Once again, PGN has unleashed its journalistic army to tirelessly scour the ends of the earth, shedding many a gallon of blood, sweat and tears, to give you our two cents about the best, brightest and most interesting things, people and places out there.
Now, when we say “army,” we really mean one mentally unstable staff writer, an overworked editor, a sleep-deprived photographer busting ass on an old Rhino bicycle (replaced during one Saturday of shooting) and the remaining writers, designers and sales reps who championed for their causes but don’t want their name on it. When we say “tirelessly,” we really mean until we got tired, which was often and easy. When we say “scour,” we really mean whatever we happened to bump into or brush up against in our zombie-like death marches for coffee and/or booze during our many, many misadventures. And when we say “ends of the earth,” we really mean you’re lucky if we even bothered to leave Center City. And those gallons of blood, sweat and tears were 99-percent tears.
But it’s all love — and just a bit of venom.
Do you think you can do better?
We didn’t think so.
PEOPLE AND GROUPS
Lie we’ve been told: The Nizah Morris homicide case file was “found” in an inbox in the police archives.
Here’s what we know: Nizah Morris was found with a fatal head wound shortly after receiving a police courtesy ride Dec. 22, 2002. At most, she was dropped off 10 minutes and two blocks away from where she was found. Since her death, ruled a homicide by the medical examiner, police “lost” her file and had to reconstruct it from the District Attorney’s copy. Insert Police Advisory Commission case review for police misconduct, a lawsuit by PGN writer Tim Cwiek to obtain a copy of the file, a noncommittal promise by DA candidate Seth Williams to consider releasing the file and a new PAC to review the case again. And after eight years, police found the file. Though we haven’t seen it per se, we’re told it doesn’t contain 911 transcripts. PGN wonders what else it doesn’t contain.
Pissing contest: Philly Pride vs. Sunday Out
When Sunday Out announced it was moving its LGBT event this year to Penn’s Landing six weeks before Philly Pride, which has called the location home for many years, it was like the two most popular girls in school showed up at prom with the same dress. The claws came out. Dirty looks were exchanged. Hair was pulled. We heard one of them bit off a piece of the other’s ear in the melee. It was brutal. But Philly Pride proved itself to be the queen bee of summer LGBT festivals in Philly.
Political showdown (local): Philadelphia vs. Boy Scouts
The wrangling over the city-owned building occupied by the antigay Boy Scouts of America has been a frustrating, drawn-out and fascinating shell game of legal hot potato that has managed to make the city look as backward as the organization it has tried — and failed — to oust. Considering that most of its operations are run out of the King of Prussia office (that’s one way to avoid city wage tax!), it really seems the BSA council is now being petty and obstinate. And really, if you have a shitty tenant, do you sell them the rental? Hell, no. You evict them. Here’s to hope that someone outbids the Boy Scouts on the building like something out of a contentious eBay auction — and that the city lets the better sale go through.
Political showdown (national): The (hopefully) imminent end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
Not the homerun we wanted it to be, but we’ll take it. We guess slow and steady does eventually win the race.
Please, get your s#%t together: Lindsay Lohan
Girrrl, you almost flew under the radar because of Charlie Sheen, but we see you!
Fave place to volunteer: MANNA; www.mannapa.org
With the state of health care being what it is, any help we can give to those with life-threatening illnesses, even bringing them a nutritious hot meal, is a huge help. Guess what’s coming in November? Pie!
Fave nonprofit organization: Philadelphia FIGHT; www.fight.org
We really, really wish we didn’t need Philadelphia FIGHT. But we are most grateful this organization is here to educate and care for people with HIV/AIDS and research potential therapies to treat and prevent the disease.
Person we’d like to see run for office: Stephen Glassman
We know he has a job already — he’s the highest openly gay appointed person in the state’s history — and he’s good at it. But there has been a dearth of LGBT representation in local and state government that needs to be remedied. While that may change with the City Council race, the LGBT community still needs representation at the state level. Don’t get us wrong: We appreciate our allies. But it’s not the same as being able to speak with your own voice. Just ask the original Boston Tea Party, the women suffragists, the African Americans and Washington, D.C. Glassman has enough integrity, intelligence and empathy to make any form of public service work for us and, for that reason, we’d vote for him.
Fave activist group: Philadelphians Against Subsidized Discrimination
We’re pretty tired of the fact that the Boy Scouts of America Cradle of Liberty Council is getting a sweet deal for the property at 231-251 N. 22nd St. City Council granted the group the land in 1928, BSA erected the building and ownership reverted to the city. The city ordinance states the city could terminate the arrangement at any time with a year’s notice. Which is why we can’t understand why the BSA council is still in the building, discriminating against gays and atheists. Thankfully, we aren’t the only ones who are pissed off about it. Members of Philadelphians Against Subsidized Discrimination are advocating for a solution other than the one on the city’s table — which is, sell the BSA council the building for far below market value and wash our hands.
Person we’d like to see retire: Bill O’Reilly
Runners-up: Glenn Beck, Michele Bachmann, Matt Barber, Haley Barbour, Maggie Gallagher, Peter LaBarbera. Honorable mentions: Sarah Palin, Victoria Jackson, Newt Gingrich.
Fave fundraiser: Gay BINGO, every month at Gershman Y, 401 S. Broad St.; 215-545-4400
With its changing themes (punk rock, cabaret, Wizard of Oz, etc.) and over-the-top personalities running the show, this definitely isn’t granny’s church bingo. And it’s for a good cause to boot.
Fave LGBT-themed event: Miss’d America; www.atlanticcitynj.com/missd-america.aspx
An annual convergence of drag queens, celebrity judges and Atlantic City. This year, the contestants upped the vocal-talent level a notch. What’s not to love?
Fave sports organization: Greater Philadelphia Flag Football League; www.phillyflagfootball.com
Even without the violence of regular football, this is still more interesting than anything we’re seeing from the NFL — especially since there’s a good chance the NFL is going to sit out the next season thanks to the player lockout. The league, which recently sent a team to the Sunshine Cup in Florida, is still accepting players for the spring season.
Fave arts festival: QFest; www.qfest.com
The festival has the most artistic bang for our bucks. Plus, despite the film-fest drama from a couple years ago, the other local LGBT festivals fight too much.
Fave community-minded business outfit (bar): The Tavern Group: Tavern on Camac, Uncles, Tabu
So, you’re telling us we can go to our favorite watering hole and support various good causes at the same time? Sold! Truth is, we love the fact that the owners of Tavern back nonprofit organizations without broadcasting it or expecting to receive credit for their good deeds. It’s the type of humility that we can admire in others but aren’t sure if we can achieve ourselves. Kudos, and keep up the good work.
Fave entertainer to come out in the last year: Chely Wright
We had to give it up to the country singer because, unlike most of the other entertainment figures to come out in the last year (Ricky Martin, Meredith Baxter, etc.), she’s taking the biggest risk with her career. Please note this doesn’t mean we’re now going to listen to country music.
Fave community-minded business: Media Copy, 1315 Walnut St.; 215-717-5151
It seems like every event program we pick up has Media Copy’s name on it. Which means the print shop is either donating a chunk of change or its services. Either way, the owners deserve some recognition for their good works. Kudos, and keep it up.
FOOD AND DRINK
Fave appetizers: Darling’s Diner; 1033 N. Second St; 267-239-5775
It’s so hard to make it to the main course with Darling’s Diner placing any one of its plentiful and irresistible appetizers in between you and your selected meal. Our faves are the ahi tuna on toasted pita, the Port Richmond pierogies, Harry’s mac and cheese and the calamari fries. And if you’re trying to be good, you can opt for the crudite plate of fresh veggies.
Fave after-hours eating: 13th Street Gourmet Pizza, 209 S. 13th St.; 215-546-4453
A late-night slice of pizza was the cure-all for what went wrong, or the gastronomic high-five for everything that went right, while we were making the rounds in the Gayborhood. Whether they’re soaking up some of the alcohol in your system, solace for going home alone or replacing the calories you spent shaking your ass on the dance floor, nothing beats one of 13th Street’s heavenly gourmet slices. You can stop in or enjoy delivery. We like the quality vegetable, cheese and meat selections, though we’re still screwing up the courage to try the mac and cheese pizza.
Fave new establishment capitalizing on DIY: Tutti Frutti Yogurt; 1315 Walnut St.; 215-546-9600
Do-it-yourself yogurt has suddenly become the “it” thing in Philly, as manifested by the myriad yogurt shops that popped up in the last year. (Witness: three in a two-block radius just in the Gayborhood!) When it comes to the best yogurt taste, flavors, toppings and value, Tuffi Frutti definitely takes the crown and lives up to its name.
Fave thing to do with out-of-town visitors: City Food Tours; www.cityfoodtours.com/philadelphia
We like to keep our company, especially family, tired and distracted with their mouths full. We can barely stand to talk about our own B.S., let alone hear about theirs. City Food Tours serves up a variety of ways to spend a few hours being a Philly foodie, without the pretension or breaking the bank. Perfect for the in-laws — or for making us feel like tourists in our own city.
Fave restaurant décor: Chifa; 707 Chestnut St.; 215-925-5555
While Chifa’s cuisine is great, the restaurant really impresses with its décor, which looks like the kind of place international spies meet up to have clandestine meetings.
Fave dessert selection: Fork, 306 Market St.; 215-623-9425
Most dessert menus have maybe two things that pique our interest. And if we’re really greedy that night, we’ll order both. Fork is a different story: Everything on the dessert menu looks good — and tastes 10 times better.
Fave comfort food: Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat; 800 N. Fourth St.; 215-925-1150
Even when it’s cold outside, the line to get into Honey’s stretches around the block (or to the local tea shop). That’s how good the food is at this small NoLibs outpost — breakfast, lunch and dinner. Whatever you’re in the mood for, you’ll find it: fried green tomatoes, omelets, mahi mahi tacos, Frito chili pie and a list of specials. Try to save room for dessert and don’t forget to bring cash.
Fave first-date restaurant: Q Lounge, 1234 Locust St.; 215-732-1800
Don’t take this to mean that we go on a lot of first dates. But we really like the secluded patio, away from the street noise.It’s romantic, no car fumes and you can hear your date talk.
Fave small plates: Valanni/Social, 1229 Spruce St.; 215-790-9494
No matter how many times we visit, we are always impressed with the quality and excitement Valanni and Social bring to their imaginative dishes. We can’t resist the crispy Brussels sprouts and the spicy pulled-chicken empanadas. The drink menu is quite fetching as well. Don’t forget the half-priced tapas for happy hour.
Shouldn’t this be illegal?: Naked Chocolate, 1317 Walnut St.; 215-735-7310
If Naked Chocolate were any more addictive, you’d see us on A&E’s “Intervention.” We have been told there are other fine chocolatiers in the city, some close by. We have received and enjoyed chocolates from these establishments. But we keep returning to Naked Chocolate. We can’t help ourselves.
Fave Asian food: Le Viet: 1019 S. 11th St.; 215-463-1570
We are suckers for Le Viet’s well-executed and reasonably priced exotic flavors. No, we don’t always know what the dishes are. But we do know that we love the fresh ingredients, the friendly staff and the modern décor. Le Viet has the best summer rolls and vermicelli for our money.
Best-kept secret IN Chinatown: Nan Zhou Hand-Drawn Noodle House, 927 Race St.; 215-923-1550
If it were any more obscure, there would be a hidden doorway, a secret knock and a sword fight with a dragon involved. But just look for the yellow awning. Inside, you’ll find damn fine hand-drawn noodles and soups. It’s cheap and good.
Place to chill: Cake & The Beanstalk, 1112 Locust St.; 215-592-6505
Even if Beanstalk’s newly renovated space (formerly home to Flying Monkey II) wasn’t relaxing and serene, overlooking Sartain Garden, we’d challenge anyone to be rambunctious with the sinfully good cake products taking up residence in your lucky belly.
Fave Latin food: El Vez, 121 S. 13th St.; 215-928-9800
El Vez’s irresistible style and even better location easily edges out the competition for our south-of-the-border fix. Too bad we usually don’t feel like waiting at least one hour for a table.
FAVE MEXICAN WHERE WE CAN GET A TABLE: Mad Mex, 3401 Walnut St.; 215-382-2221
This one is tucked away behind the Dunkin’ Donuts. Even though we had the address, we had to call for directions. But once we found it, we found happiness. We like that it’s funky and unpretentious. It’s got Tex-Mex staples and innovative dishes. Just be wary of the drunk college kids.
Fave Midtown Village EATERY: Sampan; 124 S. 13th St.; 215-732-3501
We have a soft spot for a lot of the restaurants in the Gayborhood, but when we want the total package, we instantly make a beeline for Sampan. We love the menu, the look and the vibe.
Fave South Philly hangout: Hawthornes, 738 S. 11th St.; 215-627-3012
Beer bar? Meh. Beer boutique? Hello! Throw in a rotating and extensive roster of ales and great eats for breakfast through dinner, and you’re routinely kicking us out well past last call.
Craziest menu: Adsum, 700 S. Fifth St.; 267-888-7002
We still haven’t decided whether chef Matt Levin is a mad genius or just plain nuts. For every plate of off-the-wall goodness, like the whisky bacon tater tots and Kool Aid-pickled watermelon, there are dishes we are too afraid to try, like the Kandy Kake sliders. That’s right, brisket patties sandwiched between Tastykake Kandy Kakes. Damn!
Fave sushi: Makiman Sushi: 1326 Spruce St.; 215-546-0180
Makiman won us over with a menu that’s out of the box — which sets it apart from many, if not all, of the sushi institutions in Center City. Memorable offerings include Cap n’ Crunch, Mama and Nature rolls. Bravo!
Fave adventurous adult beverages: XIX, 200 S. Broad St.; 215-790-1919
We could spend the better part of the year drinking our way through XIX’s extensive selection of vodkas alone, but the restaurant’s signature cocktail is also well worth dressing up for.
Fave place to get caffeinated: Philadelphia Java Co., 518 S. Fourth St.; 215-928-1811
Yes, it is damn near across the street from us, but considering there’s a Starbucks on the same block and we have a perfectly good coffeemaker gathering dust in the office, Java Co. does a good job of siphoning coffee money out of our wallets on a daily basis, thanks to the friendly staff and high-octane beverages.
Fave place to knock back shots: Kokopelli, 1904 Chestnut St.; 215-557-7510
It’s Cinco de Mayo all year long when you are doing tequila flights in the city’s newest tequila bar. The selection of available brands of the legendary beverage is staggering, much like our efforts to make it to the street and catch a cab home.
Fave place to sip wine: Biba Wine Bar, 3131 Walnut St.; 215-222-2422
Biba’s cozy confines and cool, relaxed ambience is the perfect place to unwind or have an impromptu nosh with a few friends.
Fave place to drink beer: Tie: Tabu, 200 S. 12th St.; 215-964-9675; and The Westbury 261 S. 13th St.; 215-546-5170
Both drinking establishments have just the right balance of beers to drink and people to get beer goggles for. And with their close proximity, we can stagger back and forth between the two.
Fave place to count calories: Fuel, 1225 Walnut St.; 215-922-3835
We love that Fuel not only keeps all its menu items under 500 calories, but also that it makes them taste as good as, if not better than, the less-healthier items we usually crave elsewhere.
SHOPPING AND SERVICES
Fave pet pampering: Bone Jour, 14 N. Third St.; 215-574-1225
While we’re on the subject, people, please stop dyeing your pets all kinds of wild colors. It’s bad enough that you put clothing on them. But we have to draw the line at coloring Schnookums hot pink. We get it. You have money and he/she is your little prince/princess. But dammit, hot pink dogs with pigtails are some serious Jon-Benet shit. Stop it.
For all your other pet needs — food, toys, harnesses — go to Bone Jour.
Fave inexpensive furniture: Philly AIDS Thrift; 514 Bainbridge St.; 215-922-3186
A Pink Penny perennial. We love this place. We love that we buy things and money goes to a good cause. Win-win!
Place to buy knick-knacks: XIII on 13, 211 S. 13th St.; 215-546-1313; http://xiiion13.com
Sometimes we have a weakness for kitsch. We used to pop into PHAG to fulfill our needs. Now, we can go here to find, say, a Wonder Woman plush.
Fave inexpensive clothing: Buffalo Exchange, 1713 Chestnut St.; 215-557-9850
Of course we lie and tell people we got our duds somewhere else for a lot more than we actually paid — because you can do that with the kick-ass finds at Buffalo Exchange.
Fave place to blow our clothing and furnishings budget: Matthew Izzo, 111 S. 12th St.; 215-829-0606; matthewizzo.com
It may cost a little more. Actually, it costs a lot more. But dammit, we’re worth it. Figuratively, not literally. We’re poor and window-shop a lot. Please, help us.
Fave shoes: Benjamin Lovell Shoes; www.benjaminlovellshoes.com
Anything else and you might as well be walking barefoot. P.S. The South Street location has a sale section. Visit it.
Brick & mortar store we miss: Philadelphia Home and Garden (PHAG); www.thephagshop.com
Considering Fuel is now in PHAG’s old space, we consider it an almost-fair trade. But our hearts still ache a little for the loss of PHAG’s kitschy greatness. Thankfully, we can still visit www.thephagshop.com for our fix.
Fave groceries: Trader Joe’s, 2121 Market St.; www.traderjoes.com
We don’t get paid enough to shop at that other chain for sustenance (unless it’s a special occasion), but we still care about what’s staring back at us when we open the cupboard. We appreciate the lack of pretension, the good prices and the selection at Trader Joe’s.
FAVE SKINCARE: Duross & Langel; 117 S. 13th St.; 215-592-SOAP
We love that Duross & Langel and their handmade soaps are in the heart of the Gayborhood. And that they are super-friendly and knowledgeable. Best of all, we can take care of our skincare needs and get gifts for everyone we know. Thankfully, the new Haddonfield store doesn’t mean the anchor is closing.
THINGS TO DO
Fave workout: 12th Street Gym, 204 S. 12th St.; 215-985-4092
Hands down, 12th Street is the best-equipped gym for the kind of workout (not to mention no-nonsense way of doing business) we can afford. No wonder it’s always packed.
Fave run: Schuylkill River Trail
Water makes a good running buddy. It’s pretty and keeps you distracted. Plus, it never flakes out on you because it’s raining or it’s too cold outside. We’re pissed it’s been so cold out, but we still visit you.
Human eye candy: Kelly Drive
Once you make eye contact, it’s hard not to try to take someone home. Too bad you are probably a sweaty mess out there.
Non-human eye candy: PAWS; www.phillypaws.org
Like with the humans on Kelly Drive, once you make eye contact, it’s hard not to try to take something home. But in the case of PAWS, your new fuzzy companion will be worthy, loyal, appreciative and will have had all of his or her shots.
Fave place to shake our asses: The Scene; www.facebook.com/TLBTBProductions
Normally, we don’t get too excited about hitting the dance floor, but The Scene does a superb job of getting great crowds and good DJs that we can’t resist. We’re butt-dancing in our chairs right now just thinking about it.
Fave cabaret: Peek-a-boo Revue; www.peekaboorevue.com
We respect this cast of naughty misfits for being one of the hardest working cabaret troupes in the region. And they stay busy for a reason: They’re among the best.
Fave drag: Liberty City Kings; www.facebook.com/libertycitykings
Now that we can see drag queens on TV all the time, drag kings are becoming the must-see performers out in the clubs.
Fave non-Atlantic City/New Hope/Poconos/Rehoboth Beach getaway: Asbury Park, N.J.
Wow! Bruce Springsteen was right. Let’s hear it for fifth place! Oh, it’s getting dark. We have to go now before something untoward happens to our car.
Fave reason to go to New Jersey (as opposed to a more-distant destination): Lower gas prices
Try to do something else while you’re over there to offset the fact that you’re paying a toll on the way back. We’re pretty sure that you have to pay a toll on most routes out of the Garden State. We are so ready to buy a hybrid now.
Fave pride celebration outside Philly: Toronto Pride; www.pridetoronto.com
Hundreds of thousands of revelers during the summer descending upon one of the most happening metropolises in North America? Yeah, no contest. Get a passport.
Best reason to have a passport: Perspective
You’ll appreciate (or scrutinize) America a lot more when you visit other countries and interact with other cultures. Oh, and we checked: Cruise ships do not count.
Best reason not to use it: Uganda (i.e. the most homophobic place on earth)
Leave it to religious zealots to make a Third World country even more dangerous than it already was. We’d sooner visit Libya. Well, check back.
Fave live music: World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St.; 215-222-1400
When it comes to eclectic line-ups of musical acts, class and sheer volume of performances, it’s hard to beat the two stages that make up World Cafe Live. The fact that it opened a new location in Delaware speaks volumes about the owners’ dedication to live music.
Fav bartender: Ricky “Mac” McIntire at Woody’s, 202 S. 13th St.; 215-545-1893
Big smile, big heart, big arms and a well-mixed drink. What more do you want?
Fave lube/toy store: Danny’s Adam and Eve, 133 S. 13th St.; 215-925-5041
Have you noticed that Danny’s is right between the bars and the restaurants? So, if you need to stop in and pick something up to go with that someone you picked up, you are set!