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

Albert Lee

Love Note #92: Mr. Philadelphia (Albert Lee) chooses…Philadelphia, all of it

Albert Lee (Part 3 of 3)
Favorite Spot: Philadelphia, All of it.
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

(above photos by Chris Robinson — Follow on Instagram at cbeatz852)


My Love Note: William Penn Jr. named this city Philadelphia and in the 5th largest city in the nation, I get to serve as the official welcome wagon. That’s right. We’re “those people.” The ones persuading tourists to get on duck boats and double decker bus tours. Pushing the masses on segways and taking over entire street corners so they can take their “Kodak moment.” We’re the experts letting them loose out into the City of Brotherly Love. With map in hand and camera in the other, we’ve gotten them on a Philly love fest.

It’s easy to call yourself a Phillies fan, an Eagles fan, or just a proud patron of the arts but a “Philly fan?” In a city where the word “yo” is the preferred greeting card and a “snowball incident with Santa Claus” is still readily available ammo, people might get the wrong impression of us.

To them I say, fire away.

I was born and raised in Philly’s Chinatown, my grade school, high school, home and hospital were no more than 3 blocks away from each other. Yep, I spent 17 years of my life in a quarter mile (College was five miles away.) I’ve worked for just about every tour company in the city and spend many a day pleading with general managers to get my guest into the new “it” restaurant at the time (being nice really helps). I’ve been at this game for close to 9 years now and still get inspired every time I see someone trotting down the street looking lost (that happens a lot here).

I won’t lie. Mispronunciations, misspellings and just plain ignorance can sure get under one’s skin but you always remind yourself that this is another opportunity to celebrate what we’re about.

We are not the sixth borough. We don’t have a Freedom Trail nor are we the “National Mall”. So what do I tell them? What do I say that inspires them to go crisscrossing through the streets to find whatever it is they are looking for?

We are the birthplace of Independence. Our bell stands as the cradle of freedom that proclaims liberty throughout the land. Our walls serve as the largest outdoor art gallery in the world. Our roast pork sandwich with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe is considered the best sandwich in America. Not too shabby.

But it goes much deeper than that. It’s helping them find a little BYO where that bottle of wine can best be enjoyed. It’s hearing them rave about all the rich mosaics that make up the Magic Gardens. It’s putting their lips to some local brews that they can’t wait to take home.

It’s meeting a young man from Memphis whose “Make a Wish” was to come to Philadelphia rather than Disney World because we had the Mütter Museum. Take that! 

It’s the lesbian couple that tells me Philadelphia was never on their radar for a gay friendly place to live but now can’t possibly even imagine living anywhere else.

The city has millions of love notes that you submit just by living here. I just have the pleasure of reading them aloud.

For a complete love notes series see Parts 1 and 2

(photo by Sarah Baicker)

(above photos by Ronald Samuels. For more, check here and here)

 (last three photos by me. I guess you can just follow me right here)
Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Uncategorized 1 Comment

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 #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