The East Passyunk neighborhood of Philadelphia has long been known for its foodie hot spots, including cheesesteak mainstays Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks and cultural cuisine like Perla’s Filipino food. So, a new Insomnia Cookies — the chain’s 192nd location — was a welcome addition when it opened on Saturday. But what makes the shop at 833 Wharton Street stand out is what you can’t see.
At a glance, the late-night cookie shop is just like its other locations, offering up warm, freshly baked treats into the wee hours of the morning (until 1 a.m. Sundays through Wednesdays and 3 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays).
But take a more careful look and there are actually two hidden ways to get your cookie fill — and experience Insomnia’s trademark treats in a way that you never have before.
If you peek behind the bookshelf inside the store, you’ll wind up in a secret cookie speakeasy — or, as they call it, a “sweeteasy.” That’s right, there’s a hidden CookieLab — and here, the creations are all up to you. The lab has unique flavors that aren’t offered elsewhere, but you can also customize your cookie to your taste. Plus, there’s a milkshake bar, so you mix it and match your sweet treats.
But don’t think access into the CookieLab is all that easy. Of course, like any good speakeasy, you need to know the right password to enter. The secret words change weekly, but can be found on Insomnia Cookies’ Instagram handle. (Psst! Look under the CookieLab Highlights.) If social media isn’t your thing, try asking the storefront’s staff and they might just let you in on the secret.
Of course, the CookieLab isn’t free of the pandemic, so all safety measures, including physical distancing and sanitizer stations, are in place. But there’s another way to experience Insomnia Cookies’ secret menu without having to step inside — from its window in the alley. There, creations like Strawberry Shortcake cookies are available for order.
The decision to hide the CookieLab in a Philadelphia store stems back to the roots of the company, which was founded by then-University of Pennsylvania student Seth Berkowitz in his dorm room in 2003. “Philadelphia has always been such an important part of our brand,” Berkowitz said in a statement sent to Travel + Leisure. “We are proud of our unique ability to give Insomniacs a new way to interact with and immerse themselves in our unique cookie culture right where the cookie magic all began.”
One TikTok user showed her experience at the CookieLab, saying that she waited an hour to get in, but noting, “It’s so fun and a cool vibe inside.”