WHAT: The sometimes overlooked eateries and storefronts in and around the Left Bank Apartments, located on the Eastern edge of University City.
WHERE: Packed in between 31st and 32nd streets, along the Walnut and Chestnut Street corridors, the Left Bank area offers a surprising variety of dining options. The good news for these restaurants? The area figures to thrive in years to come as Penn pushes forward its plans for eastward expansion, which should include new office, residential and commercial spaces, bringing more life to the neighborhood.
TRENDSETTER: Developer Carl Dranoff helped kickstart the development of the eastern campus area when he created the Left Bank Apartments out of a former industrial building once slated for demolition. The Left Bank opened to great fanfare in 2001. Today, the building serves as the centerpiece of the area, housing high-end residential units, four restaurants and both the Vog International hair salon and Trophy Bikes shop.
COFFEE BAR/REAL BAR: The unique Intermezzo Café (215-222-4300) is a bright, airy eatery that somehow serves as both a coffee bar and a, well, real bar. On a recent weekday visit, the room was split between students working on their laptops up front and late-shift workers enjoying after-work Blue Moons in the back. Intermezzo offers a nice selection of breakfast and lunch choices, take-out beer (including selections from local breweries Dogfish Head and Stoudt’s) and free wireless Internet.
BASKET OF GOODIES: Just one storefront over, the artsy eatery Picnic (215-222-1608) offers a scrumptious array of gourmet foods for takeout or catering—everything from sandwiches and soups to dips and desserts. Picnic was opened by chef Anne-Marie Lasher, who had previously worked at Old City’s Fork, Pollo Rosso and the White Dog Cafe.
ASIAN INFLUENCE: Ajia Restaurant and Sushi Bar (215-222-2542) brings international flair to the East campus strip, offering sushi standards and Japanese cuisine in a quaint, quiet space. Check out the $8.95 daily lunch special, which delivers a lot of food for a reasonable price.
THE OTHER SIDE: With most of the Left Bank eateries bunched along Walnut Street, it’s easy to overlook Ecco Qui (215-222-3226), the only restaurant on the building’s Chestnut Street side. But this Italian eatery and wine bar is worth a look. Enjoy lunch on the outdoor patio or stop by the stylish bar to sample the martini menu or the impressive wine list.
LIVE AFTER 5: Just a short walk from the Left Bank eateries is World Cafe Live (215-222-1400), which is a restaurant, bar and music venue. Each night from 5 to 7 p.m., it hosts the Live After 5 Happy Hour, featuring drink specials and, of course, great music.