November 17, 2012

Neighborhoods: Where to Eat and Drink in Fairmount

In the second post of our neighborhoods series, let's talk about Fairmount.

The Fairmount section of Philadelphia offers a haven from the bustle of Center City and distills a unique neighborhood charm at all times of the day. Brunchers, dinner parties and afternoon boozers in between pack the area's growing number of approachable restaurants and bars during all seasons.

Expanding from its traditional hub along Fairmount Avenue, anchored by London Grill at 23rd St. and Bishop's Collar at 24th, FareBlueCat and Hickory Lane are pushing the local food scene further east a few streets. La Calaca Feliz and Paris Wine Bar fill in the 2300 block with new concepts for the area.


A family-owned BYOB, BlueCat blends Latin flavors into a unique menu with both hits and near-misses. The spinach, mushroom and oaxaca cheese empanada was a hit along with the turkey albondigas, which is like a Latin matzo ball soup with turkey meatballs in lime and cilantro broth. The crispy duck in peanut mole sauce was also great. The fish tacos tasted alright but were overcrowded with too many fixings. Something is slightly a-miss with the atmosphere in BlueCat - dinner was plenty enjoyable but it has an awkward mix of decor (one massive mural of a cat staring at you), crowded tables, open kitchen and over-sized windows.

Turkey albondigas
Spinach, mushroom and cheese empanada


Fare is all about organic, local ingredients with an artsy splash. Everything we ate - grilled octopus, Farmhouse flatbread, avocado crabcakes and flank steak with chimichurri - tasted very fresh. Ask what comes with your entrees before ordering a side because ours were included. And consider going at happy hour (weekdays from 4:30 - 6:30pm) for good drink specials and half price on tasty bar bites, including the flatbreads. The decor here was odd: earthy tones, comfy chairs and tree murals mixed with funky urban lighting and local paintings for sale. But on less chilly days, definitely check out Fare's outside seating in the lot next door - very cool nature-themed murals with hanging burlap planters and heat lamps.
Grilled Octopus with olives, red peppers and lima beans
Bacon, sharp Vermont cheddar and Granny Smith apple Farmhouse flatbread

Paris Wine Bar

For date night, don't miss Paris Wine Bar next to London Grill. It sources from local PA wineries only and serves certain wine "on draught" from a tap, just like beer. After dinner at Fare, we wined down on one of the comfy Parisian couches, enjoying a carafe of cool red and live blues music. London Grill's full food menu is available there, too.

La Calaca Feliz

Hamachi ceviche
A couple doors west of 23rd, La Calaca Feliz tries to live up to rave reviews from The Philadelphia Inquirer. We liked - not loved - it, but would go back again for margaritas and to try more food. First time around, the chorizo fundido and hamachi ceviche were favorites. The back dining room is full of fun, vibrant colors and has an outdoor area for warmer months.

More Great Places to Eat/Drink

Jack's Firehouse, set in a real 19th c. firehouse with high ceilings, giant front garage door and all, and The Belgian Cafe from the same owners at Monks have been ideal brunch spots for us. Check them out after a visit to the new Barnes Foundation and a charity walk near the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Focus your attention on the complimentary little plate of moist homemade muffins/breads from Jack's as well as the served-all-day moules frites from Belgian Cafe. Good food and atmosphere at McCrossen's Tavern immediately made it one of our other top recommended gastropubs after visiting last winter and we're sure to be back this year.

Food and drink options in Fairmount don't end there. We have more exploring to do... what are your favorite Fairmount haunts? I have a burning desire to try Zorba's Tavern but know nothing about it - been there?

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