Category Archives: Travel

Tourist Shit: Philadelphia

Recently there’s been a backlash against the word “tourist.” It’s like the scarlet word of travel. But tourist doesn’t have to mean fanny packs, family photos, and unreadable maps. I’m all for experiencing the essence of a place, avoiding crowds, and hanging with the locals, but let’s face it, there are some things that will always be determined touristy. Rather than change where we go, let’s change how we act when we get there. And now, in honor of Philly Week, the Chef Diesel Tourist Shit Guide: Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art
By all means, GO. It’s an excellent museum with classic works of art. The Medieval armor and sword section is very cool. They have Picasso’s and Homer’s and plenty of other artists you’ll recognize. Now, if you want to look like a fool and brand yourself as an out-of-towner, go a head and run up the front steps like a the famous scene in Rocky and pose for a picture with your hands over your head. There will be plenty of other losers next to you. To maintain dignity, walk up the steps, look back, enjoy the view and laugh at the others who are now out of breathe after an all-out sprint.

Eat Well
Philadelphia has an outstanding dining scene. There’s way more than just cheesesteaks in the city. It’s a necessity to go to Pat’s and Geno’s but treat yourself at any one of the Stephen Starr restaurants that range from Chinese to Cuban to casual. Looking to do it on the cheap? Go to Wholefoods and grab and quick meal to go and eat it in one of the cities many hip parks like Rittenhouse Square. There is no reason to eat at the same place twice and you’ll be rewarded for going outside your culinary comfort zone.

Drink Local
Yeungling is the oldest brewery in the United States and it’s a great drinking lager. It’s also cheap. You can also go the craft route at one of the cities’ many gastro-pubs. Triumph Brewery has a great bar with several brews on tap. Nodding Head Brewery has a killer IPA and Monk Cafe was so crowded, I couldn’t even get in.

Liberty Bell and Independence Hall
If you asked me right now what the story or importance of the Liberty Bell was, I couldn’t tell you. But I know it’s important to our nation’s history and is worth at least looking at through the window for thirty seconds. There are many historical and educational opportunities in Philadelphia, but unless you’re a major American history buff, do not plan a whole day around the typical Ben Franklin tour. Instead, go off the path and take in cobblestone streets, row house architecture, and read a book in one of the many local parks.

Penn’s Landing
This waterfront park and entertainment area is hit or miss. Expect crowds, but enjoy the breeze and happenings. Free concerts, food vendors, old ships. Again, it’s a nice walk but I wouldn’t call it a must see. Avoid the Dave and Buster’s at all costs. Instead, check out Franklin Park, spend thirty seconds taking a picture of the famous sculpture at Love Park, admire City Hall and walk with the locals on the Schuylkill River Trail.

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New York City

Tourist Central

Tourist Central

As I’ve written before, New York City would be a horrible place to live, but is a great place to visit. There are so many restaurants and fun activities to do that you could eat out every meal and go to a different bar every night and still not have scratched the surface. Of course you’d be broke, fat and an alcoholic but isn’t that just what young professionals do in the city?

After spending four years in the psuedo city of Boston, I am confident in saying that I am a country person. I like driving, having a yard and uneventful neighbors. Luckily though,  I have friends who live in Manhattan and cordially welcome me at least once a year for a tour of all things Apple. Surprisingly, I did not slip into a food coma, drink myself to stupidity or fall asleep at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday night as has been the case the past few weekends. The visit was most enjoyable and many new experiences were experienced. Where’d we go? Here’s a breakdown:
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New York City

New York City. What can we write that hasn’t already been covered by more talented people who know the city a hell of a lot better? To me, like most outsiders, New York and more specifically, the island of Manhattan, is a massive, intimidating grid with skyscrapers, tons of people and a maze of subways. Compared to more familiar cities like Boston, New York simply dominates. The definition of a melting pot, NYC combines all ingredients of life and serves up one hearty stew. Because of its scope, the impossible task of writing a catch-all piece on the city will not be attempted here. Instead, I’ll share some of my favorite places to eat, visit and take in the city. This is a work in progress and will hopefully grow with each subsequent trip. Like I tell people, I could never live in Manhattan but I love visiting.

Les Halles – I’ve eaten at Les Halles a couple times and it never disappoints. Made famous by its former chef turned writer and TV host Anthony Bourdain, the restaurant is French to the bone. It’s all about steak frites, cassoulet and duck confit.

Merchants – On my most recent trip to visit friends, we ate brunch at Merchants after a long night out on the town. We rolled into the place with hoodies and disheveled hair, slightly hung over and no regard for their Upper East Side standards. Anyways, it was probably the best brunch food I’ve ever had. Whether that’s due to their culinary excellence or the alcohol in my system at the time, I cannot remember. But while everyone else opted for the huevos rancheros, I went for the dulce de leche French toast with berries, caramel sauce and whipped cream. Splash some syrup on there, now that was a miesel.

Crocodile Lounge
325 E 14th St
New York, NY 10003

All you need to know is that with every drink, you get a free personal cheese pizza. (You can add toppings for some extra dough). That means if you ordered five beers, you could get five cheese pizzas. GENIUS. Unfortunately there was some kind of team drinking challenge going on when we stopped in, making the bar insanely crowded but like I said multiple times in between sips of Blue Moon and bites of pizza-if I lived in New York, I would eat here every night for dinner. Oh, and they have skee ball in the back elevating the bar to completely awesome status.

Rickshaw Dumpling Bar – A whole restaurant based around dumplings? I’m there. Certainly try to sample every variety but the peking duck style were my favorites. Perfect for the fast paced city life. And a fun fact for ya’ll-the founder/owner was featured on MTV’s True Life as he was developing the concept for the restaurant while in college.

Chelsea Piers – It’s sort of a touristy destination but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. With endless options for fun, it’s hard not finding something to entertain you. Earlier in February my friends and I went to bowl a few games in the afternoon but encountered a two and a half hour wait (?!?) so when went own one pier and hit some golf balls at the driving range. Yes, golf in February. And they had the technology that automatically resets your tee for you. It’s so easy, you don’t even have to bend over!

Ace Bar – I was only here for one round of drinks but I liked the vibe of the place despite it being pretty crowded. Pool tables, tables, good beer on tap and yes, skee ball (again).

Papaya King – I was on the Upper East Side standing on the street corner, absolutely devouring a classic hot dog from Papaya King when some lady came up to me and asked if I ever thought about modeling. I said, “Why not I haven’t!” But she insisted that I had that all-American Midwestern look about me. I laughed and finished my hot dog.

ESPN Zone – Yes, it’s in Times Square, but it’s sort of a must for every sports fan, even just to stop in and take a lap. The baseball card mosaic on the wall up the stairs is worth the trip. Avoid the gift shop at all costs. Nothing says “I’m a stupid tourist who mildly is interested in viewing sports on television” than a ESPN Zone New York T-shirt.

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