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Dinner in Philly to Please Everyone

We used to live in Philly and are planning to return to celebrate our son's college graduation from Penn in May. I am thinking ahead because we will be a large group of about 11 for dinners. Most of the 11 people are young and love fine food in a trendy or beautiful setting, but a few are seniors so I would like to avoid stairs. Price is not an object for this weekend. I just want the dinners to be special---but would probably want to aviod haute French cuisine. We are considering Barcaly Prime, Vetri, Buddakan (altough I'm worried that that one may be too loud---been there), Matyson, and possibly Washington Square. I don't think the seniors would be comfortable sitting outside so what's the indoor dining (and food) like at Washington Sqaure (someone recommended it)? Also, is Vetri worth a try and is Matyson "special" enough? We are staying at the Four Seasons and might have considered The Fountain for convenience but they are serving a buffet dinner during that weekend in May because of expected crowds. If anyone can advise me or add to these suggestions, I would be grateful! Thanks in advance....

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  1. A while back I ate at Il Angelo (the corner) a fantastic little Italian joint that was soooo gooood....I recommend it highly as it is hip....don't remember the neighborhood where it was though...try google...

    1. You might want to check down further regarding Barclay Prime and some significant negative comments about noise levels. I wouldn't go there. LaCroix received 4 bells recently so that is something you definitely might want to consider. SylviaG has promised a review on a lunch she had there recently so look for that. Finally, I have found Vetri next to impossible to get reservations to plus I don't know if they could accomodate that large a group. If you are going on a weeknight you might have more success. I like Matyson a lot but not sure if I would consider it special enough for the occassion.

      1. Oops - the Italian place I recommended is Il Angolo - check out the reviews online - it really was special.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jbyoga

          Are you referring to L'Angolo? If so, it is a decent but really small neighborhood place. I don't think that most would consider it a "destination" restaurant.

        2. Hmmm I thought about Lacroix (or even Le Bec Fin) but thought these would be just too long a meal. Also, the menu at Lacroix appears somewhat limited for the seniors (and amybe the college grads). Am I mistaken? I ate there for breakfast once but couldn't judge what dinner would be like. I've eaten at Barcaly Prime and don't recall objecting to the noise level-but perhaps things have changed. Thanks for the heads up!

          1. I would check out Estia. It is a lovely space with a very special feel, and could easily accommodate a group of your size. The food is wonderful, with enough variety to please everyone. It has a heavy emphasis on fish/seafood, but has several meat dishes.

            Vetri is definitely worth it for the food, but it is very small, without a good set-up for a large group. Matyson is a little roomier, and the food is terrific, but not as fancy an atmosphere.

            It just occurred to me you might also want to look into Amada. It is hip, but not so hip that older folks would feel uncomfortable. The food is mostly tapas, which is great for sharing and also great for variety. There is bound to be something everyone likes. It is more "fun" while Estia might be more "elegant."

            1 Reply
            1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

              Amada would work if you can get that private room in the back-right, which you'd just share with one other party. Otherwise, too loud.

            2. Vetri is wonderful but very small and quiet. Matyson is great, but I don't think of it as an "occasion" place. We loved Amada, but it is too noisy to talk and I don't think it is the right place for this occasion.

              We loved Lacroix, as you can see from my review. It isn't really dragged out at all. It took us time because we wanted to - sipping drinks, etc. The menu would have something for all.

              I think everyone would enjoy Estia, which is really lovely and has excellent food. The menu is mostly fish/seafood but there are very good chicken, lamb, and other dishes. Great atmosphere and very comfortable.

              There are small rooms at Capital Grille, which has a wide menu and is comfortable and has excellent food and service.

              Have a great occasion!

              1. Just get big honkin' steaks at the Capital Grill and you're sure to please everyone.

                1. I actually just got back from dinner at Fogo de Chao, and I think for a group of 11 it would be a really good time, as long as none of those 11 people are vegetarian. It's part of a chain of Brazilian style steakhouses, you have a token with a red and a green side, and you flip it to indicate to the roaming servers whether you're ready for more meat or not. They roam the dining room with skewers of 8 or 10 different cuts of meat (beef, chicken, pork, and lamb), and slice off pieces for each diner. There's a well-stocked salad bar with hearts of palm, salad, cheeses, cured meats, and a bunch of other things for breaking up the flow of roasted meats. One price covers everything (I think you can just get the salad bar if you like). Everything I had was excellent, the pork cuts especially. The wine list is expansive, and the service was top notch. My only complaint was that the dessert was just average, it probably came out of a freezer earlier that day. Of course, Capogiro is just a block away.

                  The place is huge, probably a couple hundred seats, so I don't doubt they could easily accomodate a group of 11. I did notice that the rest rooms were down a flight of stairs from the dining room, so that may be a problem for your group. I didn't actually need to use them, though, there may be restrooms on the main level as well.

                  Anyway, if you were considering steakhouses, add Fogo to the list.

                  1. Thanks to all the Philly chowhounders who have written thus far. I noticed that no one has commented on Washington Square.Should I take that one off my list; any advice? Thanks again!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Debbie

                      Washington Square is not a good place. The bar is nice if you are in the area and would like to sit down for a drink.

                      1. re: Debbie

                        I like the food at Washington Square, but it's not special enough to justify the prices. I'd look elsewhere.

                      2. I agree with the those who chose Estia. They do have banquet rooms downstairs and an elevator as well, so that may fit your needs. The fish there is expensive but impeccably fresh, and the setting is elegant but not stuffy.

                        1. I suggest avoiding the noisy Starr factories like Buddahkan, Barclay Prime and Washington Square and go to one of the top local spots like Lacroix or the Fountain. We love Matyson but it wouldn't be my choice for a large group. It is a small place and the tables are close together. Same for Vetri.
                          Caffe Casta Diva is lovely with good food but there are a few steps to navigate.

                          1. The only other suggestion I would make is that is NOT too early to make a reservation for that graduation weekend. Getting a reservation for the place you want could be tough.

                            Another place to possibly consider would be the private room at Ly Michaels, 11th and ARch. They are very accomodating for special occassions, and would be great for both kids and seniors. Some like Ly Michaels because it can be quite reasonable, but if you want to go top of the line there I'm sure you and all guests would be very pleased. Room is nice; could accomodate more than 11 if your group were to get larger.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Bashful3

                              I agree -- I made my reservation in January when I graduated from Penn (2003). Also, I don't know which night you're thinking of having this big dinner but a lot of people wanted to go out Sunday night and it is a MESS -- I didn't make it to dinner until 10:30 pm. If your son's major is early in the alphabet, like African studies or Bio (Penn graduates alphabetically by major, not by last name) and he doesn't mind walking out while his friends are still waiting for Women's studies etc. to be called, you could make a 9 pm reservation, probably.

                              For me, knowing that I was unwilling to get up in the middle and go, planning around Sunday night graduation severely limited my choices because a lot of places will not book you at 10:30 - which is how we wound up at Buddkhan, which was fine and not noisy at that hour.

                              I guess really what I'm saying is consider making Saturday night your big night out, and having champagne and cookies at home after the Sunday night roll call :)

                            2. I haven't eaten there, but perhaps the Waterworks would be nice -- especially in the spring.

                              1. Don't listen to the people who complained about the noise level at Barclay Prime. My wife and I ate there last month, right before Christmas. I don't recall the music being intrusive, and, after reading the comments about it, I checked with my wife, who would have definitely noticed, and commented, about loud music. She didn't notice the music either. Sure, you can hear it, but it didn't interfere with our meal or our ability to understand the waiter. Estia and Cap Grille are also good choices, though, if you are spooked about going to B.P.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Rondo

                                  Just out of curiousity where were you sitting in the restaurant? From what I observed the speakers are all on the edges of the room so if you are unfortunate enough to be sitting at the outer tables you will be right under the speakers. If you snag a table in the middle of the room it is probably better. Believe me when I say that we couldn't even hear the person sitting right next to us without shouting. From what the manager told us they hear complaints about the noise all the time.

                                  1. re: joluvscards

                                    We must have gotten lucky. We weren't exactly in the middle. We were at a two top near the entrance to the bathroom.

                                2. Go to Pod...It has good food, great place to share food or get your own entree, accomodating, and on campus (I can't stress this enough on graduation day around Penn). Getting cabs (you'll need a couple of them) and going down Walnut to downtown will NOT be fun if you're trying to make a reservation. I went to Pod when I graduated from there, and I'm happy I did.

                                  1. Matyson has wonderful food, but is not special. If you have seniors in your group, they will hate Amada. Trust me on this. I am a senior. We had dinner at Barclay Prime on Xmas Eve and I dont know where these complaints come from about noise. I HATE most Starr places because of the noise, but not Barclay Prime. Everything there is perfect from the food to the service. You cannot go wrong there.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: OlderPhiladelphian

                                      We took my 93-year-old grandmother to Amada for my mother's birthday in late October, and she loved it.

                                      I do love Barclay Prime, but it's the availability of the private rooms at Amada that put it over the top for me on this one.

                                      1. re: OlderPhiladelphian

                                        I don't know what you mean by "senior" but I know several people in their 60's (I don't think of them as senior, but some might), including my parents, who love Amada and think it is one of the best restaurants in the region.