NFT Philadelphia Strawberry Mansion

Strawberry Mansion

This gritty North Philly nabe hugs less-frequented portions of Fairmount Park from East Park Reservoir to spooky Mount Vernon Cemetery. Cecil B. Moore Avenue--named for the famed Philadelphia Civil Rights activist--serves as main artery on the south. Save for a few exceptions, dining is limited to take out and casual fare.

While much of Philadelphia is undergoing a real estate boom, some neighborhoods remain depressed. Buy now and cross your fingers? After all, if Camden can go luxury loft...


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Things That Make You Go Om

By Allison Lowrey
Balance your chakras, shake your maracas; it's time to do some yoga! Allison Lowrey, a skeptical city slicker, had her doubts about the healing power of Downward Facing Dog. But all that would change... when she took a class. Are you ready for an Indian-originated mental and physical discpline that leaves you exalted, sweat-sopped and begging for more?


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Nathan Fried
Photo:  Nathan Fried

The birthplace of Belgian Beers in Philly, and one of the first to open its doors after prohibition--Bridgid's is one of those unique and low key bars. Bartender and manager, Dan, says the place is often "too quiet" or "too crowded" which is understandable since it resides close enough to the art museum and Fairmount to give instant access to tourists, but is rather hidden on 24th Street. Still, its historic charm is seen instantly upon entering--a homely bar area and a fireside dining room which was converted from a residential home over 80 yrs ago. One interesting, yet awful contraption, is the gravity tap--one of very few in the entire US. In design, it was an excellent idea, but in practice operates worst than a 16-yr old boy during prom night. At first pull, and we're not talkin' teenage boys here, you will get 4 or 5 glasses full of head, but it's that sixth pint that finally has an original smooth and mildly cold flavor. Don't worry though, the bartender will only charge you for one. The interesting tap, however, only works in the winter so don't expect a demonstration in August. This is a bar for a nice dinner, good conversation, and outstanding beer. Doors close at 11pm, so make sure you have your next bar lined up at last call.

Posted By:  Rebecca Troutman
Photo:  Rebecca Troutman

Jack's Firehouse
On a seemingly empty Monday night near Eastern State Penitentiary, Jack's Firehouse takes on the air of an after-hours mafia lounge. While we enjoyed our drinks at the bar in the center of the old firehouse, there appeared the most smartly dressed young men wining and dining an old man in a tux with a British accent. Mafia or no, Jack's is fantastic to feast your eyes on. I'm told the 30-some foot tall structure is made from now extinct wood--and it's still beautiful. Food-wise, I dined on an appetizer of the best seitan tips I've ever had, and will ever have, in my life. Honestly, I like seitan a fairly good deal. But the combination of the marinade and the perfect grilling made those tips more tasty and pleasing in texture than I ever thought wheat gluten was capable of. I only have one gripe: why would such a seemingly classy joint have the cheapest bathroom features possible: some seriously sandpapery-ass toilet paper and no hot water. Not pleasant for the ladies.

Posted By:  Virginia Blond
Photo:  Virginia Blond

This is a big garden—a full block’s worth of plots from 10 x 10 to 20 x 20 and a garden gate that is the envy of community gardeners throughout the city. At the height of the summer, you can work in your plot, as butterflies waft by, and forget that you’re in the city. Not to mention your harvest of tasty veggies and pretty flowers. Afraid travel, neglect or, say, lack of any knowledge of gardening will reduce your plot to a dismal patch of weeds? OK, almost everyone else’s plot will make you feel mightily inferior if it happens; but there are plenty enough friendly gardeners who will help. There are a few rules about use of a common area and you’ll need ten hours of garden commons service; otherwise you’re on your own. Interested? You may be on a waiting list for a few months (maybe longer than “a few”). It’s worth the wait. There’s even a bullfrog in one of the plots. A bullfrog for God’s sake! Do ya know another garden with a bullfrog? No, I didn’t think so.

Posted By:  Michelle Sipics
Photo:  Michelle Sipics

St. Stephen's Green
I love St. Stephen's Green, but it can get a bit too noisy on occasion. Inside, the hard wood creates an echo chamber; out on the sidewalk, the vehicle/drunken pedestrian/SEPTA bus symphony is overwhelming at times. Fortunately, St. Stephen's also has a semi-hidden courtyard with enough room for a medium-sized group out in the open air. Fancy decor it's not, but really, is that what you're looking for in a neighborhood bar? Best of all, most people don't know to ask about it, so there are often open tables back there. Of course, I may have just ruined that by blabbing about it. So, if you're in the mood for great food and drinks at a spiffy bar, but would prefer the noise level just a tad bit lower, head over to 17th and Green and ask for a courtyard table. Unless there's only one left, in which case you'd better leave it for me.

Posted By:  Michelle Sipics
Photo:  Michelle Sipics

St. Stephen's Green
With Fairmount residents anxiously awaiting the opening of Monk's on Green—formerly Tavern on Green, which closed its doors over the winter—the arrival of St Stephen's Green could not have come at a better time. (Okay, the "Green" bar names are getting kind of annoying, but they are all located on that street, so at least it's accurate.) At any rate: St. Stephens, a gorgeous woodwork-laden establishment with a warm, inviting atmosphere, and $5 Guinness pints, is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. The place was hopping when we stopped in for a drink and a snack just four days after its opening, and the wait staff was the friendliest we've seen in Fairmount. The on-tap selection is pretty standard: Yuengling, Yards, Stella, Guinness, and a few other basics, with a good selection of bottled beers to round out your options. But the food menu is what really caught our eye: a pretty darn decent list of sandwiches and snacks, most in the neighborhood of $10 or so. There are a few "Irish" dishes on the menu (Shepherd's Pie, Bangers & Mash), but it's the fries that get our highest praise: five bucks got us the best fries we've found in Fairmount.

Posted By:  Rob Baniewicz
Photo:  Rob Baniewicz

It's a big night. Your parents are meeting. It might as well be THE night because if her parents don't get along with yours, it will be pretty messy from this point on. She chooses neutral territory—a restaurant called Aspen that is a mix of traditional fare and plates with new-age flare. After a bit of awkwardness, some G & Ts, and a try from the restaurant's tasty beer selection, it stops mattering that your Dad is half-deaf and her Mom forgot her glasses. My suggestion: stick to what you know. At our table, we found the fish and chips and the burger to be far superior to the seafood special. Regardless of the menu, this restaurant feels like home and can help alleviate the awkwardness of any first meeting. That is, until the check comes and the argument begins over who should pay.

Posted By:  Michelle Sipics
Photo:  Michelle Sipics

The site of a former beer joint is probably the last place you'd expect to find a snazzy Italian BYOB, but that's where L'Oca opened its doors just a few weeks ago, in the shadow of Eastern State Penitentiary. With most dishes priced in the mid teens to low $20s, it's not the cheapest food around, but it's on par with—and in some cases cheaper than—the other fine dining establishments in the Art Museum Area (such as Jack's Firehouse and London Grill). And judging by a recent visit, L'Oca has already drummed up plenty of business: every table was full by 6 pm for a Saturday dinner. The staff is pleasant and attentive, and the food is top-notch (we personally recommend the homemade ravioli and/or the dish we've forgotten the name of, with the tiny pasta and eggplant and half a garden full of vegetables. You'll know it on the menu when you see it). Tip: although at a first glance the location seems strange, it makes a lot more sense when you remember that L'Oca is a BYOB: there's a liquor store just steps away, at 20th and Fairmount. Ahhhhh.

Posted By:  Michelle Sipics
Photo:  Michelle Sipics

It's hard not to love a pub that uses old library books as menus. On our last visit we found the list of sandwiches (and perhaps more importantly, beers) pasted inside the back cover of a children's book salvaged from a public library. A friendly, if occasionally yuppie, crowd calls this place home most every night of the week. And we can see why. Plenty of beers are available on tap; the food is tasty and not too pricey; the atmosphere is welcoming. There's a jukebox with just enough room for groups to huddle around while selecting tunes, a sit-down area in the back, a decent-sized bar, and a church pew—yes, a church pew—at the front door. The Bishop's Collar also serves a Sunday brunch (right after church of course), and during warmer weather it's a nice place for a sidewalk meal. Just one warning: don't expect to have a quiet conversation here. We don't know if it's the wooden walls making an echo chamber, or the shape of the place, or what, but it doesn't take more than a few patrons to bring the noise up to a near-painful decibel level. Expect cacophony.

Posted By:  Michelle Sipics
Photo:  Michelle Sipics

Whole Foods
Maybe you really, really like granola. Or you love whole wheat pasta, but you can't find what you're looking for in the packaged pasta aisle of your favorite supermarket. Or you're making a recipe that calls for mung beans, but you've never even heard of mung beans, let alone where to find them. Look no further than the Whole Foods Bulk Bar. Here you'll find everything from oats, dried fruit, and beans to nuts, rice, and pancake and waffle mix. Our favorite? Sun-dried tomatoes. And even if there's something that you can find elsewhere, like rice, you'll get it cheaper by buying a pound or two at once and keeping it on hand instead of buying boxed rice every time you want to make a stir-fry. Staples like trail mix and granola are available, too, in several different flavors and styles. While you're there, pick up the free Whole Foods "bulk basics guide," which will tell you how to prepare those dried navy beans, rehydrate dried fruit, or store bulk-bought flour.

Posted By:  Katie Sweeney
Photo:  Katie Sweeney

You feed him, scratch his belly and let him out when he gives you those eyes. And in return, he keeps your feet warm on December nights, protects the house, and can lure in attractive strangers within a 1-block radius. Loyal friends like that deserve to be treated, and In the Doghouse is just the place to spoil your furry friend—bowls and leashes don’t even begin to scratch the surface of everything in stock! Plus, there’s plenty for the dogowner and wanna-be dogowner as well. In the Doghouse will provide information about adoption, and happy hours are hosted the third Friday of each month, featuring a gourmet bakery and ice cream treats. So treat your best friend to a shampoo and paw-dicure and come on over.

Posted By:  Blythe Davenport
Photo:  Blythe Davenport

Wake Up Yoga
I keep telling myself that I’m going back to yoga class, but I get up on Saturday morning and drink coffee with the newspaper instead. And I really have no excuse, since the coolest yoga studio in town is only a couple of blocks away from my house. Wake Up Yoga was started by Corina Brenner in 2002, and they offer classes for just about everyone°™beginners, mothers, professionals. And I don’t just mean working professionals; Wake Up Yoga has a series of classes to certify you as a yoga teacher. The studio is in a converted rowhouse, and the space is warmly decorated, with butternut squash-colored walls designed to help relax and energize the stiffest yoga student. Whether you’re looking for a low-impact way to tone up those winter muscles (or lack thereof,) or increase the mindfulness of your day-to-day life, Wake Up Yoga has got a class for you. The teachers are expert and encouraging, and they’ve got all sorts of price ranges to fit your budget°™from $5 drop-in classes to five 90 minute sessions for $60.

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