Better Than Best: People and Places

By PW Staff
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 16 | Posted Feb. 23, 2010

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Best Place to Get Dissed By Skeletor

If you’ve ever sat through a night of karaoke where one extremely drunken, off-key person keeps getting on the mic to sing yet another song by Creed, you’ve probably fantasized about having a giant hook to drag that loser offstage, or at least some way to make it clear that the audience is not receptive to their performance. Well, the Trocadero has genetically engineered the best possible way to communicate this sentiment: a brutally sarcastic MC dressed as the neon Skeletor from the He-Man cartoon who makes bitchy comments about and gongs subpar performers off of his stage. In addition to being the karaoke host and arbiter, Skeletor also performs evil-themed versions of various songs by Enrique Iglesias and Prince. It’s hilarious, but take our word for it: Naïve attempts to sing Meatloaf or Bon Jovi will automatically be gonged—as they should be.

Skeletor Karaoke Gong at the Trocadero, 1003 Arch St. 215.922.5483.

Most Creative and Under-rated Independent Publisher

Consistently treading that very fine line between underground zine publisher and rare art-book producer, the Philly-based Free News Projects is without a doubt one of the most creative and pioneering literary art factories that you’ve probably never heard of. While the always-surprising Megawords photo-magazine is the company’s most visible product, it’s hardly representative of the many odd literary creations in the FNP back catalog. There are gorgeously produced coffee table books documenting area graffiti, as well as obscure indie-rock records, beautifully crafted art books, consistently strange magazines, and to be perfectly honest, who knows what else!

Free News Projects, 125 N. 11th St.

Best Person to Talk to When Entertaining the Idea Of Becoming a Beer Expert In Your Next Life:

Here at PW we have no problem giving credit where it’s due. That said, City Paper ’s food blog Meal Ticket helps us with our daily dose of procrastination, as it’s a must read for anyone hoping to get the scoop on restaurant openings, specials and foodie news. Felicia D’Ambrosio is half of the stellar team over at Meal Ticket, and she really knows her stuff. A long-time bartender at beer mecca Belgian Cafe, she is like a walking, talking encyclopedia of brew knowledge, and can spout off a hundred different facts about the suds you’re sipping like she’s some sort of spooky reincarnation of Michael Jackson. (The beer writer, not the King of Pop.) Next time you want to know more about your vice, pop in at Belgian and have her pour you a pint.

Belgian Café, 2047 Green St. 215.235.3500.

Friendliest Post Office Staff

It’s not every day you read a review of a post office, especially one with the word “friendliest” in the title. But make no mistake: The women who work the counter at the Penn's Landing Postal Store are beyond courteous and kind professionals. Each and every one goes out of their way to flash a smile, or to simply radiate warmth to the workaday crowds who would otherwise be completing nothing more than a tedious, and often frustrating chore. What’s more, this PO has benefits: It stays open until 7 p.m. on weekdays, and 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Since its immediate neighbors include four tattoo parlors and a body piercing shop, you’d better believe the crowds here tend toward the eccentric and visually stimulating, which will give you something to look at while you’re waiting to meet the nice ladies up front.

US Post Office, 622 S. Fourth St. 215.923.2701.

Best BFF for Vintage Guitar Nerds

Like most people, Jonathan Sipes ’ picked up his habit in college. He started selling on the side just to keep a head stash. Eventually, collecting vintage guitars became a full-blown obsession, so he scrimped for his first big investment and made the pilgrimage down to Gil Southworth’s famous vintage instrument shop in Maryland. During the sale, Sipes’ then-girlfriend mouthed off to Gil, who promptly kicked everyone out of the store—except them. The three of them stayed, drank a bottle of liquor and talked guitars into the night. By morning, Sipes had two new guitars and a mentor for life. Twenty years later, Sipes works as both a broker and a manufacturer, locating “obscure but historically important” pieces from the 1950s for players with discerning fingertips, especially 1950s and 1960s-era Les Pauls, Gibsons and “unique examples of Bigsbys and Rickenbacker guitars.” He also specializes in Bigsby and Rickenbacker parts, restoration and part fabrication. “The company that owns Bigsby now doesn’t make a third of the things that it used to make,” says Sipes. “I won’t just make parts and sell them outright, it’s more for the restoration of specific instruments, but if someone has an old magnitone guitar that was supposed to have a Bigsby bridge I can fabricate it from scratch.” Guitar geeks, meet your new BFF.

J.Ashley Sipes: Rare Stringed Instrument Broker & Muffler Repair,

Most Intriguing Foul-Mouthed Northern Irish Quiz Master

Belfast native Irish John says he owes most of his success to his abrasiveness. Quizzo crowds are struck with fits of laughter as John explains the rules (“No Blackberries or iPhones; it’s bullshit and it’s pathetic”) and comforts the crowd with the promise of an easy question (“This one’s a gimme, it’s a piece of piss.”). You can be entertained and abused by Irish John at bars like Nodding Head, National Mechanics and Atlantis the Lost Bar, as he’s maintaining order with raspy yelps of “Fuck up!” (Irish John shorthand for shut the fuck up) and berates a quizzo team begging for an extra-credit question (“Stop point-whoring!”). He’ll also pepper in a few C-words for good measure.

Best Place to Embrace Punch-Drunk Love

We can’t think of many Narcotics Anonymous meetings that are more enjoyable to hang out at on a Friday night than the neighborhood bar. The Eleventh Hour , however, which convenes at the South Philly Circle of Hope church, is just that. Every Friday at about 10:45 p.m., the same sort of tattooed and bike-obsessed hipsters you may have gotten drunk with congregate outside the church’s front door. The meeting itself happens in a wide-open gallery-like space that’s illuminated by dozens of flickering votive candles, and after most meetings a small group retires to the nearby Melrose Diner. The Eleventh Hour, by the way, is known in N.A. parlance as an “open meeting,” which means that even non-addicts are welcome to attend. It might be something to consider when you’re making your wild-night weekend plans.

Circle of Hope, 1125 S. Broad St. 215.468.2726.

 Coolest Gift Shop Gear

Anyone who has spent the weekend shuffling out-of-towners to the requisite local sites can tell you if you’ve seen one historical Philly postcard, you’ve seen ’em all. For visitors (or expats) who want a funkier piece of Philly memorabilia, hit up the gift shop at the College of Physicians’ Mütter Museum , where you can pick up interesting home decor including Noah Scalin’s skull wreath or a plush microbe. Our favorite item is a specially commissioned, hand-drawn poster by technophobic artist Madame Talbot, who creates each one without the help of computers or machines, sometimes taking as long as two weeks to complete a single poster. The Mütter features some of the medical oddity museum’s most popular specimen, including Grover Cleveland’s tumor, the plaster death cast of Chang and Eng and the gangrenous hand in a jar.

Mütter Museum, 19 S. 22nd St. 215.563.3737.

Best Person to Talk to When Entertaining the Idea Of Becoming a Bartender/Mixologist In Your Next Life

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Comments 1 - 16 of 16
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1. Felicia D'Ambrosio said... on Feb 24, 2010 at 11:27AM

“Wow, guys, thank you so much! I am floored by the kind words, and you have given me the greatest accolade my CV has ever seen! Thank you Thank you!”

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2. Anonymous said... on Feb 24, 2010 at 01:07PM

“About the "Best Place to Embrace Punch-Drunk Love" article. Do you have any idea how disrespectful that is? These people are there to get help with their lives and not live in the same insanity that they have been for years while using drugs. Really? Have you no respect for an orignization of men and women who are trying to better their lives? You do realize that because someone who thought about seeking help might not because you published this. They wanted to go to an ANONYMOUS program and now, after reading your article, they might not because such peopple as yourselves think that meetings are a great place to go and just hang out. They might have a fear of being seen and you've just put this place up as a place to gawk at people who are trying to change their lives as if they are a bunch of freaks. What the hell is wrong with you? Have your writers lost their moral compass completely? Are your editors sleeping at their desks, just letting stories like this go by? You're sick!”

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3. akh22241 said... on Feb 24, 2010 at 03:54PM

“YOU MAKE ME SICK! Why on earth would you think an NA meeting is a place to HANG OUT!!!!! Have you no respect. If your an addict who wrote this, I'm even more p*****!!!!! It's ANONYMOUS. Apparently you've been there and if you know anything about the program then you should also know it's a direct violation of our traditions which are in place to protect addicts who want to remain ANONYMOUS! Also you would think a paper would know what that word means. In NA "Our primary purpose to carry the message to addict who still suffers" not to be a cool place to hang out. "Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need maintain personal anonimity at the level of press, radio and films" If addicts think that this is a place where people just go to hang out then our message is lost and recovery won't happen. THANKS TO YOU THIS "BEST PLACE TO EMBRACE DRUNK LOVE" IS IN DANGER OF LOSING THEIR MEETING PLACE AND WON'T BE THERE FOR THE PEOPLE WHO NEED IT!!!”

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4. TomP said... on Feb 24, 2010 at 04:20PM

“I agree, Felicia rocks!”

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5. Katie Loeb said... on Feb 25, 2010 at 12:36AM

“Wow! Thank you! That may be the nicest thing anyone has ever written about me or what I do. We'd all like to believe we're making someone's life better every day when we head to work. Whether we're doctors, lawyers, bartenders or Indian Chiefs, it's lovely to get some respect for getting out of bed and showing up to do whatever it is that we do. Thanks for making me feel like someone cares that I did and understands what motivates me to do it. I'm humbled and thankful.”

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6. ANONYMOUS!!! said... on Feb 25, 2010 at 05:51AM

“Tonight I heard someone share about an NA meeting being promoted in a newspaper... I couldn't believe that could possibly be true, so I had to see it for myself. And here it is. How sick and twisted are you to publish something like this??? Narcotics Anonymous is a place where we go, as addicts, to SAVE OUR LIVES... it's a matter of life and death, not some sort of hip hang-out! I recently moved back to Philadelphia and someone had actually recommended this particular meeting to me a few weeks ago... but who would want to attend a meeting where we will feel like we are specimens to be gawked at, a trendy Philly attraction?? And I'm curious how this was even discovered anyway...if the writer of this is actually a member of NA, you need to take a good, hard look at why you feel it's ok for YOU to violate the traditions that bind us all together. I know most of us would like to keep our meetings open, but it seems like this might be a good time to make The Eleventh Hour a CLOSED one”

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7. ANONYMOUS!!! said... on Feb 25, 2010 at 11:15AM

“I like how this story was conveniently written by "PW Staff." You get to remain anonymous, so please respect a program whose very foundation IS anonymity. If this meeting turns into some sort of circus, with people stumbling from neighborhood bars into a place that is supposed to be a SAFE HAVEN for addicts, I fear that our primary purpose (to carry the message to the addict who still suffers) will become lost in the chaos. Earlier I said that I wouldn't want to be gawked at, but, when I think about it, I'm not going to let this deter me from checking out a meeting that was suggested to me. I hope no other people seeking recovery are deterred by this either. Anyone who is not, please respect our desire to remain anonymous by staying away.”

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8. Anonymous said... on Feb 25, 2010 at 01:56PM

“Well, it sounds like the NA people should make their meeting a CLOSED meeting if they dont want "NON" addicted people coming to them.”

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9. Nick Devlin c/o Long in the Tooth said... on Feb 25, 2010 at 03:37PM

“Although it doesn't really bother me to be labeled "so punk," it is a pretty inaccurate statement about my shop and the stuff we tend to also carry. I can't help but wonder why you would not just continue to reap praise on the guy with the spectacular range of influence(Thin Lizzy! Ramones!) and wonderful bands he plays in that know one seems to care about. Instead you feel the need to talk shit on two other record stores in town( Melanie, you Stoner!!). You also use the word whack. That is terrible. Unfortunately all of this goes down in the same article where you recommend that a good hang out in philly on a friday night is at an n/a meeting at a christian thrift shop! Ridiculous people. Please do not come to my shop for the next flavor of the month hype record that comes out. Go to AKA and give them the money. I will continue to enjoy my usual clientele who also buy the above titles, but do not shit on all the other styles that are held within the store. Oi.”

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10. Anonymous said... on Feb 26, 2010 at 08:40AM

“Kudos to the Penns Landing post office staff. I don't even live in that neighborhood anymore, but still go back for the friendly service and the reasonable hours.”

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11. chris m. said... on Feb 26, 2010 at 11:37AM

“As far as the 11th Hour Group:
Calm down people. No ones anonymity was broken. No one is going to want to hang out with us on a Friday night because they are bored. This isn't going to attract anyone, nor is it going to make anyone not come.
Where our meetings are held isn't difficult to find out, hence the Public Information subcom. One website, one phone call and you can find any meeting in the city. Its not a violation of Traditions. Traditions are for groups, not media. We weren't the ones promoting us. And "personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films"? Key word: personal.
Make it a closed meeting? What is this '82? Glad that everyone that has had their lives saved now wants to hoard it, keep a secret and not let anyone else in now that you have found a new way of life.
And everyone acts like suddenly the last thing we would want to do is to shake the Hollywood portrayal of a bunch of old white men drinking coffee and whining about our lives.
See you at the homegroup!”

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12. John Culhane said... on Feb 26, 2010 at 10:31PM

“Avril 50 isn't cozy, it's...well, read all about it on my blog (”

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13. Mike said... on Mar 4, 2010 at 11:46PM

“Who is starting the rumor that Penn Treaty Park is deserted and empty? Have you ever been there? I have lived 2 blocks from Penn Treaty Park for the past 30 years. It is often crowded and filled with families having picnics and BBQ's throughout the summer. Hipsters do not go there. I reckon the rumor of it being empty and under utilized is being started by hipsters because they want more hipsters to go there. And then you can all play dodgeball, kickball and 4 corners there. Also, Penn Treaty Park is not adjacent to Fishtown. It is in Fishtown. It is adjacent to Northern Liberties and Port Richmond.”

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14. Jim C. said... on Mar 6, 2010 at 06:17PM

“It is a distorted way to mention an NA meeting--as if it was some hip thing to do for a night, like it's a "show." Ya, it's an "Open" meeting but that's not meant to mean "open to gawkers."”


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