ROBERT ELIAS DEATON
It’s taken a while, but Philadelphia, the largest city in Pennsylvania, is finally one of the gay friendliest spots in the nation. For over two decades, the city that hugs the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers has been struggling with an identity problem and population loss, which was finally halted with a large influx of gays. In a pattern we’ve seen worked successfully in Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors locally, the homosexual population has moved in, gentrified the area, and boosted real estate prices and the quality of life in the process. Philadelphia, in turn, has stretched out its historical arms and embraced the LGBT movement.
No matter what kind of amusement you ultimately want, there is a little of it somewhere in Philly. Philadelphia has more outdoor sculptures than any city in America, and the largest landscaped urban park in the world—Fairmount Park—that covers 9,200 acres, with its Georgian country mansions and 100 miles of trails, many unchanged since Revolutionary times. It also has the fantastic Philadelphia Museum of Art (26th St. and the Parkway), with its Van Gogh Vase with Twelve Sunflowers, and, yes, the statue of Rocky Balboa (from “Rocky” film fame).
The gay club scene in Philadelphia is nearly as historic as the city itself. Back in the 20s, there was an active established gay population of writers, artists, and performers who quietly went about seducing the young sailors who magically found their way to 243 S Camac St. All these years later, it’s still a gay club, now going under name Tavern on Camac. In addition to being the oldest continuously operating gay bar in town, it has the distinction of having the priciest drinks—$4.50 for a bottle of domestic beer—the best piano bar around PA, and the tiniest dance floor (upstairs) we’ve ever seen.
Leather studs call The Bike Stop (206 S Quince St.) home. Mondays the costume of choice is jocks straps; Wednesdays it’s underwear. Everyday it’s hot. For those more interested in cute young things, hot music and dancing, go nowhere else but Voyeur (1221 Saint James St. between 13th & 12th). There’s a bit of the haught with crystal chandeliers and red velvet in this three story dance palace that stays open to 3 a.m. There is a hefty cover charge that’s worth every penny if house music is your thing late at night.
Food in Philly offers far more than cheesesteaks and soft pretzels. Whether midday or late night, give Knock (225 S 12th St.) a try. This is an LGBT hangout, but even if it weren’t, we’d recommend it for the décor (mahogany paneling and grand piano lend a solid sophistication) and food (creative New American cuisine). Their Seared Salmon Oscar ($25) is worth a visit alone. People watch as you eat fresh salmon fillet, seared and oven roasted, topped with seasoned crab meat and cilantro-lime butter.
You may have to search for the Cucina Zapata roach coach, which travels the streets around 31st and Ludlow by the University of Pennsylvania. The world’s only Captain Crunch Talapia Taco is worthy of a special trip. $8 for three tacos and two bottles of water seems like a heavenly intervention, and it likely is.
Oh, and make an effort to cruise past Lord & Taylor department store at noon, to stand in front of the mighty eagle sculpture and hear a live performance of the one-time Wanamaker Department store pipe organ: It will take you back to a gentle time, of hats and gloves and doors opened with respect, not slammed in one’s face. A special town indeed!
READ PART I HERE: Philadelphia – Brotherly Love, Steak Sandwiches, and Soft Pretzels
Robert Elias Deaton is a world-traveling epicure who enjoys the finer things in life.