HomeShoppingPhilly’s 13 secret bars | Let’s Eat

Philly’s 13 secret bars | Let’s Eat

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We like a little mystery with our beverages, so this week we’ll tell you about 13 secret bars. Also, the Philadelphia Flower Show has us thinking warm thoughts about where to eat and drink around the Convention Center, while critic Craig LaBan found a spot to satisfy your 3 a.m. plov cravings.

⬇️ Read on for a quiz and restaurant news.

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Mike Klein

Bars are everywhere — behind steel grates and nondescript facades, tucked inside barber shops, and buried down dark alleys. I found 13 interesting spots in Philadelphia that play on an air of mystery. 🔑

If you have $1,000 burning a hole in your pocket, Jenn Ladd says, you can buy your way into 101 Unlockd, a new private bar in an undisclosed location.

How about great happy hours? Colleagues Afea Tucker and Hira Qureshi found more than two dozen, serving Thai, Japanese, Latin, and American seafood menus.

The Philadelphia Flower Show wraps this weekend at the Convention Center.

Where to eat: Hira Qureshi steers you to 11 spots for lunch or dessert nearby. Of course, Reading Terminal Market is a treasure trove of good eating. My personal favorite is this grilled Rachel sandwich, with turkey, Swiss, coleslaw, and Thousand Island dressing, from Hershel’s East Side Deli. But if your tastes lean toward Szechuan, she suggests a two-block walk to critic Craig LaBan’s favorite spot.

If you’re eating inside the show, there are five foods not to miss, Hira says. And one to skip.

Bars and restaurants are offering flower-inspired drinks, as colleague Jenn Ladd has uncovered. How about a lavender negroni?

Philly is not a 24-hour dining city. Critic Craig LaBan, however, will point you toward the Far Northeast, where one tasty open-all-night option is Plov House. Its specialty is plov, a Uzbek-inspired pilaf “piled high with tender chunks of meat, its rendered fat and juices glazing each grain of rice beneath sweet carrot laces and plump raisins.” And with a full menu of manti, grilled kebabs, and flaky samsa turnovers, he’ll tell you, “I know where my stomach will vote to go after a late night on the town.” 🔑

Some diners, meanwhile, are keeping early and late hours, even though most are not open 24 hours. Hira and colleague Jenna Miller found places where you can still order this part of the American experience.

Shaquille O’Neal spent his younger years on the basketball court. Now, it’s the food court. His Big Chicken brand is setting up at the Concourse at the Comcast Center, and that means such big foods as this Shaq Attack sandwich and chocolate-chip cookies the circumference of an NBA basketball.

One way to beat the high price of groceries is to shop at a so-called bent-and-dent grocery, where colleague Alfred Lubrano found lots of crunched boxes and dinged cans at nearly half the price of traditional supermarkets. Discounts run as high as 70% or more.

These are the late-winter days (and nights) when gravy-napped proteins and rich side dishes are in order. The fryers turn out crunchy katsu at the humble PungNyeon Katsu at 6775 N. Fifth St. (215-403-7995), in an East Oak Lane strip center just off Cheltenham Avenue. If the name is unfamiliar, note that it opened a couple of years ago as Katsu Guys. Since then, they’ve lowered prices ($12.99 for pork, $13.99 for chicken, and $15.99 for cheese or fish all served with cream soup, rice, and salad), and offer free coffee from a vending machine. Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

You get a big, buzzy dinner party atmosphere, Cambodian-inspired noodle dishes, and Cambodian rock and roll at the snug Mawn. It’s newly open in Kalaya’s former digs at 764 S. Ninth St., on the same block as Ralph’s, Sarcone’s, and Angelo’s Pizzeria and around the corner from the similarly snug Filipino newcomer Tabachoy. Shown here: Chef Phila Lorn’s night market noodles with ground wild boar ($18), a popular dish in the early going, as are littleneck clams in lemongrass broth, prohok dip with chile (served with cabbage leaves), head-on soft-shell shrimp, and marinated grilled beef rib-eye on a stick. It’s BYOB, open 4:30-9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. Reserve via Tock.

The Eagles’ appearance in the Super Bowl last month really spiked sales in Philly on Sunday Feb. 12. The city’s Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores sold 71,416 bottles that day, compared with 36,936 on Super Bowl Sunday 2022. The PLCB told me, however, that February total sales in the five-county area actually dipped, year over year, from 5.2 million bottles in 2022 to 5 million in 2023.

Sabrina’s Cafe at 21st and South Streets doesn’t offer dessert. That has changed in March as bruncherie owners Robert and Raquel De Abreu have come up with a charitable initiative to celebrate some of Philly’s finest female pastry chefs while also celebrating Women’s History Month. They’ve partnered with Tova du Plessis of Essen Bakery, Monica Glass, Fiore Fine Foods’ Justine MacNeil, Kouklet Brazilian Bakehouse’s Mardhory Santos-Cepeda, and Vanilya Bakery’s Bonnie Sarana to provide pastries and desserts to that location throughout March, with each chef designated a specific weekend. Proceeds go to Project Home’s Women of Change, a safe haven residence for women. Details are here.

Rocco’s Italian Sausage has made a name for itself over the last several years. It has an interesting lineup of locations, as colleague Michelle Myers explained. Where are they?

A) at sports stadiums

B) outside Home Depot stores

C) in chichi shopping districts

D) in church parking lots

Find out if you know the answer.

📮 Have a question about food in the Philly region? E-mail your questions to me at mklein@inquirer.com for a chance to be featured in my newsletter.

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