Philadelphia – the land of liberty, lovers, and a hands-on Ben Franklin Museum that will leave you tapping screens like a two-year old with a head cold. Journeying to Old City Philly this holiday, I couldn’t help but notice it was beginning to look like way more than cheese steak.  With restaurant upon restaurant lining the cobblestone streets, it’s hard to know where to spend a spirited Christmas meal – but I think we made some excellent choices on our patriotic path of digestible freedom.

The Plough And the Stars
123 Chestnut Street, Entrance on 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA
http://www.ploughstars.com

Christmas Day is a relative ghost town in downtown Philly, except for a few restaurants that remain open. I’m so used to NYC with tourists lining the streets on holidays clutching their bags of Magnolia cupcakes and Nintendo Store swag that it never dawns on me it’s possible for businesses in OTHER cities to be closed. Given our limited selection we still managed to stumble on a fantastic place for lunch called The Plough and the Stars, an Irish pub that boasts the best soda bread for miles.  Every customer gets their own piece of brown bread and soda bread, very well made palate cleansers that make you full once the actual meal arrives… happily full, of course!

To start, we ordered their aptly named “Christmas Salad,”  a spirited array of beets, goat cheese, pine nuts, and arugula.  The appetizer pasta I ordered went full bore with the ravioli.  A meal in itself, the pasta were well cooked and seasoned.

I’m a sucker for holiday prime rib (medium rare!) and when I noticed it written on their special Christmas menu, I had eyes for no other entrée. It is said the Irish know their meat and potatoes and this upscale pub proves that tenfold. The Plough and the Stars is a land of well made breads, meats, and dranks – I highly recommend a visit. Within walking distance of many of Old City’s  landmark attractions, including Christ’s Church and Independence Hall, it’s a wonderful choice for both lunch and dinner, or just a wee pint between touristing.

After a viewing of the film Jackie (because what says Christmas more than Natalie Portman in a biopic about the day of JFK’s assassination?) we ventured to Red Owl Tavern. Our stomachs only craved a piece of pie but when our eyes noticed they had a two-day holiday pop up paying homage to A Christmas Story, with the Chinese menu as seen in the film, how could we say no?  All of my nostalgic pleasure centers were at attention when we stared at each other, understanding THIS MOMENT was what doggy bags were created for.

Red Owl Tavern
433 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA  19106
http://www.redowltavern.com

We opted for the duck confit steam buns and short rib ramen. I nervously eyed the entire duck that was served to my dining neighbor and sighed that I thankfully did not order that. They kept up the beautiful charade by serving my vanilla ice cream (courtesy of Franklin Fountain Ice Cream & Sorbets) in a Chinese take-out box… color me enchanted. I swoon over generalized nerdery!

The Chinese food was delightfully tasty, and with a waiter rocking a David The Gnome ugly Christmas Sweater the spirit-o-meter was high. Suffice to say……we holiday’ed like we hath never before. What was left after all this debauchery and touristing? Making a pop art portrait of the two of us, obviously!

Never trust me with phone apps-I’m as smitten as a six-year-old with an Etch-a-Sketch. If you happen to roll through Old City Philadelphia, stop by either of these gems on a holiday or just a Wednesday. You will not be disappointed.

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