Sift through thrift store racks or relax at a mosaic bar

Cheap and fun is the name of this game – my quest for the lesser-known hotspots, shops and events. But here are the disclaimers. I am not from Pennsylvania; I don’t know every nook and cranny of the 135 square miles of Philadelphia. Also, some of my picks you may dislike.

That’s cool. I describe places that I have had positive, worthwhile experiences at. Do you know the next spot I should feature? Drop me an e-mail. If I enjoy it as much as you think I will, than I shall expose it to the Temple masses.

1 I’m a thrift store junkie. I enjoy a good deal. Since I’ve gained college pounds, I feel less guilty buying lots of inexpensive second-hand clothes. Circle Thrift not only offers $3 short-sleeved women’s blouses and $4 pants, but it benefits a good cause. Created three years ago as a collaborative effort with the Circle of Hope, church right next door, and the Mennonite Central Committee, a group spreading faith and providinggoods and services to victims of poverty and natural disasters, the shop provides low-cost clothing to Fishtown and Kensington residents and raises funds for various partners.

Circle Thrift carries men’s, women’s and kids’ clothing and accessories like shoes, belts, hats, purses and jewelry. Upstairs you can find books, dishes, knick-knacks, linens and some furniture.

Nathan Leonard, a cashier at Circle
Thrift’s main location – a second, smaller shop recently opened on Broad St. – offered his opinion about what makes this shop unique.”We might be the one of the only thrift stores [in the area] that is nice to people when they come in,” he said.

2 Some are familiar with the name Wrap Shack. The original has existed for five years in Old City and is, quite literally, a shack. While that eatery is small enough to miss, it’s not my focus. Its sister shop on 18th Street is a much more suitable experience.
This new Shack has casual table service
and offers a separate brunch menu on Sundays. Comparatively, Old City’s is take-out only and only sometimes are outdoor plastic tables and chairs available.

The Wrap Shack has only been open for four months, but it’s already building a following. Surely, the delicious,
affordable food ($6 – $9 wraps) and long business hours are the answer. I’ve tried two of the vegetarian wraps – the Vegan Volcano and the Portabella Taco. Yum! My dining companion was pleased with his Steak Supreme wrap.

While both Shacks have the same owner, Scott Hockfield, this location has “longer hours because he is trying to cater to the college students,” said server and hostess Tawanda Howard.

The air-conditioning nearly froze me out, but the sweet potato fries were so tasty, I would withstand the chill again.

3 After finishing your wraps and apps, stop next door for a cocktail at Mantra. In the past, the bars I’ve featured have had awesome drink specials. This one does not. But it’s worth mentioning for the top-notch décor and ambiance.

Open for more than a year, this Asian-themed bar and restaurant has two levels with mirror mosaics behind the counters. Walls are either textured or painted with orange waves. Warm yellow and red lighting creates a comfortable
atmosphere – a perfect setting for a romantic or relaxing evening. On Tuesday nights, a house DJ comes in to attract guests. A nice touch is the flat-screen television playing martial arts and Kung Fu movies.

Stop in to try one of three Asian bottled beers ($5 – $8), a glass of wine ($7 – $10) or a specialty cocktail ($8 – $10). I ordered the Kyoto Mojito made with Leblon Rum and muddled plum. It was strong and the fresh mint was potent, but at $10 a glass, it went down far too fast.

Note: Food prices are mid-range and they serve a late night menu on Fridays and Saturdays. Three weekend nights, various DJs play hip-hop and other favorites.

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

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