We’re really excited about Marie-Helene Bertino’s debut novel 2 a.m. at the Cat’s Pajamas. It’s set in Philadelphia and it captures the city’s love for jazz. Bertino is a Philly native so she knows all the city’s unique and hot spots. As we get ready to head to ALA Midwinter next week we thank Marie-Helene for sharing her list of Philly Musts with us!
As you plan your adventures … listen to the amazing 2 a.m. at the Cat’s Pajamas Playlist that Marie-Helene created. (It features legends like Billie Holiday. A perfect selection as Lady Day is also from Philadelphia.)
PHILADELPHIA MUSTS FROM MARIE-HELENE BERTINO
Though my novel 2 a.m. at The Cat’s Pajamas takes place over the course of twenty-four hours, it offers a glimpse into an array of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. These are the same neighborhoods I traversed when I grew up there. Two of the main characters spend half the book walking around the city, and I like to imagine that some of the following recommendations are the places they pass. Action News, Philadelphia’s trusted news channel, used to have a jingle that described Philly as “a look ’em in the eye town.” I agree that it’s a city that doesn’t break your gaze and can be hard to crack, but here are a few tips from a girl who grew up there. I hope you have a beautiful time in my hometown.
Wherever you walk you will see them, creeping around the alleys of Pine Street, or taking up whole expanses of brick row homes. The complexion of Philadelphia is made up of murals, the quality of which are unparalleled anywhere in the world. The wonderful thing about this recommendation is that you practically have to do nothing to enjoy it. Just take a walk, and Philadelphia will do the work. One of my favorite murals is The Love Letter series, one of which is seen “from a bird’s-eye view” at the conclusion of 2 a.m. at The Cat’s Pajamas. Click to see all the love letters by taking the westbound Market-Frankford Line to 69th St. Terminal.
One of my dear friends introduced me to this intimate Italian restaurant, akin to being invited into someone’s kitchen. There are only a handful of tables, the hours are finicky, and it’s BYOB, but it is one of the warmest, yummiest dining experiences you can have in Philadelphia. You can try calling ahead, but be prepared to wait! The only better eating experience is my mother’s actual kitchen.
Ninth Street Market
Madeleine Altimari, the feisty almost-ten-year-old jazz prodigy who sets the novel’s events in motion, lives by the Ninth Street Market. Here you can still find authentic Italian cookware, unrivaled coffee, and my favorite brunch place, Sabrina’s. Should you want to try some famous cheesesteaks, you can go to Geno’s and Pat’s, a few blocks away. But locals prefer Jim’s on South Street, or Dalessandro’s Steaks and Hoagies in Roxborough. Oh, and yes, the Ninth Street Market is where Rocky made his famous run.
Kung Fu Necktie
Feel like dancing? Hit one of this venue’s dance nights, when the stage is a medley of DJs and Macs, laying the sound track for the most eclectic dance party in the city. This place is real Philadelphia: surprising, gritty, euphoric, friendly, and weird.
You know those nights when you ask yourself, Do I want to eat comfort food, drink a beer outside amid tiki-hut decor or dance to the city’s best DJ? Silk City says: You do not have to choose! A Northern Liberties staple.
The Spiral Bookcase
If you are heading out of the city to try a cheesesteak at Dalessandro’s in Roxborough, stop off in Manayunk, a hamlet of hills, to check out one of the cutest indie bookstores in Philly. Bookseller and proprietor Ann Tetreault will hook you up with a book sure to strike your fancy (tell her I sent you)!