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.
A mechanical bull bucks in Deuces Wild Buckin' Bull Saloon, Valley Forge Casino Resort's onsite rock-‘n’-roll and country bar. Revelers clad in cowboy boots strut through line dances with drinks in hand beneath the dance floor's green and blue lights. But unlike the Wild West, there's no blazing desert outside. Instead, there are 3,600 lush acres of national-park land, whose hiking trails hibernate beneath glinting winter snow. Inside the hotel, 600 slot machines and 50 tables of blackjack, craps, and roulette fill the casino. Seven onsite restaurants cater to different cravings: there's casual sushi at Asianoodle, and Pacific Prime's upscale atmosphere complements dishes such as maine lobster and loch duart scottish salmon.
TJ's gourmet a la carte menu features fresh-made fare, with everything prudently prepared to order. Wake up to a savory serving of crab hollandaise over poached eggs, a homemade biscuit, and steamed asparagus ($9.50) or keep your strength up for a long day of clown wrestling with a protein-packed breakfast sandwich ($7.25), which you can top with apple-wood-smoked bacon or maple sausage, scrambled eggs, and cheddar and jack cheeses—all encased in either a pub roll or a garlic-herb wrap. Patrons with sweetie-pie palates will be more pleased with a decadent plate of cinnamon-bun french toast topped with maple butter and pecan syrup ($8.25) or the banana-walnut pancakes ($8.25).
The penchant for modernity at o-toro recently caught the eye and taste buds of County Lines magazine’s staff, which named it one of Philly’s Best New Ventures of 2013. The restaurant’s track lighting illuminates a contemporary scene marked by wooden fixtures, vibrant splotches of red and orange, and plates of Japanese cuisine with Mexican, Korean, and American influences. Sushi, sashimi, and specialty rolls—such as the signature o-toro roll with fatty tuna tartar, spicy mayo, and jalapeño—are served alongside tapas-style plates of filet mignon dumplings, duck tacos, and skewers of Korean-style fried chicken. At the polished wooden bar, bartenders pour wine, sake, and craft beer.
Ever since its first location opened in 1994, very rarely is there a quiet moment at J.D. McGillicuddy's. Crowds watching the Phillies cheer and groan in unison, and members of bachelorette parties dance around groups of old friends meeting for a drink. The only time the noise dips is when the staff brings out plates of the house's flavorful pub food. Wings, burgers, pizzas, and nachos fill the menu, with East Coast twists such as Old Bay seasoning and jumbo lump crabmeat. Each spacious location has also been known to host special events, from DJ-spun theme nights and pub crawls to Easter breakfasts.
Having blossomed into a professional theater company, Theatre Horizon provides opportunities to aspiring directors, actors, producers, and designers during a schedule of year-round productions, including seasonal shows that celebrate the spirit of the holidays. This December, the company provides an escape from blustery winds and pickpocketing snowmen with Voices of Christmas, which spotlights the works of song-crafting legends such as John Lennon, Patty Griffin, Ingrid Michaelson, and others. During each performance, some of Philadelphia's top talents assemble inside the intimate theater to tickle ears with musical nostalgia more comforting than a hug from a giant squid. As an added bonus, the December 11 show includes a post-performance Q & A session, affording guests the chance to stay and chat with the cast and creative team.