I feel like I repeat myself when I say that a neighborhood is my favorite. It seems that every neighborhood is my favorite. It may be that each neighborhood has different qualities that I like and therefore, there’s a different reason for each neighborhood being my favorite. The best part of the Spruce Hill area, I’m including the Baltimore Avenue corridor in this neighborhood, is how under the radar this neighborhood is. I could have easily just called this area University City, written a blurb about the Spruce Hill area and moved on—but I love this area. I love the huge Brownstone-esq homes, the tree lined streets, and that this area feels homey, it feels like a community where neighbors may actually know one-another.
Dock Street Brewery’s Bohemian Pilsner is my favorite local beer. I wish Dock Street were closer (it’s located on the far southwest end of Baltimore Avenue) or that Bohemian Pilsner was better represented in Philadelphia bottle shops.
The Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll is one of Philadelphia’s great events and fortunately one is held in the Spring and another in the Fall. The Stroll is one huge block party with official and unofficial purveyors offering food for a dollar. I kid you not…I saw a guy hop off a trolley with a tray of carrot cake and before his second foot hit the ground he had called out “Carrot Cake, $1” and already had people grabbing for pieces. My parents can confirm this story. It’s that sort of an event. Where anything goes and everything is fun.
I’m not sure if it’s this neighborhood’s proximity to the University of Pennsylvania campus or what but this neighborhood has a high volume of ethnic cuisine that can’t be found in other parts of the city like Muslim and Ethiopian restaurants. There’s a place called Saad’s and let me tell you something about Saad’s…Muslims flock here to eat an el halal cheesesteak but their chicken marush sandwich, which is something they made up, is the star. The food here is so good that depending upon when you arrive it may be an hour wait for your chicken marush (best not to come on a Saturday night). While waiting you order some bread at Wah-Gi-Wah, which is a block away.
Philadelphia has several pop up beer gardens. These all feel a bit pretentious. A bit obnoxious. Then there’s Pentridge Station which just like everything else in this neighborhood flies waaaay under the radar. Pentridge Station is hidden behind a block that has a bunch of mechanics on it and I had to maneuver around tires and broken down cars (at least I think there’s mechanics in the area—there could just be a bunch of tires and broken down cars) to reach the entrance as well as an impromptu Jamaican block party.
Every summer Clark Park hosts a free performance of a Shakespeare play. I wouldn’t call this a highlight of summer, because, well, anything Shakespeare can be a bit boring, and that’s assuming you understand the story and can hear the characters. I showed up for King Lear and was glad I had a good Laotian meal on Baltimore Avenue, stopped at two good coffee shops, and watched a couple games of chess on the near side of Clark Park to make the trek here worthwhile.