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Nov 7, 2006 08:58 PM

Good dinners before concert/theater in Philly

On our perpetual quest for good eating before a concert or theater, we found some winners. Here are a few that won't break the bank:

Estia, Locust St. between Broad and 15th. Pre-theater dinner for $30. There are 3 choices of appetizer, 3 choices of main course, and their choice of dessert.
We had a splendid meal. You can see the menu on their website, which is - a classy website.
The place is beautiful, the service topnotch, and the food excellent. You can also order a la carte, of course, but it would cost much more. Our favorite appetizer was the grilled one; the disks of octopus and the stuffed calimari were terrific.
One warning: prices for drinks are outrageously high. But go anyway!

Branzino, 17th St. just above Spruce. This is a lovely place, and the food is consistently good - much better than any of the surrounding Italian restaurants, IMHO. (Not counting a place like Vetri.) And we have been to them all, and more than once. I'm talking about within a few block radius of the Kimmel Center.
Prices are reasonable, and it's quiet enough to talk.
(We do like La Viola, which is even cheaper, but expect to shout, not talk.)

Shiroi Hana - 15th St.,between Walnut and Locust. Japanese, but more than sushi - delicious fried oysters, etc. Serene, wonderful service, has a bar.

Valanni - Spruce, between 13th and Broad. Mediterranean/Continental. Tapas these days. Good food, especially the scallops, duck, etc.

Ted's Montana Grill - right across from the Kimmel Center, at Broad and Spruce. This is the place to go when you want a hamburger and maybe a beer. They get you in and out promptly. I have had the small filet there - less than $20 - and it was pretty good (and tasty!)
This place didn't get a good review from LaBan, but it isn't stopping people from keeping it busy. There was a need for this kind of operation.

Feel free to add your own favorites. I would like to know more about the new Japanese restaurant on Spruce St.

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  1. what do you think of Trattoria Primadonna? we're looking for a place that accepts credit cards tonight - and we've been to Bronzino 3 of the last 3 outings.... Would you go there over Fontana della Citta?

    Edited to add - thanks for your run down of local bites. Regardless of your review and Craig's I just don't think its humanly possible for me to go to Teds.

    1. Yes I would. We haven't been there for a while, but I always liked their pastas - good cannelloni - and salads.

      The last time we were at Primadonna, my husband had fish that had too much balsamic vinegar (or sauce) poured over it, and that turned him off for awhile. But I remember getting the grilled fileted fish there and it was very good.

      We will probably be back. They honor a lot of discounts, if you have the Kimmel card, orchestra card, or something like that - check your lists.

      Nice people, pleasant - they have a bar, but you can also bring your own wine - at least, it used to be that way.

      I found Fontana to be very uneven. My husband loved his pasta; half of my salad had the kind of greens I throw out when I'm making salad (brown edges, wilted) and not a good dressing. Again, nice people, but my food has been very average.

      Please report back, whichever you choose.

      1. you said that Primadonna has a bar?? so they are or are not BYO? is it a full bar?

        1 Reply
        1. re: rumdrinks

          They do have a bar - I think it's a full bar. As of last year, you could still bring your own wine, but that may have changed.

          I suggest you call them and ask. I always felt a little uncomfortable bringing wine when they had a bar, but my friends felt otherwise. The wine prices were reasonable.

        2. The results are in: I really did not like Trattoria Primadonna. and for the $, I'd spend a couple more dollars and bring my wine to Branzino. (or venture to the other side of broad and try Valentino's? Or somehow prepare those willing to treat us to dinner to bring cash to go to La Viola)

          Service was good, atmosphere good, aroma good. Fried calamari chewy (and $10!). Linguine with seafood (no mussels) was below mediocre: scallop tougher than tough, baby shrimp like marbles, sauce rightly tasting of seafood-stock, was a bit gluey though the pasta underneath was very tasty. Other diners liked their grilled fish, ravioli and chicken marsala. BUt the fish didn't look as lovely asthe one at branzino (and wasn't fileted tableside, not that they siad it wouldbe but I expected it to be). Service dropped of at the end when two of us sat with our finished plates for a long long while, and then waited for a long long time for the check. I won't be going back. :(

          3 Replies
          1. re: rumdrinks

            I am so glad you reported back. Sorry it wasn't good, but it does save us all from the same experience.
            Now that you mentioned it, I do remember that the service at the end of the meal really dropped off. For a while, Primadonna had some good months - Nunzio was between restaurants, and came in as a consultant and part-time chef. But those days are obviously long gone, and we will write this one off.

            La Viola is a good place to go when you aren't with other couples and don't need to talk much. The food is very tasty, prices very cheap, service very fast. You are in and out of there in less than an hour. But the space is very tight - you will share the conversation from the tables surrounding you - and the noise level high. A great buy when you don't need to talk.

            Let us know if you try Valentino's. We went there once when it first opened and didn't have a good experience. I know some people like it; maybe they got their act together.

            1. re: sylviag

              funny about La Viola - have been there once with a dreadful blind date eons ago and the fast service and noise level were actually a blessing!

              1. re: sylviag

                I LOVE La Viola. Go for the veal. Seriously.

            2. I don't think anyone has mentioned Ernesto's yet. I love going there before shows. Excellent service and consistent, delicious food. I love the back room.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Lotus7

                I second Ernesto's. We've also gone to Valentino's and had a good (not great) meal. But since we've found Branzino's we've stopped going anywhere else (at least for a while).

                The food at LaViola is excellent but it is much too crowded and noisy to have a good experience. Not what you want to have to go through before a concert. Last time we were there we had a very bad experience with the long table behind us (a Ladies Stag Night group) being so loud that we literally couldn't talk to each other during the meal. The waitstaff was unwilling to caution them about the noise. Too many other good places to go!

                Also, if you don't mind walking a little further, Genji is good. When the weather is nice, we often go there.