ABOVE PHOTO: Mac and cheese balls (Photo by Zachary M. Emerson)
For those anxious to see some fresh flowers while enjoying some good food and cocktails, the Philadelphia Horticultural Society’s Pop-Up restaurants give the best of both worlds.
By Denise Clay-Murray
One of the last events that took place before the COVID-19 pandemic turned Philadelphia — and the rest of the country — into a ghost town was the Philadelphia Flower Show.
The Pennsylvania Convention Center was turned into the French Riviera as visitors took in the flora and fauna, which included a salute to Princess Grace of Monaco, or —as Philadelphians commonly knew her — actress Grace Kelly. People were roaming around looking at the beautiful flowers and displays put together by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
Thankfully, the Flower Show will be coming back this year. It’ll be held at FDR Park in South Philadelphia instead of the Convention Center, so the flora and fauna that we all look forward to at the start of spring will instead allow us to bask in the summer sun.
But if you can’t wait that long to see pretty flowers and miss the experience of a sidewalk café after spending a year indoors, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society presents its yearly pop-up restaurants.
Providing a safe dining experience through the use of touchless menus, sanitized seating and the fresh air that comes from being in the great outdoors, the pop-up restaurants gives diners the chance to grab a quick lunch or dinner while looking at flowers such as Molly’s Whites, Mt. Airys and Winter Lights.
(All of which are beautiful. As someone who both literally and figuratively has a Black Thumb, that’s significant.)
Myself, SUN Associate Editor Amy Simmons and SUN Photographer Zachary Emerson visited the pop-up at 1438 South Street to grab lunch among the gardens. There are benches for seating and places where you can even enjoy your lunch with your dog, if you want.
After we scanned our menus with our phones, we noticed that a lot of the offerings are Philly-centric. For example, there’s a roast pork sandwich and a cocktail called The Gritty Margarita, a frozen margarita that features Lunazol Blanca Tequila, black salt, and believe it or not, Tang. There are also vegan options such as plant-based chicken, burgers and hot dogs.
We ordered the Mexican shrimp cocktail, which combined tomato sauce, red onions and avocados with jumbo shrimp and the fried mac and cheese balls with tomato jam as appetizers. The mac and cheese balls had a great crunch and lots and lots of cheese, but a warm tomato jam would have made it even better.
Usually, I avoid eating tomato sauce and shrimp together — and while I like avocados, pairing them with shrimp isn’t something I would think to do. But this dish, which is also on the menu at Cantina Los Caballitos, 1651 E. Passyunk Ave., really impressed me. I liked it a lot and the next time I hit the Cantina, it’ll be my appetizer.
For lunch, Amy had the Caprese B.L.T. Now, this sandwich had two things she doesn’t usually eat on it: white balsamic aioli and cherry peppers. But she liked it because neither thing was heavy handed, the fresh mozzarella cheese and bacon were tasty, and the sandwich itself wasn’t heavy.
I had the roast pork sandwich with garlic spinach, provolone cheese and Calabrian peppers. When you’ve hung out around Philly as long as I have, you’ve had at least one roast pork sandwich in your life. This one was pretty tasty and, most importantly, tender and juicy. Nothing is worse than a dry roast pork sandwich.
But while we didn’t have the same sandwich, Amy and I had the same fries. The Sidewinder Fries, which are also available as an appetizer, were crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and so nicely salted and hot that they didn’t need ketchup. In fact, ketchup would have taken away from the experience.
Lunch on a Saturday wouldn’t be complete without a cocktail. I ordered a frozen mojito with Farber rum, mint, lime, butterfly pea flower and a shot of mango syrup and Amy ordered the Garden Sangria with red wine, fruit, orange juice and an orchid for garnish.
Let’s just say that if you’re looking for a refreshing ending for your outing at the Pop-Up Garden, you can’t go wrong with either of these.
The Philadelphia Horticultural Society’s Pop-Up Gardens will be open, weather permitting, until October. The South Street Garden is open on Monday through Thursday from 5 p.m.-10 p.m and Friday through Sunday from noon-10 p.m.
“Later in the season, PHS is planning to open a pop-up garden in Manayunk, at 106 Jamestown Ave. Once open, the hours there will be Monday through Thursday from 5p.m.-10p.m., Fridays from noon-10p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11a.m.-10p.m.”
You can also pick up tickets for the 2021 Philadelphia Flower Show at the Pop-Up Gardens at the bar. The theme for this year’s show, which will be held from June 5-13, is “Habitat: Nature’s Masterpiece”. Tickets are $45 for adults, $30 for young friends (18-29) and $20 for children (5-17).
Hours for the Flower Show are:
Saturday, June 5 from 8:00a.m-5:00 p.m. (Morning Session: 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. (must enter by 12:30 pm); Afternoon Session: 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm (must enter by 4:30 pm) and Sunday, June 6 through Sunday, June 13 from 10:00 am – 7:00 pm. (Morning Session: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm (must enter by 1:30 pm); Afternoon Session: 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm (must enter by 6:30 pm).