzled meat.

Posted By:  Mary Elizabeth Sullivan
Photo:  Mary Elizabeth Sullivan

Banana Leaf
With the crazy amounts of restaurants in Chinatown, it is hard to pick just one to satisfy your Asian-food craving. Banana Leaf is hands down one of the best eateries Chinatown has to offer. This Malaysian establishment has an extensive menu that is sure to please all types of Asian food lovers. Pad Thai? Got it. Sushi Bar? Check. Wonton Soup? Yup, got that too. Banana Leaf has all the favorites, and over 100 items to choose from, but I suggest going for an original creation. If you like sweet and sour chicken and General Tso's (and have frequent problems deciding which one to choose like I do), I suggest trying their Mango Chicken. Sliced mangoes and chicken pieces are covered in a spicy sweet and sour sauce, and then served in a hollowed-out mango for a great aesthetic appeal. Don't forget a side of coconut rice. Or, try something that you definitely won't find on your local take-out menu, like 'Spicy Thai Chicken Rice' or 'Ginger Duck Lo Mee.'

Posted By:  Robert Johnson
Photo:  Robert Johnson

Union Trust
If you're looking for a spot to go to where the drinks are delicious, the food is impeccable and the service is insanely on point, go to Union Trust. The restaurant itself won "Best New Steak House of Philadelphia 2009," "The" food reviewer of Philly, Craig Leban said it has the "Best Raw Bar in town" but even the dam Maitre'd won "Best of Philadelphia 2009!" So I had to check it out. The prices are reasonable especially the Buck-a-Shuck $1 Oysters. I had the Ancho Chilli rubbed Rib eye steak and I just about melted in ecstasy. Oh and FYI this place is MASSIVE!

Posted By:  Robert Johnson
Photo:  Robert Johnson

Duross & Langel
I have never been so excited to go home a take a shower. I mean really. I walked into duross & langel and immediately am greeted with wafts of the most alluring fragrances. They had beer soap, chocolate soap, mojito, margarita, fennel seed, black shea, I mean I could go on forever. My mother picked up some cherry and bourbon vanilla soap. I picked up some "naked" moisturizer that is fragrance free and doesn't feel greasy at all and I also grabbed a ginger shower gel that smelled like ginger candy. As I went to pay for the goods, I met half of the name sake--Steve Duross. He told me the bar soaps are all natural and vegan approved and that they make most of their stuff in the kitchen upstairs from the store. He even gave me and momma-dukes a brief tour and sent us on our way with some peppermint lipbalm, which by the way, tastes like candy canes. OMG I love this place!

Posted By:  Robert Johnson
Photo:  Robert Johnson

Varga Bar
You should absolutely check out Varga Bar. But try not to be as obsessive about it as I have been lately. The bar, that's more like a restaurant, has 22 local Philly beers on tap. But that's not what caught my eye, or stomach for that matter. It was the Crab Cheese Fries - French fries covered in White Cheddar cheese mixed with JUMBO LUMP CRABMEAT! For you Beer heads Varga has a collection of unusual American-made beers, including a hand pump with an exclusive beer made Flying Fish Brewing Company. Other beers on tap include Founder’s Backwoods Bastard, Russian River Damnation, Rogue Imperial Pilsner and Flying Fish Cask. The beer list can change daily, and is updated through Twitter. The Bar Manager, Ian, is an expert on beer. I mean, he got me to drink--and like--a whole glass of Bell's Oberon

Posted By:  Rebecca Troutman
Photo:  Rebecca Troutman

Barbara's Florist Statue
The Barbara's Florist butler statue was not glamorous. He was not wise. He was losing pieces of his nose with every new season. But what he will be remembered for is his fondness of the various holidays (pictured here: St. Patrick's Day), and very lifelike, creepily human eyes. He was recently tossed away, his sacrifice of standing sentient wearing ridiculous costumes day in and day out just a hindrance to Barbara's Florist's new dreams. With fresh owners leading the charge, it will soon change its name to "Walnut Flower Company": Philly's "hottest floral design studio" with an "event planning division." The butler statue will not be a part of it. Rest in Peace.

Posted By:  Allison Lowrey
Photo:  Allison Lowrey

Pennsylvania Center for Plastic Surgery
Nothing screams, "We're in a recession and I'm going to curb my frivolous expenditures" quite like making a beeline to the nearest plastic surgeon. But in today's tumultuous job market, I recommend taking advantage of your medical benefits while you still have them. For me, that involved heading to The Pennsylvania Center for Plastic Surgery to have a small cyst removed from my face. The folks at the center were not at all what I expected: they were super friendly and talented--and not at all skeevy like the dudes from Nip/Tuck. They didn't try to talk me into getting lipo, collagen, and Botox. They just took care of business like any respectable medical practice would. So if you've been putting off a trip to any of your covered medical professionals and you're not feeling so great about your job stability, now is the ideal time to get in tip-top shape before COBRA sucks you dry. Or, if you have cash burning a hole in your Louis Vuitton and you're looking to get the Joan Rivers treatment, you could always head to The Pennsylvania Center for Plastic Surgery to spruce yourself up.

Posted By:  Meg Favreau
Photo:  Meg Favreau

New Harmony Vegetarian Restaurant
I'm going to get this out of the way first so I can get to the point of this review: the food at New Harmony is quite good, featuring tasty pieces of faux-meat breaded and sauced so that full-on carnivores can't always tell they're not eating animals. But you see, this review is not about New Harmony's delicious dishes, it's about their VIP-room karaoke. Armed half with Chinese and half with English songs, the karaoke system features a number of highly unofficial background videos that were apparently made by Interns With Cameras in 1992. Thus your favorite songs of the 80's and 90's become punctuated by women in sheer black pantyhose posing outside of lighthouses, "Love Shack" features three women carousing outside of a house that I remained convinced the crew didn't even have permission to shoot in front of, and perhaps most disturbingly, "Bohemian Rhapsody" features shots of a happy little boy interspersed with shots of creepy dolls. This is karaoke as it was meant to be: weird as all hell, with something other than drinking yourself into a coma to distract you from all of the terrible singing. Enjoy.

Posted By:  Abby Baker
Photo:  Abby Baker

Naked Chocolate Café
If the name of this quaint little slice of chocolate heaven isn't enough to make passersby stop in, then the delicacies should be. While we all know that everything tastes better with chocolate on it, we don't always know that everything tastes better when you're naked. It does. But anyway, Naked is exactly what you won't find when you're scanning the counter of chocolate-covered goodies. Although Philly is famous for soft pretzels, I prefer the hard kind, covered in mouth-watering chocolate and Oreos or Reeses Pieces. Or maybe I want a cupcake oozing with succulent chocolate frosting. How about some rum-flavored chocolate? It really doesn’t matter what you order at Naked--it's all orgasmic. So what are you waiting for? As Methods of Mayhem says, get naked.

Posted By:  Julius DeAngelus
Photo:  Julius DeAngelus

The Philadelphia Sketch Club
The Philadelphia Sketch Club has been around for a long time, dating back to the time of the Civil War. In fact, it's the oldest artist club in America! Its hallowed members have included Thomas Eakins (honorary), Peter Boyle (yep, the actor's father), Maxfield Parrish, N.C. Wyeth and Alexander Calder to name a few. My wife is a third generation member and was acting secretary for many years so I have frequented a lot of monthly meetings. Though you can't just wobble into one of those (which are fun and you get to meet all sorts of fascinating and quirky folk) unless you're a guest, you can easily attend one of their exhibits or workshops that are ongoing. In all the times I've been inside I've never failed to notice something new on the walls or shelves.

Posted By:  Allison Lowrey
Photo:  Allison Lowrey

SEPTA Transit Store
"And I'm all like, what was she thinking? Going out with him? And she won't talk about it, so you know she totally did it. Whatever. What a hooker, right? I can’t even believe this is my best friend sometimes, you know?" If you’ve ever ridden SEPTA's regional rail, you've probably overheard a similar conversation being yakked into a cell phone by a teenager, oblivious to her surroundings. Or maybe you've been treated to a free concert when a fellow rider blasts distorted music from his speaker phone for the entire commute. Or you gritted your teeth while you tried to ignore screaming children, hacking coughers, obnoxious ring tones, and businessmen trying to sound more important than they are. Ah, the joys of public transportation. SEPTA recently launched a quiet car pilot on the R5 line. The goal is to provide a car where you won't have to listen to people air their dirty laundry for an audience of strangers. A place where you can pop your ear buds in and not have to blow out your eardrums trying to drown out the noise. If the pilot is successful, they’ll roll out the program to other lines. Fingers crossed…

Posted By:  Abby Baker
Photo:  Abby Baker

One thing Philly lacks is wine bars. Luckily, there's Vintage. This cozy wine-lovers paradise is exactly what a wine bar should be--small, sleek and sophisticated. While two-top tables adorn the narrow walkway, slightly bigger tables can be found in the back. This bar is my favorite place to down some Pinot Noir, but that's if you're lucky enough to snag a seat. If you are, don't be afraid to quiz the bartenders--they know their shit! If you're a serious wine connoisseur, meaning you sniff and swirl the wine while looking quite snobbish, the bartenders won't mind you. In fact, they'll keep pouring you samples until you're satisfied. However, if you're like me, you'll be satisfied with the fifteen dollar wine flight that was suggested and be excited that its alcohol content is equivalent to almost three glasses of wine. Wino or not, you'll be a fan of Vintage, if not for the wine, then for the fact that it's one of the few places in town where "College ID Night" is forbidden. I'll drink to that.

Posted By:  Meg Favreau
Photo:  Meg Favreau

Space Tree
Stop with your sci-fi films, people! There is a very real futuristic threat in our midst. Philadelphia has a SPACE TREE. It's a sycamore in Washington Square that was grown from a seed taken into space on Apollo 14. Oh, sure, the tree looks normal. Scraggly, even. But how can we know what radiation the seed was pelted with, what alien messages it might have received outside of our atmosphere? For all we know the tree is just waiting, biding its time until the right moment when its boughs will descend and make us into slaves! I am, of course, not recommending that you preemptively hurt the tree--not only could that set off an INTERGALACTIC SPACE WAR, but it would probably get you some sort of fine from the Philadelphia PD. Seriously: Don't be a hero. Rather, I recommend constant vigilance: watch the tree, and if makes any sudden moves, let me know. I'll be the one walking around the city in a tin foil hat.

Posted By:  Jamie Papoutsis
Photo:  Jamie Papoutsis

If gyros come to mind when you think Greek, perhaps you need to take a trip to Effie's. The digs are modest, with an untrendy utility kitchen taking up a large portion of the tiny dining area. Greek tunes are pumped out of an early 90s era stereo, which hopefully can mask any secretive dinner conversations from the ridiculously close neighboring tables. Despite this, the feta cheese tastes like it was gifted from Zeus, and the entrees are prepared just like they came from your yia-yia's kitchen. The prices are recession-friendly and you can bring your own wine. Try the shrimp Santorini or the baby lamb chops--they will not disappoint.

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