Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, is hosting the Democratic National Convention from July 25–28. While it’s long been known for soft pretzels, cheesesteaks and roast pork sandwiches, Philly’s quickly becoming a hotbed for sophisticated and innovative cuisine.
Philly’s an old hand at political gatherings, with the First Continental Congress having been held here in 1774. The city also has an exciting craft beer scene. Celebrated local institution Victory Brewing Company will have a beer garden outside the Wells Fargo Center, where the convention will be held.
Chef Rick Landau and his wife, Kate Jacoby, run Vedge, the elegant vegan restaurant selected as one of America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants this year by Wine Enthusiast. The couple has since opened a casual venue, V Street. Enjoy dishes like Cauliflower “65,” an Indian curry with whipped dal and hot sauce as well as dan dan noodles with zucchini, mushrooms and red chili-sesame sauce. The wine list focuses on natural selections and those produced without animal-based fining agents. Try Jean-Paul Brun’s Rosé d’Folie, a lush yet delicate pink wine from Beaujolais. For something stronger, try Sir Hillary’s Climb, a housemade raksi with dry Curaçao and grapefruit-lime shrub.
The decision to hold the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia was sealed here over spaghetti: Old Bay-spiked pasta topped with peekytoe crab and a drizzle of habanero oil. The pasta was so popular that the delegation ordered a second round. Ellen Yin and chef Eli Kulp (who also own Fork next door) offer a menu that includes crispy broccoli topped with chow-chow (a pickled relish) and duck breast with leeks, soured oats and rye berries.
Kulp, who prepared a 10-course tasting menu for the delegation that included Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, was pleased that the group enjoyed his innovative food. He told news outlet Billy Penn that “they were definitely not conservative eaters.”
Don’t risk alienating constituents by choosing sides in the legendary Pat’s vs. Geno’s cheesesteak rivalry. Instead, follow President Obama’s lead: head to Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagies & Cheesesteaks in the historic Reading Terminal Market. The president reportedly ordered a number of cheesesteaks to-go, topped with Cheez Whiz, mushrooms and sweet peppers.
Natives know that you order a cheesesteak “Whiz wit,” which means topped with Cheez Whiz and grilled onions. (“Wit-out” means that you want your sandwich “wit out” onions.) Former President George W. Bush was hip to this on the campaign trail, but his 2004 Democratic opponent, current Secretary of State John Kerry, asked for his with Swiss cheese. This monumental gaffe made him the laughingstock of Philadelphia.
To continue following in Obama’s footsteps, head over to The Rittenhouse Hotel, where the president held a $33,000-a-ticket fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee last year. At the Library Bar, mixologist Pablo “Papi” Hurtado has created cocktails especially for attendees, like the Leaning to the Left with Courvoisier VS, white cranberry juice, bergamot, and sparkling wine.
Israeli-born, Pittsburgh-raised chef Michael Solomonov’s restaurant is located in the cobblestoned Society Hill neighborhood, Zahav serves a selection of Middle Eastern specialties. Its selection of hummus, like a Turkish butter and grilled garlic variation, all come with Iraqi laffa, a pita-like bread made in the open kitchen. Zahav also has one of the best collections of Israeli and Palestinian wine in the United States.
Marcie Turney and her partner, Valerie Safran, are behind the renaissance of Philadelphia’s 13th Street. Turney is the executive chef of a number of prized Philly restaurants, including Barbuzzo, Lolita, Little Nonna’s and Jamonera. Bud & Marilyn’s is named in honor of Turney’s grandparents, and it specializes in contemporary interpretations of Midwestern comfort food. Look for cheese curds accompanied by a smoked guajillo chili salsa, Marilyn’s fried chicken served with warm biscuits, salted honey butter and housemade hot sauce, as well as fontina- and chard-stuffed meatloaf.