Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Pennsylvania >
Mar 18, 2007 10:00 AM

Family Trip to Philly

We're bringing our 5 year old semi chowpup to Philly for a few days over the first weekend in April. We're driving down from NY and staying at the Marriott Courtyard by City Hall.

I'm assuming we'll go to Reading Terminal Market for breakfast. The Dutch Eating Place on Saturday. I know it's not open on Sun or Mon. If we just want bread/muffin/pastry and coffee or juice on Sunday and Monday, how are Flying Monkey, Le Bus or Metropolitan? Or should we just stop at the Starbucks near the hotel? (Just stop. Yes, I like their coffee, the food is adequate for the purpose and my husband and my son are perfectly happy there.)

Saturday, we'll be at the Franklin Institute and Sunday we'll be at the 33rd St. Armory for the craft show and I'm figuring we'll just suck it up and have a mediocre lunch of whatever's on site at both places. Of course, if you have something very close by (for a 5 year old on foot) either one to recommend, we'd love to hear about it.

Dinner. The big question. I've done my research and I've got a list, on which I'd like advice. We'll be there Fri, Sat and Sun. We'd like delicious, not crazily priced (see the list) and either walkable or, if we're going to drive, a decent neighborhood and reasonable parking. We like lots of different kinds of restaurants, but Japanese, mid-eastern and vegetarian aren't usually our first choices.

I'm little concerned about the number of times I've read on this board that either I need reservations way in advance or they don't take reservations and I can expect a wait. I'd rather not commit to things days ahead, as sometimes decisions are best made when we can see what kind of shape my son is in and whether we need very quick and casual or whether he's up to coping with a more upscale place. But, we tend to go to dinner early, 5:30 or 6. Where will be able to just walk in and sit right down or call at 3 PM for a 5:30 table?

Also, what's the deal with smoking in Philly restaurants? Do places at least have NS sections? We'd probably rather order in mediocre pizza to the room than sit in a stinking restaurant.

OK, so here's what I'm thinking about.

Alma de Cuba
Friday Saturday Sunday

very good? well behaved kid friendly? easy to get an early table? non stinky?

Many thanks.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. First of all, Philly restaurants are non-smoking. What a pleasure!

    Now the bad news - you probably can't get in to any of these places by calling the same day. Possibly - but not probably. I suggest you make reservations and then you can always call that day and cancel. Otherwise, the chances are that you will be disappointed.
    Nan and Django have street parking. We have had some excellent meals at Django, but they took a long time - I don't know that they would be great for a five-year-old.
    You can get to Loie, Pietro, or FSS by bus but parking would be impossible - unless you go into an expensive parking lot.
    We haven't been to Alma de Cuba, but my impression is that it's pretty upscale and not really for children.
    If you get there at 5:30, you could get into Radicchio, a very good Italian BYOB that doesn't take reservations. It's at 4th and Wood, street parking. Tre Scalini, in South Philly at 1915 Passyunk, has street parking and very good food.
    Philadelphia is very much a "weekend eat out" town and the good restaurants tend to be booked. I wouldn't take a chance.

    1. NO! For the love of God, no Starbucks.

      Reading Terminal actually started Sunday hours a few months ago, though not all the businesses are open. Check for specific hours. Flying Monkey has delicious cuspcakes, Metropolitan and Le Bus great breakfast pastries.

      For probably the best coffee you'll have in Philly, you've gotta go to La Colombe, on 18th & Walnut, right off Rittenhouse Square. You can pick up bags of beans at the Rittenhouse Square cafe, and many restaurants brew LC.

      For a quick breakfast, I'd also suggest Bonte, for gooey sugary chewy Belgian street waffles. There's one on 13th & Walnut, about a block from your hotel.

      The Parkway (where the Franklin Institute is) is sort of no-man's-land for restaurants. Aya's Cafe (Egyptian), Cherry Street Tavern (pub food), and Mexican Post (Mexican) are all relatively close.

      Everywhere in Philly is nonsmoking thanks to the ban that was passed in the summer, so no worries for you there. Here are a few places that are close to your hotel:

      Aqua (7th & Chestnut) - Malaysian/Thai with plenty of "normal" food in a bright modern space with a waterfall, great value.

      Jones (7th & Chestnut) - "comfort food," meatloaf, mac n cheese, all with upscale twists, great for families

      Restaurant M (8th & Locust) - contemporary Euro, in the historic Morris House Hotel, great if you're looking for one upscale dinner. Don't know when you're planning your trip, but once the spring hits, they'll have dinner in their outdoor garden.

      Not so close:

      Cafe Apamate (16th & South) - BYOB, Northern Spanish tapas, really inexpensive (2 people can eat well for under $50), your son will love the churros and hot chocolate

      Monk's (15th & Spruce) - Philly's signature Belgian bar, tons of beers, great moules frites and burgers

      Nan is great for Thai, but over in West Philly and out of your way. Django they say isn't as good as it used to be. Alma de Cuba is good, but you'd be better off at Pasion! for inventive ceviche. Loie isn't particularly kid-friendly. And Pietro's... well, hop in a cab to South Philly for infinitely better Italian food at Cucina Forte, Mezza Luna, Ralph's, Pesto, Nido, L'angolo, Paradiso, Villa di Roma, Mr. Martino's.

      Have a great trip!

      1. I don't think your dinner options will be so difficult, as long as you really go on the early side. I just did a search on for a 6:00 reservation today (it's around 3:00) and both Alma de Cuba and Friday, Saturday, Sunday had opentings, as well as many places not on your list.

        You almost never need a reservation in Chinatown. It is walkable, though a little far with a 5 y.o. The prices are extremely reasonable and they are all kid-friendly. For Chinese (primarily Cantonese) I'd reccomend Shiao Lan Kung or Sang Kee. For slightly more upscale (only very slightly) atmosphere and more unusual food, check out Rangoon (burmese cuisine) and Vietnam (not Vietnam Palace). Both of my kids (ages 6 and 3) love the food at these two places, we always walk in early and have never had to wait (or possibly a very short wait at Vietnam on a Saturday).

        Another option that is relatively kid-friendly (if you go early) and not too far from your hotel is El Vez (13th and Chestnut). It isn't fabulous mexican, but it is quite good, and has the advantage of being across the street from Capogiro Gelato and down the street from the Naked Chocolate Cafe (great for hot chocolate and desserts), both of which you and your child will probably love.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

          In thinking about restaurants, I totally overlooked the fact that we're there just before the start of the great Passover Carb Deprivation, which must, of course, be taken into account in planning meals.

          So, my current thoughts are dinners at Rangoon, Vietnam and either El Vez or Lolita.

          Breakfasts at Reading Terminal Market. (or, yes, maybe starbucks, I know people find this upsetting, but hey convenient and I like the lattes)

          lunch wherever can be managed conveniently - any thoughts about Marathon Grill for the day we're at Franklin Institute? I'm going for decent and short walk from FI.

          1. re: marcia2

            I'm pretty sure the Marathons near the Franklin Institute are both closed over the weekend (Commerce Square, 19th and Market). There really are no great nearby options.

            1. re: marcia2

              I like the Marathon Grill a lot -- a great place to go when you want straight-forward food. My favorite is the grilled cheese sandwich! Although they have good breakfast food, too, blueberry pancakes are yummy.

              1. re: marcia2

                We'll be at either Rangoon or Vietnam Saturday for dinner with kids in tow. Maybe we'll see you there!

                Although the food at Lolita is really much better, I would probably go to El Vez with a 5 year old. The menu is larger and more varied. I was just at Lolita last weekend and, while our meal was fabulous, there wasn't much on the menu I can imagine my kids eating. El Vez is also a much larger restaurant with brighter lighting and more room around the tables.

                It is really unfortunate, but the choices around the Franklin Institute are really limited. I would try to plan the trip between meals, and just pick up a snack (they have popcorn and soft pretzels and, I think, hot dogs) in the museum itself.

                1. re: marcia2

                  vietnam is a perfect choice, good food and everyone can eat there. i personally do not like el vez very much and have never been to lolita, though people rave about it. if you want to get mroe neighborhoody there are some good cheap mexican places in south philly (no atmosphere of course). taqueria la vercruzana on 10th and washington and la lupe on 9th and federeal are personal favorites.

                  i work near the armory and there is nothing close by. there are some good indian buffetts and a decent thai restaurant, but they are about a half mile walk from there (which is a normal walk for lunch for me, but probably not for a five year old). some of the food trucks are pretty decent if you don't mind greasy food.

              2. What a coincidence. We are going to be in Philadelphia at roughly the same time with our 12 yr old daughter staying next door at the Residence Inn and plan to hit many of the same breakfast and lunch places.

                We've made reservations at Matyson, Ansill and Osteria and are very much looking forward to those places but the lunch and breakfast ideas on this thread are very helpful.

                Quick question - I'm interested in information about the Craft show at the 33rd St. Armory. That was not on our agenda but perhaps should be. Any links?

                5 Replies
                1. re: brentk

                  More coincidence. The craft show is, in fact, the reason for our visit to Philadelphia this weekend. We've been to several craft shows put on by these people and they're always terrific.


                  If anyone has any thoughts about actual good food for lunch on Sunday, walking distance for a 5 year old from the armory, I'd be eager for suggestions. Otherwise, I'm afraid we're stuck with whatever they're serving at the show.

                  1. re: marcia2

                    Not sure what the lunch truck situation is on the Drexel Campus mon a Sunday, near the Armory, but choosing from a lunch truck and sitting down on a bench to eat would always be fun for a 5 year old.

                    1. re: Bashful3

                      With a five year old near the Armory? You may want to go to Cereality. He/she would have a blast! I have not been to the craft show but wonder if it's like the former Philadelphia Fine Furnishings Show? As far as the Reading Terminal Market, if you can eat carbs get the pancakes at the Dutch Eating Place (or if you can't there are always eggs). I'd avoid the Down Home Diner regardless. Also, Termini's in the market has a number of pastries that may not be leavened... There is a new deli (Hershel's) that opened last month in the market that may have special items for Passover.

                      By the way, Pietro's is a bit of a walk from FI for lunch but it has better than average food and is kid-friendly. Another place you may want to take him/her is the Naked Chocolate Cafe on Walnut and Juniper Sts. They have great chocolate drinks, cupcakes, anc chocolates, and don't worrey, everyone is clothed.

                      1. re: bluehensfan

                        cereality is a damn good choice. i said above i couldn't think of anything but on the walnut street bridge are two places that are supposed to be decent, aja and picnic i believe.


                        can't find anything for aja online...mght be asia. hmm.

                2. I like Starbucks, too=) That being said, I work near the courtyard and my favorite coffee spot is Old City Coffee in the Reading Terminal. Try it- I think you'll like it. Flying Monkey has great items, but more dessert oriented. I would try either Metropolitan or Le Bus for your breakfast treat.

                  With an early dinner time, I think you should be OK getting into most places. I'd like to second (or third) the recommendations for El Vez and Vietnam restaurant, as well as Jones (which is very kid friendly).

                  My preferred way to travel through center city is by taking cabs. With the charges of parking, and the time it takes to find it, you will save a lot of time. Your hotel is a very central location and you'd probably spend around $7-8 on any one trip to the museums, or restaurants. The cost for bus fare wouldn't be much less than that for the 3 of you.