A combination bowling alley, lounge and restaurant, Philadelphia’s North Bowl bills itself as being “strikingly different.” It’s an apt description given its modern, geometric exterior and space-agey retro interior. This bi-level Northern Liberties hot spot lets bowlers fuel up on appetizers, salads – including the Bowlympian, a mix of romaine, tomatoes, red onions, olives and feta – burgers and sliders, as well as eleven flavors of tater tots, including the Mazel Tots, which are topped with apple sauce and sour cream. Downstairs, the hip patrons pull on their bowling shoes and aim for strikes amid the orange and beige 1950s furniture, while upstairs, a glowing royal-blue bar awaits. There are even four private lanes that can be rented out for private events, as well as a perch from which to watch the action below.
In 2012, a group of well-connected Philly nightlife entrepreneurs transformed an old Spaghetti Warehouse restaurant in the Spring Garden neighborhood into Union Transfer, and it quickly became one of the most popular music venues in the city. Several nights a week, this mid-size, 1,000-capacity club books generally indie and small-label national touring bands: the garagey Heartless Bastards, retro-soul purveyors Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and the synthy electronic-music trio Chvrches are the types of bands that grace Union Transfer’s stage. Shows are general admission with limited seating available in the upstairs balcony. Most concertgoers stand in the main floor area in front of the stage. During all-ages shows, concertgoers need a wristband to access one of the three bars.
The pan-Asian hot spot boasts a miscellany of delectable delights served up family-style within its blue velvet-accented confines. Treat taste buds to a circular meal from Swanky Bubbles’s sushi menu by giving in to the sweet temptation roll, which bats its sushi lashes at your hunger with a medley of lightly torched tuna, asparagus, avocado, and spicy sauces ($12). Palates can search for higher meaning with the enlightenment roll, capable of eliminating an appetite's earthly desires with crabstick, verdant veggies, ginger, and wasabi cream ($9). The swanky sampler fetes choice enthusiasts with an array of sushi selections, including spicy tekka, california, and hamachi rolls that tear down oppressive suburban fences to share neighborly vibes with salmon, striped bass, and tuna sashimi ($28). Staunch believers in the power of flames can dig into the fully cooked dinner menu, packed with classic fare such as tangy pad thai ($16) and the flavorful, miso-glazed Chilean sea bass ($26). Sail to Polynesia with the fiji ribs ($14), or dock at the herbivore islands with the mushroom ravioli ($15).
The chefs at Aki Japanese Fusion Restaurant & Sake Bar experiment with ingredients and recipes from a host of countries, but the flavors of Japan shine through most noticeably. Traditional Japanese entrees such as tempura-fried shrimp and teriyaki-glazed chicken offer heartier options, though the chefs also demonstrate a commitment to simple, elegant bites. The salmon nigiri "particularly rocked," according to Philadelphia Weekly, "melting on the tongue like pats of butter." Amid these familiar sushi-house staples, the menu also features a handful of items that embrace the fusion theme. Globetrotting menu options include broiled black cod marinated in miso paste and topped with mango salsa, and the tuna pancake—a tortilla layered with guacamole, raw tuna, and a spicy caviar and scallion sauce. Just like the menu, the decor has a similar fusion theme. "Although new Aki, with its red velvet booths and sleek black accents, may feel more nightclub than neighborhood sushi spot, it manages to play both roles relatively well," says Philadelphia magazine. Cherry-wood floorboards and a wall of exposed stonework help convey this homey, neighborhood spirit, while sunset-orange walls and soft lantern lighting create a lounge-like ambiance where sipping one of the bar's numerous sakes or specialty cocktails feels perfectly natural.
Just about every night at 8 p.m., two musicians take their seats at opposing baby grand pianos, and the show at Jollys Dueling Piano Bar begins. For the next, say, six or so hours, they'll belt out crowd favorites by Billy Joel and Lady Gaga, pausing to take audience requests or serenade a birthday honoree. But even without the rollicking performance, there would be plenty to draw people to the bar—namely, the food and drinks. A rotating list of craft beers and sweet cocktails complements a menu of spicy bacon burgers, goat cheese flatbreads, and housemade guacamole.
An Exotic Ambiance
Bolts of crimson and green fabric embellished with golden patterns adorn the walls of Fez Moroccan Restaurant. Seated atop cushioned stools, diners surround the room's low-slung circular tables as Moroccan music echoes throughout the space and Friday and Saturday evenings herald the arrival of belly dancers. Collectively, these elements create an unmistakably Morroccan atmosphere.
A Feast for the Senses
As evidenced by the swirling aromas of saffron, honey and almonds, and harissa-cumin sauces, the chefs are equally committed to the task of capturing the essence of Morocco. In addition to the selection of kabobs and tagines, the menu features a variety of vegetarian as well as meat-laden couscous dishes. The savory smells mingle with the slightly sweet smoke of the fruit-flavored shisha smoldering in the hookahs.
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