Stuffed pretzels and Stevie Nicks

This week’s picks are a mix of Old City and Center City locales. As a reminder, every place I feature has my seal of approval.

1: Ritz Theatres has three locations in the city, yet I have only ever been to the one at Second and Walnut streets, the Ritz 5, so that is the basis of my focus.

What I enjoyed about this theater was the ample amount of leg room between the rows of seats and the courteous concession staff. I had questions about the different kinds of products they sell, and the gentleman behind the register was considerate even though the line was long. Concession prices are very reasonable and the selection was great. I got a sweet crème-filled carrot muffin and a lower-sugar-content fruit spritzer. They have a pleasant mix of staple items like popcorn and less-common items like Italian sodas made with flavored syrups.

Ritz is operated by Landmark Theatres, the country’s largest chain for independent films. At peak movie times, prices are fairly standard: $9 per ticket for Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.

But the Ritz offers some bargains that make it worth the visit. The student discount (available every day except Saturday and holidays) is $6.75 with student ID. Also, all Wednesday shows are only $6. And Monday through Friday matinees are a steal at $6. Prices this cheap make me reminiscent of the old days when going to the movies was the hot thing to do.

2: Euphoria, a café that specializes in smoothies and gourmet pretzels, is a new addition to Philadelphia. Their first location, right on the sidelines of City Hall, opened in July. Since then, two other locations with different owners have sprouted up in Philly.

Their concept is appropriate for the health-conscious age we live in: no preservatives and everything au natural. Euphoria offers dozens of smoothies – starting at $3.99 – to choose from, plus hot teas, bubble tea, stuffed pretzels and soups.

This counter service café was clean and the bright colors were inviting. There is some limited bench seating and an ATM available. Free stuffed mozzarella pizza pretzel samples awaited me and the drink options on the menu were extensive.

I decided on a stuffed breakfast pretzel with egg, cheese, onions and peppers for $2.49 and a regular-sized Euphoria Chai tea – a medium-spiced blend with creamy smoothness. After my snack, I left satisfied with the service and my menu choices.

Store Manager Young In said Euphoria’s customers are a mix of business people, folks hitting the gym and city employees, including police officers (all city workers get a 10 percent discount). She noted that the favorite smoothie of the nearby cops is the Iron Man – strawberry, banana power boost, antioxidant, whey protein and 2% milk. How appropriate.

3: Alfa is a bar and restaurant I have visited four times now. Not only does it have a convenient central location, but the bar service is always fast. Since I am not a beer drinker, this place suits my drinking habits – liquor and wine. While offering an immense selection of liquors is nice, the real hit is the Happy Hour that occurs there seven days of the week. For five to six months, Alfa has had a ’70s-themed happy hour. They are returning to an ’80s theme soon.

“It’s nostalgic – people pick out what their favorites are,” said Kristann Dolinsky, the bar manager, referring to the selection of more than 25 Happy Hour cocktails that Alfa serves.

Some favorites are the Stevie Nicks (champagne and raspberry liqueur with a sugar rim) or the Jonestown Massacre (Kool Aid of the day). Happy hour prices are $5 cocktails, $4 red or white wine (usually Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc) and $3 Miller Lite bottles or Yards drafts.

With a variety of seating available – the long bar, cocktail tables and booths for dinner clients, and a menu that offers gourmet food and low- to mid-range prices – you can’t go wrong. Also, every day during Happy Hour, $3 small plates are offered to satisfy the need to snack.

“You can come in here with $20 and get an appetizer and two drinks and still leave a tip,” Dolinsky said. “It’s great for a college budget.”

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

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