On Holiday: getting food in Philadelphia

Crown Fried Chicken

It’s a little after Philadelphia’s 2 a.m. bar closing and a line is building at Crown Fried Chicken, a regional, halal restaurant chain and the only fast food open this late. Sitting at one table, across from a woman in an evening dress, is a black man wearing an almost iridescent suit and tie.

A tall, lanky woman waits for her food at the counter. She is telling a middle-age man, possibly a Lebanese Muslim, behind the counter that she wants lemonade with her combo meal. His glare never changes; he looks tired and spiteful.

Aren’t you a chain? she asks. Nobody else has a problem giving me lemonade.

The man waiting only grunts and dismissively waves his hand in front of the soda selections on the fountain. Lemonade is more expensive and he will not include it with a combo meal.

Whatever, I’ll take Fanta.

Sam’s Morning Glory Diner

On a sunny Sunday morning, there’s a wait list for seating at Sam’s Morning Glory Diner. The restaurant, which bills itself as “a finer diner,” sells basic diner food, mostly sourced from around Philadelphia. Coffee — good coffee, not the usual diner fare — is served in metal mugs. Each table has a communal container of house-made jam and a brown glass bottle of house-made tomato sauce.

The counter seating offers a front-row view of the two cooks as they efficiently knock out orders for poached, fried and scrambled eggs, challah French toast and scrapple. It makes me want to work in a restaurant again. When my meal — a fried egg and cheddar cheese sandwich on focaccia bread — arrives, the feeling passes.

Italian Market

In South Philadelphia, people selling goods of all sorts line the streets. Produce, household cleaners, seafood, electronics, meats. Italians, from which the market gets its name, sell on the corners. Chinese congregate in the middle of the blocks on one side of the street, Vietnamese on the other.

The Phillies are playing a day game against the Marlins out of town. An Asian man, next to a vegetable stand, sits on a crate to watch the game on television. The game announcers, I’m unsure if they’re from radio or television, blare from a speaker set on top of the TV at a volume that I can hear as I walk down the street toward him. The television screen is a black-and-white, static-filled, unwatchable mess. The man watches it with an intense boredom.

Here, everybody loves the Phillies.