The top brass twisters at Auntie Anne's, one of the world's largest hand-rolled, soft-pretzel franchises, create enough twirly treats every year to wrap the earth in deliciously salted dough three times over. Pretzel professionals prepare a wide array of sweet and salty snacks, spiraling them into ornate knots with the delicacy of a grandmotherly sailor and baking them to golden brown in full view of customers. A plain pretzel offers a satisfyingly simple snack, while sacchariferous ingredients such as cinnamon sugar and toasted-almond toffee make tongues sweat with anticipation. Mouths will mambo to the Mediterranean flavors of the garlic pretzel, a perfect treat to submerge into a dunk tank of marinara or one of the other available dipping sauces. Or, sample slender tubewiches swathed in the warm embrace of pretzel dough with signature pretzel dogs. Pair braided bites with a chalice of lemonade or a frozen ICEE drink, both of which pack a flavorful punch that’s more refreshing than a brisk morning run that successfully evades a pursuing snow leopard.
From its Victorian-era brick façade to its tiniest teacup, The Gilbertsville Tea Room is unapologetically pink. It’s a suitable hue for the oft-feminized tradition of teatime. In addition to the color scheme, the tearoom’s three parlors treat dining companions to dainty flourishes such as flowered wallpaper, tiny teacups hanging from hooks and chandeliers, and draping ivy. Teatime is a similarly dainty affair: chefs assemble finger sandwiches garnished with colored cream-cheese flowers and serve flaky scones with Devonshire cream. Thirty loose-leaf teas fill the china, giving upturned pinkies plenty of chances to look refined and signal to tablemates where you'll throw the cup when you're done.
Born and raised in northern Greece, Piazza Presto founder Chronis Sapalidis carries on a longstanding family tradition of restaurateuring in his open-kitchen bistro. Pizza, pasta, and sandwiches populate the lunch and dinner menus—and on Chronis’ specialties menu he betrays his Mediterranean origins and Philadelphian affinities. During the day the restaurant serves as a café and bakery, and patio welcome guests with open awnings whenever weather allows and no pteranodons darken the sky. A BYOB establishment, Piazza Presto secrets a wine cellar in a rich wooden cabinet, and will keep diners’ wines chilled for their next visit if requested.
Owner and culinary mastermind of French Quarter Bistro, Mark Van Horn’s prerequisites for a good meal are simple: authenticity, home cooking, and a liberal dash of soul. This dedication to comfort cooking has earned the French Quarter Bistro a host of dedicated regulars as well as the Philly Hot List's award for Best Soul Food in 2009, 2010, and 2011. In the bustling kitchen, chefs whip up creole and Cajun eats using unique ingredients such as house roasted peppers, alligator sausage, and fried pickles. Along with their flavorful dishes, French Quarter Bistro also serves up a variety of entertainment throughout the week, including open mic nights with local singers and poets tired of the wrestling portion of poetry slams.
Thai Spice's plenteous noodle and curry dishes infuse rich flavors from traditional Thai recipes. Dress up perpetually bald tongues with the spicy basil noodle, a wide-noodle dish laced with string beans, mushrooms, and chili peppers ($10.95–$13.95). Alternatively, bored forks can search for the seafood-combo treasure at the bottom of the Emerald Sea platter ($17.95), or sample the bamboo shoots swimming in coconut, carrots, sweet peppers, and broccoli in the kang ped curry ($12.95–$14.95).