Trip Report for Family Trip to Philly
We were staying at the Marriott Courtyard Downtown (very nice), which turned out to be a great location, very easy walk to Reading Terminal Market and close enough to Chinatown and El Vez that our highly suburban, driven everywhere 5 year old could be told (more nicely) to suck it up and walk.
We arrived Friday afternoon and eventually headed out to an early (they were all early, due to our 5 year old) dinner at Rangoon in Chinatown. No wait. This was possibly the only time we've had Burmese (hmmm, can that be right?). Seemed a lot like Thai, with some Chinese and Indian thrown in, which was fine with us. We ordered a whole bunch of dishes, just to get a lot of tastes. Loved the ginger salad. The thousand layer bread was sort of like a sweetish scallion pancake, without the scallions and not as crisp. We liked that. It actually ended up on the table twice, once because we just ordered it as a side dish and once because it came under the grilled beef kebabs we ordered for my son. I liked the way the bread tasted under the beef because it had absorbed some of the grilled beef taste. The beef itself was kind of dry and overcooked. We live in the NYC suburbs and just don't get enough good Asian of any kind, so this was a pleasure.
On our way to dinner, we had stopped at Reading Terminal Market and picked up brownies and gingerbread at Flying Monkey and Metropolitan, which we enjoyed.
Saturday for breakfast we went to the Dutch Eating Place where I had blueberry pancakes and my husband and son had plain. They were fine. I got a very nice latte from Flying Monkey.
We headed to the craft show at the 33rd St. Armory and finished up there in time for lunch. For various reasons having more to do with 5 year old melt downs and less to do with the pursuit of chowishness, we ended up at the 30th St. Station for lunch, which was, ya know, edible. But I saw a sign saying Cosi is coming soon, so that should improve the lunch opportunities if that's where you find yourself. Then on to the Franklin Institute (much fun, cafe food looked deeply unappetizing).
Dinner was at Vietnam, which we also liked. The grilled meatball appetizer was probably the best thing. Chicken with black bean sauce was nothing special. Nothing wrong with it, just nothing notable. The chowpup was very happy with his grilled chicken over broken rice.
Breakfast Sunday and Monday brought us back to the RTM, for breakfast pastries from Metropolitan and lattes for me from Flying Monkey, which were perfectly nice.
Sunday, we finished the Franklin Institute and then went back to the RTM for lunch. I had a hoagie from I don't remember who, with salami and sharp provolone. It was fine. The bread was pretty tasteless. (I went to college in Middletown CT and there was a little Italian deli that made the MOST AMAZING Italian subs. Nothing has ever been as good sense. We could never quite pinpoint what made them so phenomenal, but it may have been really good rolls.) The chowpup had some immensely mediocre matzo ball soup from some deli. I could have told him it wasn't going to be anything special, but it was what he wanted. My husband had an acceptable tuna sandwich from the same place.
Sunday dinner at El Vez. Pretty much what we had been told here. Food was fine, not bad, not stellar, although we did enjoy the guacamole. The waitress was very nice. When I wasn't sure whether I wanted the frozen blood orange margarita or the pomegranate margarita, she brought over a sample of the frozen. Yummy. Then I ordered the pomegranate, just for the opportunity to have both. Also yummy.
The original plan had been to go to Capogiro for dessert, but it was a cold, raw, starting to rain night and there was a fondue restaurant, The Melting Pot, half a block from the hotel. The chowpup gets Ciao Bella gelato regularly in Grand Central Terminal, so he's not good gelato deprived, but he'd never had fondue, so we thought it would be fun, which it was. There are definitely better, more gourmet chocolate fondue experiences to be had, but hey! fruit and sweet stuff dipped in melted chocolate, what's not to like?
I think I may have done a lot of damning with faint praise in this post. That pretty much expresses our overall assessment of our food experience. We enjoyed everything. It was all perfectly nice, but nothing blew us away. We'd love to see Rangoon and Vietnam move near us, because they'd be perfectly pleasant neighborhood places and nice additions to the local, Asian-deficient repertoire, but there was nothing that made us bemoan the fact that we were leaving town. I've certainly had worse versions of everything we ate, but I've also had better.
Thanks for the report. Considering the chowpup, you didn't do badly, but you missed a treat at 30th St. Station -- the "bar" is actually a destination place (particularly for the clam chili). I think your problem at both Vietnam and Rangoon is that they have "familiar" chinese dishes on the menu, but if you order them, they are truly ordinary. The regional specialties are much better. Re Capogiro - it's not "good" gelato - it's GREAT gelato. You missed something there.
Glad you enjoyed your trip. FYI, there are fantastic hoagies to be had in Philly. The key is to look for ones made with Sarcone's bread. I know Primo's uses it, and Sarcone's has their own deli and uses it. It is some of the best bread on the planet.
I am not surprised that you were not wowed by your experience. Eating at 30th Station or at The Melting Pot is certainly not a wow experience. You did, however, miss a great opportunity at the train station by not eating at the bar. I wish I knew which hoagie place you ate at in RTM because that would have been helpful. As other posters suggested getting a hoagie on a Sarcone roll is something that would have gotten you closer to God. I agree with the other posters that you missed the BEST gelato you could have had.
Bottom line, to be honest, you could have done better even with the chowpup.
Sorry your trip was not up to your expectations. Admittedly some food at Reading Terminal Market is very good but will not (as you say) "blow you away." Next time you may want to try a roast pork sandwich at DiNic's, a Fisher's soft pretzel, pastries from Termini's, or warm cinnamon rolls from Bleiler's if you want a surreal meal. I do think that the pancakes from the Dutch Eating Place are great though. I won't comment on going to The Melting Pot though but would say that no matter how hard it is raining (or if I had an umbrella or not) I would go somewhere else. Especially at the prices they charge for lackluster food.
We'll definitely keep these tips in mind for the next trip. Always looking to improve the experience. One of the problems at RTM was that we were in Philly basically Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning, we went for the pancakes Saturday morning and obviously couldn't some of the Amish places the other days.
We knew Melting Pot would be mediocre; it was more about the experience for the chowpup. And it was melted chocolate. Not really a hardship. The place smelled peculiar though and I couldn't get it out of the sweater I was wearing. Definitely NOT going back for dinner.
How much better is Capogiro in the store than in the pints? I recently realized I've had Capogiro at home. My local Whole Foods sells the pints. It is, indeed, very good.