[This year, Visit Philly launched an effort to promote 14 different neighborhoods surrounding Center City Philadelphia. With our complementary Philadelphia Neighborhoods post series, Uwishunu is teaming up with Visit Philly to promote all the awesome dining, shopping, arts, nightlife, events and more within Philly’s many exciting neighborhoods.]
A stylish-yet-still-transforming neighborhood, Callowhill has been dubbed the “Loft District” by real estate developers and “The Eraser ’Hood” by locals referencing the once-dark landscape that inspired former resident David Lynch’s cult classic Eraserhead.
Really, the neighborhood’s reality is somewhere in between these two extremes, with both expansive loft spaces occupied by young professionals and gritty rock clubs populated by an edgy urban crowd.
Bisecting the neighborhood are the distinct elevated train tracks of the dormant Reading Railroad, which many residents are hoping to turn into a public park in the vein of New York City’s High Line, promising further development and creative activity in this burgeoning district.
With a number of events drawing visitors into the neighborhood this month — including the 215 Festival and DesignPhiladelphia — the up-and-coming area ought to see some additional folks out to experience Callowhill.
Below, we take look at what’s in the Callowhill neighborhood, from the excellent eating and drinking options to a number of galleries and cultural spaces.
• Bufad: The latest entry into the city’s growing gourmet pizza scene comes from Callowhill power couple Mike and Jeniphur Pasquarello of nearby Café Lift and Prohibition Taproom. The 30-seat Neapolitan-style pizzeria serves up six specialty pies, along with a small assortment of appetizers and salads in a bring-your-own-bottle setting.
• Café Lift: One of the earliest eateries to capitalize on Callowhill’s boom, Café Lift is an urbane brunch and lunch spot in an airy post-industrial space. The Euro-style menu includes panini, frittatas and crespelle, including the irresistible Nutty Monkey with bananas and Nutella.
• The Institute: The main subject matter this institute studies is beer, and a 16-tap draft list offers a wide-ranging selection. The corner bar, featuring two floors of private booths with their own TVs plus sidewalk seating, also serves up quirky meals like burgers with peanut butter, chocolate sauce and candied bourbon bacon; tater tots with chipotle pulled pork; and blueberry-pie French toast.
• Jose’s Tacos: A down-home corner taqueria with a bare-bones ambiance, Jose’s does a brisk lunchtime and pre-concert business. The easy-on-the-wallet fare includes all the traditional favorites such as tostadas, tacos, tamales, carnitas platters and well-stuffed burritos. 469 N. 10th Street, 215-765-2369
• Llama Tooth: The mural-clad outdoor patio and huge menu of bottled microbrews at eclectic bistro Llama Tooth caters to the pre-club crowds, while the unpretentious kitchen (barbecue pork mac and cheese, turkey meatloaf and veggie burgers) has an everyman appeal.
• Prohibition Taproom: The owners of Café Lift branched out into the gastropub scene with their rehabbed taproom, outfitted with retro-funky black leather barstools, filament bulb lighting fixtures and a killer jukebox. The menu at Prohibition includes a solid tap list of domestic microbrews and hundreds of bottles, along with earthy eats like mussels with ale and guanciale, coffee-rubbed brisket sandwiches and homemade kielbasa and pierogies.
• Sazon: Venezuelan cuisine comes alive at this homey bring-your-own-bottle (BYO) spot. With hearty platters of steak, rice and beans; grilled tofu; and arepas stuffed with cheese, dedicated fans include gluten-free eaters and vegetarians. 941 Spring Garden Street, 215-763-2500
Bars & Clubs
• Electric Factory: This four-decades-old live music hall occupies an actual former electric factory. Acts at the standing-room-only venue with a capacity for 2,500-3,000 people span all genres, from indie to pop to classic rock.
• The Trestle Inn: This updated go-go bar under the Reading Railroad tracks has an undeniable hipster appeal. On tap at The Trestle Inn are DJ nights, vintage projections, ’60s cocktails, kitschy eats, whiskeys galore and yes, go-go dancers.
• Underground Arts: Drawing on the nascent arts community taking root in the neighborhood, architect Gary Reuben established this “incubator” for new ideas and concepts. The 12,000-square-foot venue hosts theatrical and dance performances, poetry readings and storytelling in its black-box theater, as well as regular concerts, buffeted by a cash bar.
• Union Transfer: The city’s newest major concert hall distinguishes itself with excellent sound and light quality, along with a stellar selection of microbrews at the three full bars and tasty vegan fare. The lineup of all-ages shows at Union Transfer, booked by R5 Productions, includes indie, hip-hop, punk and dance acts.
Culture & Galleries
• Asian Arts Initiative: A community-based arts center and the cultural heart of Chinatown, the Asian Arts Initiative promotes dialogue about the Asian-American experience. In addition to a full calendar of events, the Asian Arts Initiative’s Social Practice Lab (seven artists in residence) fosters relationships with and creates public art projects for the community.
• Edgar Allan Poe House: The writer of The Raven and The Telltale Heart lived in Philadelphia for six years at this now-historic site. Visitors can tour the house, learn about Poe’s life and work, observe his early editions and letters and even listen to music inspired by the famed 19th-century author.
• Grizzly Grizzly: This small exhibition space is run by practicing artists who curate an engaging series of exhibitions and alternative events. Grizzly Grizzly has also partnered with Tiger Strikes Asteroid to create a community-supported art program.
• Khmer Art Gallery: The first Cambodian art gallery in the city, Khmer displays and sells contemporary art that draws from traditional practices. The collection includes painting, sculpture, textiles, pottery and more.
• Marginal Utility: Showcasing locally and internationally recognized emerging and established artists, Marginal Utility is located in the same building that houses Vox Populi, Tiger Strikes Asteroid and Grizzly Grizzly. A similarly fresh, contemporary aesthetic is at play here, too, with works on canvas, paper and new media.
• PhilaMOCA: The Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art is a gallery space and performance venue located in a former showroom for mausoleums and tombstones. The curators’ sense of humor is apparent in their selection of film, music, performance and visual art events, such as a wrestling-themed art exhibit and a Tim Burton-themed burlesque performance.
• Tiger Strikes Asteroid: In a few short years, this edgy artist-run space with a distinctly urban vibe has made its mark on the local art scene (there’s also a branch in New York). Work on view represents both local and national artists.
• Vox Populi: A collectively run gallery founded in 1988, Vox Populi comprises a rotating membership of artists of multiple genres, representing the challenging and experimental edge of contemporary art. The Callowhill space hosts monthly exhibitions, gallery talks, performances, lectures and other programming.