Guest blog: RJZ's Philadelphia

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

I take photos and eat great food for G.A. all the time, so here's my recap of a recent solo trip to the City of Brotherly Love. Cheers! --Rebecca Zimmer

Pat's--been there. Geno's--done that. Tony Luke's--ate that one too. How about Paesano's? Less than a year old, just a glance at this six-seater sandwich palace's chalkboard menu enthralls eaters with its marvelous meaty combinations. There's the Tuscan Tony, a hot dog wrapped in sopressata and smothered in bolognese. Or the Gustaio--roasted lamb sausage with sun-dried cherry mostarda, gorgonzola and fennel. Unfortunately a bumpy plane landing and a few too many glasses of wine the night before left my tummy unable to contemplate roasted suckling pig (the Arista--with broccoli rabe, Italian longhots and jus) or any of its carnivorous brethren. Instead I went with the less-challenging but still interesting Panelle--a pita rolled up with a made-to order "chick pea pancake," roasted tomato, fennel, lettuce and pepperoncini, plus a side of amazing cast-iron-skillet roasted potatoes and onions (topped with a slice of sharp provolone, in fine Philly fashion).

Pizza at Dock Street Brewery

Dock Street brews its own beers (including a refreshing and very hoppy "Royal Bohemian Pilsner"), serves excellent salads (I loved the beets, spinach and goat cheese with balsamic) and bakes excellent wood-fired pizzas like the Tony Pepperoni, pictured, (as gooey and greasy as they come), and a slightly more restrained "Sicilian" (which referred to its toppings of black olives, pine nuts, roasted garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and capers rather than its style of crust).

London Grill

Now this is my kind of bar: broken-in and comfortable, with a TV showing the US Open and one devoted to college football. The late-night menu looked good, but I stuck with the deep infused-hooch-heavy cocktail list. First up was the "Bullshot" whose base was vodka infused in-house with horseradish, lomo (cured pork!) and jalapeno, mixed with plain tomato juice which let the already altered vodka's prominent flavors shine through. Even better still was the "Smoke 'Em if You Got 'Em," in which a shot of "fire" mezcal (infused with peppers smuggled in from Mexico, no less!) was added to a Belgian-style Hennepin Ale in a glass treated with a house-made "smoked tomato salt" rim. That one had a great kick, but the fizz and the light fruitiness of the beer made the whole combo a real winner.

DiBruno Brothers

Like a candy store for cheese lovers. This is the Rittenhouse Square location--bigger, shinier, newer than the old Italian Market original, which just means more elbow room and more free samples of cheese.

Eastern State Penitentiary

Columbus artist, OSU professor of art and good friend Mary Jo Bole was granted a residency at Philadelphia's notorious Eastern State Penitentiary (Big Al Capone did some time there). The prison, which was in use from 1829 to 1971, operated on a "separate confinement" principle (emphasizing reform rather than punishment) and is now preserved as a historic landmark where artists are invited to create site-specific works.

Bole's "Purge Incomplete" explores the history of plumbing--and notes that Eastern State had indoor plumbing before the White House. As is the case with all of Bole's multiple meaning-rich work, "Purge Incomplete" delves into the minutia of her subject in a way that is visually engaging and mentally stimulating.

Fabric Workshop and Museum

Hint: Always accept an insidery backstage tour of an art museum or gallery if available. I am lucky enough to be friends-of-friends who work at the edgy Fabric Workshop and Museum, and so was treated to a personal tour of the 8th-floor exhibit of Mocha Dick by artist Tristin Lowe. The life-size, 52' whale -- constructed of felt handmade at the Workshop enveloping an inflatable structure that's forced to defy many laws of physics -- was studiously researched and can't even begin to be captured in photos.