Artisans Unite In A Bustling Metropolis
Philadelphia is a community that has become defined by an emphasis on places of high-quality, locally produced goods.
PSFK has partnered with the Lincoln Motor Company on Hello Again, a series that rediscovers global urban centers to showcase the innovative cultural, artistic and culinary happenings that are putting these destinations on the map.
Philadelphia, as a city, is a buzzing hub of inspiration that provides an interesting experience for travelers as its development is set against the backdrop of its serious role in U.S. History. The loyalty to craft that permeates the whole city, and the novel and innovative ways that retailers, restaurant owners and local artisans choose to show it off will make this an inspiring destination for all. So what are some of the highlights within the City of Brotherly Love, ripe for rediscovery?
A day in Philadelphia should start with some simple and satisfying food. In a culture driven by a preponderance of choices, sometimes absence is a welcome addition, especially when it comes to starting your day off on the right foot. Find that philosophy on the menu at Chef Mike Solomonov’s two Federal Donuts locations where coffee, donuts and twice-fried Korean-style chicken are the only options you’ll find. The latter two offerings come in a variety of flavors, but be warned as they tend to sell out quickly. The restaurant shuts its doors when the last drumstick of the day is demolished, so that could be at 2pm or 10. Solomonov’s outposts not only serve up some of the tastiest fare in Philly, but they highlight a local attitude towards small batch production and conservation.
For retail input, Philadelphia has some unique offerings. Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction is part apothecary, part distillery, part printing press and part boutique that offers a meticulously curated mix of well-crafted clothing, accessories and other items for both men and women, such as their exclusive Root Liquor and Warby Parker glasses. The location also functions as a gallery that features monthly exhibitions from local artists. Art
In the Age’s mandate states that the store “firmly believes in empowering artists producing high quality work marked by fine craft and intellectual rigor.” A visit here will provide an inspiring window into local products and services, and also those that highlight the spirit of the artisan at their core.
Whether on its streets or in a museum, Philadelphia has plenty on to invigorate your aesthetic idea-generation engine. Famous graffiti artist ESPO, who now goes by Steve Powers, is helping enliven struggling retail strips across the city with his Icy Signs project. By refreshing the storefront signage of individual small shops with colorful designs that reflect the character of the business and neighborhood, the project aims to draw in new customers and improve the aesthetic of the urban landscape. Icy Signs also helped establish a guild of artists with a wide variety of styles and talents, uniting them around a common goal of improving the visual appeal of their cities. You can take yourself on a tour of these murals that will send you on a winding path through the neighborhoods of West Philly, North Philly, Germantown and Kensington as well as showcasing Powers’ unique style of graphic design and color, and his sense of humor.
When out and about, be sure to check out the Night Market, a seasonal event organized by the Food Trust that brings together some of the city’s best food trucks, vendors, and shops in an outdoor night-time fair with food and music. Overall, it is one of the best single manifestations of the city’s thriving local food culture — bolstered by goods from nearby Amish farms and dairies, and highlights a wide range of what Philly and the surrounding area has to offer. It allows visitors to experience the city a new way – taking over the streets and seeing how the city chooses to showcase its homemade products. The festival is one that draws a diverse crowd of young people and offers an opportunity for foodie entrepreneurs to network.
Nothing puts a coda on a day quite like an expertly poured cocktail. Like a well-kept secret, the Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company channels underground speakeasies of the Prohibition-era with a commitment to making the best drinks around. Cocktails range from the classic – Fancy Rye Cocktail (Rittenhouse Rye, Grand Marnier, cane syrup, Angostura and Jerry Thomas bitters served on a rock) – to the more playful and adventurous – Peckinpah (mescal, Cruzan white rum, house-made blackberry habanero syrup and lime juice) – and are mixed by sharply dressed bartenders who are happy to suggest the perfect tonic to suit your mood. The bar also hosts weekly ‘Night School’ classes and tasting sessions to help expand the palates of drinkers of all (legal) ages. Whether it is an exploration of spirits distilled from blue agave – with the creation of a custom cocktail, or brand managers debating the merits of using one gin over another to mix, this establishment is committed to enriching patrons’ appreciation and understanding of the world of the cocktail.
The collision of old and new –seen in the city’s vibrant culture where the best food, art and shopping options share a commitment to creatively re-imagining the past – highlights the growing creative community in Philadelphia as one that has not forgotten its traditional craftsman roots, and solidifies this location as a truly inspirational city.
Photos by Tom Cusworth.