Dine-and-Date: Philadelphia’s Best Historic Restaurants and Landmarks

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Dine-and-Date: Philadelphia’s Best Historic Restaurants and Landmarks

For singletons or couples with a passion for history and food, Philadelphia’s Historic District is fitting for a date night or daytime meetup. Extending from the Delaware River to 7th Street, and from Vine to Lombard Streets, this area contains the neighborhoods of Society Hill and Old City, the Delaware River Waterfront, and major sections of Independence National Historical Park. With restaurants providing different flavors and institutions teaching you a thing or two, here are some suggestions for having a good time while exploring this district.

1. Elfreth’s Alley and Café Ole
If meeting over coffee is your first choice, consider putting in a to-go order from this cozy shop in Old City and take a walk together. Along with having an outdoor seating area and cute indoor décor, Café Ole prepares common café fare and specialties like their homemade chai and pastries and Middle Eastern dishes such as shakshouka. As for your stroll, go along Elfreth’s Alley. Referred to as America’s oldest continuously inhabited residential street, this National Historic Landmark is aligned with Federal and Georgian-style residences dating between 1720 and 1830. Named for a blacksmith, this picture perfect cobblestone street has had a legacy of craftsmen and artisans as tenants, and its still-hot properties nowadays attract entrepreneurs. Every June, a tradition known as Fete Day has residents opening up their homes for public viewing, while The Elfreth’s Alley Museum also offers a glimpse into this street scene.

2. The Museum of the American Revolution and The Little Lion

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Opened in April 2017, this museum goes beyond what you probably learned in school about the American Revolutionary War. Along with artifacts like George Washington's headquarters tent, you'll hear stories about the different sides involved in this battle for independence, from soldiers and native peoples, to free and enslaved people of African descent. Afterwards, go across the street to The Little Lion. Housed inside a repurposed bank building, this Southern comfort food restaurant offers lunch, brunch and dinner settings. Begin with small shares like Fried Green Tomatoes or BBQ Chicken Thigh Sliders. Select sandwiches, salads and oysters, plus large plate servings such as their Lion Burger with housemade pickles, or avory buttermilk fried chicken. Cocktails can incorporate shrubs like their Lemon Fizz, also with vodka, mint and champagne, or twists like their Lions Tea, made with bourbon, an African nectar tea and brown sugar.

3. Ben Franklin Museum and Fork

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Perhaps most of what you know about this Founding Father comes from his later years in life, but this museum delves into the overall background of this inventor, statesman and Philly resident. Walk among personal artifacts, computer animations and hands-on exhibits on everything from building a successful career as a printer, to creating inventions, to establishing firsts such as our nation's Postal Service. After leaving the museum, go pay your respects at his grave. At Christ Church Burial Ground, you'll find pennies laid across his tombstone, in homage to his “A penny saved is a penny earned” quote. Then get a bite to eat at Fork. This elegant New American restaurant has been an Old City mainstay for more than 15 years, and is noted for its Sunday brunch and dinner served seven nights a week, focusing on Mid-Atlantic bounty with locally sourced ingredients. Try their homemade pastas or seafood or meat dishes.

4. Independence Hall and Khyber Pass Pub

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Accessible on a guided tour, this brick building is where both our Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed. While waiting for your turn, head inside the Great Essentials Building in Independence Hall's West Wing to see authentic copies of these two monumental documents plus the Articles of Confederation (a pre-cursor document to the Constitution). As for eats, Khyber Pass Pub may seem divvy on the outside, but this bar/gastropub is touted for its Southern food selection, with barbecue delights like North Carolina-style pulled pork. There's also a good amount of vegetarian-friendly dishes, plus an extensive beer list and daily specials. Some unique snacks include popcorn that can suit vegans or carnivores (the latter version features bacon grease).

5. Liberty Bell Center and President's House and Han Dynasty

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Start off at the site of The President's House. This place was first version of the White House during Philadelphia's time as our nation's capital from 1790 to 1800. Now as an open-air installation, view archeological remains of this once executive mansion inside a glass vitrine and visual panels telling the stories of nine enslaved African-Americans who served Washington here. Next door, go through the security screening at Liberty Bell Center and spend some time reading up on the history and legacy behind this famously cracked persona of American independence. And why not take a selfie together in front of its protective rope? Then go for dinner at Han Dynasty. The Old City location of this chain does a contemporary yet still authentic take on Sichuan cuisine amidst a grand-looking ceiling venue. Try their Dan Dan Noodles and inform your server about what your spice level should be by calling out a number.

6. Washington Square and Zahav

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Just a block from Independence Hall, this lovely park originally was a burial ground and pasture. Yet it would go on to achieve greatness, as Philadelphia's founder William Penn designated this space among five city squares set aside for establishing as public parks. Renamed for George Washington in 1825, a decade after its installation, the park is aligned with trees, benches and walkways, and contains the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a memorial for soldiers who fought in the American Revolution and the final resting place for one of them, and a clone of a tree sprouted from a seed carried on the Apollo XIV mission to the moon and back. Then go dine at Zahav, an Israeli restaurant in Society Hill with dinner-only selections that are great for sharing. Their small plates include their well-liked fried cauliflower with labneh, garlic, mint and aleppo, vegetable salads, and hummus plus two tasting menus. Get a seat near the kitchen area, to watch the staff as they work, or go in early for their weekday happy hour specials available only at the bar.

7. The Olde Bar and City Tavern

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This suggested dinner date goes a bit backwards. Start off with happy hour at The Olde Bar, a contemporary oyster bar that’s housed in what was once the Old Original Bookbinder’s, a beloved seafood restaurant. Daily specials put out their Chef’s Selection Buck-a-Shuck Oysters and $5 bar snacks including deviled eggs, beef fat fries and sautéed mussels. As for drinks, find price breaks on libations such as the staff’s choice draft beer and house red and white wines. Afterwards, go for dinner to the nearby City Tavern, a reconstructed restaurant specializing in Colonial-era food and drink. While waitstaff in period garb can give off the impression of being a tourist trap, the interesting 18th-century menu provides a culinary lesson on what would be then considered as haute cuisine. Try the soup, West Indies Pepperpot, and perhaps a beer based on one of the recipes by our Founding Fathers.

Want to keep your date going? Get ice cream at Capofitto, a pizzeria, bar and gelataria scooping out Philly’s Capogiro Gelato, or The Franklin Fountain, an ice cream parlor with bow-tied waiters and quite the list of flavors.

Photo by Michael Hicks, CC BY 2.0


Michele is a travel/lifestyle writer who got over her fears and picky eating habits to immerse herself in destinations as far as Fiji, to date. Her work has been featured on Yahoo Travel, ShermansTravel, Budget Travel, and Epicure & Culture.

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