Ain't she a beaut
Ain't she a beaut
Photo by ActionVance on Unsplash
By Logan Mahan / January 3, 2020 9:37 am

Oh, Philadelphia. A city widely beloved by its locals and hated by many, many outsiders.

Unless you happen to be one of those outsiders who has ventured into the mean streets of Philly and discovered that it’s actually a city rich in history, art and food that just happens to have some … spirited sports fans who sometimes show love for their city in unconventional ways. I, however, am not one of those outsiders, I am a native Philadelphian and have a major bias. 

Typically, when I go home for weekend trips, I have a routine. This involves taking a two-hour bus ride and, upon arrival, immediately ordering a cheesesteak from Dalessandro’s with American cheese, marinara sauce and fried onions (fight me on it) and tearing that shit up on my couch, where I will continue to live for the remainder of my stay. My latest trip to Philly, however, was a little less primitive. Instead, I stepped out of 30th Street Station, walked a few blocks to 23rd and Ranstead and down an iffy-looking alleyway to the Fitler Club — Philadelphia’s take on the members-only-social-club-Soho-House experience. 

Opening just this past year in the Aramark building, the Fitler Club boasts its game-changing “work/stay/play” hub, and quite frankly, they’ve got it down pat. What you’ll get with your membership is access to a huge two-level gym, a lap pool and spa, 34,000 square feet of offsite working spaces, office and conference rooms, a movie theater, three bars, a bowling alley, event space, outdoor/indoor dining and lounge areas, and a 14-room hotel. The club, as founder David Gutstadt describes it, is the next evolution in the private lifestyle club space — combining health and wellness, social and co-working spaces and community in an urban environment. While membership prices vary, if you’re looking to join, be prepared to have an shell out $6,000-$10,000.

Though there is a way to get around the membership fees and still enjoy the club’s offerings — by booking a stay in one of the club’s fourteen luxurious, Mid Century modern rooms, which are open to the public. Next to the ultra-sleek bathroom that includes an interesting glass wall shower, each room is filled with tons of natural light, complimentary snacks and small vintage touches (like a working retro telephone) interspersed throughout all the modernity. 

While you can certainly get lost in all the fancy amenities, you never quite forget you’re in the greatest goddamn city in the world. Dining at the restaurant led by Philadelphia Chef Marc Vetri, you’re surrounded by floor- to-ceiling windows with views of the Schuylkill River and 30th Street Station. Stepping outside onto the dining deck, you’re faced with the towering FMC building and, of course, the never-ending sounds of construction sites. The entire club, really, including the gym and offsite space, is submerged in the surrounding area of a bustling Market Street. 

But the inside is an ode to the city as well. The walls of the Back Bar — the club’s speakeasy meets local bar meets entertainment venue — are cluttered with vintage photos of industrial Philly. Throughout the club, you’ll find art pieces from local Philadelphia artists — most of which are for sale — and the decorative wallpaper in the bathrooms and hallways are sourced from a local print-shop. You might even run into some famous Philadelphian folk — the Eagles’ Zach Ertz and Malcolm Jenkins, as well as Sixers’ point guard Ben Simmons and filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, are all investors in the club. 

And of course, the food. The club offers three places to eat: The Dining Room, the more casual Back Bar, and the Lounge, for lighter bites. As noted above, the club’s culinary advisor is chef, restaurateur and Philly legend, Marc Vetri, co-owner of Vetri Cucina — a landmark Italian restaurant that’s been open for more than two decades on Spruce Street. But at the Fitler Club, everything from oysters to Honeynut Squash Cappellacci and Roasted Black Cod with trumpet mushroom riesling is being served up, along with an extensive list of signature cocktails.

Gutstadt has plans to bring his new-age social club to different cities, but for now, it sits in Philly, where certain Philadelphians can enjoy their exclusive, amenity-filled country club without having to venture to the suburbs. If you’re planning an upcoming trip, consider booking a stay at the Fitler Club. But maybe only if you’ve already seen the city — you couldeasily spend an entire weekend checking out the club’s amenities and miss out on what’s happening outside.

Just make sure to grab a cheesesteak from Dalessandro’s on your way out of town.