Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sips, Week Eleven - Smiths et al

Boy, I've gotten as behind on updating my blog as my liver has at processing alcohol.  It's certainly not due to lack of Sipping, more so a lack of remembering my Sips evenings.......

It all started on a rainy night on week eleven of the Summer Sips livin'.  We had all intentions of saddling up next to the bar at Table 31 again, but the afternoon rain had scared us a few blocks down to Smiths.  As I've mentioned in blogs prior, Smiths is definitely a favorite happy hour destination.  Between the Sips specials and the half off drafts, you can't go wrong with the beer selection.  The wines aren't my favorite, but it was that kind of night - the one where you've contemplating how you can drink at your desk at work without anyone seeing.  So, Pinot Grigio it was.  Throw in an appetizer of chips and guacamole, and we're off and sippin'....

Before I go further, it's important to mention that Sips is kind of like a 'Choose your own Adventure' book from childhood.  The way it ends isn't completely up to you, but all of the choices that lead you there along the way are in your control.  I loved those books as a kid.  You could read the story more the once as long as you continued to make different selections each time.  Choose your own Sips Adventure starts with bar selection, then the drink selection, then as the night progresses the further decisions that lead to drinking Gatorade and Sprite in an 8AM meeting....

So, we've made our first decisions involving Smiths and drinking wine.  All is well as the Sips hours pass.  Five becomes six and six becomes six forty-five.  Now, you're looking anxiously at the next two options in your Choose your own Sips Adventure:  head home post Sips or meeting out of town friends at another bar for further drinks.  Its safe to say that no one ever chooses the 'Walk down the lighted path back towards Grandma's house' option.  What fun would that be?  Its always the dark and risky path.  That path, in week eleven, was a trip to Time followed by a bender at Ladder 15.  I'd love to educate you on how this book ends, but someone ripped out the last few chapters.  I'll give you what I know....and what I've been told...

I'm not crazy about Time.  I know a lot...I mean A LOT....of friends who love this bar, but something about it never appealed to me.  Alas, we head down for a drink and to pick up some additional Sipster friends.  One more glass of wine and we've decided that we need to head back towards Center City.  I've also spent a couple of blog posts raving about Ladder 15.  For whatever reason, there is never a bad time to be had here.  The staff is great, the drink specials are good enough and the atmosphere is all around fun.  My bestie, who you may recall by her dedication to her Coronas earlier in the Sips season, has also swapped the safe road for the risky path.  Before I know it, she shows up with two vodka/sprites and a good short walk down college memory lane.  One round turns into two, turns into three, turns into shots of SoCo and lime....you get the point.  New friends are being made, a bit of dancing is breaking out and the night that should have ended when you reached the first book crossroads has now walked down every dark tunnel and faced every never-land dragon.  

This is pretty much where I stop remembering my night at Ladder 15.  Here's what I've been told.  The drinking and dancing ceased close to midnight (um, a reminder that Sips ends at 7PM would be lovely).  There was a taxi ride home, Dominos pizza consumed and I broke the BFFs house key.  I woke up dressed for work, albeit in yesterday's work clothes, with nausea that I hadn't felt since my mid-twenties.  Making it to work was a treat as was the morning hours that followed.  I'll spare you the details, but leave you with this: Choose your own Adventure books are intended to test not only your courage but also your greed.  Don't let the desire for reckless abandon sway the logical decision to take the lighted a few times.  You'll appreciate it in your 9AM meetings.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sips, Week Ten - Fado

I've dragged my feet in posting this blog because Week Ten wasn't everything that the nine that came before it turned out to be.  Off we went to Fado this week for a bit of soccer and some good wine.  Yes, good wine at an Irish Bar.  If those had been my only expectations, then Fado exceeded them.  Soccer was on nearly every television in the bar and the Riesling was (dare I say...) the best I've had in the city this summer.  My hat's off to you, Fado, for the unexpected surprise.  However, for whatever reason, the rest of the Philly Sipsters weren't as excited to walk through the dark wooden doors of Fado.  The places was nearly empty for a good portion of Sips.  Womp, womp.  

I suppose that Sips doesn't have the same appeal as Union games on the tv, St Patrick's Day or a Friday post-work happy hour - all of which I highly recommend at Fado.  

So, we did what any good Sipsters would do and maximized the time that we had remaining in the Sips evening by heading over to Corner Bar.  If you remember, we tried to hang at Corner in Week Seven (If you don't remember, feel free to read it here:  Sips, Week Seven), but it was too crowded and too muggy to really enjoy their amazing roof deck.  However it was none too crowded and none too hot to enjoy the Boom Swagger Sangria this week.  So there I stood at Sips bar #2 for the week taking in the scenery, and that's when I realized "Am I getting too old for SIps?"

If you've read even a sentence of this blog since it launched, you know how much I love Sips.  Its a couple of hours where I know that I'll see my amazing friends and try out some amazing drinks at reduced price.  I'd venture to say that Sips makes me fall in love with Philadelphia all over again for thirteen weeks.  However, as I looked around Corner, I realized that the crowds were getting younger and younger, and I was feeling more out of place without the standard PBR pounder or Miller Lite bottle in my overly tanned, Jersey shore hand.  (Yes, that most certainly is my jealousy of their youth and their tan shining through.  Mature, I know.)

Anyway, I've been pondering this thought for the past week.  No one can be too old for happy hour, right?  (The 50-somethings that I am so lucky to come across don't think so....) I mean, maybe in our effort to try out the entire Sips list, we're hitting the wrong bars.  Or, maybe the city is changing a bit and we need to find new bars to spend our happier hours.  All I know right now is that I'm seeing a lot of girls that should have their ID's double and triple checked, and a lot of guys who are rockin' the Nantucket Red shorts and boat shoes rather than a navy power suit.  Is there actually an age when jetting out of the office at 4:45 to maximize the Sips hours becomes juvenile?  Eek, I hope not.  Because we have three more weeks of this, and I'm looking forward to every one.  Fall will be here before we know it and the life that is Wednesday Sips will fade away for another year.  

I will gracefully turn another year older before Sips rolls around in 2013, so I guess I will need to figure these things out before then.  BUT until then, bottoms up!  

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sips, Week Nine - Smokin' Bettys

Some say love is patient, some say it is kind. All girls (and probably some guys...somewhere...likely in Idaho or Alaska) dream of their one true love: growing old together and holding hands until you're 90. Anyone who knows me knows that it's likely that I think about (read: fall into) love more than most girls. I have long dreamt of that day when I'm swept off of my feet and spend the rest of my life in a perpetual state of happiness. Nine weeks into Sips, I believe this day has finally come. SIPSonthis has fallen in love with Smokin' Bettys.

Smokin' Bettys has been a potential suitor for the past nine weeks. A little background: Each week a couple of us select a Sips bar for the week. Then, an email, complete with witty commentary and a link to this blog, is sent to a group of about 35 friends via a Google Group. Yes, we're Sips OCD. Yes, we're overly organized. Yes, we're serious about Sips. Yes, we recognize all of these things. Anyway, Smokin' Bettys has been like that guy that's been your friend for a while but you've never thought to give him a chance. ...until that one night. From that night on, you just can't get enough. It's love. It's forever. It's the best relationship one can ask for: always up for drinks and dinner, a good night in front of the tv or hanging out with your best friends.

So, maybe this is all a but extreme, but Smokin' Bettys IS a great Sips spot. With two floors of bars, lots of space/tables and friendly bartenders, who can go wrong? The only unsolicited recommendation that I can offer is a better Pinot Grigio. I didn't try the food, but have heard mixed reviews. If anyone can contribute constructive criticism, I'm all ears, but please know that just as in every other new relationship I'm not really listening and I don't really care.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Sips, Week Eight - A Tale of Two Sips

Last year Vango was THE PLACE to be on a sunny, Wednesday evening.  The roof deck has an amazing view and the atmosphere just screams "I've had a rough week, let's drink until these beds make sense"!  So, you'd imagine my surprise when this year's experience was nothing of the sort.  Our group of seven represented two-thirds of the population at Vango, even through 6:15PM.  

Dear Vango, I know some great PR people.  Please hire them to get the cool kids back on the roof.  We love your establishment, but would love it more if we weren't the only ones there.

VanGO?  Yep, we VanWENT.  

(note: I've been very excited to use that witty phrase that I cleverly thought of as we were walking away from Vango.)  

All of the action was happening just steps down the road from Vango....at Ladder 15....

I'm not sure what was more exciting - the walk TO Ladder 15 amongst the hottest MLS stars known to man OR our time at Ladder...

Hey David Beckham, Call Me Maybe?

Ladder 15 rarely disappoints.  The place is packed to the walls with fun, young business men and women enjoying cocktails and tasty appetizers.  I've done a couple of fundraisers with Ladder, so maybe I'm biased, but have never had a bad time.  There are always a couple of creeper guys and some really interesting attire choices, but never a dull moment.

If I may, I'm going to stray for just a minute... Center City Sips is designed to keep the working crowd in the city for a few hours once a week to drive local business.  If this is the case, why do so many people go home to change into some crazy, Friday night outfits before coming to Sips?  Isn't the intention to roll out of your 10hour day of cubicle living into two hours of drink discounts and hump-day excitement?  *SMH*


Before you say anything, yes, I know that this breaks all of my own rules.  I'm well aware. However, if you stop drinking (novel concept) and simply eat their delicious food, you can go home happy, sober and before the sun goes down!  Definitely check out Smiths After Sips for great food and drink specials starting at 7:00PM.  And, if I may...try the carne pizza!  Yum!

If Ladder 15 and Smiths after Sips had a baby, you could call me Angelina Jolie.  I'd adopt that thing in a heartbeat.  Another happy Wednesday in the books.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sips, Week Seven - Sampan

So, originally this post was intended to be tagged "Sips, Week Seven - Corner", however upon entering Corner Bar last Wednesday a few things were immediate:  it was CRAZY crowded and it had NO (or very little) air conditioning.  My walk to Corner was hot enough, and I could not fathom standing on top of my fellow Sipsters while consuming the Boom Swagger Sangria.  I'm definitely disappointed, as I love Corner Bar. 

Dear Corner, we'll be back.

Alas, we headed down the stairs from the cozy rooftop location at Corner to swing over to Sampan.  Sampan is another clear Sips favorite.  The drinks are cool and the looping  movie sounds in the bathrooms are even cooler. (Who doesn't want to wash their hands to the sounds of Twelve Monkeys?)  We were able to grab seats right away and order up some fizzy drink that is topped off with champagne.  Yes, please.  

This week's Sips had clear highs and lows.
First the highs:
1. Re-connecting with an amazing girlfriend that I haven't caught up with in years.  SO great!  Love old friends!
2. Two words:  Saki Sangria.  It's like candy.  Good call, Sampan
3. I was reminded that men should not wear cargo shorts.  What DO you need those extra pockets for.  Thanks for the laughs, Lee -- Cargo Jesus will never make an appearance in our lives again
4. Sampan does us all a favor and hires a handful of super hot waiters.  Another good call.

...and the Lows:
1.  Sampan's bar area is a bit narrow.  I'm unsure of the exact number of people who stepped on my feet or accidentally took an elbow while I was wildly gesturing during what was clearing a riveting discussion...
2.  The female bartenders at Sampan seem to despise those of the same gender.  This is clearly speculation, but a shared theory by others
3.  As much as we love Sampan, so does clear douchebaggery (see http://areyouadouchebag.wordpress.com/ for further explanation).  Guys, a little hint:  don't approach a girl, chat her up for a couple of hours, then tell her that you have three girlfriends out on the Main Line.  It may have worked for those three, but it's not going to enhance any relationship with the self-respecting Sipster sister.  Just because you put on a suit and tie doesn't mean that you're not lame.  A good reminder for the ladies!
4.  See #3 from the Highs

There are few bad times at Sampan.  All in all, I would consider Sips, Week Seven to be a raging success.  

Addendum to Week Seven:

Because I have no Wednesday self control, and because the rules have already been broken, we stopped by Alfa for a post-Sips cocktail.  Who knew that Alfa was serving a HUGE plate of tater tots for only TEN dollars?!  Not this girl.  I've never been a huge fan of Alfa before last week.  Typically the eerie darkness and lounge-y atmosphere isn't for me, but I'm reformed.  Thank you Alfa for eliminating any pending hangover.  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sips, Week 6 - Four Season Beer Garden

It's week six of Sips already.  Where has the time gone?  Clearly I have been living my Wednesdays to the fullest, as it feels like Sips just started yesterday.  

Before I dive into our Week Six adventures, its only fair that I address Week Five...or the lack thereof.  Week Five fell on July 4th.  The thought of this made me as giddy as a kid on Christmas Eve:  no work, barbecues and Sips, followed by fireworks.  On a Wednesday.  Did I mention 'no work'?  Ah, the planning for this day was full of energy and excitement.  We'd throw a party from noon until Sips, hit Sips, catch some fireworks and head home.  Theme of the day?  Freedom Sips.  Simple right?  One would think.  In hindsight, my zeal for day drinking always wins.  I should know this at the age of thirty-one.  

Dear Center City District, the next time Sips falls on a bank holiday, what are the chances that we can move Sips up to 3:00PM or 4:00PM?  Whew...5:00PM is a stretch when my celebrations start at noon.  ::sigh::  I guess these are the reasons that we work during the day.

Fast forward seven days.  This week was a special week, as fellow Sipster and my best friend from the past 10 years is celebrating her birthday.  In traditional Sips fashion, the birthday honoree gets to select his/her choice of Sips location.  The decision was to go a bit off of the grid this week and tap into our classy side for the recently re-introduced Beer Garden at the Four Seasons.  

[Had i known then what I know now, I would have avoided the Four Seasons.  NOT because of our experience there (detailed below), but merely to avoid the senior executives from my company all staying at the hotel for a board meeting today.  Taking the chance that you bump into the Chairman of the Board on the way out of the loo while spilling your 15th beer?  I'll pass.  Lucky for me, that did not happen....this time... ]

ANYHOW, during Beer Week 2012, The Four Seasons and With Love Philadelphia had, hands down, the best pop-up beer garden in the city.  So, without hesitation, we expected this one to be the same.  It was not, in fact, the same.  Despite the fantastic drink list and constantly replenished homemade chips, the 'garden' environment was lackluster.  There were no couches or chairs in the lawn, and the garden was contained to just the patio.  A small disappointment, however nothing to spoil a great night of friends, birthdays and great drinks! 

Let me reiterate - The Four Seasons is amazing.  Even their bathrooms are poshy.  The drink list could not have been better, displaying six or seven local beers, great wines and some fantastic cocktails for $7 or less.  The seating was cozy and made it easy to converse with all people in our party.  The service was great and the bartender was friendly and patient.  [Side note:  patience is a must with our group, as we never remember anything.  He probably repeated the beer list 150 times before we remembered even one of them].  And the best part?  The Sips hours were extended from 5PM - 8PM.  An extra permitted* hour of Sips. I just wanted more garden with my beer.  

Dear Four Seasons, We love you.  We especially love the amazingly good looking men that hang out in your bar area.  You woo'ed me with your garden environment during Beer Week, so my expectations were high for Sips.  Any chance you can add some comfy couches for our imminent return?  xo, SIPSonthis

*Please see week four post for rules around Sips hours.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Sips, Week 4 - Marathon

Dictionary.com defines Rule as:  (n) a principle or regulation governing conduct, action, procedure, arrangement, etc.

It seems simple enough. We learned rules early in life. As a child, there were many rules -- Don't hit.  Don't bite.  Don't ride your bike in the street.  As we became teenagers, rules changed but were still quite clear -- Don't stay out after curfew.  Don't cheat on tests.  Don't steal the liquor from your parents liquor cabinet.  (Okay, so those were the years where we also learned how to strategically break rules too...)  As we went off to college, the rules got a bit loose. Staying out after curfew became acceptable because curfew disappeared.  Stealing liquor no longer crossed the mind since there was always an eager fraternity guy looking to pour it directly down your throat.  And, lets face it, biting was widely socialized....  However, many rules still remained -- Don't cheat on said fraternity guy who not only anxiously over-serves you alcohol, but also has become your boyfriend.  Don't skip your recitation classes for Accounting 211.  Don't convince yourself that you can consume more than one 23oz margarita.  

The old adage "Rules are meant to be broken" is a joke.  Rules are meant to permit you to return to your daycare, attend a school dance sober and prevent the walk of shame.  As we leave the collegiate lifestyle and enter into adulthood, we all have a bit more flexibility to create our own rules of living a successful life.  Some people create few rules for themselves and enjoy the frequent indulgence; some people set far too many parameters and end up missing out on the spontaneity that living has to offer.  I'd like to think that I've found myself somewhere in the middle.  The indulgence of my summer can be defined in one word:  Sips.  Yet, despite the freedom of indulgence, there is one guideline that was implemented after one too many Thursday mornings that started with the thought "How the bleeeeeep is it only Thursday?! And how in the name of the Lord am I going to pull myself out of bed, let alone make it through at least 8 hours of work?"  That one rule, as I've mentioned before is:

When Sips ends at 7PM, the evening ends.  Period.  I repeat:  when Sips is over, the night is over.  

However, without fail, Marathon manages to woo the crowd with it's outdoor patio, it's fancy palm trees and perfectly strung lights overhead.  Like a romantic date, the sun goes down but you don't want it to end.  

It was a bit windy on 19th and Market, but that didn't prevent us from grabbing the last two tables and setting up shop to consume sangria and classy bottles of PBR.  The time moved like it  did in Scrooged, the hands on the clock flying from 5PM to 6PM and beyond 7PM before we noticed.  The first glance at the clock was 7:16PM.  Based on the aforementioned rule, that should have been a bold, blaring siren ending the evening promptly.  However, we all know that this blog would not contain this riveting, attention grabbing post if that were the case.  Before I know it, the sun has long set and I'm deep in a conversation with a guy who is virtually sucking down Long Island Iced Teas at a rate that would get him cast on the Jersey Shore without an audition, and talking about his job working with at-risk youth.  As you can imagine, this combination did not work to his advantage.  However, it did work to mine.  [No, that's not what I mean; get your minds out of the gutter.]  In realizing how ridiculously intoxicated said Long Island Drunken Counselor was, I realized that it was damn near 10PM and this night NEEDED to end.  The BFF was a six-pack deep into the Summer of Coronas and there was a solid chance that the Dominos app was about to be put into action.  So, away we went, up 19th Street towards Dominos, which we both consumed in its entirety sitting in complete silence.  

As always, thank you Marathon for your cheap drinks, your cozy patio and your alluring summer nights.  And thank you for never letting us down on the eye candy, it is much appreciated.  But let this be a lesson to you all: Rules are put in place for a reason.  They keep you semi-safe and kind of sober, but most of all, they prevent you from consuming a bottle of Sprite at 7:45AM on your walk to work.