Les Champs-Phlysées (Or 'We'll Always Have Passyunk Square')

Posted: May 09, 2007

 

You won't confuse Passyunk Square, the up-and-coming neighborhood between Washington Avenue and Tasker Street, for Paris, the City of Light. (Paris, for example, has no Pat's and no Geno's, either.) But the two have more in common than Paris might want to admit:

* A massed planting of London plane trees. In Paris, they shade the Champs-Elysées. Here, it's the entire length of the Wharton-street side of Capitolo Playground. The Capitolo planetrees (a street-tough sycamore) are among the 500 street trees planted in the neighborhood within the past four years. An allee of cherry trees near Pat's King of Steaks has been in glorious bloom this spring.

* Sublime French bread and pastries. Andre Chin, the Cambodian owner of Artisan Boulanger Patissier at 1648 S. 12th St., once worked as a pastry chef at the Sofitel in Paris and now supplies the French bistro Pif. His retail shop hours are 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sundays.

* A serious cafe culture, with notable bon vivants. Like Paris, Passyunk Square is swimming in excellent coffee, from the La Colombe at the Rim Café (1172 S. 9th St.) to the Old City Coffee at Benna's Café (1236 S. 8th St.) and beyond. The local roasts stoke the joie de vivre of Left Bankish personalities like Fergie, the celebrity Center City bartender, who was ensconced at Benna's the day the Daily News stopped by. At Rim, which is lovingly modeled after the cafes of the Riviera, l'ambience is so tres authentique that you can purchase French souvenirs and post cards.

* A boho art scene. Benna's Café, the Tenth Street Laundromat (1141 S. 10th St.), and the coffee shop E's Passyunk (1500 E. Passyunk) are some offbeat neighborhood venues that regularly display emerging artists' work.

* Pockets of xeno- (or is that Geno?) phobia. At Geno's Steaks, as in some Parisian establishments, paying customers who can't speak the native tongue are met with utter disdain. *

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