July 12, 2012

Throwdown: Can Philadelphia Stand Up to San Francisco?

Let’s get ready to rumble! Ok, San Francisco. No doubt you’re a top destination for foodies and world travelers. But you know what? Philadelphia is just as awesome.

We just spent a week in the shadows of the Golden Gate and couldn’t help but compare San Francisco’s hotspots to Philly at every turn. Who won? Here’s the 22nd & Philly take between some of the sites/restaurants we visited in SF and their Philly counterparts.

For the full photo recap, see our Facebook or Google+ albums, and check back for future posts with more advice on visiting San Francisco and Napa/Sonoma.

Ding Ding. Here we go.

Round One: Reading Terminal Market vs Ferry Building Marketplace

Advantage: Philly

An easy round for Philly. Reading Terminal Market is more authentic, has more energy and is much more than a well-designed tourist attraction. Its diversity of foods, fresh made products and seating options surpassed Ferry Building Marketplace. We prefer the everyman feel of Reading Terminal, which reminds us of the local markets in Spain and Italy.

We’ll give kudos to SF for designing a market that features more space to maneuver, a variety of eats and top-notch restaurants such as Slanted Door. You should have it on your list if you visit but don't expect the down n' dirty chaos that makes Reading Terminal unique.

Pho at Slanted Door in the Ferry Building 

Round Two: Penn’s Landing vs Fisherman’s Wharf
Advantage: San Francisco

A near knockout punch for SF. It’s pathetic how far behind Penn’s Landing is in comparison. The design of the entire waterfront from the Golden Gate to Fisherman’s Wharf to the Bay Bridge is everything the Delaware waterfront should be. It’s walkable, has plenty of transit options and is designed with both the tourist and resident in mind. Get with it Philly.

Fisherman’s Wharf is uber-touristy, though, so if you like to spend your time off the beaten path, plan to spend only a half-day checking out the sea lions at Pier 39, getting your chocolate fix at Ghirardelli Square and strolling the waterfront.

Wine tasting at Ghirardelli Square - great way to rest those feet. 

Round Three: Citizens Bank Park vs AT&T Park
Advantage: Push

Each ballpark has clear advantages. AT&T Park has a downtown location and a beautiful bay in the background. Citizens Bank Park has the underrated view of Center City and our always-passionate fans.

But the two actually have more in common than different. Both have local food options such as Gilroy Garlic Fries at AT&T and Chickie's & Pete's Crab Fries at Citizens Bank. You can also find specialty eateries from former players like Bull’s BBQ in Philly and Orlando's Caribbean BBQ (get the Cha Cha Bowl) in SF. Both parks are easy to walk around with views of the field from most any location.

Philly has tailgating before the game, while SF has numerous bars just outside the stadium. We pre-gamed at the hugely-popular 21st Amendment, a brewery known for its Hell or High Watermelon wheat beer. You can also find just as many drunk and obnoxious college and high school kids at both parks.

We would suggest building time into your itinerary to see a game at either park.

AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants

Round Four: Delfina vs Marc Vetri
Advantage: Vetri

Spaghetti at Delfina
Delfina is a well-known Italian restaurant in the Mission District of SF... think Northern Liberties in Philly. The food was excellent, especially the spaghetti and ravioli served very al dente. We recommend eating there (and making a reservation).

But none of the pastas at Delfina came close to their counterparts at Vetri, Amis or Osteria. It's been several years but we still dream about the wild boar ragu at Osteria and the almond tortellini at Vetri. We’re lucky to have Vetri's pasta making magic in Philly.

We hear Flour & Water in SF is also excellent, but just as Steve Jobs couldn't get a table at the restaurant, neither could we.

Round Five: Walkability
Advantage: Philadelphia

When a city is known for hills and cable cars, walkability is likely not going to be its calling card. San Francisco does have some walkable sections, but you really need to rely on cable cars, buses or a car for longer walks. The public transportation is easy to use. (Hint: never wait in line at the Powell St. end stop for a cable car. Walk up two blocks to the second stop and get right on.)

The walkability of Center City Philadelphia is massively underrated. We have no problems walking east/west from Front St to 23rd or north/south from Market to South St and beyond. Friends always tell us how easy it is to navigate Center City and it is one attribute that separates Philly from other large cities.

Round Six: Tartine Bakery vs Termini Brothers Bakery
Advantage: San Francisco

Wow. That’s all we could say after experiencing Tartine Bakery’s uppercut of deliciousness. You must visit this place in the Mission District but go early to avoid a long line. Everything we had was amazing (more in a future post).

This was a relatively easy round for SF even though we LOVE the cannolis and other baked goods at Termini Brothers. Tartine almost had us wishing that Termini’s would expand its magic and become more of cafĂ© like Tartine.

Tartine Bakery's signature Morning Bun. 
Tartine Bakery Ham Croissant. 

Round Seven: Bike ride to Sausalito vs Manayunk
Advantage: San Francisco

Bike the bridge and you get views like this.
Can you really beat a ride over the famous Golden Gate Bridge to see the stunning views and visit an adorable little port town? Nope. A leisurely ride to Sausalito takes about 1.5 hours from Fisherman’s Wharf, where we rented bikes from Blazing Saddles. The well-marked ride takes you along the marina, over the Golden Gate Bridge and down a big hill to the beach bay town of Sausalito where you can get a 30 minute ferry back to SF for $10.

Sausalito is a gorgeous town and worth allotting some time to walk around. We biked about 15 minutes past the downtown area to eat at Davey Jones Deli, a cool little shop inside a convenience store with a massive menu and awesome sandwiches. Try anything with roast pork since it is made fresh each day. Make sure you check out the house boats on the water near the deli, too.

Biking to Manayunk for a day trip is an overlooked Philly venture. The ride is flat and takes less than a hour from Boathouse Row. While no Golden Gate, it’s an excellent way to take in the sites of Kelly Drive and see a cool neighborhood outside of Center City.

The Results

It’s a draw after seven rounds! Looks like the rest of this fight will take place in the comment section. Please share your comparisons.

This tie speaks to the old adage that we are all much more alike than we are different. Our experience with SF was amazing and in some cases did wish the SF version would find its way to the City of Brotherly Love. But, we're tired of Philadelphia being left off lists of the best food cities to visit and think it can more than stand its ground against the West Coast titan. We wouldn't trade our city for the world.

Stay tuned for two more posts with additional tips for what to eat and do in San Francisco and Napa/Sonoma. You can sign up for an email alert to receive future 22nd & Philly posts.


GnuMoose said...

I'm a Philadelphia resident who calls San Francisco my 2nd home.

I agree with what you said, except that I give the Ferry Building a bit of an edge than the Reading Terminal Market. Yes, I might not be able to get a Dinic's sammich at the Ferry Bldg, but I'll pass that up for a better layout, Cowgirl Creamery, Miette Cupcakes and being able to sit out and look at the Bay Bridge.

I'm also going to give AT & T Park the advantage. Teams aside, I love the set up better of AT&T Park and amenities. I'm trading Mc Covey Cove for CrabFries.

Dreams of cakes said...

Very nice blog!

Ryan said...

I agree with GnuMoose that the Ferry Building appeals to me more than Reading Terminal - mostly on the grounds that the Ferry Building can actually have alcohol retailers. But, a few gems aside, Reading Terminal sometimes feels flea marketish to me with some of the places there, while the Ferry Building had a lot more really top notch spaces.

I do agree that Philadelphia should be ashamed of its waterfront compared to SF - and ours isn't nearly as big. It shouldn't be that hard to fill up. But the walking (and we did plenty) on those hills gets brutal.

22nd and Philly said...

@GnuMoose. We would agree with the view of Ferry Building. Speaks to the well-planned waterfront in SF.

@Ryan - Yes, we talk all the time about how Reading Terminal needs more alcohol options or even the ability to walk around with a drink. But, I like the flea market, chaos feel of Reading Terminal otherwise it just becomes a high end location for eateries.

@Eftychia thanks. we'll be sure to check out your blog for ideas!

PhillyFoodie said...

I arrived in San Fran Tuesday, had lunch at Scoma's (average) and dinner at Park Tavern (VERY good). The line for breakfast at Mama's was 40 deep at 8:05am...on a Wednesday!

Had lunch at Redd in Yountville (VERY good), and dinner at Bistro Jeanty (Good). I've dined at Mustard grill 2 years ago, (slightly above average, but not worthy of it's high praise).

Tonight we're dining at Ad Hoc, Friday at a new San Fran spot, Nopa, and Saturday at Slanted Door. A foodies paradise tour for sure.

Had the burger at Gott's, and it is on par with Shake shake, five guys, and other similar micro chains. I haven't been too excited about any of these style burger places as they are slightly better than fast food.

I feel San Fran really excels at the New American cuisine/farm to table. Philly excels at Americanized International cuisine, Amada, Tinto, Osteria, etc. Supper and Sbraga are 2 of the best New American restaurants philly has, and they certainly compare to some of the best in San Fran.

San Fran has had the long-time reputation as a great foodie city, which it deserves. By comparison, Philly is a newcomer as a foodie city, and still needs some time to earn the reputation similar to a San Fran. I think some of the San Fran restaurants get higher reviews than what I was expecting.

Great to see 2 cities competing for a title every city should try for!

A and J said...

Great post! I loved visiting San Francisco- Tartine is out of this world. Also had a couple of other stellar meals/experiences. Walkability is a huge issue though- SF is just so huge and hilly.. Love being able to get anywhere in Philly in a half hour.

22nd and Philly said...

@PhillyFoodie wow! thanks for all the additional ideas. I guess that Mama's place must be good. We had reservations at Nopa after hearing good things but got sidetracked and didn't go. Curious to hear how you like it.

@A and J I think your post may have been where we heard about Tartine first. I could really go for a morning bun right NOW.

GnuMoose said...

Adding to the discussion, "Mama's" is worth the wait. Also was getting up at stupid oclock and dodging the derelicts in the Tenderloin to get a good spot in line at the former Dotties location. it has since moved to a bigger spot. Next time out, Dotties True Blue Cafe is a good look for breakfast.

Add "Zazie" and "Mission Beach Cafe" to your "radar" and if you can find it open, the M&L Market for some of the best pastrami on the planet.

Lauren V. said...

I love San Francisco, but have only ever gone for work so I never get the time to really explore and eat good food. I definitely agree with your comments on the waterfront. The wasted space/opportunity on Penn's Landing makes me sad. My husband and I hope to go to SFO of a vacation next year, so I'll have to add all of your recommended places to our list.

Pete said...

Hey Brad, great comparison! I've been scouring your blog for ideas for our tnext rip to Philly. Holla next time you're out here, I could definitely come up with some places you need to check out.

Pete W

22nd and Philly said...

Hey Pete. Great to hear from you. It's been a long long time. Let me know when you are in Philly again and we'll aim to meet up!