I’ve been to Philly plenty of times, but had the treat of going in January for work, when the ALA Midwinter Meeting was held at the convention center in January. (Unfortunately during a freezing cold snap.) I was looking forward to it because, like Seattle, it is a fantastic conference town. Yes, I base this entirely upon the proximity of good restaurants and bars to the convention center. Convention centers themselves rarely have any features to distinguish them from one another. This post is perhaps a little late, but whatever.
Slept At: I stayed at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, which was close to the convention center, and had a skywalk over to it, which was very handy in the cold. I got lucky and managed to get a very, very late check out of 3pm I believe. Of course this meant that when I came running back over from my presentation on the last day, I had to go back down to the lobby because my key had been deactivated. (Not sure why it let me up in the elevator at that point.) I then proceeded to leave a pair of glasses behind, but I was easily able to retrieve them thanks to the very helpful staff.
Ate at: I had a huge list of places I wanted to go to, so of course I didn’t make it to all of them. But I did have some great meals, and I spent plenty of time inside Reading Terminal Market, which is right at the convention center and makes it super easy to grab a quick meal or snack. Here’s a quick rundown of where I ate:
- Molly Malloy’s – Pub inside Reading Terminal Market. Good beers and an insane grilled cheese.
- The Farmers’ Cabinet – Sat at the bar for a beer and light dinner. Food was good and so was the beer selection. They also had some interesting sounding cocktails. (Also, I’m getting good at finding the Woodberry Kitchen of every city I visit.)
- Down Home Diner – Another spot inside Reading Terminal Market, where I enjoyed a much more decadent conference breakfast than usual.
- Tokyo Sushi Bar – You guessed it, inside Reading Terminal Market. Super friendly staff, but the sushi was a bit overpriced. Also it was very confusing trying to figure out how to order/pay/get a seat.
- Tinto – Philly is a town where people describe the restaurant by saying who the chef/owner is. This is a Jose Garces restaurant, featuring Basque tapas. Go there, you will not be disappointed. (If you can’t get in, try Amada.)
- Jones – Very cool brunch spot with mod decor. Yummy chicken and waffles. Clearly a hot spot, so get a reservation or go at a weird time.
- Prohibition Tap Room – Divey atmosphere, gastropub menu. Yes, please.
- Nodding Head Brewery and Restaurant – Kept the bartender company at a weird time on a Monday. Beers were good and I enjoyed the potato leek soup I had as a snack.
- Devon Seafood Grill – A favorite of my great aunt and uncle, who I met up with for dinner on my last night. Our server was the sweetest, the food was delicious, and the company was wonderful.
Getting Around: I took Amtrak up and back, which was great. Once in town I took a couple of cabs but I mostly walked, even when it was cold, even when it was maybe farther than most would want to walk. Doesn’t bother me! (Except for walking back from The Farmer’s Cabinet. It was sleeting and windy and I was frozen through after a few blocks.)
That said, there’s something a little confusing about the area around the convention center. I took two of my friends on a rather long walk in the wrong direction trying to go to dinner one night. They very gracefully insisted they did not mind the walk, and that they had also quite confidently gone the wrong way a few times. So, my advice to you is to pay close attention to the first few streets you’re supposed to cross, so you can confirm whether or not you’re on the right track.