I had a blast discovering these hidden treasures. At each, I was greeted with sincerity, helpfulness and a warm smile. In a country where most folks think it’s cool to complain regularly, I welcome a pleasant experience. Below lies an agenda for your downtown night of gratification.
1 Let’s begin the journey with some Southeastern Asian fare. the Pad Thai Shack serves quick, delicious appetizers and entrees for customers with a budget. With two Center City locations, this counter service spot is a takeout haven. If you’d rather sit down, tables are also available inside.
Service there is always fast and accommodating and all menu items are less than $10. There is a wide selection of hot and cold dishes, with sides and sweets that make any meal complete.
For vegans and vegetarians, several of the wok dishes contain fish sauce, so be sure to double check the ingredients. Two favorites were the marinated tofu with black bean sauce at $3.75 and the fried vegetable spring rolls made with a blend of veggies, dried mushrooms and ginger at $3.75 a pair.
My dining partner preferred the Saigon Style Stir Fry with chicken, tomatoes, cucumbers and jasmine rice in garlic sauce for $8.25. Portions are ample: you can share or have two meals in one.
The restaurant offers a large number of Asian juice choices, in addition to soda and bottled water.
2 Tea and a light dessert should follow dinner, so the next stop at Tbar on 12th and Sansom streets is in order.
Co-owner Julia Chu noted several qualities that set the “urban tea bar” apart from the competition. The diversity of the drinks, which use the highest quality of teas imported directly from Japan, China, Taiwan, is one factor. The ambiance and lounge-type environment is a second.
“Ours is not like your living room [tea house], it is more like a spa,” Chu said, referring to the green walls, spacious quarters and contemporary Japanese furniture.
The menu offers steeped loose-leaf teas in regular, large or full teapot size. The teapot – great for sharing – comes with two cookies of your choice for $4.50. The fizz menu provides tea and herbal blends with sparkling water ranging from $4 to $4.25.
The pearl teas (also known as bubble teas) come in an assortment of flavors including black milk, honeydew, mango, taro and lychee for $3.50 each. Tea lattes are a final beverage option, and patrons can choose from iced or hot green tea, cocoa, caramel swirl, chai or the seven other flavors they have on special.
For a small bite to eat, try the tea-based dessert options. I liked the $2.50 green tea roll with moist green cake and spiral layers of mousse-like cream. Paninis and salads are an option for anyone with larger appetites.
3 If the concept of a tea bar puts you in the mood for something a little stronger, head to the island oasis of Misconduct Tavern. This bar, located at 15th and Locust streets, is jammin’ on Wednesday night.
The theme is nautical, but the bar doesn’t cater to an older demographic like you might expect. There was a good mix of 20- to 40-year-olds. Maybe it was the smooth electronica and fluid independent music playing that attracted the younger people. Or maybe it was the selection of 37 bottled beers.
While the food was decent, the drinks and the atmosphere were more impressive. On this particular Wednesday, they were testing a new drink special – the $5 fall cosmopolitan. It consists of cranberry-infused vodka, homemade apple cider with tasty spices and cranberry-flavored syrup. Apparently, it was a success that night. Look for it on special Tuesday nights.
A final comment: the name of the bar came from the former owner, a now-deceased sailor who named it after his boat. The new owners, also boaters, kept the name to honor him and the good times had by friends and patrons alike.
Colleen Dunn can be reached at
Pad Thai Shack
127 S. 18th St.
122 S. 12th St.
117 S. 12th St.
1511 Locust St.