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 #63: Nathan Winkler-Rhoades is enchanted by the small streets in Center City East

Nathan Winkler-Rhoades (ex-pat files)
Favorite Spot: Jessup, Irving and Quince Streets (off Locust and 11th)
Neighborhood: Center City east
Address: 222 Jessup St. and vicinity

I am: Pitruco Pizzaman, grad student
Years in Philly: 20 (plus 10 as an expat)
Current home: Umm… Cambridge. Massachusetts.
My love note: Finding yourself transported to another time and place is an enchantment like none other, particularly when you are lost in the middle of a bustling urban center. Center city offers many opportunities to be so transported, but the one I seek out most often is this little half-block of perfectly preserved 19th century streets and rowhomes tucked among an otherwise disheartening bunch of Jefferson University towers. For a few moments the rest of the city fades away and you are invited to contemplate life as it was lived a long ass time ago. The feeling is fleeting and you are soon returned to the bright lights and the noise, but solace can be taken just across the street at Garces Trading Co.’s tasting station of classy oils and vinegars. Bittersweet indeed.

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

Love Note #55: Caroline Bean loves Verde in Midtown Village. But beware, she and I can attest to the fact that you will not leave empty handed

Caroline Bean
Favorite Spot: Verde
Neighborhood: Midtown Village, a.k.a. the Gayborhood
Address: 108 South 13th Street Philadelphia, PA 19107

I am: The Director of Social Media for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, aka Visit Philly. I enjoy what I do because I love talking about Philadelphia all of the time – our green spaces, our outdoor dining, our bike lanes, our beer, our museums… all of these things make my job a joy.
Years in Philly: Nearly 10
Current Home: Graduate Hospital

My love note: I love popping in and out of shops on 13th Street in Midtown Village (also known as the Gayborhood). The neighborhood has such history (with famous bars like Woody’s), but is also going through an awesome period of rejuvenation with restaurants like Sampan, Amis and Zavino. But there’s one place I can never resist when buying gifts (or a treat for myself): Verde features handmade Marcie Blaine chocolates, spot-on jewelry (like a little gold soft pretzel necklace), handbags from local designers, really unique cards and everything else delightful! Verde also carries fun wine totes that list Philadelphia neighborhoods, perfect for heading to one of Philadelphia’s BYOBs, and lots of Philly-centric tees. I don’t think I have ever walked out of this place without buying something.

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

Love Note #51: As Meredith Edlow says, “Relax, turn your mind off and float over to the Ben Franklin Parkway”

Meredith Edlow
Favorite Spot: The Ben Franklin Pkwy area (Museum mile, Swann Fountain, Rodin Museum- garden with the Gates of Hell).
Neighborhood: Museum District
Address: 2154 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19130

I am: A photographer, an artist, music lover and act as Visual Assets Manager for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation or GPTMC. We do, Uwishunu, Philly 360°® and Philly Homegrown® . I have the pleasure of getting to photograph some great attractions and institutions in the city. Those institutions are in line with my personal interests which is a win win for me. Right now our organization has launched the With Art Philadelphia campaign that highlights the visual arts scene in Philly. I’m so proud that the city is taking the time to highlight a very important, very vibrant visual arts scene here.
Years in Philly: 13yrs.
Current Home: GHO/Graduate Hospital/Gray’s Ferry


My love note: Relax, turn your mind off and float over to the Ben Franklin Pkwy. Take some time looking at some of the great public art that is in the area and then duck into the Rodin Museum. Feast your eyes on some of the world’s best sculpture art. Take some time before you go inside and look at the “Gates of Hell.” This work of art brings together some pretty progressive ideas about human nature and is visually stunning. The Rodin Museum just underwent a year of renovations restoring everything to it’s original decor from 1929 which is an added bonus for visiting now. If you are an art lover then a visit to this site makes for a pretty awe-inspiring experience. I really love the music scene in Philly too and the Rodin Museum is now doing a series of outdoor concerts, creating a great well rounded experience while you immerse yourself in art on the Parkway. The Barnes Foundation is also steps away from the Rodin Museum and I really suggest checking that out if you have the time.


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

Love Note #49: Doug Nox of Harlequinade, "[Philly] can be a fickle, hard-to-please lover"

Doug Nox of Harlequinade

Favorite Spot: City Hall.  May sound like an odd answer for a seeming rebellious artist type like myself, but I have a great interest and respect for the Masonic architects and designers who initially laid out this city, and City Hall is the central crossroads upon which it was all built.
Neighborhood: Center City
Address: Intersection of Broad and Market

I am: An artist and a student of ye Olde Mysteries.  I would prefer that to be what most people think of when they think of me, but those who know me well probably think of a goofy dude who makes really weird cartoons.
Years spent in Philly: 2 going on 3, but grew up in the outside ‘burbs so it feels like a lifetime.
Current Home: Freshly moved to South Philly

My love note: 


You can be a fickle, hard-to-please lover at times, but those moments when you let me see your secret face and our love is consummated makes everything worth it.


(from Leigh Goldenberg)

(from Melody Kramer)

 (Photo by J. Smith for GPTMC)

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

Love note #47: Thomas Choinacky discovers the joys of biking along the Schuykill River Trail

Thomas Choinacky
Favorite Spot: Riding my bike along the Schuylkill River Trail
Neighborhood: Along the east side of the Schuylkill into Wissahickon Park
Address: The trail

I am: A performing artist who enjoys ringing the squirrel bell on my bicycle.
Years in Philly: 5 years
Current Home: South Philly (6th and Dickinson)

My love note: Outside of work and sleep I am one of two places. At Grindcore House to get my neighborhood coffee fix or riding my bike. Once caffeinated there are times that I have crashed and bled on your roads (many times, actually). There are also calmer moments of riding on the trail or on holidays (Philly becomes a ghost town on Thanksgiving — great for riding). It is more chaotic through Boathouse Row, and mazing through the summer rowing race fans, but finally passing under the towering highways near Conshohocken is always a visual treat. I have often photographed up, looking at the roads above with the blue/cloudy skies in the back. Then you pedal further reaching the Wissahickon. There, riding, you can become one with the trees and shade. I am also waiting for the day when the trail connects further south. The hidden gem of the Schuylkill Banks is south of Gray’s Ferry. There the trail “continues”, and hopefully one day will fully connect with the northern part of the trail. Which ever way you ride, pack a picnic. There are plenty of great spots to stop and take in the shade.

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

Love note #41: Molly Eichel and crew love Oscar’s Tavern

Molly Eichel
Favorite Spot: The back right table at Oscar’s Tavern
Neighborhood: Center City
Address: 1524 Sansom Street

I am: Philly-born journalist at the Daily News who loves this town probably more than is healthy
Years in Philly: 8, add 12 if you count the surrounding ‘burbs.
Current home: Bella Vista

My love note: Choosing Oscar’s took me a long time, there were so many other options I could have considered: the Italian Market, Towey Rec Center right off the Berks El stop (featuring my fave mural in the city), the public pool at Marion Anderson Rec Center in Grad Hospital, Koch’s Deli in West Philly, but my heart screamed back right booth at Oscar’s, a dingy dive bookended by terrible bars on a street that perpetually smells like stale piss. Why? Because I always know when I can find my friends sitting at the back right booth. And because of Dee the Waitress. She knows my name, she knows my drink, she shows us her vacation photos every time she dares leave us, she brings us snacks and holiday treats. But most importantly, when my friend broke her leg and had trouble sitting at a squished table, Dee made sure that we had that back right booth every time we wanted it. That’s kind of what Philadelphia is to me: It might smell like aged urine, but it’s always got a table waiting for you.

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

Love Note #38: Rudy loves the William Way LGBT Community Center lobby in the Gayborhood, but really all the rooms steal his heart

J. Rudy Flesher
Favorite Spot: William Way LGBT Community Center – especially the lobby!
Neighborhood: Gayborhood, right in the heart of Center City

Address: 1315 Spruce Street

I am: A juggler. I juggle arts, politics, and civic engagement every day. I am the program coordinator for Philly4Philly, I am a writer and performing artist, I am an activist, and I sit on the boards of the William Way LGBT Community Center, Young Involved Philadelphia, and The Spruce Foundation
Years in Philly: 5 years, 1 month
Current Home: In Ludlow, although nobody know where that is because it’s an old neighborhood name. Ludlow is from 6th to 9th streets, from Girard to Cecil B. Moore.

My Love Note:

To the William Way LGBT Community Center lobby: 

Sure, I love *all* of the rooms at the Center. I’ve worked from the Cyber Center and I’ve attended many a show in the Ballroom. I’ve planned events and voted in board meetings in The Philadelphia Room. But for me, you, the lobby, represent everything that the community center is and does. You hold archival displays and art shows. You are the hub. On their way to different events and group meetings, everyone comes through first. People not expecting to meet each other stop and talk. Connections are made. Tips for grant writing are given. Tips for crocheting, coding html, and totally fierce eye shadow are also given. Across age and identity and diversity of experience, new knowledge and greater compassion is created. Because you create and hold community, lobby and the William Way LGBT Community Center, that is why I love you dearly, and why you are my 
favorite spot in the city.

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

Love Note #34: Craving something delicious? Kishwer Vikaas suggests the Dutch Eating Place at the Reading Terminal Market

Kishwer Vikaas

Favorite Spot: Dutch Eating Place
Neighborhood: Market East
Address: 1200 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19107

I am: a slow-talking, dream-walking, Jersey-born, Philadelphia-bred, Pakistani-American who copywrites for a public health nonprofit, interns at a legal clinic and attends law school at night.
Years in Philly: 18 
Current Home: Bella Vista

My love note: 
Comfort food to me means rich, stick-to-your arteries Pennsylvania Dutch cooking. Until the age of 16, I grew up surrounded by a vibrant community of Mennonites (the Amish community’s more liberal brethren) who brought pans of delectable cream-and-butter-laden casseroles to every church event. So whenever I’m in need of a pick-me-up meal, I make my way straight to the Dutch Eating Place, where more often than not, I can find one of my Mennonite friends waitressing. At this point, I am generally struck with nostalgia and order the apple dumpling served with fresh cream, a typical Pennsylvania Dutch dessert that I recall my friends’ grandmothers preparing many a time. For those unfamiliar with the dumpling, it is basically a blob of dough stuffed with apples, cinnamon and sugar — and baked. Delicious. And if it’s too early for apple dumplings, there’s always blueberry pancakes. Or apple cinnamon french toast. Or scrapple.

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

Herschel’s East Side Deli


I’m always on the look out for delicious Sunday breakfasts without the crazy brunch lines. Hence, Herschel’s. Everything bagel with pastrami and egg. Unbelievable.

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

Love Note #6: Pickle Backs at Bar

Favorite Spot: Bar
Neighborhood: Market East, Ave. of Arts South
Address: 1309 Sansom St.

I am: an exhibition designer, a southerner, and a perfectionist 
Years in Philly: nearly two
Current home: South Philly

My love note: Pickles are delicious, Jameson is delicious, who would have ever thought to put the two together? I’m not sure if this drink is Philly-born, but it seems like it should be. My classmates and I first ordered this weirdly refreshing drink (at the bar named Bar) after asking the surely bartender what was in the unmarked clay jugs near the register (their pickle brine is made in-house). Over the last two years, my hectic school schedule has kept me from exploring a lot of Philadelphia, but not Center City’s drinking establishments. 

Having a pickle back at this dank dark bar, on a side street, in the middle of the city, just seems quintessentially Philly…

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