Center City Philadelphia nightlife is easing its way back after a long, lonely stretch. On the other side of Thanksgiving, the lights will be switched on for what promises to be a busy, festive season. Read on for our look-ahead, plus 12 fantastic cookie recipes, a look at a new taqueria, and suggestions on what beverage to pair with each track from the new Adele album. Holiday spirit? You betcha.
Where the halls are decked in Philly
Do not blink. This image is a test of your phone or monitor. You should see about 14 gazillion colors inside Tinsel, the Christmas-theme pop-up bar at 12th and Sansom Streets. Tinsel makes its annual return Friday, Nov. 26 and runs through the end of the year. Aside from an over-the-top streetery, new twinkling light display, and Christmas cocktails served out of ornaments, boots, and snow globes, owner Teddy Sourias and crew have brought in a snow machine and set up a snow-covered ice cave with (holy Damocles!) more than 700 icicles suspended overhead. Hours: 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Thursday, 2 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday, and noon-2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
If you are looking for new destinations in and around Center City, I’ve whipped together a list of bars and restaurants that have opened since March 2020. Our staff also has put together guides to the Philly’s best restaurants, foods, and wines, and they’re all handily buttoned up in one place.
Some other nightlife destinations with holiday themes:
Uptown Beer Garden, which moved over the summer to a year-round spot at Penn Center (JFK Boulevard at 16th Street), is decked out in Christmas lights and decorations and bears the name “U-Ville” (get it, Dr. Seuss fans?). It’s open from 4 p.m.-2 a.m. daily. This complements the city’s Christmas Village, which puts 100-plus vendors at LOVE Park, City Hall Courtyard, and on North Broad Street from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas Eve.
Craftsman Row Saloon (112 S. Eighth St.) is all blinged out indoors with 5,000 feet of garland, thousands of twinkling lights, thousands of ornaments, hundreds of vintage of bows, stockings, and whatnot. Hours: noon-9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, noon-10 p.m. Friday & Saturday, and noon-9 p.m. Sunday.
Butcher Bar (2034 Chestnut St.) has brought back its yule lodge on its patio, which has a bar with cold-weather drinks and a fireplace. Hours: 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. and 4-9 p.m. Sunday, 4-9 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 4-10 p.m. Thursday, and 4-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The new W Hotel at 1439 Chestnut St. is doing up its lobby in what organizers say will be “an Insta-worthy spectacle,” featuring neon lights and disco balls in The Living Room. This should be ready in early December.
Fishtown’s Evil Genius Beer Co. (1727 N Front St.) has a tree-lighting set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2 as its beer garden will take on a winter wonderland theme.
And why not go shopping and buy local. Nov. 27 is Small Business Saturday. Contributor Michelle Reese found 18 holiday markets throughout the region.
Say it with flour this holiday season
Contributor Kae Lani Palmisano asked Philly chefs, bakers, artists, and leaders to share their favorite cookies. She came away with stories of family, tradition, and culture, plus recipes for 12 cookies worthy of your pans. This is part of our great cookie roundup, which will show you how to plan a cookie swap and equip your kitchen.
Cheers to the new Adele album
Deputy food editor Joseph Hernandez comes rolling in deep with a clever take on the new Adele album, 30. Song by song, he offers beverage pairings. Break out the wine key. We’re gonna cry.
Julia Child’s big story on the big screen
Your holiday plans should include a screening of Julia, a documentary recapping the life and times of cookbook author and TV food personality Julia Child. The movie, a sweet companion to the 2009 comedy Julie & Julia, contains lubricious cooking scenes that may have cinched the PG-13 rating, aside from a dash of salty language. (Child’s bold, earthy personality was on full display at the 1996 dinner party shown above, where she told me a joke about a duck that I cannot repeat.)
Two local businesses go big on tofu and tempeh
Two local businesses, Fresh Tofu and Philly Tempeh, are creating a new appreciation for high-quality soy-based products, writes contributor Maddy Sweitzer-Lamme. As tech companies invest in fake meat, like Beyond and Impossible, these folks instead focus on tofu and tempeh, which have ties to traditional Asian cuisine.
Is there a whey to save a troubled Icelandic yogurt venture in Pa.?
Reporter Andrew Maykuth delivers the fascinating tale of Reykjavik Creamery. Entrepreneur Gunnar Birgisson came from Iceland to Central Pennsylvania to open a factory making skyr yogurt, only to get caught up in a Ponzi scheme that involved his initial partners. That mess was untangled, but now the venture could be undone by immigration authorities who denied his application for a work permit. “If you get into business in the U.S., the first person you want to hire is a good lawyer,” Birgisson said. “And probably more than one.”
Chef Jennifer Zavala, who has plied the local food truck and pop-up eatery circuit with tacos and tamales for a decade, has opened her first brick-and-mortar, Juana Tamale, on Passyunk Avenue near Broad. She aims for fair wages for her workers and life balance for herself. Imagine that in the restaurant business. Tip: Get the queso birria ramen, which tops ramen with beef, cheese, and green onion in a cup.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams has announced opening dates for its first two Philadelphia scoop shops: Dec. 2 for 1322 Frankford Ave. in Fishtown and Dec. 16 for 1901 Chestnut St. in Rittenhouse. Doors open at 7p.m. Free ice cream from 7-11 p.m., plus swag bags for the first 50 people in line.
Another screen test: That really is a blue-and-white poppy seed bagel housing a breakfast sandwich of eggs and latke. It’s part of a pop-up series involving Kismet Bagels, and this one will stop the morning of Sunday, Dec. 5 at chef Yehuda Sichel’s Center City sandwich shop, Huda. On Dec. 12, Kismet’s Jacob and Alexandra Cohen will be at Her Place Supper Club in Center City with bialys, and on Dec. 24, they’ll be at Riverwards Produce in Fishtown with holiday flavors. Details via kismetbagels.com.
What you’ve been eating this week
The call is out for deliciousness. Send me an Instagram photo of the best dish you’ve eaten recently at a restaurant in Philadelphia or the Pennsylvania and New Jersey suburbs. This week’s submissions come from @lipnerforyou (this chicken parm from Stogie Joe’s Tavern in South Philadelphia) and @spoonfedphilly (the hot smoked salmon from Abe Fisher in Rittenhouse). Share your photos on Instagram to @phillyinsider.