Quirky gifts and quirky ales

For this week’s selections, I have picked two long-time favorites and one shop I recently discovered. Remember, it’s all about finding what big ol’ Philly has to offer. 1A Philly favorite of mine is the

For this week’s selections, I have picked two long-time favorites and one shop I recently discovered. Remember, it’s all about finding what big ol’ Philly has to offer.

1A Philly favorite of mine is the bar and club Transit. I have been there three times, spending the last two New Year’s Eves there for the holiday edition of the “Making Time” party and visiting once for the regular Making Time.

Making Time, in its seventh year, is an event offered one Friday a month. The dates vary but the cover is consistent – $10 in advance and $12 at the door. You can expect drink specials and giveaways for the first hour of the night.

What I love about Transit is it reminds me of the big bars back in my hometown of Rochester, only better. It’s huge – three floors and six bars. Different DJs, different light shows and different vibes await you in each room. Also, the building is an old bank, so Transit has the asset of fun nooks and crannies and a unique design.

The music is always a mix, but worth paying a cover for. Bands play and certain areas have DJs. You may hear funky house, Brit pop or Depeche Mode.

Be forewarned: it is always packed. You will wait to get a drink. And expect to get bumped into. In addition, the stairs are not designed for two-way traffic but it happens anyway. My suggestion: wear sexy clothing but shoes you can dance and walk comfortably in.

2Another spot to get your drink on that’s way more low-key is Skinner’s Dry Goods. This joint takes the attitude and dress code of most Old City bars and chugs it with a swig of Arrogant Bastard Ale (or Samuel Smiths, or Rogue Dead Guy Ale, or Wolaver’s – the first certified organic beer). Besides featuring these obscure bottles, Skinner’s has 14 other drafts to choose from.

A large red bar wraps around the center of the room, a stack of Philadelphia Weekly papers and The Compendium lie on top of the still-functioning old-fashioned cigarette dispenser and a Phillies game plays on the flat-screen television in the bar corner – this is the essence of the atmosphere.

Skinner’s has been open for three years and the comfortable environment and good music is the draw. Funk, soul, drum and bass, hip hop – they play it all and the sounds are always smooth and inviting. Monday, Tuesday and Saturday nights DJs play, transforming the bar into a lounge with no dance floor.

They have drink specials during football games and happy hour during the week. Food is available from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. The menu is limited, mostly sandwiches and appetizers, but manager Bill Wynes is looking to expand it before 2008.

Wynes, who bartended on my last visit, says he enjoys the diversity of the crowd and the freedom the owner gives him in running the bar. Wynes’s service was top notch – he pointed out the bottle and beer selection, provided coasters/napkins for each beverage, and wiped the bar dry after each patron left. Those little things made me want to stay and grab another drink.

3A professor suggested Foster’s Urban Homeware when I needed to buy a “thank you” present. So after looking it up in the phone book, I went to the wrong location. Over the summer two separate Foster’s locations were closed, combining into one newer and bigger space on the corner of Fourth and Market streets

I arrived 10 minutes before close, yet the staff gave no angered sneers. Then I got lost in the sea of choices. I needed help. Five minutes to close, the two people behind the counter eagerly assisted me in finding an appropriate present that was less than $14.

After deciding on a set of bamboo plates, I felt my time was well spent. I liked not only the extended hours in a city that likes to close shops early but also the variety of products. It reminded me of a Pier 1, only bigger and with quirky items. Personal favorites were the toothpick holder in the shape of a tooth and the Buddha bookends.

“The concept [of the store] is good design at affordable prices,” said operations manager Ken Avella.

Foster’s has a large cooking and kitchen gadget section, a goofy toy area, upholstered furniture, lotions and body products and tons of bath accessories.

“We also have a lot of fun seasonal items. So it is worth stopping by, because we always have new stuff,” Avella added.

Colleen Dunn can be reached at colleen.dunn@temple.edu.


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