Sunday, July 29, 2007

When Sunday Styles pieces write themselves, for realsies

It's no secret we love ourselves some Sunday Times. It’s simply a great publication and the Times’ website actually does the print edition justice. (Although we’ll continue to take our Sunday Times the traditional way for now — outside at Café Lutecia with an Alesia sandwich on the side.)

That said, we get especially excited when we read something positive about Philadelphia in the Sunday Times, Jessica Pressler’s infamous Sixth Borough piece notwithstanding.

And, as stated here previously, we were fans of the Boîte columns J-Press used to do.

As for now, we think it’s high time the Boîte space spotlighted another Philadelphia establishment.

Said column, which usually appears in the Sunday Styles section every few weeks, typically offers a quick profile of a hip drinking spot in New York or LA, but occasionally in another city like Miami, London or DC.

Philadelphia has appeared in Boîtes past, however, it has been more than two years since the last. And frankly, that’s entirely too long.

Sure, there’s the potential for the Boîte pieces to be a little stuffy and/or gratuitous. But that was what was so nice about having Pressler pen the occasional Boîte column about a Philadelphia nightspot — the places were cooler and more authentic sounding, if you will, than the places that usually appeared in the Boîte column, thus adding more credibility to Philadelphia’s ever-increasing image as a cool city without the pretensions of New York or the vapidity of LA.

So what relatively new Philly locale is Boîte-worthy?

First, a few qualifiers: ideally the place would double as a dining destination and drinking destination, with the potential for dancing/lounging to ensue. More importantly, it should be cool/distinctly Philadelphia — not some place trying to pretend it’s somewhere else.

Ok, let’s narrow the field. Rae? Too corporate. Snackbar? Too smug. (And we mean WAY too smug. Please. Which of his customers will Makar out next?) 707? Too Philly Style. James? Too hidden. Osteria? Too gray. Tinto? Too tiny (at least, for now).

Johnny Brenda’s, on the other hand, is pretty much perfect. Awesome bar downstairs. Amazing live music venue upstairs. Done. Write it.

Ditto for Cantina Los Caballitos, a bar that has basically single-handedly put East Passyunk Ave on the noteworthy/desirable neighborhood map. The place is a knockout and straight up effuses awesome.

Um, Silk City. Duh. What’s old is new again. And now better than ever. Not to mention the forthcoming beer garden. What.

And Bar Ferdinand, a spot that is admittedly relatively sophisticated but still manages to stay grounded (cheap drinks, occasional DJ nights, diverse crowd), could work well in Boîte as well. Moreover, listen to this.
Everything tastes great when there's a sidewalk involved […] Bar Ferdinand owner Owen Kamihira remembers watching [paella] being cooked alfresco when he was a child in Spain. So Saturday nights, weather permitting, he has a sous chef set up a black, two-foot paella pan, heated by a propane flame, outside the restaurant in Northern Liberties.
Anecdotes like that are great for the scene-setting, atmospheric descriptions of
Boîte pieces. The Times wants its readers to quickly identify with the purported experience.

So run with it. For example, one might expound:

… Outside, Liberties Walk feels more like a classic, café-filled European street than a modern urban development, as diners and drinkers spill onto the sidewalks, alternately filling tables or mingling between several. Meanwhile the disarmingly gorgeous paella chef seduces onlookers with tastes of snail and chorizo right from the pan, as she divulges the virtues of Bomba rice over Valencia rice and the importance of an excellent sofrito. Inevitably, as the night progresses, ever more unsuspecting patrons succumb to her advances and are left having to find, amidst the crowd, a seat at which they can enjoy the obscenely delicious plate of paella they just — somewhat hypnotically — purchased.

Bob Loblaw.

If J-Press is over writing for the Times, then somebody else will have to step up.

(Honorable mentions for
Boîte candidates go to Shouk and North Bowl. Failed to qualify because they are too one-dimensional, albeit awesome: Pope, the new Tria, National Mechanics, etc.)

Saturday Night Fiebre [Philadelphia Inquirer]
A Discerning New Regime [New York Times]
Glitter and Glass [New York Times]
Sunday Styles [New York Times]

[ Photo slideshow via Phila Foodie ]

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Philly Car Share Makeover Results in Sexiest Surface Parking Lot Ever

Philly Car ShareA few months ago, Philly Car Share took over the parking lot at 21st and Chestnut, reserving all 13 spaces exclusively for its fleet.

The results are undeniably sexy.

Controlling the entire lot, Philly Car Share decided to up the ante and call a little more antention to their operation. They painted the surface of the lot bright green and, in so doing, Philly Car Share took a terrible looking surface parking lot and turned it into something that makes the city look smart, progressive, environmentally conscious and sustainable.

Honestly, we’ll probably never be ok with surface parking lots sitting on valuable real estate in Center City but Philly Car Share’s lot (note: they don't own it
— they're just renting the spaces) at 21st and Chestnut is about as close to acceptable as you can get. (Incidentally, we’re also still waiting for Philly Car Share to get on building one of these awesome pez-dispenser like parking structures.)

Meanwhile, in a story that doesn’t get near the amount of attention, recognition and praise it deserves, Philly Car Share continues to add more and more cars to its fleet and more and more pod locations to city neighborhoods every week, making car-sharing extremely accessible for pretty much everyone in Philadelphia. And membership has grown exponentially.
[In 2005-2006, PhillyCarShare] innovated to become either first in the U.S. or first in the world to offer totally free memberships (September 2006), eligibility to all 18-year-olds (July 2006), child seats for urban families (February 2006), and a debit billing system that enabled even the lowest-income households to join (September 2005). [PhillyCarShare] also deployed the densest car-sharing network in North America (2006), with car-sharing pods on literally every block or two of Center City – closer to car owners than they could park their own vehicles on-street. Finally, PhillyCarShare also deployed the lowest-emission fleet of any large car-sharing system in North America, with 60% of its vehicles comprising hybrids.

The innovations paid off. In 2006, Philadelphia became the fastest-growing car-sharing city on the planet.
And the positive impact Philly Car Share has had on a) the environment of, b) the economy of, c) the personal utility of the residents of and d) the image of... the city of Philadelphia is, in a word, amazing. And potentially infinite.

Philly Car Share — you can be our wingman any time.

Philly Car Share [Official Site]
PhillyCarShare: An Innovative Environmental Movement (People’s Choice Winner) - Philadelphia Sustainability Awards [Official Site]