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Jul 12, 2000 12:17 PM

Philadelphia--Good old restaurants &/or intact hotel lounges?

  • k

We'll be in town for the weekend and would like to dig the scene. Any opinions on any of the old or "old" joints? I was thinking City Tavern, Bookbinders, tell me.

And how about cocktail lounges in any of the old hotels? Have they been renovated to death or are there any intact?

Thanks for your help.

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  1. c
    Clifford M. Sayre

    Old Bookbinder's, the one at Second Street, is still a tourist place, but the food is good and they seem to have gotten rid of the unionized waiters who wouldn't give you the right time of day. Still, the best restaurant in Philadelphia, is the Hotel DuPont Green Room, or Brandywine Room, in Wilmington, DE. It is only 35 minutes from center city via Amtrak or I-95. Susanna Foo's is great Chinese fusion and the downstairs bar at Le Bec Fin is worth a try for great food at a discount price. If you like funk try The White Dog. Zocalo is great Philly-Mex. Good pasta with good wine can be had at Panorama on Front Street.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Clifford M. Sayre

      Thanks for the suggestions. We'll be coming in by train so we won't be going to Wilmington!

      1. re: karen

        Le Bec Fin is old school Philly fine dining. i have never eaten there as my Philly time was in a much younger and impoverished phase of my life - thus i know about Dirty Frank's as I indicated elsewhere on the Philly board.

        You could go to the Hotel Dupont by train as well (5 cabride minutes from Wilmington station) if you had the desire. Just incase, although it doesnt sound like you are interested - I like the Brandywine room better than the Green room although the green room is much more grand. just make sure you at least stop into the brandywine room to get a macaroon from the bowl
        under the mirror/painting by the entrance no matter what. you will thank me when you taste it - the BEST macaroon in the universe IMHO! the Hotel Dupont also has a nice hotel lounge with music some nights and a smaller enclosed hotel bar which has ver very good mixed nuts and decent wines by the glass (which for Wilmington was quite an accomplishment until about 5 years ago!)

        1. re: rebeccahodgson

          About two years ago, I stayed at the Dupont and ate in the Green Room a few times. For it's price range (for dinner), it was merely okay. I can't remember a single thing I ate, which in itself shows how little impression the food had on me. (And I have a prodigious memory for meals.)

          But the most disappointing thing for me was breakfast/brunch in the Green Room. I'd done a bunch of research and the brunch was supposed to be totally fabulous. A buffet, to be sure, but one with high-end items like macadamia nuts, lots of super-fresh seafood, and one other super-spectacular item that I can't remember. Stupid me, I was an optimist and thought they must be having an off-morning, so I went back two other times. Cold eggs, soggy bacon, no high-end items to speak of, AND SOME OF THE WORST SERVICE I'VE EVER BEEN PREY TO (c'mon guys, it's a buffet, all you have to do is bring some OJ once in a while and bring the check)-- I've had better breakfasts at Perkins.

          The hotel itself also didn't live up to my expectations. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I tend to hate hotels (B&Bs are my places of choice), but although it was a large room and certainly clean, it felt sterile to me even by hotel standards. I really couldn't figure out what I was paying for.

          I didn't go to the Brandywine Room or try the macaroons (although I did have drinks and snacks at the bar). Wish I'd known to try the macaroons...

          1. re: Beth

            You suffered the brunch three times!!! ARGH!!! it does suck despite the hype. as for your meals - the brandywine room doesn't try to be as froo froo froo as the green room which is why i think their food flies better. I find the delaware room to more reflect delaware's wealthy froo froo style anyway - the green room islike delawre trying to be dupont frenchified! The prices are only slightly less however. if you are ever there during the week, a true bargain deal is in the downstairs cafeteria. About once a week or two weeks they sell open face crab sandwiches with melted cheese on top - stuffed with crab - so yummy for about $5.00 a pop. if you go to the cafeteria ask for a menu for the month to see if they will have it when you are in town. Also, check out the chocolate mousse for a $1.50 - really great chocolate mousse. the last time I was there was two years ago but i have enough friends who work in that nabe and know my love of those two items that i wuld know if they disappeared.

            1. re: rebeccahodgson

              Rebecca! What a wealth of great information! Thank you. If only I'd known about Chowhound before I went. :)

          2. re: rebeccahodgson

            Thanks. But as I'll only be in Philadelphia one night I won't be going to Wilmington to eat.

      2. As far as restored hotels go, the Bellvue was beautifully restored about ten years ago, but it's now a Hyatt and I'm not sure what they've changed. There was a "library" bar on one of the upper floors which was comfortable in a Ralph Lauren-ish way, but the bar itself is more old style than old. If what you're looking for is a drink in a beautifully restored architectural space, try the lobby of the Ritz Carlton (just open two weeks) which is the old Girard Bank rotunda or Striped Bass on 16th and Walnut. The Loew's hotel at 12th and Market is also just open as a hotel, but it has attempted to be faithful to the lines of its space, the former PSFS bank building. On the restaurant side, if you're a chowhound, I think you will be disappointed in the food at any of the establishments you mentioned.

        1 Reply
        1. re: tom nathan

          Thanks so much for the hotel details!
          As to food, I'm always partial to an old joint with some local history/atmo, career waiters, and, if I'm lucky, no blaring bad music, cellphones, etc. I certainly don't want to sacrifice good food tho!
          Also, I live in NYC, maybe that's why I run screaming fromthe trendy joints; just had more than enough of the hustle.

        2. Thanks, everyone, for your help. We were sans reservation, it was Saturday night. We wound up, due to input from our guest, at Cafe Spice, on 2nd Street, near our hotel. Funny, because they have two restaurants in NYC I've never been to.(I'd probably avoid anything called "Cafe Spice".) The restaurant is very good looking; an attractive, modern design with lots of oranges and golds. I would have to say it is a little trendy/disco-y for me. I'm sure it's more pleasant any time other than 8:30 on a Saturday night. Our table was near enough the open front to escape some of the noise. The food was good if a touch overdesigned. It's probably pretty far from traditional.