DON'T CALL IT PORT FISHINGTON
I live in one of those neighborhoods that no one can name. My neighbors who’ve lived here forever call it Kensington; their kids call it Fishtown; the civic association calls it Olde Richmond; and if you call it Port Fishington, everyone calls you an asshole.
The civic association defines its boundaries as Conrail Rail Lines to the north, Delaware River to the east, Trenton Avenue to the west and Delaware River by the I-95 interchange to the south. But most of the people I run into don’t consider those parameters especially meaningful. Rather, for most, if you can walk there, you can call it home. And due to the off-the-griddiness that begins where East Girard meets Frankford, the whole area is mighty walkable; nothing north of Girard and south of Lehigh is too far away from anything else.
Best bars: This neighborhood has changed over the last decade, and with it, the restaurant scene and clientele. Both Atlantis (Frankford and Hagert) and Memphis Taproom (2331 E. Cumberland) are old staples of the young; but in recent years, we’ve seen the addition of places like Loco Pez (2401 E. Norris), Cedar Point (2370 E. Norris) and whatever they’re doing down near Girard. Fishtown Tavern (1301 Frankford) was revamped; there’s Frankford Hall (1210 Frankford); El Bar (1356 N. Front) Bottle Bar East (1308 Frankford) and Lloyd (529 E. Girard), among others.
But if hanging with hipsters isn’t your thing, I recommend cheap beers with locals at Bob’s Happy Hour Tavern (2310 Frankford; bonus: karaoke!), Luke’s Bar (2434 Cedar), the Triple Shot Tavern (2401 E. Letterly) and Erica’s Sports Bar (2049 Hagert).
Best coffee: The Rocket Cat (2001 Frankford) is an old standard, but both ReAnimator Coffee (1523 E. Susquehanna) and the Soup Kitchen Café (2146 E. Susquehanna) have opened recently, and offer tasty brews. ReAnimator has a wide open ambiance and comfortable indoor and outdoor seating, even if they do take coffee just a little too seriously for my tastes. (Each cup is brewed by hand!) Which isn’t to say the hardcore stuff—like a rotating specialty $8 cup the work crew found on a pilgrimage overseas—isn’t awesome. It’s just not something I’d drink a lot of, for financial/“I work in journalism” reasons.
Soup Kitchen is a hybrid café/sit-down restaurant/coffee shop that sells beer by the bottle and does a Tunisian dish called the Shakshuka that’s just fantastic—a spicy, red mixture of peppers, tomatoes and onion, served with an egg and toasted bread. It’s great for a sit-down breakfast or an all day study/work bender with a cup of Red Eye that serves each one of its purposes.
For dogs: Lots of neighborhoods have dog parks. Mine has three. The first, Triangle Park (898 Aramingo), is located next to I-95 where Girard’s commercial corridor ends. Palmer Doggie Depot (Frankford and E. Palmer) is between Palmer Park and Kensington High School. The third, Pop’s Playground (Hazzard and Collins), requires a membership and membership key to get in. But if you really want to have fun, bring your dog to the macadam at Horatio B. Hackett Elementary during off-hours. It’s open all the time and has enough space to play fetch.
Other creatures: Humans and animals have managed to live quite comfortably with each other in this neighborhood. There are numerous, semi-friendly cats on my block (one universally known as “Patrick,” one I’ve decided to call “Murder Cat” for reasons that’d be obvious if you saw it (one of them: It looks like it’s murdered) and one three-legged feline that’s survived many long winters and hot summers under cars, limping its way through the world. There are at least two wild dogs: a sharpe-mix and a rotweiller-mix, both of which are super-friendly, playful and generally liked by neighborhood human beings.
For watching sports: The Hackett school, again. On any given weekend, weather permitting, families will make a baseball diamond their own on the macadam and organize a kid’s baseball game with beer and meat.
For watching professional sports: My favorite spots are Memphis Taproom’s outdoor area and Interstate Draft House, the latter which is an understated spot to watch a game at the bar, and awesome mostly for that reason.
Yoga: Most people know about Amrita Yoga (1204 Frankford), but they don’t really know about Pacific Yoga (2518 Cedar).
Pizza: Yes, Pizza Brain (2313 Frankford) is a fantastic, now-internationally-known spot, and the pizza’s great, but it’s nowhere near the only game in town. I consider Key Food Pizza (2329 E. York) highly underrated. They serve gigantic boardwalk-style slices with extra cheese. Another spot, Primo Pizza, has decent slices for under $2; Franco’s (2573 Tulip) has decent slices and other Italian dishes, and a new Italian place I’ve been meaning to try just opened across the street from the Walking Fish Theater.
Stage: Have I mentioned that the Walking Fish Theater (2509 Frankford) is in this neighborhood?
Art: A short walk to East Kensington, and you can check specialty art shows at Little Berlin (2430 Coral), a hybrid gallery/work space at a former warehouse with a really cool outdoor area. They’re open for specialty exhibits, First Friday and appointments.
Galleries up and down Frankford step up the game each First Friday, and are displayed prominently by the New Kensington CDC posters and bus stop ads around town. My favorites include High Wire Gallery (2040 Frankford), 2033 Frankford and the Sculpture Gym (1834 Frankford), which just opened an outdoor space, lot-turned awesomeness.
Literary: And hey, what do you know about Head and the Hand Press (2011 Frankford)? That it’s a 2012-established community-supported press and workshopping space for writers? Or that they’re seeking submissions for all sorts of cool publishing projects, right now? Or that they sell a number of books and goods they they’ve published through their online store? Or that you can rent their co-working space at any point between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. to get some much-needed quiet time with your words? No? Well, now you do.
Clothing: Circle Thrift (2233 Frankford) is one of those thrift stores that has always been awesome, and will always be awesome. There’s always something there you probably need, and always a reason to buy it—that reason being, This shirt is actually 50 cents? Well, OK, I guess I could use a shirt. / RANDY LOBASSO
DOING CENTER CITY: BEYOND THE OBVIOUS
Contrary to popular outer neighborhood sentiment, Center City is more than just a place where tourists congregate and Craigslist missed connections happen. Folks do live here, too. And, in this figurative, and geographic, center of the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia’s 1.5 million residents have to sit next to one another in places like Café Twelve. The coffee clutch located in the heart of Philly’s Gayborhood at 12th and Locust streets warms the senses with its comfortable couches, movable furniture and reasonable prices; and, because of its centrality to all points Center City, the place is seemingly the nexus of all known civilization (think Star Wars’ cantina but with $1.08 endless refills instead of light sabers). The owners, Ashish Dahal and Ashna D. Gyawali from Nepal, only use locally roasted fair trade coffee beans, also from Nepal, so you can feel less guilty about sitting there acting like you’re working on that novel on your laptop.
PW's 2015 Philly Spring Guide