While I was initially worried about cannibalization between these three hot spots in one of my favorite intersections in Philly, I have a feeling that each of these gems will have its own special niche. With a wide range of ice cream options for me, and food options for everyone else, it seems like all different appetites and taste buds might be happily accounted for. If anything, the high volume of foodies trekking through will create brisk business for the parking lot on the only open corner left! And if all this food love is happening in one little intersection of Philly, I have a feeling that this column won’t be too hard to write.
Capogiro Gelato Artisans (which I lovingly call “Capo” for short) – NE Corner
As I write this piece, I’m sitting in one of my favorite places in the City of Brotherly Love — Capogiro Gelato Artisans. Recently named by National Geographic as one of the top 10 places to eat ice cream in the world (which is no small feat considering that gelato was created in Italy), this gelateria produces gelato that is both light and airy, yet simultaneously luxurious and creamy. And with less than half the calories and fat of ice cream, I can have multiple servings in a day (which I often do) without feeling *too* indulgent.
Having heard one of their owners, Stephanie Reitano, speak at a recent event hosted by Grid (a local magazine focused on sustainability issues), I’m even more enamored, knowing that their gelati and sorbetti are made in small batches every day, with some of the freshest local and seasonal ingredients available, including milk from grass-fed, hormone-free cows! Some of my favorite staples are: Thai coconut, pistachio, Mexican coffee, and dulce de leche. My spring/summer loves include: pineapple sage, champagne mango, lychee, and avocado. And for fall/winter, I’m looking forward to the triumphant return of pumpkin and persimmon.
In addition to cups and cones, Capo offers essential items for the perfect gelato breakfast — gelato con brioche and affogato. For the gelato con brioche, the staff will slice your brioche and toast both halves before setting your choice of gelato in between them. For the affogato, they will take your choice of gelato (I highly recommend the bourbon butterscotch or the dulce de leche) and drizzle espresso on top of it, making for a luscious combination of coffee, cream, and sugar. How thrilled do you think I was to find out about the West Philly location five minutes from my office?!
Village Whiskey – NW Corner
For a more substantial meal, all you have to do is hop across the street to Village Whiskey — one of the many Jose Garces establishments across the city. As one of Philly’s most well-known restaurateurs, the Iron Chef has created a veritable foodie empire — one that focuses on the food as well as the dining experience. Situated next to Tinto (a Garces wine bar concept), Village Whiskey offers a casual bar atmosphere, serving up bar snacks, burgers, and BBQ pork sandwiches.
One of my favorite items on the menu is the S’more Shake — a visual and gustatory masterpiece. Served in a tall glass, with chocolate drizzled on the inside, toasted marshmallows on top, and a graham cracker accent, this shake brings back all the camping memories I never had (growing up in New York City and all). Incorporating decadent vanilla ice cream, this shake is deliciously dense, making the use of a straw practically pointless, and the need for a spoon almost critical (unless you can wait for some melting to occur). That said, if I’m ever required to be on a liquid or semi-liquid diet, this better be on the list of approved foods!
If you’re in the mood for eats, Village Whiskey is known for having one of the best burgers in the city. Topped with cheddar, caramelized onions, and bacon, the Village Burger is phenomenal. But if you’re a little more adventurous, I’d suggest the Whiskey King, which includes a big chunk of foie gras. Add on an order of duck fat fries with Sly Fox cheddar sauce, and I’m positive you’ll be more than happily sated. (And if you’re not, the lobster mac ‘n cheese is quite good too.)
Shake Shake – SW Corner
As if these two gems weren’t enough, this little intersection welcomed Shake Shack to its ranks approximately two weeks ago. Having built its fan base and reputation in New York City, Shake Shack opened to semi-pandemonium and wrap-around-the-block lines in Philly. Foobooz, a food blog associated with Philadelphia Magazine, even set up a live stream on opening day from the Capo corner, showing the lines shortening and lengthening with the lunch and dinner crowds.
Needless to say, I was right there on opening day (and indeed the day after as well). Having tried the frozen custard many years ago at the original location in Madison Square Park, I was ecstatic about getting my hands on it again. For my very first taste in Philly, I chose a concrete, which is essentially frozen custard with mix-in’s. I decided to go with a special Philly concrete — the Rittenhouse Squared — with vanilla custard, La Colombe coffee beans, coffee marshmallow sauce, and chocolate truffle cookie dough. The combination was heavenly, and I’m glad I subbed in vanilla for the usual chocolate because I was really able to taste the other elements.
With the hot food line consistently longer than the cold food line, I’m currently waiting for the crowds to die down before venturing back to try everything else on the menu. I can’t wait to check out the famous ‘Shroom Burger — a portabello mushroom stuffed with meunster and cheddar cheese, and the Shack-cago Dog — a Chicago-style hot dog. As a true New Yorker, nothing will ever beat a Sabrett’s hot dog from Central Park, but I’m always down for something creative.
With lots of Philly love.