Home of the free, land of the Wawa.
Wawa Food Market, Arch Street and 17th Street
Rita’s Water Ice, 1511 Spruce Street
Old City and Penn’s Landing
We were welcomed with 101 degree weather the day we arrived to Philly. It felt as if we were walking in soup that had gone airborne, a bad kind of soup too, like Campbell’s Chicken Noodle before you add in the tablespoons in Cholula. To wear my book bag with both straps over my shoulders would’ve meant that an accumulation of sweat and campbell’s chicken juice would’ve rippled down my spine and form a New Nile around my asscrack. I’m wearing khaki shorts so I don’t want that at all. I decide to carry my bag with one strap over my right shoulder. Over the next five hours and 7 miles, not once did I regret it as it dug deeper and deeper into my skin. This was Philly, and from what I’ve heard, carrying extra weight on you whenever you walk is really good for tightening your thighs.
So first up on the list: Wawa.
Listen, I’ve been dreaming about going to Wawa for quite some time now. I’m a sucker for carbo-packed foods, and the idea of settling in with a warm hoagie on an even hotter day has always appealed to me. My guy’s mother works for Wawa so it was very easy to get excited about it. After talking to my mother and Aunt, I found out that they had lived next to a Wawa when they were children. My ma used to tell about the times she would pay her sisters to buy her a tastycake. I’m here to keep tradition alive.
It was the grand-reopening of the Wawa Food Market we decided to go to. Inside, it smells like fresh rolls that were once soaked in Philly’s best tap water, light from pastry cabinets flare in my eyes, the sight of coffee crumble muffins stuffed with cream making my heart salivate out of its third ventricle. The floors are spotless. A shelf of Tastycakes stands proud and generous, boxes of apple pie crumpets eyeing the hell out of me, taunting me to empty out my bank account if only to die a gluttonous death of apple cinnamon crumble.
I want a hoagie. It’s hoagiefest after all, and I can rock a classic footlong hoagie for $4.76. Hallah!
The operating system for Wawa is incredible. My dining hall at NYu just landed something very similar, but apparently, Wawa has been working it for nearly seven years. It’s a touchscreen command center. You input the size hoagie you want, the kind, and all the toppings too, kind of as if your Subway ‘Sandwich Artist’ suddenly became a computer and all you had to do was touch and ‘check’ what you wanted. When you’re done with your order, they ask you if you want to add avocado or bacon or extra cheese. God bless.
You get your receipt and wait your turn as some Philly dude prepares your sandwich. It’s a Christmas miracle.
We pay and we set off towards Rittenhouse Square, which is Philly’s homage to Union Square meets Washington Square Park in Manhattan. It’s overlooked by the Rittenhouse Hotel and is canopied by dozens of massive oak; wooden benches without the dried gum or shit stain welcome you to plop your tush down after hauling a Wawa Hoagie. Most impressive, the lawns are green, and fresh, and above all: welcoming. In NY, all of the lawns are closed off or surrounded by some black chain fence. You’re allowed to cross over them usually, but there’s something to say about not having to work towards claiming your own bit of lawn space.
The hoagie is delicious. The vegetables I ordered where fresh and didn’t taste as though they were crammed in a plastic bag before. The ham was juicing to the heat of the fresh wheat hoagie. The Pepperjack cheese was Pepperjack cheese, which is perfect already all on its own.
It’s massive so we each save our other half for later on in the day. It comes in handy.
My guy hands me half of a soft pretzel he got from Wawa too; pure decadence. It wasn’t too salty and the outer crust was buttery enough for me to doubt calling it a ‘crust’.
Lastly, we shared a tastycake. I suppose it’s very much like a hostess snack, but, hell, everything tastes incredible when you’ve never had it before and you know it still screams creamy, sugary joy.
After resting for a bit in the heat and exploring the Rittenhouse Hotel (by far, the most gorgeous hotel I’ve ever seen in my life), we headed over to the Mutters Museum. It’s a collection of biological and medical oddities, everything from preserved siamese twins, trays of foreign objects swallowed my humans, a packed colon the size of a St. Bernard that was a result of intense constipation, skeletons of dwarfs, giants, and women. At 10 dollars for students, it would have been silly to not go. Sure you leave through a gift shop sporting siamese twin cookie cutters, but hell, what’s not to love about that?
We trekked through the heat after our newfound love of preserved and conjoined livers and stopped for a treat at Rita’s Water Ice. Note: It’s not ‘italian’ ice, nor is it a ‘slushie’. Water Ice is somewhere in between that consistency, kind of what a sno-cone would be like if it wasn’t shaved ice with corn syrup poured on top. I ended up getting a ‘gelati’, which is a giant paper cup filled in with a base of thick, creamy vanilla custard. In the middle is a whole bunch of mango water ice, perfectly slushy with little hidden frozen chunks of mango. On top is more custard. Even in the heat, the custard lasts- it’s that thick and equally as heavy.
We walk on and on and on. We make it up to Old City where we catch a bunch of Colonial Actors lining up a bunch of tourist kids. Parents are so proud to see their children learning what it means to be an American.
We go to the Liberty Bell where there’s a 45 minute line waiting outside in the heat. Luckily for sanity, there’s a window nearby that lets you look right into the chamber where the liberty bell is held.
So with a couple more hours in the heat, we retreat to the Delaware River. The edge of Philly that meets the water is known as Penn’s landing, and overlooks Camden, New Jersey. Apparently, things get real when you’re in Camden.
We found a bench, munched on the rest of our Wawa sandwiches, and took a nap for a good half hour. I woke up with grill marks on my back from the bench.
Had dinner with the family, went out for drinks, and came home to a bowl (or three) of Penn State ice Cream.
Today, we’re celebrating his graduation with a party, 150 beers, and endless meatballs.
Philly; you’re kinda great.