Food and drink have been a priority for epicureans since ancient times. Part art, part science and part magic, nothing is better than exquisitely prepared food and nothing is worse than food without thought. Philadelphia may be known as the City of Brotherly Love, but it could also be called the City of Foodie Bar Love. From small mom-and-pop taverns to large, corporate-owned establishments, Philadelphia is no slacker when it comes to foodie bar options.
Marrakesh Restaurant
517 S. Leithgow St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 925-5929

With a fully stocked bar, Marrakesh Restaurant combines the taste of Middle Eastern food and culture. Its unique atmosphere and a dedication to traditional dishes are two out of the many reasons this establishment is a hidden treasure — along with the in-house belly-dancing! For an appetizer, try the b’stella a chicken pie layered with assorted nuts, eggs, onions, parsley and almonds and topped with confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon. Reservations are suggested, but not required.

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Varga Bar
941 Spruce St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 627-5200

Think World War II meets contemporary when checking out the décor at Varga Bar. Outside, the establishment has a modern kitschy feel, while inside, customers are welcomed by a bevvy of pin-up beauties on the ceiling and black and white checkered floors. The bar features a unique selection of beer, both domestic and imported and in bottles, cans and on tap. Try a signature cocktail, perhaps the Miss January, while perusing the brunch menu of appetizers, salads and plated selections that include veggie, turkey and kobe burgers, a truffled wild mushroom and fontina omelet, a roast pork sandwich and more. Varga Bar’s dinner menu offers dishes that qualify as works of art, such bourbon-smoked baby back ribs and bucatini and meatballs.

Mixto Restaurant
1141 Pine St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 592-0363

Housed in a two-story exposed brick and wood building along antique row, Mixto Restaurant has been around for eight years. During the spring, summer and fall (weather permitting), Mixto offers an outdoor South Beach-like dining experience. The restaurant specializes in a mix of Latin American, Cuban and Caribbean cuisine. Mixto has a selection of wines, beers and cocktails; menu items including empanadas, chicharrones de cerdo and calamares fritos for apertivios; soups such as sopa de frijoles negros or sopa de camarones; salads/ensaladas; and entree choices ranging from Mediterranean sea bass to whiskey rib-eye steak.

For Pete’s Sake Pub
900 S. Front St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 462-2230

With its location in a red brick building and its distinctly neighborhood bar feel, For Pete’s Sake Pub is a place where white collar meets blue collar. With a tap selection of Irish, American and Belgian brews, the tavern features old standards along with lesser-known beers and ales. Its selection of Irish whiskey is respectable. Named one of Philadelphia’s Top 50 Bars by Foobooz in 2009, the tavern sports lunch, brunch and dinner menus. Its cream of potato soup with scallions and cheddar is a house favorite. Combine soup with Pete’s house salad of mixed greens, pecans and apples topped with a white balsamic dressing or a seasonal salad of spinach, toasted prosciutto and hard-boiled eggs with a bacon balsamic vinaigrette for a healthy lunch. Sandwiches, burgers, wraps, Pete’s wings, pierogies and other small lunch plates are available. Try the Prince Edward Island mussels in a Vietnamese pho broth flavored with spices and herbs from the dinner appetizer menu. For a main course, order crab macaroni and cheese, salmon, pasta or an eight-ounce strip steak cooked to taste.

The Ugly American
1100 S. Front St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 336-1100

From the outside, The Ugly American restaurant on South Front Street isn’t much to look at, but inside, slanted beam ceilings, natural wood floors and a row of tables located along an outside wall of arched, floor-to-ceiling windows make this establishment anything but an ugly duckling. Noted for its “new American cuisine,” the menu features a fusion of Californian, French nouvelle, Mediterranean, Asian, Latin American and other dishes. Dinner specials change daily. For starters, try the black bean chili with cheddar cheese, white or red mussels, crispy chicken wings or hummus served with pita bread, roasted red peppers, olives and feta cheese. Salads, soups and sandwiches — along with side dishes — are well represented on the menu. For a special entree experience, sample the Ugly American “Garbage Plate,” featuring two beef patties, raw onions, macaroni salad, fries and a mustard pan sauce.

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Jeffrey B. Roth, has won numerous state and national news and feature-writing awards during his career. A well-known crime writer, investigative reporter and a feature writer, Roth writes for a number of magazines and newspapers. Listed in the Locus Index of SciFi and Fantasy authors, Roth is the author of a number of published short stories and poetry. His work can be found on