Philly Love Notes Gift Guide

Hello friends and Philly-lovers, Time for the first Philly Love Letters Gift Guide! With some help from you, I put together a completely non-comprehensive list of amazing things being done right here in the city (or right outside). This only scratches the surface of the cool stuff being made here. There are always tons of great markets and small businesses to support (like Amalgam Comics, Philadelphia Independents, Yowie, and Omoi Zakka). And of course, one of the best gifts of all -- donating money, time, Read more

Giving Back 2017

Oh this year. Time to buckle down and do what I can to give back. Like last year, I'll be donating all of the profits from the map sales to local nonprofits from Thanksgiving through Giving Tuesday. That means that your purchase of a map will help to support all of the following organizations: Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory, Marian Anderson Historical Society, SEAMAAC, Red Paw Relief and Students Run Philly Style (more about the nonprofits below). Last year we raised Read more

#whyilovephillyarts Launches

It's official, the first #whyilovephillyarts, featuring Sean Martorana, is now live! Check out the prints below and purchase one of the 30 limited edition prints online. This is the first collaboration that aims to build a body of Philly-specific art across a variety of mediums for people to purchase with 100% of the profits going to the artist (along with a full commissions and licensing Read more

Center City

Love Note #109: Cindy and Mark Baum-Baicker spread their love across three Chinese food restaurants

Cindy and Mark Baum-Baicker
Favorite Spot(s): Square on Square; Charles Plaza; Han Dynasty
Neighborhood(s): Rittenhouse Square; Chinatown; Old City
Address(es): 1905 Chestnut St (Rittenhouse Square); 234 N 10th (Chinatown); 108 Chestnut St (Olde City)

We are: A professional couple, 59 and 60 yrs old, who have lived and loved Philadelphia for 37 years. We live on Rittenhouse Square and in Upper Bucks County

Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Center City, Rittenhouse Square 2 Comments

Show Reading Terminal Market Some Love

Reading Terminal Market is both a Philly institution and a Love Note reader favorite (see Love Notes from Albert Lee, Ross Markman, Emily Paull, and me). They have put together a cool contest for a chance to win a $100 gift certificate (oh how many cookies I could buy with that money). The rules are fairly simple: take photo, upload to twitter or instagram (or FB), use the hashtag #MyMarket. Entries are due by Sat night, but voting continues till Wed.  

I’ll certainly be entering.  Will you?



Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Center City Leave a comment

Love Note #102: Phil Jablon’s love note to the spectacular views from the PSFS building

Phil Jablon

Favorite Spot: The Board Room of the PSFS Building (33rd Floor)
Neighborhood: Market East
Address: 12th and Market Streets

I am: Native Philadelphian who loves places, built or natural.
Years in Philly: 25
Current Home: Bella Vista


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Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Center City 2 Comments

Love Note #100: John Paul Titlow loves Little Pete’s in Center City

John Paul Titlow
Favorite spot: Little Pete’s
Neighborhood: Center City
Address: 219 s 17th St

I am: John Paul Titlow, a journalist focusing mostly on technology trends and new media. I write for ReadWrite, Philadelphia Weekly and others. I also help media companies with digital publishing and related geekery. Other areas of expertise include drinking milkshakes and owning multiple cats. I also play drums in Harsh Vibes, a psych rock band based in Fishtown.
Years In Philly: Grew up in King of Prussia. I’ve proudly resided within city limits for eight years.
Current Home: Kensington


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Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Center City 7 Comments

Love Note #88: Albert Lee, Mr. Philadelphia himself, continues to spread the love. Part 2 of 3 — Reading Terminal Market

Albert Lee (Part 2 of 3)
Favorite Spot: Reading Terminal Market 

Neighborhood: Chinatown
Address: 12th and Arch

I am: I’m what you call “Philly homegrown.” Born and raised in the 215, I spend my days entertaining tourists and locals at the official visitor center of Philadelphia.
Years in Philly: 32
Current home: Chinatown

My love note: 
Ah. The Reading Terminal Market. What hasn’t been said about this amazing space? That it’s on everyone’s must-see list? That you can eat through all of Philadelphia’s tasty traditions with one visit? Or that its storied history is shared amongst thousands of those who proudly call Philadelphia home.  A resounding yes to all that and more.

Located on the intersection of 12th & Arch, it’s impossible to miss. Once home of the Reading Railroad, yes Monopoly, it now stands as a farmer’s market. Quincy Market in Boston, eat your heart out!

Sure, I can rave about sinking my teeth into a roast pork and broccoli rabe sandwich from DicNics or take on the challenge of eating a slice of Pummel Cake from Flying Monkey Bakery (Google this if you don’t know what  I’m talking about), but it’s much deeper than that.

The reason why I declare my undying love to the Market can be summed up in chicken bones and blueberry bread.  Yes, chicken bones. No, not a cheesesteak or chocolate chip cookies, but the hollowed out bones of some fine poultry.  You could almost use the cliché of “Chicken soup for the soul.”

Growing up in a Chinese family in Chinatown, no food ever goes to waste. What is defined as the term “foodie” now would have certainly made our household legendary. “Hunger never saw bad bread” and neither did we. If you can cook it, you can eat it especially when it came to chicken. Feet, gizzards, heart. I’m amazed I didn’t have feathers growing out of me. What I did have was homemade chicken soup made lovingly by my late grandmother. Throughout my adolescence, my grandmother (a native of China) would go to the Reading Market to GodShall’s Poultry and ask for a bag of chicken bones. She couldn’t speak much English but she knew how to say phrases like “Bob Barker”, “Come on down” and of course, chicken bones. And make no mistake, just because she couldn’t speak English didn’t mean you could cheat her. If you were off by a single cent, she would call you out on it.
So she would make her travels to the Market to get her bones for her soup. Through mountains of snow or torrential downpours, I could always look forward to arriving home with a big bowl of love waiting for me.
And as far as the blueberry bread goes, let me take you back to the days of Nintendo, specifically the “Game Boy” because that’s what I carried with me when I wasn’t holding bags of groceries from the Market. My mother and I always made our visits on the latter part of Saturday afternoons. Why you ask? Well, at about 5 p.m. every Saturday (almost like clockwork) we would group together with a sea of ladies hovering over the baked goods aisle at the Amish stands at the market. There I was, all squished in wondering why no one was moving. My mother says to just wait. Minutes pass. My feet are achy and my battery in my Game Boy is dying. Finally, I hear the sound of an Amish merchant saying everything on this side of the counter is $1.00. Whoosh!!!! As I was almost bowled over by the “Running of the Bulls”, my mother grabs a loaf of blueberry bread that is amply priced at one dollar. “Enjoying that dollar blueberry bread, aren’t you son?” as I happily chew away at the plump blueberries with my GameBoy safely tucked away.
Although we no longer go wait in the aisles for bread or stop in for chicken bones, we do make our weekly visits and grab whatever we can to use for now or later. It touches my heart to see the ads that say generations have come to this market to shop, laugh and of course eat. It is where culture and commerce meet and nowhere else in the city have I seen tourists, locals, and conventioneers come together and leave with nothing but a smile and a full belly. May it never change….

(See Part 1 here)
Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Center City 3 Comments

Love Note #87: Experience nacho nirvana at Jose Pistolas in Center City (Fidel Gastro)

Fidel Gastro
Favorite Spot: Jose Pistola’s
Neighborhood: Center City, east of Rittenhouse but west of Broad
Address: 263 S. 15th St. It’s next door to McGlinchey’s, another favorite of mine.

I am: One of the few non-Mormons who called Utah home until I turned 18. Somehow I managed to get into Penn (probably my triple minority status of being a poor Mexican from Utah), so I headed east for school and never really looked back. Right now I split my time between being a father, husband, writer, construction manager, and beef jerky proprietor (shameless plug: Side Project Jerky).

Years in Philly: 4 years for school then a brief stint in New York and now back for another 4.
Current Home: Chestnut Hill
My love note:
Dear Jose Pistola’s,

If nachos were an event in the Olympics, yours would win gold every four years. You are the Michael Phelps of making nachos, which is ironic because I am certain the pork that rests atop the amalgam of crunchy chips and melted cheese is cooked low and slow. And it’s not just the pork. Everything about your nachos is perfection. I dream about the pickled red onions and want to make them at home, but I’m lazy and scared that they would never be as good as yours. Where other nachos show up at the table looking haphazardly plated, each ingredient on your plate exists in perfect balance. I suppose this isn’t a love letter to you, but rather your nachos, although without you, I may never have experienced such nacho nirvana. Thank you for that.

Fidel Gastro

Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Center City 1 Comment

Love Note #85: Bob Bruhin loves the tiny green-space beside Noble Street at the Reading Viaduct in Callowhill

Bob Bruhin

Favorite Spot: Noble Street viaduct, above 13th Street
Neighborhood: Callowhill (aka Callowhill Industrial Historic District, aka The Eraserhood)
Address: 1300 Noble Street

I am: A web developer, photographer, blogger, and graphic designer obsessed by urban landscapes, especially depicting classic industrial architecture.
Years in Philly: 22 years
Current home: Mt. Airy

My love note:

Dear Reading Viaduct:

I love, so much, the part of you I have come to know already. The tiny green-space beside Noble Street, in the shadow of the Lasher Building and the Terminal Commerce Center, first woke me to the faded industrial glories of the neighborhood I now affectionately call the Eraserhood. This is why I still visit at least once a week to eat lunch and look at the vista of the surrounding neighborhood. I feel this is one of the best places to come to appreciate the rugged beauty of the Callowhill Industrial Historic District, commemorating Philadelphia’s former industrial might.

I only hope someday the dream of expanding this tiny green space in to a full-fledged Reading Viaduct Park is realized!

I love that I can buy an excellent sandwich down on 13th Street at Cafe Lift, or from a cart around the corner on Broad Street — too! You make my lunchtime complete!!

Love, Bob Bruhin

(Photos by Bob Bruhin, bottom photo Copyright 2011 by Karen Schlechter)
Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Center City Leave a comment

Love Note #83: From Bum’s Park to the beautiful Franklin Square (Albert Lee)

Albert Lee (Part 1 of 3)
Favorite Spot: Franklin Square
Neighborhood: Chinatown
Address: 7th and Race

I am: I’m what you call “Philly homegrown.” Born and raised in the 215, I spend my days entertaining tourists and locals at the official visitor center of Philadelphia.
Years in Philly: 32
Current home: Chinatown

My love note: What kid doesn’t love going to Franklin Square? Mini golf, carousel rides and the promise of a Cake Shake are enough to make even the oldest kids (myself included) get excited about playtime. But the lure of a “sugar high” or a hole-in-one wasn’t always guaranteed. Growing up in Chinatown, I didn’t know what grass looked like. I’m not saying I was deprived but everywhere I looked, I saw blacktop. Baseball field? Yeah…in a parking lot outside my house. It’s amazing how fast your legs can take you when you’re being chased by your neighbor in his underwear.

Those wings of mercury would eventually show me the way to “Bum’s Park.” Oh wait, you know it as Franklin Square. My mistake. Unfortunately, there was nothing there at the time that deserved the honor of being named after our founding father. Yellow grass. Broken pavement. Faulty playground equipment. It was a dump both literally and figuratively but it was still a park nonetheless. If anything, tackle football felt a little softer here. The soccer ball would actually travel. Not much, but it was still good for a roll or two. The homeless were on one side and my friends and I were on the other. Never did we engage or intermix but then again, we never had to.

There’s a song by Madonna aptly called “This used to be my Playground.” Although I never kissed a girl there or was ever really victorious in any of my sporting events, it was still a park surrounded by blacktop. I often watched as the senior citizens of Chinatown would practice their Tai Chi every morning without fail and scratch my head as to why more people didn’t take advantage of this amazing space.

Little did I know that change was coming. Historic Philadelphia Inc. the historic arm of tourism in Philadelphia vowed to keep the promise of William Penn’s Green Country Towne by announcing plans to restore the grandeur of Franklin Square. A beautiful carousel, an 18 hole mini-golf course celebrating all of Philadelphia’s cultural icons and city’s monuments, and turning on a fountain that I frankly never even knew was there (It could have been because the fountain was covered in grass). Brand new playground equipment that kids of all ages could enjoy. And if that wasn’t enough, restaurateur Stephen Starr adding a small eatery specializing in burgers and milkshakes. Oh sweet Jesus… they even have green grass and picnic table.

Was this the same spot I used to waste away my summer days? To paraphrase a line from my parents when we all feasted on our eyes on the newly renovated Franklin Square – “Holy S*** !” Nuff said.

No, it’s not the same place that I fondly remembered. It’s better. On my commute to work (all of 4 minutes) I still see the seniors practicing their Tai Chi and kids running through the grass playing all sort of sports. Families love it and I’ve heard that even Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny make yearly appearances at 7th and Race during their perspective seasons.

I know Rittenhouse Square may be the best people watching place in the city but you tell that to the family who just sank a hole in one.

I love Philadelphia…

Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Center City Leave a comment

Love Note #79: A beautiful piece by Chris Bartlett about The Church of St Luke and The Epiphany, a congregation of The Episcopal Church

Chris Bartlett
Favorite Spot: The Church of St Luke and The Epiphany, a congregation of The Episcopal Church
Neighborhood: Washington West

Address: 330 S. 13th Street

I am: Executive Director of the William Way LGBT Community Center, Radical Faerie, and past host of @TEDxPhilly.
Years in Philly: 46
Current home: Bella Vista

My love note: Since I consider myself more spiritual than religious, it is perhaps strange that I chose a church as the recipient of my love note. But the Episcopal Church of St. Luke and the Epiphany is a special place to me and many others who lived through the worst years of the AIDS epidemic in Philadelphia. This church is a haven, a sanctuary, and a place for restorations and occasional epiphanies. Hundreds of activists have been energized and inspired within its walls, and hundreds of men and women who died of AIDS were eulogized and given a proper funeral within its lofty sanctuary.

I fell in love with St. Luke and The Epiphany when I attended my first ACT UP Philadelphia meeting in 1990. ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, is an activist group that has fought to bring an end to the AIDS crisis since 1987. ACT UP has met in the basement of this church at 330 S. 13th Street each Monday for almost the organization’s entire history, and to return to that space brings back the ghosts and memories of those weekly meetings and a very satisfying feeling of having been woven into the fabric of an activist community that taught me how to make a difference.

Until recently, I thought that the name of the church must refer to an epiphany that had struck Saint Luke, who is, by the way, the patron saint of artists, physicians, surgeons, students, and butchers. In fact, The Church of St. Luke & The Epiphany is the merger of two formerly independent Episcopal churches: St. Luke’s has since 1839 been located at its current site on 13th between Spruce and Pine, and merged in 1898 with The Church of The Epiphany, which used to have a grand church at the northwest corner of 15th and Chestnut. The inspiring sanctuary entrance sits upon a pedestal of granite, but we activists entered the church through the “Furness Addition”, the southernmost part of the church designed by my favorite architect, Frank Heyling Furness. Entering there, we descend via a grand marble stairway into a meeting space and kitchen, where we sit in concentric semicircles to plan strategies to reduce the price of AIDS drugs, bring condoms into the schools, improve the situation for prisoners living with AIDS, and help our friends who were living with AIDS get the latest information so that they can survive. Some of us did survive.

The Episcopal Church of Saint Luke & The Epiphany welcomed ACT UP in the late 1980s because the Rector, Rodger C. Broadley is a gay man who himself was to lose dozens of friends and parishioners during the AIDS epidemic. He arrived as an assistant priest in 1980 and served alone from the end of 1982, a year after AIDS came on the scene. He became the Rector in early 1984 and wanted St. Luke & The Epiphany to take leadership in supporting its local community, which was deeply impacted by these AIDS deaths. During the worst plague years of AIDS, Reverend Broadley sometimes had to preside over two funerals each weekend. St. Luke & The Epiphany conducted funerals for anyone who died of AIDS in the early days when many churches, synagogues and mosques ostracized their gay members. Rodger continues to welcome ACT UP and many
other organizations into its basement meeting rooms.

My favorite spot in the church is the lovely Chapel on the second floor of the Furness Addition. Frank Furness loved details like mini-pillars, blue painted stars, and leaded glass windows. This is a great place to come and sit in peace. And I should also mention the little garden as you enter the church at the main gate. I like to go there to sit and listen to the birds. Somehow the acoustics of the courtyard make this a great place to hear birdsong without being distracted by the street.

The Church of St. Luke & The Epiphany, perhaps more than any other building I have known well, symbolizes how a successful church (or really any successful building) embodies the community that it shelters and nurtures. The marble bones of this old church vibrate with the energies of so many who have been committed to strengthening the lovely neighborhood and communities in its vicinity. Next time you walk down 13th Street past its Corinthian columns, see if you can feel that energy.

Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Center City 3 Comments

Love Note #74: Sam Katz loves the Baldwin locomotive at the Franklin Institute

Sam Katz
Favorite Spot: The Baldwin Locomotive Display at the Franklin Institute
Neighborhood: The Parkway/Logan Square
Address: 20th and Ben Franklin Parkway

I am: A Philly civic, political and business guy now producing the documentary film on the History of Philadelphia
Years you have spent in Philly: 62
Current home: W. Mt. Airy

My love note: The Baldwin Locomotive is a great symbol of the technological and manufacturing prowess and power of 19th and early 20th century Philadelphia. It is housed in a center of science that beams a bright light on the potential that Philadelphia can yet realize.

Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Center City Leave a comment