South Street is a treasure trove of eclectic stores, restaurants, and bars, each different from the next. If the sheer number of locations to check out seems intimidating, have no fear: on Saturday, May 2nd, the South Street Headhouse District is holding its annual Spring Festival (11:00 AM to 8:00 PM), during which a variety of South Street businesses will be showcasing their food, drinks, and other products. We were lucky enough to score an invite to a preview tour of some of the bars and restaurants that will be featured at this event.
The evening started out at Brauhaus Schmitz, a German restaurant with an extensive beer selection and waitresses dressed in (somewhat costume-y) dirndls. We were escorted to a large private dining room in the back, where we were greeted with a live German band and servings of Hofbräu Maibock, a medium-bodied, malty, traditional Maifest beer. We only got to spend a few minutes enjoying sausage and pork sandwiches with sauerkraut (both of which were delightfully savory) while the tour guide quickly rounded up our tour group for a blitz 11-stop culinary tour of South Street.
The first stop was The Sweet Life Bakeshop, a pastel-colored, icing-scented, dessert shop that had only recently moved to its South Street location 6 weeks ago. We were treated to a sample of the shop’s most popular dessert, an amazing strawberry banana pudding with a light, creamy texture punctuated by softened Nilla wafers. While I’m not usually a fan of banana-flavored desserts, the banana pudding (which comes in several flavors and sells for $4.50) was definitely a winner!
From there, we were escorted to Tattooed Mom, an eclectic dive bar with a lime-green interior, decorated with a melange of clocks and pop-culture figurines, including Jake and Finn from Adventure Time and a large model airplane hanging from the ceiling. Despite the playpen atmosphere of the bar (bolstered by the presence of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens and the ART/GAGE initiative, who offered crafts such as DIY magnets and spaghetti art), the bar held its own with drinks; the bartender served up a tropical delight in the “Staycation” cocktail.
The tropical vibe continued (somewhat) at the next stop, Fat Tuesday. The large bar, locked in a perpetual state of Mardi Gras (complete with beads scattered on the various tables), contrasted greatly with Tattooed Mom’s intimate atmosphere. Guests were served small servings of the bar’s characteristic boozy daiquiris, which came in a variety of flavors from mango to the ever-popular (and incredibly alcoholic) 190 Octane.
We then enjoyed fried plantains, chips, and chicken tacos, washed down with hibiscus tea, at Tuk Tuk Real, a Mexican restaurant with Thai influences. Though Philly has no shortage of Mexican restaurants, Tuk Tuk’s tacos and handmade chips were a real treat, and the place definitely warrants further visits in the future (its BYO status also seals its fate as a future student favorite).
After a brief stop at Primo Hoagies, we headed to Redwood, a bistro and bar. Redwood’s lusciously tender, cheesy sliders and crispy jalapeno fries were only matched by the strength of their margaritas, which were served in martini glasses and had a sour bite. Juicy sliders made another appearance at Bridget Foy’s, accompanied by red wine sangria. And while we didn’t get a sample, we did get a look at Bridget Foy’s peanut butter ice cream sundae with cracker jack, which will be served at the South Street Spring Festival.
Continuing with the bar-hopping theme of the night, we briefly stopped at Paddywacks and then headed to Cavanaugh’s Headhouse. We were treated to a sample of the bar’s surprisingly complex house sangria, which featured mulled wine, absinthe (whose licorice fragrance added a surprisingly nice touch), and peach schnapps, as well as some creamy and comforting breadcrumb-topped mac and cheese.
The next drink of the night was served by Bistro Romano at its beautiful, sculptural bar. The barbie-pink watermelon and vodka cocktail, served in an old-fashioned champagne glass with a watermelon ball, was beautifully fruity and candy-like, without being overbearingly sweet.
The final stop of the tour was The Twisted Tail, where we were treated to an evening cookout. Highlights were the smoky and savory garlic-smoked sausage, as well as the sweet grilled corn with bourbon butter.
We were incredibly impressed by the sheer variety of food and drink offered to us on the tour, merely a small fraction of the offerings that will be available during the Spring Festival, not to mention the local musicians and artists who will also be present! Be sure to visit the Spring Festival on May 2nd (Facebook event here) and get a chance to explore the culinary and artistic offerings that South Street has to offer.