In this, the second holiday season in the time of COVID-19, Philadelphia-area restaurant and bar owners have made a concerted effort to deck their halls, inside and out.
From Center City to the Main Line, here are some of this year’s brighter lights.
Even from the street, you can’t miss the holiday display at Point Breeze’s American Sardine Bar, where tons of tiny twinkling holiday lights hang above outdoor diners and heat lamps keep folks in the outdoor space warm.
The new Figo Ristorante has added igloos that look more like geodesic domes than the boxy creations that appeared last winter on the city sidewalks and streets. Figo’s, which seat four to six people, are equipped with heat. Owner Glu Hospitality is also building a giant outdoor Christmas bar and enclosing the entire outdoor covered cocktail garden and adding outdoor heaters.
Harper’s Garden, the indoor-outdoor restaurant at 31 S. 18th St., has igloos and a new chef, Chaz Brown, who competed on the Bravo shows Top Chef Season 9 and Around the World in 80 Plates and helped run the kitchen years ago at Union Trust.
Two sizes of greenhouses are available to reserve. The smaller greenhouses seat four to seven, while the larger greenhouses seat from six to nine. They are all individual mini dining rooms with ventilation, heat, decor, plants and flowers, tables and chairs, and a working door. These individual dining rooms are in addition to Harper’s Garden’s enclosed, heated trellis.
Brown has added dishes on the menu including brined pork chop with tatsoi, apple apricot chutney, and blueberry chicken jus, and a winter greens and beet salad with cranberry pepita yogurt, apple cardamom vinaigrette, and apple chips. There are cocktails and mocktails as well.
The new enclosure allows for 120 seats, with an additional 18 in the six-seat greenhouses. There’s a convenient walk-up window that’s become popular among people attending a show at Union Transfer across the street.
Here you can take in views of the massive ice skating rink and the holiday lights that dot nearly every corner of the space while sitting fireside at one of the on-site fire pits, in a festively decorated private cabin, or in the ski-lodge-style restaurant where spiked (and regular) hot chocolate, winter beers, and comfort foods flow.
The entire patio at Lola’s Garden, which opened at Suburban Square in Ardmore in spring 2021, is covered, decorated, and heated. The trellis offers over 125 seats, in addition to the 100 indoor seats. Among chef Andrew Wood’s new dishes are crispy shrimp with red pepper aioli, and a grilled portobello sandwich with smoked mozzarella and Calabrian chile relish.
McGillin’s holiday display promises 1,000 feet of garland, 1,200 feet of lights, 150 red bows, and 200 ornaments — along with drinks like eggnog martinis, mistletoe mules, and candy cane martinis.
The tented streetery outside Rouge, open on all sides, has been a popular destination since last winter, when manager Maggie Huth and owner Rob Wasserman turned it into a ski lodge complete with Adirondack chairs draped in fuzzy blankets and antler chandeliers. Over the spring and summer, it became a garden featuring twinkling lights, wisteria vines from the ceiling, and lots of greenery. By mid-December, the ski lodge motif will return.
📍 225 S. 18th St., 📞 215-732-6622, 🌐 rouge98.com
Uptown Beer Garden at 16th Street and JFK Boulevard has transformed into the Christmas-theme U-Ville, a pop-up with indoor space inside a large heated tent. Atmosphere includes a Grinch who stole Christmas, festive tunes, blinking lights, and festive trees.
Craftsman Row Saloon at 112 S. Eighth St. was barren last Christmas because of pandemic restrictions, but it has returned for 2021 with more than 5,000 feet of garland, thousands of lights and ornaments, hundreds of vintage and unique tree trimmings, bows, stockings, Santas, and one Elf on the Shelf. The bar is known for over-the-top shakes such as the Pumpkin to Talk About, with pumpkin pie, edible leaves, and caramel drizzle. A Mardi Gras theme will follow in early 2022.
Tinsel, the annual pop-up bar at 116 S. 12th St., is over-the-top festive, both inside and out. This year, patrons enter through a snow-covered ice cave with more than 700 icicles suspended overhead. Snow drifts lead into Santa’s warm living room, while tinsel-coated Christmas trees seem to float overhead. Outside seating is highly decorated, too.