As we all know, the city of brotherly love has a lot to offer. Irene Levy Baker does not only agree with that fact, she even wrote two remarkable books about Philadelphia. Irene is the author of “100 Things to Do in Philadelphia Before You Die” and “Unique Eats and Eateries of Philadelphia.”
Q: What made you decide to write this amazing, handy books?
Baker: I’m a Philadelphian by choice, not by birth. I moved here in 1991, started working for the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, and fell in love with the city. I went on to found Spotlight Public Relations, a PR firm specializing in restaurants and hospitality. So when I was approached by the publisher about writing the Philadelphia version of this series, I knew it was a great fit. After 100 Things To Do In Philadelphia Before You Die was so well received, then I went on to write Unique Eats and Eateries of Philadelphia.
Q: Correct me if I’m wrong, 100 Things to Do in Philadelphia Before You Die is not just a tourists’ go-to guide, it’s more of Philly’s bucket-list isn’ it? Who’s the intended audience for your book?
Baker: 100 Things to Do in Philadelphia Before You Die includes both tried-and-true attractions and hidden gems, along with a tip to enhance each experience. It is ideal for visitors, newcomers and long-time Philadelphians. Unique Eats and Eateries of Philadelphia tells the sweet and spicy stories behind 90 of Philadelphia’s most fascinating chefs and restaurants. While visitors might enjoy the book, I wrote it for local foodies who are interested in being well-read and well-fed.
Q: The book is neatly divided into different categories Food and Drink, Music and Entertainment, Culture and History, Sports and Recreation, and Shopping and Fashion. Can you share with us some of your favorite tips?
Baker: In 100 Things To Do In Philadelphia Before You Die my favorite tips are about lesser-known attractions, how to get freebies or discounted admission, how to avoid crowds or things that Shouldn’t be missed.
My favorite tips in Unique Eats and Eateries of Philadelphia are about how to get reservations at Philadelphia’s trendiest restaurants, how to get secret menu items and how to find and get into Philadelphia’s speakeasies.
Q: We got some amazing, obvious and hidden, gems in the city. What are some of the cool spots that even Philadelphians may not know about?
Baker: While I was doing the research for the books, I had so many adventures like touring Laurel Hill Cemetery, trying the water ice at Pop’s Italian Ice, attending free concerts at the Curtis School of Music, going to tea at Frieda for generations, listening to jazz at Bob & Barbara’s and sipping drinks at Hop Sing Laundromat, doing a tour of Philadelphia Brewing and much more.
Q: The book highlights some of my personal favorite places in the city, such as Hop Sing Laundromat and Laurel Hill Cemetery. What about the suburbs?
Baker: Both books list places in the city and in the suburbs.
Q: Is your list ranked in any particular order?
Baker: All you have to do is taste the olive thyme bread at Metropolitan Bakery (#100) to know the places are not ranked in order. If you haven’t tried Metropolitan’s bread yet, you’re in for a treat!
Q: How did you choose what restaurants to include in Unique Eats & Eateries of Philadelphia?
Baker: I thought of myself as a food detective, not a food critic. That being said, in order to get into Unique Eats & Eateries of Philadelphia, the restaurant had to have good food and a good story. I included love stories, dinners interrupted by bungled mob hits, a restaurant that started in a backyard tent plus places passed down through the generations and more. The book also has tips like where to find the most sinful desserts, where to spot celebs, and where to taste goat. Plus lists of vegetarian and gluten-free restaurants, places for brunch, places for groups and other things that people often ask about.
Q: How long do you think it will take someone who wants to complete this bucket list?
Baker: I can’t tell you how long it would take but I can tell you it would be A LOT of fun!
Q: Where can people get your books?
Baker: If you get the books on my website, say you read about it on LivinOutLoud and I’ll sign it for you. The books are also available on Amazon, at Shakespeare & Co. Books on 17th & Walnut, at Bella Turka on 17th & Sansom and at Barnes & Noble.
What would you put on your Philly bucket-list? Post them in the comment below