Pennsport is South Philadelphia’s spot along the Delaware. This stretch of prime waterfront property sits nestled between Washington and Snyder avenues and east of Sixth Street. Compared to other parts of Philadelphia, it can appear a little sleepy, but just because the area is largely residential doesn’t mean it’s not sprinkled with hidden gems. The place is replete with corner dives and non-chain storefronts, restaurants and oddities. It’s a mix of neighborhood standbys and start-ups trying to make it in the city’s southeast corner. Here are five spots that manage to stand out among the endless blocks of Philly’s famous row homes.
Grindcore House, pictured above, is a little coffee shop at Fourth and Greenwich Streets with an amazing trick up its sleeve. It manages to feel like every other coffee shop ever and nothing like any other coffee shop ever at the same time. There are the usual suspects, of course: vegan coffee and treats on the menu and quiet MacBook users and iPod listeners in the chairs. But that’s not B101 on the radio. True to its name, the place rotates through a daily playlist of Grindcore, one of the angriest and most abrasive subgenres of modern metal music. Somehow, it still manages to be a relaxing place to sip a latte on a cold day.
Philadelphia Music Spot and The Vacuum Spot
If the combination of Grindcore and vegan coffeehouse seemed unlikely, then the twin businesses owned by brothers Frank and John Cropley are exceptionally unusual. The Vacuum Spot and Philadelphia Music Spot, located at Front Street and Snyder Avenue bring together the interests of the brothers Cropley in a unique way. Vacuum cleaner bags and musical instruments crowd the walls of the lower level of the shop, where John sells and repairs many vacuum models. The upstairs houses Frank’s collection of guitars and accessories for sale or trade as well as a room for music lessons and a recording studio.
“Here’s your doughnut. Ready?” Server Lorin Mortellite asks from behind the counter. “Open your mouth!” Mortellite crows playfully before delivering the sweet to her customer, whose cheeks are already full of the confection. The two-year-old shop on 2nd and Manton Streets, famous for its hot doughnuts, is the brainchild of Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook, who elected to combine their ideas for a cafe and a fried chicken shop for the perfect storm of deliciousness. It has become so popular that the chicken and doughnuts often sell out before closing time. “How’s your doughnut?” Mortelite asks, to no one in particular. All around, customers chorus, “So good.”
Uncle Oogie’s Pizza
The only sit-down pizza joint in Pennsport is also the neighborhood’s freshest. The South Philly location at Water Street and Snyder Avenue is Uncle Oogie’s third and newest spot, having just opened their doors on January 8th. “We did a soft opening, we didn’t want to turn customers off with a crowded grand opening,” says manager Michael Gallagher of the venture, “so we waited a week and then we hit the neighborhood with some menus, just to let ‘em know we’re here. Business is really starting to pick up now.” That’s for good reason, too. With specialty pizzas like Italian thin crust and upside down pizza sold alongside standbys like plain and pepperoni, Oogie’s finds ways to add to Pennsport’s food options.
Low lights, dark wood and a long, fully stocked bar set the tone for dining and drinking at The Industry. Unique food, like the award-winning lamb neck gravy, and a good selection of craft beers are the draw at this new neighborhood favorite, which opened in June 2012. “I really like this neighborhood. We have regulars that come in and sit down and we know exactly what to put in front of them,” Manager Mike Brennan says. “It took some time for people to warm up to us, but now I think it’s really starting to take hold.”
– Text and images by Nina Lispi and Eddie Durkin