Student Advice, Student Commentary
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My Philly Neighborhood: Fishtown

Fishtown, Philadelphia
Photo by M. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia™

Editors Note: Since Philadelphia is known as a city of neighborhoods, we asked Temple Law students, faculty, and staff to talk about what they love, hate, and can’t live without in their neighborhood. Each month, we’ll release another write-up of a new Philly neighborhood.

After living outside of Pittsburgh for the past few years, I moved to Philadelphia to attend Temple Law. With only an outside knowledge of the city and its neighborhoods, I searched through Craigslist for something that was within walking distance of the law school. I knew my first year would be insane, and I figured I’d spend most of my time in the library anyways. The result: I ended up on 13th and Diamond, at the edge of Temple University’s campus. Surrounded by undergrads with — how should I say this — different social schedules than me, little to no restaurants, and no good cafes, I ended up spending most of my time in the library without much regret.

My second year, all that changed.

I have a few priorities for a neighborhood I want to live in: (1) great cafes with coffee-snob-level brew, (2) within biking distance of my school/place of work, (3) a few good bars and dives, and (4) a distinct lack of pomp. With the last quality there, I prefer a place that is just starting to realize it’s awesome, but hasn’t entered the “post-hip” expensive-just-because level quite yet (see e.g., Brooklyn, NY). Luckily, in Philadelphia, there are a number of neighborhoods that have this distinct quality of desired grit. For me, it turned out to be Fishtown.

Well, more specifically, “Portfishington.” Port Richmond, Fishtown, and Kensington all closely overlap each other. A cartographer would tell me I live in Port Richmond. But I walk one block and, magically, I’m in Fishtown! Walk a few more blocks, and poof, I’m in Kensington. So, it’s all Fishtown to me.

Fishtown Rapid Fire

Best Thing About Fishtown: Hipsters
Worst Thing About Fishtown: Hipsters
How I get to Temple Law: Bike. Others take the #3 bus direct to Cecil B. Moore Ave.
Closest Grocery Store: Port Richmond Thriftway or Acme

Best Place for:
Coffee: 
Reanimator Café / La Colombe /
Drinks: Johnny Brenda’s
Dinner: Fette Sau
Dessert: Little Baby’s Ice Cream, inside of Pizza Brain
Studying: Reanimator Café

Affordable Housing

When looking for an apartment, my future roommates (and prior 1L Section Three classmates) and I were very rent-conscious. Within our budget, we found a recently-renovated row house in South Philadelphia. It was miles from school, strangely high in rent, and the whole house was tilted slightly. We then viewed another apartment in West Philadelphia, an old mansion converted into a wonky duplex that had high rent and a long commute. Finally, we viewed a place in Fishtown. It was a newly-constructed row home with hardwood floors throughout, brand-new appliances, lots of space, and two full bathrooms. The most surprising thing — it was less than anything else we’d viewed. Moreover, it was only two miles from campus. At $2,000 total, my roommates and I are able to live in a brand-new row home for about $500 each.

Night Life

Typically, my girlfriend and I find ourselves taking most of our dates in Fishtown. We like to get out and about and see new people and places, but almost any conversation about where to go ends up with some new place in Fishtown. Whether it’s eating one of America’s best pizzas at Pizzeria Beddia, deliberating which craft beer we should try on tap at Johnny Brenda’s, or celebrating the end of exams with more pork belly than I could handle at Kensington Quarters, Fishtown has the best restaurants I’ve eaten at in Philly. And if those places are too busy, we can always grab a burrito from the food trucks parked on Girard and Frankford Ave.

Coffee and Study Grinds

La Colombe Coffee Shop

La Colombe: M. Fischetti for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

The coffee has achieved pro status in Fishtown. Last fall, La Colombe opened its flagship location on Frankford Ave., and it is the most impressive café I’ve experienced. With phenomenal coffee, massive ceilings, big tables, great food and even cold beer, I’ve put a number of hours in at this shop. Still, if over-the-top isn’t your style, my recommendation is my most local café, Reanimator Coffee. Locally roasted beans, friendly faces, and a proper alternative rock playlist make this café by regular stop for my weekly supply of coffee beans.

Location and Transportation

Fishtown is just a little over two miles from Temple’s campus, and that’s fine by me. Hipsters have made the locals well aware of bearded bicyclists in Fishtown — it’s become bike friendly with biking lanes on the main thoroughfares throughout the neighborhood. My daily ride to/from school is a healthy 15-minute jaunt, first down York Street, then straight up Berks Street’s bike lane onto campus. I head to the federal courthouse twice a week too. By using the bike lanes on Delaware Ave, located just four blocks from my house, I’m in center city in about ten minutes. For me, Fishtown is perfectly located to facilitate a cycling habit. It’s close enough to always bike, and not so far that I might skip on days when I’m feeling lazy.

Friends who prefer not to bike can hop on the #3 Septa bus located on Front and Berks. From there, it’s a 15-minute ride to campus. You can also catch an elevated Market Street Line train at the same intersection, which will take you directly into center city without much effort.

“For me, Fishtown is perfectly located to facilitate a cycling habit. It’s close enough to always bike, and not so far that I might skip on days when I’m feeling lazy.”

With a car, all of Fishtown is within a mile from I-95. Jump onto I-95 South and you’re a five-minute drive from center city, and a ten-minute drive from the shopping on Delaware Ave in South Philadelphia. The airport is even less than 15-minutes away – a small miracle in Philadelphia.

Bottom Line

All in all, Fishtown has become the best neighborhood I’ve lived in. Great coffee, beer, and company abound. The only downside is that I’m probably not spending as much time in the library as I could otherwise. Still, to find a balance between the demands of law school and the exciting city that we live in, I’d say it’s worth it.

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