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Philadelphia is not just a historical stopover anymore. It’s a growing hub for startups, an emerging culinary centre, and a great place to open a business.Click here to go straight to the businesses >
We recently spent some time trekking around Philadelphia to find the coolest additions to the city that have opened or expanded in the last year (one of us is a Philly native).
Within the last year, the city has seen the opening of several new gastropubs, artisanal cocktail bars, and gourmet food trucks—all at very affordable prices. More startups are calling Philadelphia home too, attracted by the low cost of living and the city’s low-key vibe.
The top 25 businesses that blew us away are listed here in alphabetical order.
What it is: Italian gastropub
Why it's cool: Alla Spina is the latest restaurant from Mark Vetri, one of Philadelphia's most successful restaurateurs and arguably one of the best Italian chefs in the country.
The North Broad gastropub has a selection of Italian beer on tap, including Negroni. It serves dishes like fried pig tails with fennel agrodolce and poutine with guinea hen leg bolognese and mozzarella curd.
What it is: neighbourhood gastropub
Why it's cool: This Point Breeze gastropub, which has been open for about a year, features an authoritative list of beers and a constantly changing menu of casual, affordable food. Creative dishes, like the Pittsburgh cheesesteak sandwich, the local apples and ricotta sandwich, and the $2 sardine sandwich, take advantage of local produce.
What it is: An online wedding catalogue that exclusively features bridesmaid dresses and accessories.
Why it's cool: A product of the fall 2012 Philadelphia DreamIt Ventures accelerator program, Brideside allows brides and wedding parties to peruse through wedding photos for inspiration, connect with other brides on forums, and shop for styles that they like.
What it is: A bar for lovers of all things meat and beer.
Why it's cool: During the evening, B&B has live music performances which patrons can enjoy while snacking on a charcuterie plate and a good microbrew. This is a great place if you love a little ham and hops.
What it is: A startup that provides analytics for Pinterest.
Why it's cool: Images drive the web, and smart businesses need to take advantage of visual platforms like Pinterest to connect with their customers. Curalate allows companies to actually measure the impact they're having on Pinterest using image recognition algorithms.
What it is: Modern American cuisine with molecular gastronomy flourishes.
Why it's cool: Opened by an alum of the highly regarded LaCroix and Blackfish in Philadelphia's Queen's Village neighbourhood, Ela is regarded as one of the best new restaurants in Philadelphia.
Chef Jason Cichonski produces innovative dishes like diver scallop 'noodles' with shiitake-marsala sauce and pickled golden raisins.
What it is: A classic doughnut shop with some outrageous flavour combinations.
Why it's cool: Federal doughnuts is known for its unique and outrageous flavours like spicy peanut butter and jelly, maple bacon, and white chocolate pretzel. Their classic cake doughnuts are simple and are covered in either strawberry-, vanilla spice-, or Turkish mocha-flavored sugar. They also serve a mean fried chicken.
The shop comes from Michael Solomonov, who cooks at the modern Israeli restaurant Zahav, one of the best restaurants in the city.
What it is: An infant and toddler clothing store with handmade accessories.
Why it's cool: Fiona's Children's Special Occasion used to be two separate enterprises that merged and opened in the Piazza at Schmidt's this fall. The clothing is great for communions, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, weddings, and other special occasions. The accessories are handmade by the owners themselves.
What it is: Ramen noodles and Japanese cuisine.
Why it's cool: Hiro Ramen, which opened on October 11, serves hot and delicious Japanese comfort food like ramen soups. The majority of their ingredients come from local Pennsylvania and New Jersey growers.
What it is: High-end cocktail bar.
Why it's cool: After months of changing dates, Hop Sing Laundromat opened in July and was one of the most hyped openings in Philadelphia in a while. Despite some very specific rules, a strict no-photo policy and a dress code, it's one of the hottest bars in the city.
The bar serves quirky artisanal cocktails like the Nevermore, a mixture of Vietnamese coffee, Ambler gin, Patron Citrónge, and a float of cream. All cocktails cost just $10, despite the fact that the bar has the most expensive well liquor in America.
What it is: A gastropub by and for those who work in the service industry.
Why it's cool: The Industry serves classic American comfort food with a twist: Buffalo style sweetbreads, BBQ duck sandwich, Kentucky fried guinea hen and homemade sausage are signature dishes.
Located in the up-and-coming Pennsport neighbourhood, the restaurant-cum-bar attracts chefs, servers and others in the hospitality industry with a 20 per cent discount.
What it is: An artist-owned gallery that showcases the works of local artists.
Why it's cool: Artist Renny Molenaar and his wife Rocio Cabello opened the iMPeRFeCT gallery in June. The non-profit gallery, located in the up-and-coming Germantown neighbourhood, strives to highlight the works of local artists.
Like them on Facebook to find them.
What it is: A food truck selling gourmet burgers and fries.
Why it's cool: Joe Spud's is a food truck that sells unique gourmet burgers, like a burger with Sriracha mayo or with Dr. Pepper barbecue sauce.
If you're looking for something sweeter, Joe Spud's just launched their Nutella Joe--a Nutella burger.
What it is: Online and pop-up boutiques that sell designer clothing and accessories.
Why it's cool: Kembrel is a new, hybrid take on flash sales and retail, offering weekly deals on designer clothing at both its website and its two pop-up shops in Philadelphia. There's a Midtown location and a recently-opened spot in Rittenhouse Square. Both the stores and website offer the same deep discounts.
They also strive to showcase the work of up and coming designers.
What it is: A loyalty program for local businesses.
Why it's cool: A startup founded by Penn grads, Lokalty rewards people for supporting and discovering local businesses. When users spend money at any of the 50 plus participating business, they accumulate points that can be spent at all of them.
Follow them on Twitter to find them.
What it is: A food truck that serves gourmet Trinidadian cuisine.
Why it's cool: Started by mother and daughter team Claudette Campbell and Iman Marcano-Sowell, this food truck serves Trinidadian classics like doubles (fried flatbread with stewed chickpeas, chutney, and hot sauce), roti (flatbread with curried chicken or goat inside) and bake and saltfish (a fried bread with salted fish, tomatoes, onions, and potato).
What it is: A cool outdoor bar and restaurant practically underneath the Ben Franklin Bridge.
Why it's cool: Morgan's pier looks like an old wharf with a modern twist. The bar throws cool parties that are reminiscent of backyard cookouts; one of the cool events is guest chef happy hour night, when local chefs take over the kitchen and cook their own cuisine.
What it is: A combination architectural salvage shop, industrial design studio, and reclaimed lumberyard.
Why it's cool: This 5,000 square foot Mount Airy shop features a huge variety of salvaged pieces, everything from bathroom and plumbing fixtures to doors, lighting, and knick knacks. They'll also repair, reclaim, and install just about anything you find on your own, including doors, lighting, or anything that needs to be rewired, in addition to building specially commisioned projects out of reclaimed materials.
What it is: The nation's first pizza museum.
Why it's cool: Pizza Brain was started by Brian Dwyer, a pizza lover with such a large collection of pizza paraphernalia that he was able to fill a whole store--and it's now America's first pizza museum. Located in the Fishtown neighbourhood, Pizza Brain officially has the world's largest collection of pizza memorabilia, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Pizza Brain is also a pizzeria, and a really good one at that.
What it is: A restaurant serving modern American cuisine.
Why it's cool: The head chef of this new restaurant on South Broad is Kevin Sbraga, the winner of Top Chef's seventh season. His wife, Jesmary, is the pastry chef.
Critics have raved about the dishes here, particularly the foie gras soup served with a rose petal relish.
It's a great value too; the restaurant has a prix-fixe 4 course-menu for $49.
What it is: Philadelphia's only full-service fashion and accessories showroom.
Why it's cool: Skai Blue Show offers designers an opportunity to showcase their merchandise in a carefully curated, professionally managed space in Philadelphia's Midtown Village neighbourhood. The space showcases new collections and up-and-coming and local designers and provides promotion and PR services not available from your typical boutique.
1050 N. Hancock Street, Suite 51What it is: A store for basketball shoes and other sports footwear.
Why it's cool: Sole Control sells sneakers on consignment and specialises in rare, unique, and limited edition basketball sneakers. Consignment is on an 80/20 per cent basis, so the shoes' original owner gets 80 per cent of the sale.
What it is: A sleek, modern coffee house.
Why it's cool: Owners Aaron and Elizabeth Ultimo opened their second location in Southwest centre City this fall. They use fair trade coffee beans in their drinks and have a tasty-looking array of pastries to go with them.
What it is: A shop selling 20th-century antiques.
Why it's cool: This shop in the Fishtown neighbourhood sells carefully curated 20th-century finds. The owner, Heather Karlie, is a veteran of New York antique shops. Pieces range from furniture and lighting to paintings, prints, and drawings.
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