By Jess Decina
Photos by Stephanie Nardi
To anyone living anywhere south of Rider, Philadelphia — not New York — is “the city.” Sure, you could spend hours bickering with your friends over which one is correct, but you might want to take the 45-minute drive into the Greater Philadelphia area to see what the nation’s sixth most populous city is all about.
Beginners will want to focus their trip around South Street: It’s a hub of shops, bars and clubs perfect for the any-aged crowd. The area’s populated with stores ranging from the local grocery stores and independently-owned bookstores to tattoo parlors and special interest shops.
Although South Street’s packed with restaurants like The Artful Dodger and the South Street Diner, it’s become an unspoken law that visitors should try a genuine Philly cheesesteak while in the city. Jim’s Steaks comes highly rated, but there are others, like rivals Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King of Steaks, that are worth a try.
Plus, there’s no shortage of nightlife in Philly. The Fillmore Theater of Living Arts, more affectionately known as TLA, is arguably the equivalent of New Jersey’s Starland Ballroom. TLA holds about 1,000 spectators and has become the place to be for rising bands and artists. South Street also has its share of clubs and bars, though the more popular ones require a little traveling. Like any large city, it might be best to travel through Philly on foot and by cab.
You’ve heard it a million times before, but the beauty of the University is how it’s “close to everything.” Philly most certainly falls into that “everything” category. Whether or not you consider it your “city,” Philadelphia is certainly worth a look.
Best cheesesteak: Jim’s
By Laura Mortkowitz
On a street where each store front is more colorful than the one before, Jim’s Steaks has the sleek, silver outside of a classic diner.
This understated restaurant is one of the best places in Philadelphia to get a cheesesteak, and the people willing to wait on line clearly agree. On a typical Saturday, there will be a line just to get inside the restaurant and once in there, the line actually goes to the back and snakes forward. It’s similar to being on line for a ride at Disney World, but you’re only trying to order food.
While on the 30-minute line, customers can peruse autographs from celebrities and athletes. One article shows Mike Lieberthal, Phillies catcher from 1994-2006, working behind the counter. There are also autographs from the likes of Jimmy Buffet, Danny Glover, Anne Heche and Bruce Willis. There is one of Larry King skydiving, signed “Your steaks get me high.”
Here’s a hint: Find a native of Philadelphia and let him talk to you. One man could be heard saying that Jim’s was definitely the best in Philadelphia. He even went so far as to say that Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King of Steaks don’t compare. They are famous for their longtime rivalry as big-name cheesesteak restaurants across the street from each other. However, if the Philadelphia native is right, Geno’s and Pat’s are just tourist traps.
A cheesesteak with onions will cost $7, less without cheese and a little more if you get toppings. The typical customer orders the traditional cheesesteak with whiz, but there are options of pizza steak and steak hoagie.
If cheesesteaks aren’t your taste, there are plenty of hoagies — those are subs for New Jerseyans — for the customer to choose from. There’s even a separate area for those who want hoagies, but that line was conspicuously empty.
Once you give your order, the cooks are so fast that you move right on to the register and pay all under a minute. The seating upstairs only has a half dozen tables or so, but most people take the food to go anyway.
Plus, if you don’t want to eat inside, you have all of South Street to walk and take in the sights. At the end of the street is a scenic walkway that looks out over Penn’s Landing.
Whatever you choose, make sure you can fully appreciate Philadelphia’s best cheesesteak, because the meat is tender and juicy, and the whiz is spread on the bread, not just dumped messily on top of the meat.
Don’t just take my word for it. In 2007, Jim’s won MyFox Philly’s Hot List. If you have a hankering for a good cheesesteak, don’t go to the tourist trap, as novel as it might seem, take a trip to South Street for Jim’s Steaks.
Typically, St. Patrick’s Day is a day of celebrating Irish ancestry by eating traditional meals and visiting heritage festivals.
For most college students, St. Patrick’s Day is an excuse to drink green beer and wear buttons that say “Kiss me, I’m Irish.”
The fun-loving holiday falls during spring break, which means students cannot rely on the Rider Pub for a good time. However, there are still places to go for students who plan on staying in the Mercer County area over break.
Each year Cavanaugh’s Restaurant and Sports Bar in Philadelphia sponsors a bus tour called the Erin Express, which takes those who are interested to and from different bars within the city. Participating bars, such as T.A. Flannery’s and Smokey Joe’s, offer food specials and traditional Irish beers.
“This is such a big event for college students,” said Ryan Tighe, a University of the Arts student and Philadelphia resident. “Roads get blocked off and there are so many young people crowding the bars.”
Along with the Erin Express, there is another shuttle called the Shamrock Shuttle that takes customers to bars like McNoodle’s Irish Pub, McNally’s Tavern and Coach’s Bar and Grill.
“I’m planning on taking a bar tour in Philly during my senior year,” said junior Nicole States. “I’ve had friends who have all told me how much fun it is and how inexpensive it is.”
The Erin Express requires no reservations, bracelets or tickets. It is completely free to ride on the buses. The only expense customers pay is to the actual bars that they stop at.
This event is based on a tradition that William Pawliczek of Cavanaugh’s Restaurant and Sports Bar and Paul Ryan, Sr. from Smokey Joe’s started more than 30 years ago. The bus shuttles are still popular today largely because guests are able to tour certain parts of the city while still participating in the celebrations.
“I have read up on riding [the Erin Express], and it seems like so much fun,” States said. “Plus, it is too close to Rider not to check out.”