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Planning early for next restaurant week....opinions/feedback appreciated

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Ok well the last time I kinda forgot about restaurant week (plus I am an accountant so I was starting to get busy at work anyway) but now I'm looking ahead to the next one coming up in September. Since my birthday is also during this week and because we missed out on the last one, I have decided that my girlfriend and I are going to one restaurant each day and I want to get my reservations in EARLY since I always procrastinate and then never get what I want.

Here are the 5 that I am thinking about making reservations for:

1) Alma de Cuba
2) Amada
3) Mercato
4) Tangerine
5) Upstares at Varalli (if I can get a window seat overlooking the Ave of the Arts)

Other possible choices are Cuba Libre (if no Alma reservations), El Vez, Estia, Lacroix at the Rittenhouse, Susanna Foo.

I have been in Philly for two years now and haven't really experienced much of the dining experience of the city, so I am just looking to try some new places and see how the atmosphere/service/etc. is without breaking the bank.

The only places that I have eaten in the city are Overtures, Matyson, and Valanni - all of which were nice. I live in Manayunk so most of the time I just grab something there.

Now my questions.....which restaurant should I go to during my birthday night (Wed) and are any of the ones that I mentioned to be avoided?

Thanks.

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  1. Link to restaurants available to save time:

    http://www.centercityphila.org/restau...

    At least I am assuming that these will be the ones anyway. I guess the link lists the ones that participated in the last one so I just used this list to make my choices.

    1 Reply
    1. re: dave80jc

      Webpage in above link now shows the fall 2007 participants.

    2. We ate at Estia last time and it was a steal considering how much they usually charge. The octopus and fish were great and the desserts pretty good.

      I'd pass on El Vez because it's not that expensive to begin with, as well as Amada unless they offer something more substantial this time around.I also thought the food at Cuba Libre leaves something to be desired.

      1 Reply
      1. re: bluehensfan

        I'd skip Upstares at Varalli - ate there years ago and never dreamed of going back! Estia is an excellent choice for restaurant week because it's a real, real bargain. Mercato is reasonable at any time, and good. Brasserie Perrier would be a great choice - we always try to get the places that are otherwise very expensive.

      2. I would pass on Tangerine. We were in and out in 45 minutes. Food was excellent, but portions were tiny. When we left, the guys wanted to go for pizza.

        I would skip Upstairs at Varalli simply because it's not that good. I have heard that it has definitely slipped lately. It was always decent; never top drawer.

        We ate at Mercato during a Restaurant Week. Food is really good, but we were crammed in like anchovies. They had to move a table for us to get to our table. It's not that pricey; go another time.

        If you are meat eaters . . .we have had lovely dinners at Prime Rib. Last year, we had an excellent steak dinner at the steak place in the Rittenhouse Hotel, whose name escapes me. Great steak, large portions, excellent service.

        I heard that Lacroix, which I love, isn't good for Restaurant Week. Very limited.

        Estia always has a $35 prix-fixe, so it may not be such a bargain. But it is lovely.

        Susanna Foo was disappointing.

        I heard Django was very good during RW, if they are taking part.

        3 Replies
        1. re: sylviag

          Ok so reading over the recommendations so far, I'll cross out 5) Upstares at Varalli and add 5) Estia. I'll also remove 2) Amada and add 2) The Prime Rib.

          I will definitely go to Amada at some point just not during RW. I think I'll go to The Prime Rib on my birthday. Ironically, it is also my girlfriends mother's birthday as well (we share the same, so maybe I'll invite her parents to come to that one. Thanks for pointing that place out Silvia. Question about the restaurant though - should I definitely eat in the main dining room? I don't own a jacket (although I probably should) so I'd have to buy one beforehand and I saw on the website that you need one in the main dining room.

          If the food is good at Tangerine, I'm inclined to keep that one on the list because my girlfriend will be fine with the small portions and because I'd make reservations for Friday night there so we could go out to the bars afterwards.

          List now looks like this:
          1) Alma de Cuba
          2) The Prime Rib
          3) Mercato
          4) Tangerine
          5) Estia

          What about Washington Square?

          1. re: dave80jc

            You no longer need a jacket at Prime Rib. A friend who was there recently said that most of the guys were just wearing nice shirts. It should be a perfect place for your girlfriend's parents.

            1. re: sylviag

              I called them earlier today to ask a question and they definitely told me that the main dining room requires a jacket

        2. I suggest going to Ristorante Panorama for your birthday. They open up the whole menu for restaurant week. You pick one appetizer/pasta, one main course & one dessert. The food is good and you can get flights of wine to celebrate.

          I also really enjoyed La Boheme on 11th & Spruce (?) cute little French bistro, somewhat romantic, excellent food and an amazing pot de creme. And it's BYO

          1 Reply
          1. re: bumble

            La Boheme is closed.

          2. I was at Prime Rib last Sunday. Every Sunday they have a 30 fixed price, BYOB. The prime rib is delicous, but the chicken is god awful and the salmon is boring.
            The only problem with rest week is that most of the places usually charge less then 30.00 so you have to be careful.

            8 Replies
            1. re: OlderPhiladelphian

              I went to Prime Rib for the last restaurant week and thought it was good, but nothing spectacular. There were three of us and we pretty much tried everything on the restaurant week menu. The prime rib was the best of all the entrees, but the salmon and I believe it was a pepper steak left more to be desired. I wore a jacket, but was told I did not have to for restaurant week and there were a lot of other men who were jacket less. When the meal was over we all had certain sense of satisfaction due to the fact that we did not pay full price. It is a good deal during restaurant week or on the aforementioned Sunday, but not worth the normal price.

              1. re: Adamlick

                I think the PR is definitely a good Restaurant Week deal, but I wouldn't say that it's not worth the normal price at other times. The cut of prime rib you get on the Restaurant Week menu is literally a fraction of the size you get when ordering off the "regular" menu and you're much more limited on appetizers, side dishes, etc.

                Restaurant Week is a great "intro" to the Prime Rib but, if dress, cost, etc. are not an issue, I'd also give it a try at a non-Restaurant Week time as well.

                1. re: CookieMonster

                  Maybe you are right, maybe I should give it a try during a non-restaurant week time, but I found the food to be kind of blah, and I have had much better prime rib. I am not talking about the size of the prime rib, but the flavor. If you are going to name your restaurant after a certain dish, I would suspect that it would taste a little better. Now, you could even make the argument that they were busier than normal or mass producing prime rib for restaurant week, but there was only four other tables occupied in the entire restaurant. If this was my "intro" to prime rib, I don't want the "conclusion."

                  1. re: CookieMonster

                    That "normal" cut of prime rib is 42.00 and so large that if felt grotesque to me.

                    1. re: OlderPhiladelphian

                      Forgive me for being lost, when is restaurant week in September? I thought they only did it during January.

                      1. re: dream_of_giusti

                        I think it's like the third week in September.

                        1. re: bluehensfan

                          I'd probably change Prime Rib to Barclay Prime
                          and Tangerine to Bliss.
                          I'd stick with Estia.
                          (but that's just me!)

                          1. re: idia

                            I didn't see Barclay Prime on the list.

              2. I would also put Le Castagne at 19th and Chestnut on your list. It is often overlooked but they do such a great job during restaurant week (and otherwise). I went the first time during a restaurant week because other places were booked and I have been back a number of times.