Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Pennsylvania >
Nov 10, 2006 10:28 PM

Penne Restaurant vs Matyson for 7pm New Years Eve dinner with picky 12 year old vegetarian girl

We'll be traveling up from Silver Spring, MD on Dec 29th for 3 nights with our 12 year daughter who's a very picky eater. Four Seasons first night and the Marriott Courtyard downtown the next 2 nights.

Our daughter only eats simple pasta with red sauce, pizza and salads (she's vegetarian). She'll eat noodle dishes with vegetables too. We look forward to spending great nights out with her eating, even if she's limited in what she can eat.

We're doing Buddakan on the 29th, L'Angolo on the 30th and were supposed to do Matyson on Dec 31 for New Years. We eat early, at 7pm. Is Penne maybe a better bet? Someone suggested it on Fodors over Matyson as it may be better for kids and less stressful.

Matyson even said they could prepare a simple rice and veggie dish for her and were as nice as could be on the phone. What would you do?

Thoughts? We look forward to your Reading Terminal Mkt with her, an Imax film, the Phil Museum of Art and hopefully that new Philadelphia Constitution Center.

Thanks in advance,

Steve R
Silver Spring MD

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Matyson would definitely be my choice over Penne. If, however, you want to really challenge your pasta and pizza eating vegetarian daughter, why not try Philly's new vegan restaurant, Horizons, at 7th and South? The food is so good that even carnivores won't miss the meat. Of course, you'll want to make sure that there's nothing special doing on New Years Eve.

    Check out the menu and some reviews here:

    6 Replies
    1. re: Cruz

      Cruz: Thanks for the link to Horizons. I passed this info on to my wife and stepdaughter and they're not "into it". I think the concept challenges them a little too much. I've taken them to a vegetarian restaurant extraordinaire here in Clarksville MD once and they said it was ok, but weren't in love with it like I was.

      They wanted an amazing restaurant experience for New Years so maybe we can try it next year. Or, maybe we could try it for lunch one of the days we're in town.

      Glad to hear Matyson is a good choice then, over Penne.

      Kathi: Thanks for the Ducks Tour info. Cool website. We have something just like that in DC but I've never done it myself. I'll put it on our possibilities list.

      I hear the Mummers Parade will be going right by our hotel while we're staying at the Courtyard Marriott Downtown. I think the "kid" will get a kick out of that.

      Steve R

      1. re: stever500

        You need to drag them to Horizons. Any actual vegetarian will be blown away by it. They have a downstairs bar area with a different, less adventurous menu, but I don't see it on their website, you may want to call and see if they can send you that menu.

        Matyson is very good, but not an 'amazing restaurant experience' any more than any other nice place in the city. I'm not sure how your stepdaughter expects an amazing restaurant experience given her dietary restrictions. Are they self-imposed?

        Please don't patronize the Ride the Duck thing.

        1. re: Buckethead

          i don't totally agree... just because one is vegetarian does not necessarily mean they like seitan or veggie burgers or things that are meant to taste like meat. as a born-and-raised vegetarian (who on occasional strays for seafood, being from maryland!) i find the notion of meat-wannabe products as unappetizing as meat itself. if i craved something that tasted like steak, very simply i would order steak.

          steve's daughter doesn't sound like the type to be into 'vegetarian cuisine' just because she's a vegetarian - he said himself that she prefers simple things like pasta. i like to eat along the same lines (i call myself a comfort-food vegetarian) and rather than recommending a vegetarian restaurant, i'd be more inclined to send them to a regular restaurant who has vegetarian (or vege-convertable) options. pastas, pizzas, thai, chinese... these are all great places for a vegetarian to comfortably dine with meat eaters.

          hey, have you looked at gourmet pizza places? a bit out of the way, pizza rustica up in northern liberties has some fantastic slices. everyone also raves about tacconelli's in port richmond (really out of your way!) but you have to call a day ahead to reserve your dough. everybody loves pizza.

          p.s. since the original poster mentions the reading terminal market, there is a mediterranean place there with a very tasty fresh moz pizza. you can order by the slice. also, vegetarian's heaven can be found back in the dutch corner there, with a soft pretzel (with butter!) and a sampling of the artisan cheeses + bagel chips. you really can't go wrong.

          p.s.2. what's wrong with the ducks?!

          1. re: rabidog

            I totally agree on your point about fake meat, but quite a bit of Horizons' menu is not that type of thing, especially the downstairs lounge menu and the appetizers. The main reason I suggest dragging any vegetarians there is that if they are ever going to like seitan or tempeh, they'll like it at Horizons. If they think being vegetarian means you can't have a stellar meal at a restaurant, they'll like it at Horizons. It's also totally different from either of the OP's other destinations. I actually like the Blue Sage better for vegetarian food (they don't try to imitate meat), but that's way out in the 'burbs.

            The Ducks pollute the air both with noise from their engines and duck whistles and with fumes from their exhausts. They clog city streets, and the vehicles have been known to sink. 13 people died in a Ducks sinking 6 years ago.

            1. re: Buckethead

              Buckethead, you are completely right on!
              As a vegetarian that NEVER strays, Horizons is the place to go, and as you said, should not be confused with what some think of as a vegetarian restaurant. The menu is not composed of "meat-wannabe products" at all. It is a high end, granola free restaurant that is completely composed of vegan food.
              A wonderful dining experience comparable to Matyson, but catering to a vegetarian as compared to having to have something specially made. It's a place to consider!

              1. re: Buckethead

                Whoa... thx for the heads up on the Duck boat tour. Uh, people
                died on this tour? Yeah, well - we'll pass on it then!

                I'd like to try Horizons one day. It sounds great.

                Steve R

      2. So glad yo are visiting! I am originaly from the DC area, but fell in love with this city and stayed..........
        Try, if you like, the Duck Tours (
        )I have taken family on this tour with kids of all ages and they loved it.
        Hope you have have a very great New Year

        1. I know the foodies here will blanch, but given your description of the girl's pickiness, I'd say definitely, unequivocally Penne over Matyson. Penne's forte is pasta, which seems to fill the bill. Check out Matyson's menu (, and I defy you to find one thing on there that a picky kid would eat.

          2 Replies
          1. re: MichaelKlein

            MichaelKlein. I hear ya about Matyson's menu...I've studied it. It's just that I called Matyson and they said they would make a special meal for her consisting of the things she'll eat (rice and veggies). That makes it worth it for us, plus, she can eat salad and their great desserts. We wanted a special destination place for New Years. Is Penne that kind of place in your opinion? If so, we'd consider trying it instead I guess. We can't do a place with a fixed price menu and Matyson doesn't do anything expensive or fixed price for NY Eve. We like that.

            Steve R

            1. re: stever500

              To tell you the truth, I misread your original post, in which you wrote that Matyson would do something special for your daughter. I wouldn't call Penne a destination place. I'd vote for Matyson.

          2. Steve,
            I too am a picky vegetarian, except unfortunately I am 25 versus 12 meaning my eating habits are quite so "cute" as your stepdaughter's. :) That being said, I've never been to Penne, so I can't make comments on how I suspect she would or wouldn't find it, but I have been to Matyson, and had no trouble finding food there to fit my limited diet. When there I believe I ordered a soup straight off of the menu which was vegetarian; depending on how strict of a vegetarian she is, meaning whether she'll question if things like chicken stock, gelatin, etc. are hiding in certain places, I am sure she'll have no problem finding a soup or appetizer there that would work for her. And, for a main course I had some sort of gnocchi that I believe was modified from what was normally on their menu. It was quite tasty, and unlike at some other places where I have a vegetarian meal that was specially made, this one didn't simply consist of steamed veggies and no flavor. And, of course, if she has a sweet tooth she can always fill up on the fabulous desserts! So, I'd say if you and your wife like Matyson's menu, and if your step daughter is okay with the rice and veggie option as a minimum, while realizing there could be several other options for her there, you should go with Matyson. You need to keep your stepdaughter happy, but you also need to make sure that you and your wife fully enjoy both your time in Philly and your New Years Eve. Good luck!

            3 Replies
            1. re: Laura D.


              Thx for the informative response. Now I'm really excited to go to Matyson. There's something special about Philly. We live in DC and wouldn't live anywhere else on the planet, but Philly is near and dear to my heart. Maybe it was the amazing Grateful Dead shows that we've been to over the years there at the Spectrum that makes it such a bearer of happy memories. Late night trips after the shows to Jim's Cheesesteaks to stand on line for my favorite cheesesteaks in the world. Yes, I'm sure there are better ones in Philly, but this place had that special late night intrigue on South Street with all the cool and funky stores. We wouldn't get home till 4am but boy we'd be happy with the Philly experience.

              Then there were the shows at JFK - the Dead shined there too. Ahhhh - I miss the band and the cameraderie we had with our buddies who lived in Philly that we met at the shows. We'd eat at some dives near the stadium back then. It was fun. We could find some of the most amazing burritos and toasted cheese sandwiches for sale in the parking lot at the Spectrum and JFK being sold by other "deadheads" on their portable stoves.

              Those were the days :o).

              "All the years combined, they melt into a dream"
              Steve R

              1. re: stever500

                Glad you chose Matyson. It is our favorite place, the one by which we judge all others. Penne is fine, probably better for vegetarian choices to be honest but Matt will take excellent care of your daughter.

                We went there with friends and a 4 year old. The staff fawned over her and the chef made a special sundae just for her. It was adorable.

                We'll be there on New Years. Our reservation is at 8. I'll stop by and say hi.


                1. re: joluvscards

                  joluvscards: That would be very nice to meet you then at Matyson. Thx for the positive experience comments you had there. We look forward to it greatly. Small world, eh? We'll be the ones with our 12 year old in tow.

                  Steve R

            2. I have to agree about Matyson. I have been to Penne with the kids, and it is rather insititutional in feel. It is a place that could be in any hotel in the US.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Suefoo

                I think that description is *perfect*.