Here ya go, hot off the presses, and the ovens.
THE PRETZEL UNDERGROUND - A man, a bicycle ans Philly's most mobile food tradition.
OF ALL OF Philadelphia’s signature foods, there’s only one that inspires a regular field trip. Got a
bike and a midnight craving? This is the pastime for you.
I first heard of the Tuesday night event from a friend over drinks at McGlinchey’s. “Has anyone ever heard of the Pretzel Ride?” he asked. The next thing I knew, I was struggling to keep up as we raced our bikes to the Art museum. We had to get there before midnight, we were told, or the weekly ritual would carry on without us. A few dozen kids and twice as many wheels assemble every Tuesday at the foot of the famous stone steps. It’s a
veritable underground bicycle gang, in search of South Philly’s finest soft pretzels. When midnight flashes across the top of the PECO building, they’re off. The ride makes its way leisurely down the Ben Franklin Parkway in a tight-knit single unit, holding traffic at bay until it reaches Arch Street. Then it’s a slight turn onto 15th before winding around City Hall and out onto a well-lit stretch of Broad, a straight shot all the way down to Washington. The bicycles take over — on the pretzel ride route, the cars are no longer the masters of the road. On my first pretzel ride, I let my hands fall from the handlebars as I pedaled and grinned at my friend.
“This is incredible!” “Yeah!” he shouted back. “I’m in love with every girl here!” Worth the trip. This crew might not return that love, but the pretzel ride regulars do tolerate strangers. On our ride, my companion struck up a
conversation with one rider on a six-foot-tall yellow bike that must have been borrowed from the circus. All along the route, riders chat away, oblivious to the consternation coming from the cars around them. The ride ends with a left onto Washington Avenue and a few blocks farther to its intersection at Eighth Street. There the
Center City Soft Pretzel Co. opens its doors at midnight (1 a.m. on Saturday). The faster bike riders form a line (a ridiculous sight, considering the time of night), and the few customers who don’t arrive on bikes end up a little confused. The pretzels are four for $1, served with the best nacho cheese in the city. I’m amazed I didn’t
notice the smell all the way back at the Art Museum. No sooner had we gorged on the first batch out of the
ovens that everyone took off, separately, into the night. The route home is up to you but made all the better by the fact that you’re clutching paper bags that hold the remains of the best breakfast ever.