Late one afternoon last week I stopped by the beautiful new 707 with the intention of grabbing an outside table, nursing a glass or three of rosé and reading the paper as a reward for a hard day of work. And while I accomplished my first two objectives without a problem, I failed miserably at the third.
Halfway through an article on Iran’s nuclear program, I realized that I’d actually read the same sentence half a dozen times. I just couldn’t concentrate; the scene around me, from the fabulous mix of locals and out-of-neighborhood hipsters at the adjacent tables to the procession of desk jockeys just released from their workaday prisons, was way too entertaining to miss. So rather than fight it, I just gave in.
Good thing I did. This time of year there’s no better way to pass the time than at a sidewalk table, damaging your liver and watching the world go by.
707, as more and more people are discovering, is one of the best places to the latter. The wine list is one of the most interesting and affordable in town (I love the Za Za rosé from Spain), and the menu is full of dishes that you’ll want to linger over while watching the world go by.
Then there’s Vintage, which has been open for nearly a year now. It has finally swung open its windows facing 13th Street, lending the ordinarily cozy, supremely urban vibe an airiness that’s tailor-made for this time of year. Combine that with the fact that they serve one of the best burgers in town and you’ve got one of the coolest spots for people-watching east of Broad Street.
Further downtown is the people-watchers’ dream: the stretch of Market Street between Second and Third. From Pizzicato all the way down to Anjou, Marmont and Red Sky, around the corner to Cuba Libre and then across the street to The Continental, there might be no better place in Philadelphia to watch everyone strut their stuff. And while the law of probabilities tells us that not everyone will appeal to your tastes (assuming you’re on the prowl), a few of the specialty cocktails that so many of those Old City hot spots are knows for will surely broaden the possibilities.
And speaking of The Continental, the midtown branch on the other side of Broad at 17th and Chestnut streets, is still the place to go at night if you’re young, own tight clothes and looking for some, uh, companionship. In fact, the only-sometimes-scary elevator ride up to the roof deck puts you in such close proximity with everyone else that you may not have to work terribly hard to meet Mr. or Ms. Right (or Mr. or Ms. Tonight).
Rouge and Brasserie Perrier are always safe bets, though make sure you look nice: The sartorial pressures brought to bear by Rittenhouse’s finest means that you’ll want to spiff up your outfit a little bit before trying to convince the hostesses or other patrons that you’re deserving of a coveted sidewalk spot. It’s worth the effort, though. The scene on both Rittenhouse and Walnut (guys not-too-subtly using their dogs as women bait, women showing off all their wintertime Pilates work and even the squirrels scampering about seem to have a not-so-wholesome goal in mind) is better than anything at the theater right now.
No matter where you go, whether you want to have a few drinks, grab a bite to eat or find a life companion, there’s a place for you on one of this towns’ sidewalks. Just make sure you bring your sunglasses: It’s hard to ogle with impunity if everyone can see you looking.