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Trip Ideas

8 Ways to Drink like a Politico in Philadelphia

With the Democratic National Convention converging on Philly at the end of July, the Cradle of Liberty is once again the epicenter of American politics. While much has changed since that revolutionary summer of 1776 (and 1936, the last time the Dems nominated their presidential candidate here), The City of Brotherly Love remains America’s quintessential bar hop. Here's how to drink like a politico in Philadelphia this summer.

See recent posts by Alex Pasquariello | Photo courtesy of Jason Varney

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The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co.

The city is so stoked to be holding the Democratic National Convention July 25 through 28 that they managed to convince the Commonwealth to temporarily repeal a few of its draconian liquor laws for the event. During the convention bars won't be required to make last call 2 am, meaning delegates can cut boozy deals into the wee hours. Add a late-nightcap at Rittenhouse Square speakeasy Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. titled to honor of the Prohibition era's largest smuggling ring, not that other Franklin for whom everything else is named. Slither past the black door into the subterranean cocktail lounge and work out the final details of the party platform over a Montague Terrace: barrel proof bourbon, blended Scotch, genever, sweet vermouth, blackberry, Allspice, and Peychaud's Bitters.

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Photo courtesy of Grace Dickinson


The Olde Bar

Chef-slash-Entrepreneur Jose Garces flexes his muscles as a Philadelphia power player with his latest outpost, The Olde Bar set in a historic political haunt on the corner of Walnut and 2nd Street. From 1898 to 2002 Old Original Bookbinder's oyster house anchored this corner, and if these walls could talk they'd tell Chef Garces the city's deepest secrets. The James Beard Award-winning chef breathed life back into the institution debuting his contemporary take on the oyster saloon concept in a space largely preserving historic charms: "Bookbinder's" signage, wood-paneled walls, tin ceilings, red booths, and original wood bar below globe light fixtures. Fresh seafood and classics such as snapper soup, beef fat fries, and clam chowder are complemented by an array craft cocktails: Try a tasty Fish House Punch a combo of local rums, peach brandy, and lemon juice dreamt up by a gentleman's club in the early 1700s and known to be a fave of George Washington his Philadelphia hay day.

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Bud & Marilyn's

Over the last 15 years partners Valerie Safran and Marcie Turney have transformed once-gritty South 13th Street into one of country's culinary hotspots and the heart of Philly's Gayborhood. Their empire is beloved for buzzy Barbuzzo pairing rustic Mediterranean tapas with an approachable wine list. And if you're feeling sweet, their Spanish wine bar Jamonera has re-introduced sherry – a list of 40-plus, in fact — to Philly. But if you really want to win the Keystone State — and maybe the Badger State too — slide up for Happy Hour at the duo's latest joint, Bud & Marilyn's. Sitting on the bustling corner of 13th and Locust in the ground level of The Independent Hotel, this spot is a Mid-Century Mod homage to the Wisconsin diner Turney's grandparents ran for decades. Down Bud's Best Pale Ale, the restaurant's signature suds by Philly's beloved Yards Brewery, or sip an Old Fashioned featuring Bud's Best Bourbon, an exclusive barrel distilled by Pittsburgh's Wigle Whiskey. Add pan-seared pierogies and crispy Wisconsin cheddar cheese curds harkening back to Bud & Marilyn's original menu.

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Photo courtesy of Harpo42 via flickr


Ralph's Italian Restaurant

South Philly’s Italian roots run deep down South 9th Street, home to the city’s thriving Italian Market and Ralph’s, the oldest Italian restaurant in America. This family-owned and -operated trattoria dates to 1900 when immigrants Francesco and Catherine Dispigno began cooking a handful of family recipes for the neighborhood's working men. Through the years countless plans have been hatched over bottles of Tuscan Chianti and plates of veal parm. Bigwigs ranging from President Theodore Roosevelt to current Vice President Joe Biden are known to stop in, and Ralph's can also boast of serving the likes of Frank Sinatra and Taylor Swift, who made headlines by leaving a $500 tip on a $800 dinner for her squad. You don't have to hold office or tip 60 percent to get a seat in the corner of the kitschy second-floor dining room, you just need to know that in South Philly tomato or meat sauce or is called "red gravy," and Ralph's is widely considered the city's most mouthwatering.

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La Colombe Cafe

Philadelphia is fueled by La Colombe. Since the culinary coffee roaster's rowdy start in the old Four Seasons, co-founders Todd Carmichael and J.P. Iberti have grown La Colombe into an international fair trade force — Carmichael even parlayed the quest for superior coffee beans into a Travel Channel show. But the team remains fiercely loyal to Philly with its Fishtown flagship epitomizing the company's ethos. The 11,000-square-foot facility houses a massive cafe, roasting facilities, a bakery, a distillery, and corporate offices, all accounting for scores of local jobs. But this is more than a coffee stop, and the airy cafe has quickly developed into an incubator nurturing lines of Xcode, handshake partnerships, beta business plans, and good times in the city's hippest hood. Stop by for a fast morning joe, power lunch with Philly's tech leaders, or buzzy happy hour powered by coffee-infused Different Drum Rum. When the dinner bell rings hop across the street to Stephen Starr's Fette Sau plating house-cured and smoked meats by the pound.

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Monk's Cafe

Working out HRC’s plan for upholding trade treaties with the post-Brexit European Union? Develop a strategy for dealing with Brussels while drinking like a Belgian at Monk’s Cafe, beer connoisseur Tom Peters' legendary Rittenhouse Square watering hole with some 20 brews on tap and a eclectic collection of 300 bottles. Don't skip the Saison Dupont, a peppery farmhouse classic brewed all winter for hot summer nights. Peters is revered for introducing American palettes to sour beer, so pucker up with Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Ale, a medium, malted private label brewed by the family-owned Van Steenberge brewery outside Ghent. They both align perfectly with Monk's salty mussels specials. Order mussels Ghent adding that spiced Saison Dupont to fumé, parsley, caramelized leeks, bacon, blue cheese and plenty of garlic. The house Flemish Sour Ale hits a surprising tart nose in mussels Mexicano with lime, peppers, onions, jalapenos, and a dash of cilantro.

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Photo courtesy of Jason Varney


Red Owl Tavern

Do you really think the the Constitution was written at Independence Hall? Ok, technically, yes, it’s true. But the concepts that founding document broadcast around the world were born and shaped in Philly’s taverns during Revolutionary years preceding the sweltering Constitutional Convention of ‘77. Perched at catty corner from Independence Hall in the ground level of Kimpton’s brilliant Hotel Monaco Philadelphia, Red Owl Tavern delivers a farm-to-table revival of the Early American tavern ideal that shaped our nation's founding. Chef Jorge Chicas' menu is heavy on locally raised and butchered meats, artisan cheeses, and fresh produce, and the two-story space projects an agrarian archetype with rustic red reclaimed barn wood walls, exposed brick and whitewashed steel girders. The bar upholds the same farm-fresh standards as the kitchen, with with fresh juices, herbs, and purees complimenting top-shelf American booze; for a sweet sip sign on to Penn's Treaty with Bulleit bourbon, blackberries, honey syrup, mint, and lemon. Tickets to tour Independence Hall can be hard to come by during the busy summer season, so skip the line, grab a patio seat peering out at the hallowed birthplace of America and get stoked to make it great again...or just chill and order another round along with mouthwatering apps like house-cured charcuterie, crab and corn fritters, and chicken pot pie croquettes.

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City Tavern

Hear ye! Hear ye! Constitutional Originalists and drunk historians should make haste to City Tavern, Philadelphia's Colonial Times to New Jersey's Medieval Times. The Olde City restaurant re-creates the 1773 City Tavern wherein the Founding Fathers toasted to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness as often as possible. Colonial pub grub by James Beard-nominated chef and culinary historian Walter Staib is served in a faithful reproduction of the original tavern by staff dressed in period attire. Where it's worth another sip is Staib's re-creation of the libations that fueled liberty. Among his "Ales of the Revolution" is Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce based on Franklin's recipe for a thick, caramelly ale with a hint of spruce and a dry finish. Thomas Jefferson was an unabashed oenophile, but he brewed beer twice a year at Mount Vernon; Staib keeps it true to TJ's original with a tasty unfiltered ale with a medium body previewing American Lagers.

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