A Snarky Look at Philadelphia

I founded Gyro way back in 1988. That means we’re 20 years old this year.

We’ve been in Philly long before it was cool to be from Philly—oh, wait a minute; it still isn’t cool to be from Philly.
Unique to Philadelphia is the aroma that wafts through your car windows on 95 that resembles a mixture of garbage and the sea. We also have some of the ugliest people you will ever see, which allows for a whole day of people watching on a bench at 6th and Market. Oh yeah, and we are the home of the band Nazz, which was a 60s garage rock band that was really into things that go along with velvet black light posters.

The Design Scene
As far as design jobs go, yeah, there are a few places to check out. Urban Outfitters is based here. So is Comcast. And of course, Gyro is too. But, we’re really picky, so good luck. The rest is pretty much all design jobs with Big Pharma, which is OK, I guess, if that’s your thing. It certainly isn’t mine. Oh, and there’s also a place called 160 over 90. They do some pretty solid work. And the CD there, Dan, used to be at Gyro. They’re good guys, check them out too.

Anyway, in a post-apocalyptic, rust-belt kind of way, Philly is actually pretty cool. You just have to let the decay envelope you: Embrace the pain. Did you know that David Lynch’s time as a student in Philadelphia is what inspired him to make “Eraserhead”? And the Terry Gilliam movie “12 Monkeys” has an excellent creepy, eerie Philly vibe.

So, anyway, here’s a list of stuff to do and to check out in Philadelphia, compiled and written by my staff. I figured their list would be more interesting than mine since all I ever do is sit on planes and go to client meetings. I told them to make it bleak and scary, just like Philly.

Where to Stay
The Alexander Inn
12th and Spruce St.
The Alexander Inn is the place to stay in Philly. Located in the middle of Center City, this historical boutique hotel used to be an upscale apartment building in the 1900s. It turned into a real fleabag hotel, where a woman stabbed a worker when he was answering a disturbance call, and another guy locked his girlfriend in a closet for two years. After millions in investments, a few renovations, and a name change, The Alexander Inn is THE boutique hotel in Philadelphia.
Where to Eat, Drink and Be Merry
Monk’s Café
626 S. 16th St.
The never-ending list of restaurants in Philadelphia is overwhelming, but there are definitely some hot spots. Monks Café is a joint close to midtown. You walk into this narrow, dimly lit restaurant, wait to sit in a dark corner, and then stuff your face with the most delicious food around, and stellar Belgian beer to boot.

Royal Tavern
937 E. Passyunk Ave.

1651 E. Passyunk Ave.
Royal Tavern has great bar food, a laidback atmosphere, and zero bridge-and-tunnel nonsense. Owners also run a clutch Mexican restaurant, Cantina, which is down the street.

Honey’s Sit and Eat
800 N. 4th St.
Every city needs a solid brunch place. Philadelphia has Honey’s Sit and Eat, which serves gigantic plates and a gigantic menu. You can even get a potato latke with your stuffed French toast! Make sure you get there early; this place fills up quickly on weekends.
Bob and Barbara’s
1509 South St.
Philadelphia’s nightlife is extremely diverse, so there’s always something to do no matter what you are into. Bob and Barbara’s is great for that ‘don’t feel like being normal today’ atmosphere. Between their Drunken Spelling Bee contest, weekly drag show and array of chilidogs, you’re sure to have a one-of-a-kind night.

Johnny Brenda’s
1201 Frankford Ave.
Johnny Brenda’s is a bar, restaurant and music venue that’ll satisfy all your cravings. The building resonates with the old burlesque theaters and keeps to the original history of the place.

Tattooed Mom’s
530 South St.
Tattooed Mom’s is a neighborhood bar that’s part of the national music community. Located on Philly’s infamous South Street, it has graffiti all over the walls, a bumper car lounge and free lollipops.
Where to Shop
Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
116 N. 3rd St.
Shopping in Philadelphia is irresistible. October marks the opening of the Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction Store a great spot for shopping and art appreciation; it’s become a lifestyle brand offering art books, accessories and art inspired house ware pieces, as well an impressive line of clothing. The line backs artists such as Ben Woodward, Jim Houser and Alex Lukas. They also collaborate with bands such as Times New Viking and No Age, producing limited edition T-shirt designs.

Sailor Jerry Store
116-118 S. 13th St.
Philadelphia is home to the Sailor Jerry Store (launched by Gyro), where you can find clothing, house wares and accessories based on the original designs of the first old-school tattoo artist, Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins.

Other Must-Do/See Places
If you step foot into one of those Ride the Ducks boats, you just signed up for a day of terribly-scripted historical stories, and the music of YMCA. Instead, plan you’re your excursion and go to some real sites in Philadelphia that will blow your mind.

The Mutter Museum
19 S. 22nd St.
Infectious diseases, birth abnormalities, and conjoined twins—no, I’m not recommending a trip to New Jersey—I’m talking about The Mutter Museum. This museum is home to some of the craziest things you will ever see.

Laurel Hill Cemetery
3822 Ridge Ave.
Laurel Hill Cemetery is a 78-acre resting place that can be seen more than halfway down the windy Kelly Drive along the Schuykill River. Among the burial sites lie some of the most influential Philadelphia socialites and leading industrialists with impressive surnames like, Rittenhouse, Widener, Elkins and Strawbridge.

Eastern State Penitentiary

2124 Fairmount Ave.
Want to see where some of the earliest prisoners were held? Who doesn’t? The Eastern State Penitentiary is known for their architectural history and haunting presence. This place housed Capone, Sutton and Zupkoski.
The Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion
200 W. Tulpehocken St.
The Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion, known as the inspiration behind The Adam’s Family House, cascades with Victorian landscapes. The architecture portrays design from the Gothic, Flemish, and Italian styles—along with 19th Century luxury and innovation throughout the house.

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Steven Grasse, CEO of Philadelphia based agency Quaker City Mercantile, ( formerly Gyro Worldwide) is  the author of “Evil Empire: 101 Ways England Ruined the World,” and is most widely recognized as the creator the Sailor Jerry brand, Hendrick’s Gin and most recently Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’s new spirit, ROOT. http://www.qcmercantile.com.