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interesting food in downtown philadelphia

In the near future, I'll be coming to Philadelphia for several days. I'll be going out for dinner a couple of times with groups of out of town friends, and I get to pick the restaurants. I am looking for interesting--flavorful, adventurous, etc.--food at a fun place to eat, within a 5 to 10 minute ride of the Marriott on Market St., preferably under, say, $40 a person. I don't know the city at all. What shouldn't we miss?

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  1. How interesting do you want? You're about three blocks southwest from Chinatown where you can find about as adventurous cuisine as you could imagine (and some maybe even too adventurous?). There are plenty of good BYO's near your hotel too, and lots of good choices in Old City depending on what type of cuisine you want. If you're looking for Mexican there's El Vez, located a few blocks to the south on 13th St. which has fresh guacamole and a neat environment. Do be sure to check out the Reading Terminal Market for breakfast or lunch. It's located across Filbert St. at 12th St. behind the Marriott.

    1. Try Horizon's:

      http://www.horizonsphiladelphia.com/

      I've gone on and on about how much I like this place in too many other threads, so feel free to search. It's vegan and very adventurous, no matter your dining 'classification'. Many other Chowhounders have noted that it's a great experience for even the diehard meat-eaters. (LaBan noted this in his review as well.)

      1. seconding the chinatown recommendation. specifically, if you want to take a walk on the wild side on the cheap, you absolutely cannot miss pho xe lua viet thai restaurant at 907 race st. there are no less than, say, 50 types of pho! many interesting drinks to choose from too. i had something unrecognizable (non alcoholic) with coconut slabs floating atop. very authentic experience, and for two people you won't spend much more than $15.

        there is also a burmese place in chinatown called rangoon that we all seem to love! i can't remember what i liked from here, so i'll just have to go back one day soon.

        also the reading terminal market is a must-see for anyone visiting the downtown area. go early, for breakfast, but don't eat at the down home diner. the RTM is best done when you stroll from stall to stall, ordering one morsel of food at any stall that particularly interests you. i like the mediterranean place's pizza, and the thai shack. others here will tell you they like ?di nic's? (is that the name?) for the roast pork sandwich. definitely pay a visit to the amish section and sample aplenty. and top it all off with a banana-orange-carrot smoothie or a cup of chai tea.

        an entire evening (and a very diverse one at that) can easily be spent on the corner of 13th and sansom, starting with a glass of wine at vintage (it's not my favorite and if i had to pick a wine bar i'd definitely recommend tria at 18th & sansom over this but for location's sake...), continuing on for mexican food at either el vez or lolita (el vez gets my vote for deliciousness by just a hair (not literally) but the ingredients at lolita are definitely more innovative)... and ending your evening with a cup of cilantro & lime sorbetto and thai coconut milk gelato across the street at capogiro. superb. then there's an irish pub around the corner if you're still awake and coherent! you'll only walk about 20 steps between any of these establishments, and you won't break the bank.

        1. Thank you all for your advice. I'm going to try to get to RTM for breakfast/lunch and to Chinatown, too, perhaps even to both rangoon and the pho place.

          also looking into a dinner at pasion. thoughts on that?

          6 Replies
          1. re: professor chow

            If doing breakfast at RTM it would be pancakes and scrapple at the Dutch Eating Place and/or soft pretzel at Fisher's.

            Lunch at RTM would be a roast pork sandwich with provolone and greens at DiNic's. http://www.readingterminalmarket.com

            Dinner at Pasion is very good. Absolutely reserve at the ceviche bar in the rear (it seats up to 10 or 12?) and watch the chefs prepare your meal. Gotta do the ceviche sampler (5 varieties that change daily are featured...once we had ceviche with beef jerky believe it or not) and the smoked rib eye as well as the 24 hour roast suckling pig are very good entrees. Also they have a new pastry chef who does a great job. http://pasionrestaurant.com/

            1. re: bluehensfan

              I second the recommendation for ceviche at Pasion. They are known for their ceviche, and I believe the chef has written a book on it. We always regret getting the scallop ceviche, but only because it doesn't seem to live up to the other types. I absolutely love the bread there; they serve a variety of flatbreads, cornbread muffins, and rolls with an incredible spread (does anyone know what exactly is in this?) instead of butter.

              1. re: mrsry

                I forgot about the spread! If memory serves correct, it is butter mixed with something like either finely chopped onions and/or a combination of something sugary, as it is sweet tasting. I do remember that the corn muffins were great too.

                They do sell the chef's ceviche book at the restaurant, and if he's working (which he usually is) he will be happy to sign it for you.

                1. re: bluehensfan

                  I think I had a different spread, with some kind of red pepper paste (?) swirled in. Not a hot red pepper, though. I could be completely wrong. I just remember it was red and it was good. You were probably right about what you had, as they seem to change up the spreads! I love that place and plan to go back soon. I also enjoy their empanadas! We've often said that we could make an entire meal out of their appetizers.

              2. re: bluehensfan

                thanks to all who offered advice. we did indeed go to pasion and had that sampler. i've traveled a lot in latin america, and grew up in the southwest, and so can be pretty picky about this kind of food--and i was in very fine spirits at pasion. an excellent recommendation. thanks again.

                1. re: professor chow

                  Good to hear that they are till in fine form.

            2. Wow...I would've remembered that one. Maybe they have as many spreads as ceviches!