Ants Pants

The text "Ants Pants Cafe" over the date the cafe was established: 2004In the grand scheme of Philadelphia’s suddenly booming speciality coffee scene, Ant’s Pants is something of a wizened old establishment, having been around since 2004 (although even that pales into insignificance compared to the likes of Anthony’s Coffee House). It proudly states its Aussie inspiration, going as far as to use Toby’s Estate coffee (Aussie-owned, Brooklyn roasted).

The Aussie heritage also shines through in the emphasis on food; breakfast is served all day (well, until closing time, which is four o’clock) and there’s table service, a novelty in American coffee shops. This puts it more on a par with an American diner, particularly with the emphasis on the food, albeit with better coffee than your average diner.

If all this is too much for you, Ants Pants is conveniently split into two, the front part being much more traditional coffee shop, with a four-seat window bar and the counter down the right-hand side. The second part is at the back, down a short corridor past the kitchen, where you’ll find all the tables (notwithstanding the pair out on the sidewalk).

Except that by the time you read this, there’ll also be an outdoor greenhouse at the back with more seating…

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Ants Pants occupies a small street front in South Philadelphia. On South Street no less!
  • There are outside tables and, just like Rival Bros, trapdoors for the unwary!
  • Interesting A-board. I wonder what it's referring to...
  • The specials are on the other side: it's an impressive list.
  • Stepping inside, a welcome sight, especially in America, the land of counter service...
  • A panoramic view from just inside the door. The front is dominated by the counter...
  • ... with the only seating provided by this (very fine) window-bar at the front.
  • The counter in more detail.
  • However, there's more to Ants Pants than the front. Just wander down past the counter...
  • ... and you'll find yourself in the spacious room at the back where there's lots more seating.
  • A panoramic view of the seating at the back.
  • The seating along the left-hand side...
  • ... and seen looking the other way.
  • Looking into the light... The view from my table at the back, looking towards the counter.
  • I also found out what the A-board was talking about when I was given a sneak preview of the new outdoor greenhouse... about a week before it was ready.
  • I've been assured it's going to be lovely. Typical bad timing on my behalf!
  • Ants Pants has some interesting decor, including these on the beam between front & back.
  • Some of the artwork is a little too abstract for my tastes.
  • This, however, was much more to my tastes.
  • I also liked the abundance of mirrors.
  • There were some lovely light-fittings for those of that persuasion.
  • However, I might switch my allegiance to ceiling-fans...
  • Look, you can do action shots! Can't do that with lights...
  • Ants Pants puts its coffee credentials on display...
  • ... along with its Australian heritage.
  • The hot drinks menu is just as revealing...
  • ... while the cold drinks menu also has (hot) 'Aussie drinks' at the bottom.
  • In case you forgot who roasts the coffee.
  • I was intrigued by this. Never seen an Ethiopian decaf before. I should have bought a bag...
  • Cake!
  • In case you missed the specials chalked up on the A-board outside, they're inside as well...
  • ... and also at the back. Very convenient. And also an impressive range of food...
  • ... especially when you consider the size of the kitchen it's all produced in. Yes, that's it!
  • My Eggs Florentine: this being an Aussie place, it has to be all healthy though.
  • My flat white. First time I've seen one in a cylindrical glass mug.
  • I followed this up with a straight espresso, having not had Toby's Estate before.
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Ants Pants was set up in 2004 with the idea of bringing a slice Aussie café life to Philadelphia. One of the owners, having married an Australian, spent several years down under and, on her return, brought the café culture with her. The result is a very unpretentious, neighbourhood place, which feels very unlike a third-wave coffee shop (after a week of Coffee Spot hunting in New York and Philadelphia, this made a welcome change).

The café’s front can serve as a more traditional coffee shop, with the window bar and outside tables, although you can also have your food up here if you like. It’s dominated by the counter, while the kitchen, perhaps the most important part of Ants Pants, is tucked away behind it, next to the narrow corridor that runs to the main seating area at the back. Surprisingly, given the impressive range of food it produces, it’s tiny.

Ants Pants also has a back yard which was used as an additional seating space in warmer months. However, while I was there, the finishing touches were being put to a conversion which saw it being roofed over with reclaimed glass. By the time you read this, it should be open as a year-round additional seating space.

Ants Pants has a small frontage, but is long and thin, with ceiling fans front and back. The big windows at front provide the only natural light, which makes the front a lovely, bright space. At the back, natural light bleeds in from the front, so it’s fairly dark, although spotlights in the low ceiling at the back stop it being gloomy.

Given the Aussie heritage, I naturally went for a flat white, which was the first I’ve had in a cylindrical mug, which I initially found off-putting. Even though I’m very used to seeing flat whites in my glass Keep Cup, seeing it in a cylindrical, glass mug was a really double-take moment. It was a very smooth drink, with the coffee blending well with the milk and yet coming through very strongly, especially towards the end.

The coffee is all from Brooklyn’s Toby’s Estate, which I missed out on in Brooklyn, so I was keen to try it. I therefore had an espresso, which, on the barista’s recommendation, was a double shot. Again, it was a very smooth coffee, with a touch of sweetness, but no great acidity, bitterness or fruity notes.

Again, given the Aussie heritage, I had to have brunch, selecting Eggs Florentine (on the menu as Eggs Benedict, but I ordered it without the bacon). This being an Aussie place, there was fruit rather than the more American home-fries. It was all lovely, the eggs and hollandaise sauce being particularly good, with the yolks rich, creamy and very, very runny. I always order toast to soak up the yoke, but in this case, not to have had something to dip into my eggs would have close to criminally negligent.

Just in case you think it’s all getting too healthy, there is more traditional American fare available in the shape of pancakes and French toast. All the food looked great, especially the sandwiches. Clearly I need to find a hotel in the neighbourhood so that I can have breakfast there every day and try the whole menu!

2212 SOUTH STREET • PHILADELPHIA • PA 19146 • USA +1 215-875-8002
Monday 07:00 – 16:00 Roaster Toby’s Estate (espresso + bulk-brew)
Tuesday 07:00 – 16:00 Seating Window Bar, Tables (back + outside)
Wednesday 07:00 – 16:00 Food Breakfast, Brunch, Cake
Thursday 07:00 – 16:00 Service Table
Friday 07:00 – 16:00 Cards Cash only
Saturday 08:00 – 16:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 08:00 – 16:00 Power No
Chain No Visits 12th March 2015

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2 thoughts on “Ants Pants

  1. Pingback: 2015 Awards – Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot | Brian's Coffee Spot

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