In a nutshell: Pick up one (or more) of this gourmet dessert food truck’s renowned macarons: highly recommend the chocolate ganache, tiramisu, or many of the flavor-of-the-days. Actually, just get anything on the menu that suits your fancy.
You can’t walk down 38th Street in University City without passing by a whimsically-painted truck adorned with sugar cubes and cakes raining from the sky. The truck, affectionately known as Sheila (fun fact: she was once a mobile post office in front of NYC’s World Trade Center), acts as the storefront for Sugar Philly. I was hooked on their sweets from the moment I first met the founders/owners back in 2010. The three guys in charge–Dan Tang, John Suh, and Franklin Shen–are deeply passionate about what they do; the care they place in making gourmet desserts and serving their clientele comes through in every bite.
Sugar Philly may be most well-known for their French macarons. While they whip up “normal-sized” macarons, each slightly larger than the circumference of a quarter, they first debuted on the macaron scene with ample-sized ones as big as one’s palm (which still exist on their present menu). The macaron cookies themselves are delicate and light to the touch. Ever-so-gently crisp as you bite in, the cookies are quick to exhibit the melt-in-your-mouth quality that is hard to achieve.
The decadent chocolate ganache with its satisfyingly rich, dense filling is a personal favorite (the magenta-toned shells also pop in a sea of tans and browns), along with the tiramisu with its aromatic hints of coffee and cocoa. The macarons also act as a blank canvas for extraordinary flavors. From apples à la mode to red bean peanut, cashew ginger lime to hazelnut cappuccino, the specialty flavors rotate on a daily basis to ensure that there is a macaron flavor to please anyone.
Other treats are just as divine. No crème brûlée would be complete without its characteristic layer of caramelized sugar; Dan expertly torches it before your eyes. The layer cracks with just a tap of the spoon, revealing a Madagascar-vanilla-bean-flavored custard that is “udderly” silky and creamy.
A buttery base of shortbread-like crumbs acts as the foundation for the crème fraîche cheesecake. The topping changes depending on the season: blueberry compote might top the cheesecake one day, while maple walnut poached apples may bonnet it another day.
Over the years, Sugar Philly has tweaked and modified the menu to fit moving trends and changing palettes. A brief throwback to some of their original menu items:
This smooth custard occasionally makes an appearance in the fall, its topping of candied pecans and toasted-to-order marshmallow adding texture and depth of flavor to the autumnal treat.
A soft nutty foundation topped with its namesake fruit, clear caramel, and a dollop of crème fraîche made this tart an oft-ordered item back in the day.
If you’re particularly lucky, perhaps you’ll be able to nab one of Dan’s super-special daily specials:
One particular day, mentioning that a certain someone was awesome got you a delectably tart lemon bar. The crisp, buttery crust cradled a lusciously smooth lemon filling: an excellent chaser to the salted caramel macaron (a wonderfully balanced interplay between sweet golden caramel and a touch of sea salt).
What would Pi Day be without pie? In honor of the mathematically delicious holiday celebrated annually on March 14, the crew whips up a uniquely-flavored pie each year. Yum.
If you can’t get out to the truck in University City or they’re sold out, Sugar Philly recently started selling their lovely macarons and madeleines at Di Bruno Bros’ coffee bar at 18th and Chestnut. Thanks for all the wonderful desserts so far, and here’s to many more!
38th Street between Walnut and Sansom Streets