Philadelphia and cheesesteaks – this city’s love for its hometown sandwich runs deep. But don’t ask a Philly local where to get the best one. Doing so will come with an overly exhaustive explanation within what should be a short reply. If you choose to check out the world famous dueling Pat’s and Gino’s in South Philly, which happen to be across the street from each other, be prepared to brave the massive lines.
The reality is that there are varieties and options all over town. Try a few and find your favorite, but know what you are ordering beforehand to avoid nasty looks from staff or hungry customers who will happily tease you for asking too many questions.
For a gourmet twist on the classic cheesesteak, Sampan restaurant offers up their mini version on a bao bun with shallots and sriracha to add some heat. The Asian fusion spot is a hit with locals and tourists as it usually requires reservations. While waiting for your table, try some of their signature cocktails, some which are sake based, like the Junmai Fizz – a mixture of sake, sangria and champagne.
The Chef’s tasting menu allows for 7 selections to be shared. Their edamame dumpling in sake broth is a must have. The tasting is topped off with insanely delicious and random flavored soft serve, served in mini cones. (Flavors vary but cross your fingers for the Swedish Fish or Cinnamon Toast Crunch!) Sake flights are also offered and highly encouraged as they pair perfectly with their meals. Sampon is located in the heart of the gay district of Philly as the streets are lined up with permanent rainbow markers.
For a different dining experience, Zavino, also on the same block offers gourmet pizzas, Italian delicacies and a fantastic wine selection to pair with each course. Their aged Baby Jesus air-dried pork is a must as it’s paired with three different sweet and savory spreads that will leave your taste buds confused but wanting more. The thin crust pizzas that are oversized for the average diner are each a masterpiece on their own. The Joey offers Berkshire pork sausage, mozzarella, crushed tomato, spinach, garlic, chili flakes and provolone. Save room for dessert, as their tiramisu served in a half mason jar is out of this world decadent while still light and airy to the taste.
Just down the street from both restaurants is one of Philly’s most popular gay watering holes, Woody’s. With a name like that, most would expect to know what’s inside, but what you find just through the double doors is completely unexpected. If you are a fan of beer and massive selections, then this is the place to be. With so many taps around the bar, it’s almost exhausting selecting which craft beer to try first. The selections were on point and menus accurately descriptive. Go early to grab a seat at the bar to enjoy some beer, and stay late to experience an intensely packed crowd.
Ready to get your gay bingo on? This over the top monthly event has been offering campy fun, outrageous drag personalities and big prizes to Philly residents and visitors for over a decade. Money that is raised from GayBINGO! is for folks living with HIV/AIDS in the Delaware Valley. To date, they have raised over two million dollars, making this admirable event, a must do while in town. First timers beware, as this isn’t your slow paced retirement home bingo. This is face paced, hard-core bingo with odd shapes, multiple cards and unapologetic callers.
So the next time you are in Philly, make sure to get your cheesesteak on but also take some time to step away from the heart attack special to experience some truly special dining experiences, craft beers in unexpected places and some big time bingo for charity.
** David Duran is a freelance writer who focuses on mostly travel, culinary, hospitality, entertainment, oped and business features. He contributes to a wide variety of LGBT publications both print and online as well as more mainstream ones such as the Huffington Post. A sampling of his portfolio can be found here: https://mrdavidduran.contently.com/ Follow him on twitter: @theemuki