We love getaways. Whether it’s in the form of a fantastic movie or a week-long retreat, we both believe that variety is the spice of life. So whenever we take the long road back home, we always have the same seed of thought: What’s our next adventure? Last year, readers may remember that Spencer extended our mystical Canadia Adventure with two days in Ogunquit, ME. What can we say? Sometimes it’s hard venturing off of the yellow brick road and making our way back home.
Traveling is always on our minds, so we do it frequently. We also make a game of not paying for things that don’t interest us. We love the comfort of a hotel room with glorious linens and 8.3 inches of walking space around the bed more than one with a dining table, full bar or jacuzzi! As frequent travel buddy Sister Paige says, “If it’s got wifi and parking, we’re there!” That said, this trip had a short but mandatory agenda: Museums, City and History. Ultimately, it was the prices and pictures that brought us to find this awesome 44-room hotel in the heart of Philadelphia’s Gayborhood. You heard us, right in the center of Gayville – and we didn’t even plan it!
As a couple, we like to take our time, so we drove the 5 or 6 hours, with pit stops along the way. First stop, sandwiches and snacks at Gene’s Variety in Milford, MA. (They’ll get a full detailed description later, friends.) The long drive was shortened by talk of other grand adventures and AJ’s driving took a few months off of Spencer’s life in the George Washington Bridge Area.
Welcome to the Gayborhood!
When we arrived, there were a few things that really tickled us. We saw street signs adorned with the rainbow colors of equality, architecture that transported us to days long past and to AJ’s relief, there was a Starbucks on the corner. After we put our things in the room, we were off – on foot – to explore. Rhonda, our adorable desk agent, welcomed us like passing by was a daily routine.
First stop was the Tavern on Camac after about an hour of seeing and being seen. The Tavern, like many establishments in the area is a multi-level entertainment complex. The main floor is a piano lounge that had a max-capacity crowd wailing with the pianist. You’d swear they were waiting for Liza and Billy Stritch. Downstairs is a beautiful restaurant, where we met Angela, who may be aptly described as the charming soul-twin of Elaine Benes. She became a huge factor in our complete enjoyment of our stay, from her sunny disposition to her wonderful night-life guidance. Our food selections for the evening? A delicious dinner of Duck Pot Pie (Special) and Grilled Free Bird Chicken Breast Sandwich ($12 Fontal cheese, cremini mushrooms, pickled onions, crispy brussel sprouts, truffle aioli.) with the Grilled Asparagus appetizer ($6 Served with Lamb Chopper cheese, poached egg, black pepper, served with grilled bread). Each bite was notable. The Duck Pot Pie was baked into a crock that was completely lined with the buttery crust. The sandwich was topped with individually separated and crisped brussel sprout leaves. Our appetizer was the show stopper. Who would think to top some grilled asparagus with a poached egg and some delicious shaved cheese? None other than, Winner of the 2010 season of “Chopped” Chef Mackenzie Hilton. Our compliments!
Go Ask Alice, I Think She’ll Know
Our walk to the Mütter took less time than anticipated, so we decided on some breakfast. We walked around the adjacent business district finding several national staples, all closed for business. Here, the barristers and the baristas don’t work weekends. We nearly gave up, untilwe saw two of Philly’s Golden Girls, struttin’ their stuff – on the way to Trader Joe’s. Alice, Blanche’s cousin and Sophia’s classmate Ruthie. First, they didn’t hear, then once they understood, Alice was fist pumping the heavens insisting that we go to day by day at 21st and Sansom. We were on the hunt! and O. M. G! We found a killer spot.
Breakfast offerings A-Z with any substitution, etc. etc. AJ had the Scrambler of the day: Applewood Bacon, Kale and Cheddar. Spencer opted for the delicious and satisfying Chorizo Breakfast Burrito. You may notice that the plates had some digging already. We were so excited the whole trip, that we kept forgetting to take photos of our plates as they were delivered. It got pretty bad. Spencer literally refused to put down the other half of the burrito for this photo shoot.
One might think that for two gay men, the draw of the City of Brotherly Love would be, ya know, the Brotherly Love. In the end, that’s why we’ll be going back, but it was the Mütter Museum that originally put Philadelphia under our radar.
Close friend Lillian first identified this unusual gem as the Museum of Medical Oddities a few years back. Elaborate Googling promised a handful of bizarre exhibits. Things like: top-heavy cephalic skulls, twins conjoined at the butt, a wall of eye infections, and a dude (who turned out to be lady) with an 11-inch horn protruding from hir forehead. Sold!
And the best part? For $15, we got much more than that. The skeletal specimens (of which there were a TON) included the full body of a 7’6” man, the compact rib-cage of a corset-donning harlot, and lots of battle-wounded bones. Elsewhere, we discovered the scary tools they used to birth-out babies back-in-the-day and a case devoted to the study of Albert Einstein’s freakish brain. Question: Is it better or worse when even SCIENCE points at you and calls you a weirdo? Discuss!
Another point of interest: there was an entire segment devoted to civil war atrocities, with an underlying theme of doctors-did-not-know-what-the-hell-they-doing-back-then. Seriously, there was a display of a medical emergency book that was written 9 days before the war! There was also a really cool interactive video projection that simulated and described what happened when those soldiers got shot. I’ll give you a hint: Hello gangrene! Bye-Bye appendages! AJ did it, but Spencer got scared (the room was dark)!
In the gift shop, Spencer feebly attempted to gather some souvenirs for his friend that he’ll totally invite next time. And he treated himself to a rockin’ tee.
Who’s Got the Crack?
We were back in the Gayborhood, and our weekend was winding down. Exhausted from a full day of exploration, the senior citizen of the group decided to re-enact his club kid days and insisted we muscle through the evening. There were about 47 gay spots left to see, so we were off.
At the suggestion of our newest friend Angela, we ventured to the Venture Inn for a bite to eat. Spencer had a drink and we shared an appetizer platter. It was a mix and match: We picked the beef and cheddar spring rolls, pot stickers and BBQ boneless wings. Each were tasty and the BBQ Sauce had a good kick.
After chatting up an adorable bartender, we were surprised to see none other than our Philadelphia bestie Angie step into the room, accompanied by her equally lovable friend Andrea. Here, she gave us yet another phenomenal recommendation. Seriously, this woman definitely became the Dear Abby of our vacation plans.
Knowing us all too well, she sent us to the Tabu Lounge and Sports Bar for a drag show. This was a unique joint, in that the first floor functions as a sports bar with an eclectic mix of gay and straight patrons, while the divas performed upstairs. When we walked in, AJ instantly played six degrees of separation with an even more adorable bartender and we snatched a table for some additional appetizers.
Another order of kickin’ wings and the house nachos that are prepped in a sheet pan so most every chip is treated equally 🙂 and then served on a wicker tray. Very good nachos.
We LOVED the atmosphere. The staff was super-friendly and the cheers of enthusiastic sports fans created an all around warm vibe. Try as we might, we’ll never understand how many home-runs it takes to win a football game, but the spectators’ excitement was absolutely contagious.
With our bellies widened and anticipation sky-rocketing, we elevated to the 2nd story. Here we met a bartender who didn’t snuff our water order (seriously, that guy may never know how much we appreciated his sweetness), and got a front row seat to the last-minute pre-show planning.
Fatigue was setting in and our old man bodies were slowly shutting down. But no! We’re no quitters! So we stuck it out. And the party to end all Philadelphia parties commenced.
The show was part of a weekly series called Sinful Sundays hosted by local mega-talent The Goddess Isis. She was recently dubbed by Philadelphia Gay News as the city’s #1 Drag Queen, and it’s no wonder why. Her presentation was impeccable. The gestures and over the top facial contortions were perfect (especially when accompanied by an equally ridiculous live recording of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” performed by Patti LaBelle). And Isis even showed off her chops as a trained singer herself (her college vocal coach was actually in the audience that evening). The unending showmanship was evidenced by her quick response-time to unexpected hiccups in the show. She never stopped being entertaining on stage and off. We loved her.
Her co-stars weren’t too shabby either. “Japanese Singing Sensation” Satine Harlow provided 1/2 of some fantastic odd-couple banter with the show’s host throughout the night (beginning and ending with the protest that she is in fact NOT a Japanese Singing Sensation). Her lip-sync of Miley’s “Wrecking Ball” was a highlight, and she showed some tremendous gratitude to her audience throughout the performance. Then there was Ann Artist. A tall, fit, perhaps criminally insane punk-rock queen who seems to have mastered the art of controlled chaos. She was introduced with a jittering uptempo rendition of Lorde’s smash hit “Royals”. It was great, but came in second to her scarily appropriate follow-up: The Moldy Peaches’ “Who’s Got the Crack?” It is absolutely relevant to include that Ann fiended for those dollar bills. Girl knows how to work.
The jolt that hour gave us cannot be understated. We loved every second of it. Each lady put on a stellar performance, and we can’t wait to go back. But, like all good things, it came to an end. By about 1am we were back in our beds and dreaming to stay another week.
Independence and Sweet Sorrow
The next day brought us through the the Independence District for a view of what we will see on our return visit. Souvenir shopping and lunching on Philly Cheese Steaks rounded out our weekend of fond memories and wicked awesome weather.
Until Next Time Philly, Keep Loving!