Piazza Pod Park brings variety to No. Libs

With summer winding down, opportunities for being outdoors are waning. If you want to spend time in the sun (and shade), there’s no better place to do it than recently opened Piazza Pod Park, 1075 Germantown Ave., which brings open-air culinary excitement to Northern Liberties.

Part park, part food court, part civic-gathering area, the expansive outdoor space is home to food trucks, art installations, mobile bars and retail stores that appeal to varied and adventurous tastes. While it’s impossible to visit all of the great places to grab a bite or a drink in once visit, do yourself a favor and try anyway.

Take in the environment while there — a large robot sculpture towering over the affair and a DJ that provides a constant soundtrack of feel-good music.

Did we mention that parking is free and plentiful and the restroom trailers onsite are nicer and cleaner than any public bathroom should be?

If it all seems like too much for you, we’re here to ease your worries and give you a few places to start.

University City’s Dim Sum House is at the Piazza with Lil’ Sum Sum, the restaurant’s first major expansion. Serving up favorites from its dim sum menu, you will find amazing pork soup dumplings ($6), fried chicken mushroom dumplings ($5) and shrimp siu mai ($6). 

Tiki Tako is in center of the action with Asian-inspired tacos and colorful island cocktails to wash them down.  Tako’s East-meets-West gameplan works well as the Bang Bang shrimp tacos ($12) are irresistibly crunchy, sweet and spicy, while the crispy pork Chinatown tacos ($10) and tender, tangy and juicy.

Another crave-worthy standout is Empanada Box, infusing fried Latin-style pastries ($5 each, 3 for $12) with influences from different cultures. The most alluring and effective offerings come in different shades of Americanized pig-out fare, including the New Yorker, which is stuffed with pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing and the Frontera mac and cheese, filled with chorizo, cheddar, jack cheese and pickled jalapeno. 

At the Piazza, you’ll have a hard time skipping dessert with so much to tempt your sweet tooth. While other bakeries at the park wind down or close in the afternoon, French Toast Bites by Lokal Artisan Foods is waving its breakfast-food flag all day and into the evening. Even on the hottest of days, owner Charisse R. McGill is one of the happiest and energetic vendors you will meet at the Pod. French toast bites ($7) are fried golden brown, dusted with McGill’s famous sugar and cinnamon blend (available for purchase separately) and offered with optional dipping sauces — maple, caramel or chocolate. You can add a nice skewer of savory bacon to the indulgence for $3, and it will be worth every penny.   

Mama Maria’s Homemade Italian Ice offers a frozen sweet-treat experience with unique flavors mixed with real fruit chunks. While chunk-less flavors are available, why not live it up? We recommend trying the amazing BeBananaz Water Ice. Offered only at Pod Park, this banana and caramel flavored concoction with chocolate chips inside and topped with granola is luxurious. Another water ice flavor combo worth trying is the Beach Please, blending watermelon, coconut and strawberry to perfection.

This sounds like a lot of food, and it is, so make sure to get to the Pod Park soon because the days are only getting shorter.