Valentine’s Day: the second busiest day of the year for restaurants. All hands are on deck, which means the potential for a third string server, B-list line cook, an all-too-familiar-these-days supply shortage, and any number of other debacles that could put a damper on your date. Further complicating things this year, the holiday falls on a Tuesday. Do you go out after work (and, ugh, on a work night)? Double down on back-to-back celebrations with an elaborate night out on the Saturday prior and overindulge yet again on Super Bowl Sunday? Postpone until President’s weekend? Sigh. I’m already frustrated and I haven’t even tried to find a table yet… or looked at all of the cookie cutter pre-fixe menus peddling the same, tired line-up we’ve been tolerating since 1992. If I never pay $150+ per person for some forgettable seafood starter, filet mignon with garlic mash and haricot verts, and a chocolate lava cake ever again, it will be too soon. If you ask me, Valentine’s Day is a date on a calendar. It’s nice to mark the occasion in a big way if the stars all align, but, really, a heart-shaped box of Russell Stover is more than enough acknowledgement for me. I’d prefer a night out on the town “just because,” that doesn’t need to be meticulously orchestrated, and that’s exactly what you’ll find in this escape plan.
The first stop on your Philadelphia date night is the recently renovated and reopened tasting room at New Liberty Distillery. We fell in love with New Liberty during covid lockdowns when we became members of their Spirits Club. Each month, we’d receive a bottle (sometimes two!) of premium and specialty spirits, most often something yet-to-be released.
The curated box also comes with New Liberty swag, members-only
discounts/events, and other items related to the featured bottle. They offer tours and tastings at the distillery if you’re looking for a pre-dinner activity on a future visit.
Candles, hardcover books, leather sofas, and whiskey barrel tables lend charm and whimsy to the space. The atmosphere is lively enough to be an exciting beginning to the evening, without taking away your ability to connect with your companion. The perfect drink to start your romantic outing is a rye milk punch, aptly named Heart Shaped Box. It looks like Valentine’s Day in a rocks glass, with its pretty (and potent) red wine float. Fans of rye will also enjoy the booze forward, bottled in bond Creole Cocktail. The American picon gives it a unique bitter orange flavor which is nicely balanced with honey and cola. If you’d like to transport yourself to a more temperate climate, away from a dreary Philly
February, the Jungle Bird’s combination of rum and pineapple are the way to go. Those who have been following our travels know that our itineraries are heavy on the libations. For the sake of adequate hydration and research, we tried the Lucky Lavender mocktail (lavender simple, lemon, club) before we headed to the next stop on our itinerary, which was a light and refreshing change of pace.
We tend to stick to one neighborhood (or neighboring hoods, at most), per Escape Plan, but we made an exception and took a 10 minute rideshare to try the James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Outstanding Bar: Le Caveau. Another recently renovated, upstairs bar, Le Caveau is a sultry and intimate hideaway located above The Good King Tavern. It’s ideal for cozying up together in the dimly lit, lounge-y setting to indulge in natural wine, fancy bar snacks, and a variety of spirits for sipping. I tried the Cremant de Bourgogne, a dry, sparkling white whose crisp, green apple and citrus notes paired wonderfully with the comte, camembert, and blue cheeses. My husband could not resist ordering one of the mezcal selections, the Nuestra Soledad el Lachuigi, and found its strong cedar and almost eucalyptus qualities to be a welcome alternative to his usual bourbon. We would definitely allow ourselves additional time to sample more of the menu on a future visit, but are happy we could stop in for a quick round and a snack before our reservation back in Fishtown.
Even the outdoor patio at Wm. Mulherin’s Sons was completely booked on this frigid, late January evening, a testament to its excellence. Due to its popularity, we strongly advise securing a table well in advance of your visit. Our table was situated directly in front of the massive, roaring fireplace; the dining room feeling a bit like a ski lodge, ideal for savoring boozy cocktails and a variety of rustic Italian plates. We started with a Montresor’s Signature and Sister Francis, their respective rum and espresso, and rye and mole, flavors offering even more warmth. We shared the grilled scallop, with charred sunchoke reminiscent of the crackling fire a few feet away. We also enjoyed the foie gras parfait, which was more of a deconstructed mousse and apple mostarda with buttery toast than a composed, layered dish, but delicious nonetheless. We joked that its clean, classic presentation looked so picture-perfect, we could imagine Patrick Bateman ordering this exact appetizer (if you know, you know).
Unable to decide between pizza and pasta, we opted to share one of each. The Spicy Jawn is a pillowy delight of a wood-fired dough covered in sheets of spicy meats and long hots. We saw a Lambrusco on the menu and knew it would complement the pizza beautifully. After much deliberation (and admittedly some googling of unfamiliar varietals), I selected a Nero D’avola from the impressive list of red wines. It reminded me of a fruity shiraz and was great on its own as well as with the beef cheek agnolotti. Dessert was another difficult choice, and, again, we ordered two: pistachio creme brulee with pistachio shortbread cookies and an almond tart with chestnut mousse. Both were decadent without being heavy. Along with the La Bomba espresso martinis, our desserts were a pleasant conclusion to a great experience.
Philadelphia is close to home for us, but can still feel like a special getaway, with its endless options for adventurous eaters, unparalleled ambience, and rich history. We love having this amazing destination right in our backyard. Subscribe to our mailing list to stay up-to-date on our blog posts. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more fun Philly content.
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