Yesterday was 84 degrees. Today, it’s a middling 65. As I trek through a brisk wind and spatters of rain to Cira Green, I wonder if this is the turning point—the final traces of summer flickering away into a muted gray fall.
Cira Green was made for warmer weather than this, but the stretches of trees, flowers, and grasses on the rooftop are still vibrant, just a bit battered by the breeze. I hide from the worst of the cold by ducking into Sunset Social, a partly open–air restaurant in the middle of the green space.
Just like the weather ambiguously hovers between summer and fall, Sunset Social seems to occupy different times and places. The restaurant is white and modern, with green accents and plants to match its surroundings. It’s also decidedly styled like a retro diner: the neon art and cartoon mascot (a milkshake with high heels and big red lips) are a throwback to the ‘50s. Sunset Social itself sits on a contrast, nestled in a tuft of nature amidst an industrial city.
Featuring burgers, bowls, sandwiches, and a variety of fries and tots, the menu takes influences from Philly, the Southern U.S., and even Hawaii. The Jawnion Burger features an onion ring smothered in barbeque sauce, while the Big Kahuna Bowl mixes pineapple, bacon, and jalapeños into a sweet, spicy, savory treat. As we order, the music from overhead speakers jumps between decades. After a while, it settles on the ‘80s.
We go for the Big Kahuna Burger (which has similar ingredients to the bowl) and the Homestyle Fried Chicken Sandwich. The burger is covered in a perfectly smoky teriyaki barbeque sauce, and the generous helping of jalapeños adds a needed kick. But the two burger patties included in the Big Kahuna were dry and lacked substance for a $9 price tag. The pineapple was tangy, but almost too little to taste.
Although we’ve had better burgers, there was almost no way to improve the fried chicken sandwich. The patty was thick, crispy, and still juicy on the inside, plus the freshly made bread had a sweetness that complemented the ranch dressing and sour pickles. I spent 18 years of my life in the South, so trust me when I say this is as good as a fried chicken sandwich gets.
Sunset Social’s food has its strengths, but the price of each item is hard to justify when you consider the small portions. Without any sides or drinks, the meals feel incomplete, but with them, the cost doubles.
But if you eat with your eyes as much as with your mouth, the occasional trip to Sunset Social and Cira Green is well worth it. The appeal of swaying trees, combined with a 360–degree look at the Schuylkill and Philly, is timeless. As another school year rolls on toward fall and winter, Sunset Social stands in a haven that seems perpetually green, calling you to far away—to yesterday, to summer.
TL;DR: Go for solid sandwiches and a drink or two; stay for the irreplaceable view.
Location: 129 S. 30th Street
Hours: Monday – Sunday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.