Before the night was out, they would also savor sweet potato empanadas, fried chicken with bacon-braised collard greens, and alligator sausage.
Marketing expert Tracy Lee founded Dishcrawl in San Jose, Calif., in 2010 has since expanded it to 19 U.S. and five Canadian cities, assigning each to local ambassadors who organize the events.
The idea seemed made to order for Philadelphia, with its base of cool neighborhoods and hot chefs. The first 30 tickets sold out in four hours, said Michelle Cryder, Dishcrawl's resident ambassador. She added another 30 slots, and those tickets went just as fast - even though the names of the restaurants on the crawl would not be revealed until 24 hours in advance. Nor did crawlers know when they signed up that their late-January night out would be so balmy.
Cryder, 23, a Drexel student and sometime food writer, discovered Dishcrawl while interning at a weekly paper in San Jose.
She reached out to restaurants, inviting each to participate by preparing a trio of small plates off their menu or planned for a future menu. The $39 ticket price may change at each Dishcrawl, depending on the restaurants involved, and it's a cash bar for drinks. The money is distributed to the restaurants, with Dishcrawl taking a cut.
"I thought the idea was brilliant and would do well here," Cryder said.
It certainly appealed to Corey Latislaw, 31, and her husband, Jason Cox, 28, both software engineers from the South who moved to Philadelphia in 2010 and are still finding new neighborhoods and eateries. So far, so good, Latislaw said, "We're pescaterians [fish eaters] and Philly is really good for that sort of thing."
Cherese Verdi, 33, who lives near Rittenhouse Square, said that as a meeting planner she would have liked the Crawl organizers to do a bit of group-building to make the participants feel more connected.
After Cantina Dos Segundos, the crawlers meandered to Silk City, at Fifth and Spring Garden Streets, where general manager Joppy Ferrone served mini hot pastrami Reuben sandwiches on marble rye bread, plus two kinds of empanadas, jicama slaw, jalapeño cornbread, and juicy fried chicken with mashed potatoes.
"I hadn't heard of Dishcrawl before Michelle called," Ferrone said. "It sounded good and I thought if nothing else it's a good way to get the word out to new people."
The crawlers, some by now rubbing their tummies in satisfaction, strolled back to North Second Street (where many had left their cars) to Blind Pig, 702 N. Second, for small plates of vegetarian house-made spaetzle, pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw and German potato salad, and alligator sausages that "tasted like hot dogs," said Janet Barag, who did the crawl with her husband, Len, and daughter Jordan.
"Maybe it was the mustard," Barag said.
Jordan, 24, a vegetarian who posts her restaurant opinions often on Nosh.com, said she was pleased with the meat-free options at each stop (even as some carnivores grumbled about a bit too much pork). The Pig is open until 2 a.m. on weeknights, so Cryder had arranged for the group to stay there for huge moist cookies from Brown Betty, a nearby dessert boutique.
A March 6 Dishcrawl sold out quickly; more will be announced.
"I would definitely do this again," said Joan Clarke. "I actually didn't expect the food to be so good."
Additional details: dishcrawl.com/philly.
Contact staff writer Dianna Marder at 215-854-4211, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @marderd on Twitter. Read her recent work at http://go.philly.com/diannamarder