1. Avril 50
This yellow–trimmed storefront on Sansom is a work of art disguised as a coffee–chocolate–cigarette shop. The medium is collage, the material is merchandise. The walls of Avril 50 are a mosaic of art publications, coffee beans, cigarette cartons, imported chocolate bars and obscure concert posters—all curated in loving detail by John Shahidi, a Persian–Parisian who is the shop’s sole owner, manager and employee.
2. Sugar Philly Food Truck
Parked at 48th between Walnut and Sansom every weekday afternoon, the design of the Sugar Philly truck is as sweet as its contents. The vehicle depicts a storm of desserts raining down on Philadelphia over four seasons, inked in candy–hued pinks, blues and violets. It’s a work of design, being both aesthetic and functional. The truck’s signage provides visual instruction to customers on how to enjoy the tiny sugared pastries sold: in large quantities, every day, falling from the sky. Make it rain (salted caramel macarons and vanilla creme brulee and tiny cheesecakes).
3. Hill College House
I would prefer for Benjamin Franklin’s involvement in my meals to be on the face of a $100 bill as I pay Lyn, but Hill College House has other ideas. Instead of fun–sized Ben, Hill presents hungry freshmen and confused upperclassmen still on a dining plan with a supersize wall mural of the prez that takes Benjamania to a whole new level. The dining experience at Hill is accompanied by a distinct feeling of being watched: Ben Franklin is looking down on you with his resting bitch face as you follow that egg white and spinach omelette with six bowls of blue ice cream.
4. Ox Coffee
Downtown South Street is perfect for window–shopping and people–watching. But with its myriad thrift stores, smoke shops, tattoo parlours, street art, picture framers, beautiful pedestrians etc. etc. etc. etc.—it can be exhausting. Ox Coffee, tucked just off of South on 3rd Street, is a minimalist respite from the visual gang–bang raging around the corner. Part coffee shop, part gallery space, Ox displays the work of a different artist on its whitewashed walls every few weeks. The cafe’s decor consists of small potted plants, raw wood tables and benches and an ever–changing smattering of artwork all curated around a crisp, chill aesthetic.