PHILADELPHIA — One of the perks of the news business is previewing events before they happen. Last week, at the invitation of the East Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District, I had the opportunity to stroll Passyunk Avenue in South Philly with other members of the press, hitting up a variety of the Avenue’s restaurants to sample a variety of out-of-this-world foods prepared by some of Philly’s best chefs.
We also looked in shop windows, met some of the top chefs and owners of the stores and restaurants and heard about the renaissance of “The Avenue.”
The press preview night was meant to give a sneak peek at the diverse food choices that will be available during the upcoming Flavors on the Avenue street festival, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, April 28.
I sampled, and sampled, and sampled — hey, someone had to do it — and I came away thinking that if you’re tired of the “same old, same old” and you’re looking for something fun and different to do this weekend, you’ll definitely want to head on down and check out the city’s first big food festival of the spring.
The Flavors on the Avenue festival will feature five blocks of street food, seasonal sips, craft beer, live music, sidewalk sales and free family fun on East Passyunk Avenue from Broad to Dickinson streets.
I don’t know if you’ve been to East Passyunk in South Philly lately, but it’s a happening place. If you’re like me, always reading and hearing about the many hip, trendy and scrumptious restaurants there, the festival is an opportunity to sample signature cuisine from over 24 award-winning restaurants, bars and cafes to decide for yourself where you’d like to return at a future time.
As an added bonus, as you’re leisurely strolling along on Passyunk under the blue April skies, craft beer, signature cocktails and wine will pour from select restaurants outdoors, as well as inside the Founders Brewing Co. Tasting Tent.
East Passyunk Flavors on the Avenue is free to attend and open to all ages. According to festival organizers, food will be specially priced, on average, between $3 and $6 and be pay-as-you-go at individual restaurants.
Chef-driven restaurants have pushed this once-faded community into the national spotlight. If you're unable to attend the festival, you will probably still want to discover Passyunk's unique offerings on your own, perhaps this summer.
Currently, East Passyunk Avenue has 12 of Philadelphia Magazine’s top 50 restaurants. If you want to look up the restaurants and eateries that will participate in the street festival to find out more about them, they include Barcelona Wine Bar, Bing Bing Dim Sum, Brigantessa, Cantina Los Caballitos, Chhaya Café, El Sarape Restaurant, Essen Bakery, Fond, Fuel, ITV Philly, Izumi, Le Virtù, Mamma Maria Ristorante, Manatawny Still Works, Noir Philadelphia, Paradiso Restaurant, Plenty Café, Pistolas Del Sur, P’unk Burger, Redcrest Fried Chicken, Saté Kampar, Stogie Joe’s Tavern, Teas n’ Mi, The Bottle Shop, Tre Scalini and Vanilya Bakery.
Flavors also will have some sweet guest additions from Lokal Artisan Foods with French toast bites and The Chilly Banana Food Truck.
To be honest, I didn’t get a chance to sample all of the foods showcased at the press preview night because I was ready to explode from eating too much after visiting about half a dozen of them. However, the food that I did get to sample was to die for. I went to the preview stroll at dinner time, straight from work, so I was hungry and eager to preview.
I thoroughly enjoyed the penne pomodoro at Tre Scalini, the mushroom burger at P’unk Burger, the pizza at Stogie Joe’s, the meatballs at Mamma Maria’s and the eggplant meatless balls at Brigantessa, and my hands-down favorite was the porchetta and broccoli rabe sandwich at Le Virtu.
Many of the restaurants offered al fresco dining, and many people were out enjoying the spring weather on our preview night.
My preview group took our merry old time, leisurely enjoying margaritas and tacos on the huge patio outside of Cantina Los Caballitos, sitting on tables outside in the evening fresh air. If our tour guide hadn’t moved us along, you might have still found me relaxing at that table, which brings me back to Sunday’s festival …
While attendees sip, savor and shop, they can also enjoy live music all afternoon, along with a moon bounce for the kids and carnival games for adults and kids. Many boutiques and businesses along East Passyunk will also host workshops, activities and family fun inside their spaces.
Additionally, and good news for those who like to shop, over 80 of the region’s top makers and crafters will also line the streets, offering home décor, paintings, candles, jewelry, pottery, furniture, soaps, artisan foods, handmade pet treats, fashion and everything in between.
According to our very knowledgeable, very personable, tour guide, Pam Zenzola, who happens to be the chair of the East Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District’s board, Sunday’s spring festival will showcase not only the best food the city has to offer but also the hidden retail, family and fashion gems along the Avenue. Anchored by the beautifully restored Singing Fountain, a communal gathering place on Tasker Street, East Passyunk truly does have a unique flavor, all of its own. While you sip and savor, look for sidewalk sales, spring fashions, gifts, greenery and more along the Avenue. East Passyunk Avenue is home to 150 independently owned shops and markets.
“Flavors on the Avenue is East Passyunk’s signature food festival,” said the festival’s executive director, Adam Leiter. “Flavors is our invitation for people from across the region to share our love of food and to come together to spend a beautiful spring day in South Philly. As one of our largest events of the year, we want people to leave here, having experienced the diverse culinary talents of our continuously growing food scene, and the wide variety of retail options along our accessible avenue. Flavors on the Avenue is a fun way to showcase everything East Passyunk has to offer. Come for the food and drink, but stay for the day on East Passyunk, with music, activities, arts and shopping!”
Don’t get me wrong — we all love to stroll Delco, enjoying the many, many top-notch restaurants and shops in each local town, right in our own backyard. However, because I live, work and play here in Delco, I am always up for new adventures in the outskirts. After all, why live in the shadow of a city if you’re not going to take advantage of some of the interesting events it has to offer?
The Flavors on the Avenue street festival really sounds like it could be a fun spring day to explore a treasured part of our city’s vibrant and colorful landscape.
See you on the Avenue!
For more information, visit visiteastpassyunk.com, call 215-336-1455 and follow @eastpassyunk on Instagram and Facebook.