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Need recommendations: Bay Area Hound coming to Philly Area

Hello all,

I will be in town for training next week and was hoping some fellow Chowhounds could give me some recommendations for dinner. I'm trying to plan for 3 nights. I would like to avoid chain restaurants if at all possible. My class will be out in the 'burbs in King of Prussia, but I'm willing to drive for food as I will have a rental car. Any favorite places and/or must try dishes? Thanks in advance for your advice.

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  1. First off, get out of King of Prussia (others may not agree). Since you will have a car, I believe you can do better elsewhere, especially since you --wisely--want to avoid chains. My suggestion would be to get on I-76 South and drive to center city. This should take about 45 minutes, depending on traffic. Once there, you will find a plethora of good restaurants. Please email with more specific wishes. If you don't want to drive that far (but I really think you should, at least for one night), there are decent places in Conshohocken and on the main line -- at least better than King of Prussia. Being from the Bay Area, I'm guessing you're used to good food. Really, go to center city

    3 Replies
    1. re: JanR

      Meant to say please post with more specific wishes.

      1. re: JanR

        so does that mean there's nothing in king of prussia...i'm gonna be going over there for training for a week :(

        1. re: snowy

          IN KofP proper, not too much beyond chain places, but there are a few good Indian restuarants nearby. And I believe I read recently of a good but hard-to-find Chinese restaurant somewhere on the outskirts of the mall.

          Norristown (5 miles) gives you a few good Mexican tacquerias.

          The "main line" (5-10 miles) gives you a bunch of restaurants in the Radnor/Wayne/Berwyn corridor. If you look at a map, Lancaster Ave / rt. 30 is the main line, with small downtowns all along the train route there.

      2. some general notes on the area, in case you're not familiar with it at all:
        -There are some decent local breweries around here. If you're a beer person, they're worth trying. Yards (esp. their ales, but not their porter) and Flying Fish are my favorites, others might suggest different brews.
        -Wine is all controlled by the pennsylvania liquor board. Big limiter.
        -"local specialties" tend towards the lower end of the gastronomic spectrum - cheese steaks, roast pork sandwiches. They can be really good, but don't improve when you pay the big bucks for them.
        -Many of the best restaurants are BYOB.
        -Driving from KoP to center city can be easy or major pain in the *ss. Check the traffic first (1060am has it every 10 minutes).

        For restaurants to go to I agree that it's hard w/out some notions of your preferences.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Bob Loblaw

          -"local specialties" tend towards the lower end of the gastronomic spectrum - cheese steaks, roast pork sandwiches.

          One man's cheesesteak is another man's prime rib.

          1. re: Philly Ray

            oh, i agree. mine was more of a 'where you should look' kind of suggestion.

        2. You will probably need to look beyond KoP, but I don't think you need to drive all the way to center city to get some good food. Nectar is less than 5 miles from KoP in Berwyn, it's very good. Alison at Blue Bell is about 10 miles away, also great. If you like Indian food, there are several good places within 10 miles of KoP.

          1. Thanks for the tips so far. From what I heard KoP is strip mall/suburbia city which is not what I'm looking for. City Center it is. Is parking managable there? I drive in SF so I have some patience.

            So I was thinking about trying Morimoto of Iron Chef fame. Any thoughts? It's quite a bit more than my per diem, but if it's worth it, I'd pay out of pocket. I'm looking for a place that's semi nice...say mid-range in the restaurant spectrum. As for food types I'm pretty open, but I'm thinking New American, Italian, Euro bistro like. I like Asian food, but it's hard to beat the selection I have in the Bay Area. I definately want to try a Cheese Steak...any good place for that? I've heard one way to order is with Cheese Whiz. Wiz whip? Any thoughts on that? I'm thinking I'd rather have 'real' cheese on mine, but I'd rather do as the locals.

            11 Replies
            1. re: mandyf

              Consider Buddakan, Amada, & Osteria. if you can make Sunday brunch, Lacroix is really spectacular. Morimoto is very good, also.

              1. re: DaisyM

                I'll be there Tues-Friday (afternoon). Will mid-week dining without reservations be an issue at these places?

              2. re: mandyf

                FYI, Chef Morimoto is rarely actually at his Philadelphia restaurant.

                As Bob Loblaw said, check the traffic before you set out for dinner in the city. It can take an 45-60 minutes each way to and from CC to KoP if traffic is bad. I don't think you want to spend six hours driving back and forth to dinner each night.

                1. re: mandyf

                  I will second the person who recommended Allison (I hadn't realized it's so close to KOP). You can byob there for a small corkage fee (most BYOBs in Philly do not charge corkage but Allison just got her liquor license so this is generous). Order fish there. It is very good. Allison was the original chef at Striped Bass (under Neil Stein, not Starr). For center city, I think you might enjoy a byob since you probably don't have them in the Bay Area. There are several good ones: Matyson, Pumpkin, Melograno, Mercato (last two no reservations but should be much easier to get in during the week).

                  1. re: JanR

                    Melograno takes reservations Tues, Wed, & Thurs - but might be closed for their annual summer vacation till after labor day.

                    1. re: JanR

                      Alison at Bluebell seems perfect for one of my dinners! I suspect traffic will be bad all nights I"m there since the Phillies are about to have a 10-game homestand.

                      1. re: JanR

                        Alison has her liquor license? I am going next week and need to know! Thanks

                      2. re: mandyf

                        Tinto and Amada specialize in spanish tapas and are both amazing. Matyson is an excelent new american downtown, BYOB I think. Lots of good restaurantsto choose from. All have web sites so you can check out the menus. Philadelphia has good asian restaurants, but you are from San Francisco, so...

                        As far as the cheesesteak, I'd rate it right up there with the need to have rice-a-roni in San Francisco - don't waste a meal on it. If you must try, there all equally bad.

                        1. re: mandyf

                          Since everyone seems to be ignoring the cheesesteak question (except someone who apparentlky doesn't like them at all), I'll offer some thoughts there. Do not go to Pat's or Genos (the "famous" spots) They are, IMHO, bad. Try Tony Lukes, Sonny's in Old City or any of the other spots recommended on the various cheesesteak threads on this board. Geno's and Pat's, I think, are the places most people order whiz. While it may be available at other spots, people tend toward Provolone or american, so either way you are "local". That said, what many CH locals will tell you with regard to our sandwich preferences, we have a long tradition of Roast Pork sandwiches here in Phila. Roast pork, lots of "juice", sharp provolone, broccoli rabe or spinach, and long hots (peppers) - I may need to leave my office now, claiming an emergency, they are that good. They are most often eaten from Tony Luke's or DiNics - unfortunately DiNics is in the Reading Terminal Market and thus only a lunch option. Not sure about Roast Pork in the burbs. Enjoy!

                          1. re: Bigley9

                            Thanks for offering up some suggestions for the Philly Cheesesteak. I can be a food snob sometimes, I fill like I owe it to myself to at least try one when I'm there.

                          2. re: mandyf

                            Philly definitely has a lot of great restaurants, but I would also encourage you to go west and try Majolica (if you can get a reservation) in Phoenixville or restaurants in Malvern and West Chester. From KofP, either of those areas are just as close as Philly and don't require driving on the Schuylkill expressway, which at any time of day or night CAN be a problem (but isn't always). In Malvern, we recently ate at Cosimo, which is a wine bar/restaurant and very good. In West Chester, we like Avalon and I've heard that Marshallton Inn and Gillmore's are very good. Also High Street Cafe is supposed to be good for cajun/creole food.

                            Coming from Calif you may not be too aware of the whole BYO culture in PA, but if you decide to do that (which I recommend), you need to find a good specialty wine & spirits store. They are scattered about the State, and I don't know what is in KofP. If you go into a non-specialty wine store in PA, the selections will be very limited, but the specialty stores are usually much much better.

                            Have fun!

                          3. If you like desserts, real frozen custard and candy are only 10 minutes from KofP at Zwahlen's. They only have vanilla, chocolate, and 'flavor of the day' (see the calendar on their web site). But really good homemade stuff, and their homemade hot fudge (regular or dark) also excellent. And 10-15 different kinds of candy apples, and chocolate, and more good sugary stuff.


                            quickie directions: Rt 422W for about 2 miles to Trooper Road exit, continue about 1.5 miles to left on Shannondell across from "Blvd of the Generals" (strip-mall-shopping-land), it's a smallish house/hut on the right that looks a bit like a fast food building.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: JugglerDave

                              This frozen custard tip sounds like the perfect dessert for me! I can hit it up on the way back from the city center.

                              1. re: mandyf

                                I frequent Zwahlens, my favorite ice cream- so yummy! (it's next to a McD's as a landmark). Get it on top of a waffle for an extra special treat!

                                However, if you have a mood for great water ice (or ice cream) another local place in King of Prussia is Petrucci's - Norview Farm. It's at 670 Henderson Road which is off 202.

                            2. I'd suggest making reservations. You can get most of these spots on opentable.com. Also, give yourself plenty of time to get to center city. It is the traffic,not the distance that is a problem.

                              1. You should check out the following board about local to KOP options... as stated before, it will take you awhile to get downtown (esp if there's a Phillies game or other event - only 1 main road from KOP to the city), so you may want to go once, then stay local the other nights?
                                Good luck! And enjoy the East Coast!

                                1. You should try to make it into the City for a night or two. Your dinner choices run the gamut from the classic, the star (Steven), and a medley of BYOB's.

                                  Walnut St in Rittenhouse is the host of most of formal choices; LeBecFin, The Striped Bass... Other classic include Deux Cheminees, and Vetri. All expensive and a bit on the stuffy side. Rittenhouse also has a number of popular spots for people watching, brasserie perrier, rouge or what ever name is currently on the restaurants on the square today. Walking around Rittenhouse can be very nice, parking also comes at a price.

                                  Steven Star is behind a number of the cities trendier spots: Classic martini bar, Continental "s" and the resturants Buddakan, Morimoto and so on.... Morimoto is interesting, not the best block. The focus of most of stars places are on decor/not food.

                                  Old City has a number of great spots, about 4 Steven Star addresses and makes good people watching. Try the Fork, one of my long time favorites.

                                  I tend to fall into a byob food first crowd. + I have a better selection of wine:)
                                  Django (ya, ya new owners), Melograno, little fish.

                                  12 Replies
                                  1. re: metama

                                    fork looks very cute...and a I like the 4 course prefix with wine on Wednesdays.

                                    1. re: mandyf

                                      has anyone ever been Fork on Wednesdays and sat at the chef's table for $40? how early do you have to get there in order to score a spot?

                                      1. re: mandyf

                                        I'd pass on Fork if I were you as there are much better options in town these days. Also, I'd second the tip for visiting Reading Terminal for breakfast or lunch http://www.readingterminalmarket.org if you skip class!

                                        1. re: bluehensfan

                                          I've heard the Wednesday chef's table at Fork Etc. is good. Does anyone have an answer to mandyf's question about this?

                                          1. re: JanR

                                            I tried going to Fork last night, but it was already full. I arrived at exactly 8 and could not get in. The hostess said that if I arrived at 7:45 I should be fine, but my lack of punctuality took over.

                                      1. re: saturninus

                                        In regards to your cheesesteak question - it is whiz with, meaning with fried onions. IMHO and not to open up a whole debate but, Jim's on south street and John's roast pork are my favorites. Jim's is right across the street from Copabana's which has the best margarita's and spanish fries in the city. At Jim's I get it with american cheese and whiz with fried onions, which I highly recommend. John's roast pork is hard to find (weccacoe and snyder) and they are only open until 3. John's is close to Tony Luke's and I think it crushes Tony Luke's in both cheesesteak and roast pork categories.

                                        1. re: Adamlick

                                          I agree on the John's vs Tony Luke's but those hours kill me (and I live a half mile away!)

                                          1. re: Adamlick

                                            If you want a killer beef burrito get one at the Copabana. Nothing compares. Get the fries too of course.

                                        2. re: metama

                                          An excellent option that isn't stuffy is Le Bar Lyonnais (beneath Le Bec-Fin). Le Bec-Fin is the restaurant that got fine dining started in the United States, and the Bar is a great place to sample it if you don’t have the time for an extended dining experience in the main dining room. The first time I ever went to the French Laundry, which was about 12 years ago when the restaurant was barely a year old, Thomas Keller stopped by my table specifically to mention how much he admired Chef Perrier and how the entire restaurant scene in the United States is indebted to his work since the 1960s in Philadelphia (one of the waiters mentioned to him that I was from the Philadelphia area).

                                          At the Bar, you experience the same level of service and food as Le Bec-Fin but in a more casual, laid-back environment. The staff are all very friendly and personable, especially Bernard, Thomas, Eric, Anna, Melissa, and Stephanie. The best nights to go are Tuesday through Thursday because it’s less crowded. However, I still recommend calling ahead to make a reservation. Chef Perrier tends to hang out in the bar in between seatings in the main dining room (in the summer this is usually around 7 to 8pm but varies depending on the number of covers upstairs).

                                          The wine by-the-glass selections are very good and reasonably priced. You can also ask for Michael, the assistant sommelier in the main dining room, to pair courses for you in the Bar. Eric makes excellent cocktails; among his specialties are his take on the chocolate martini, Knob Creek Manhattan (with Angostura bitters, of course), and Cosmopolitan.

                                          Some of my favorite dishes at Le Bar Lyonnais are, in no particular order:

                                          a. Lancaster County chicken breast with hazelnut mashed potatoes and vegetables (the vegetables vary from day to day depending on what the chef likes)
                                          b. Steak tartare
                                          c. Quenelle de brochet (served with wild rice and Americaine sauce) – this is the dish that prompted Craig Claiborne to declare that Le Bec-Fin is the best French restaurant outside Paris
                                          d. Escargot in champagne/butter/hazelnut sauce
                                          e. Mushroom ravioli with ivory sauce
                                          f. Veal “Shanis” (veal medallions in a veal jus with truffle mashed potatoes and mushroom fricassee) – this dish was named for a friend of Chef Perrier’s in case you’re wondering what the “Shanis” means
                                          g. The fume is probably among the best I’ve ever tasted outside Manhattan.

                                          For dessert you can order selections from Le Bec-Fin’s dessert and/or cheese carts. I would strongly recommend getting a sampler and requesting the Fraisier (a variation on Strawberry shortcake), Creole (banana cream and chocolate cake), Soleil (lemon mousse and almond sponge cake), and Le Bec-Fin (chocolate cake soaked in rum with layers of chocolate buttercream). The cheese cart is strongly biased towards French and Swiss cheeses with good distribution among cow, sheep, and goat milk.

                                          1. re: Mr_Pickles

                                            Now this is serious business.....a french laundry connection! ooolala. I'm adding this one to the itinerary for sure! Tuesday night...right when I fly into PHL!

                                            1. re: mandyf

                                              Everything you could possibly want is no more than 10-15 minutes from King of Prussia.
                                              Let's start with Asian fusion: Nectar in Berwyn (it doesn't get much better than that!)
                                              Next: Bryn Mawr: Mediterranean Grill for Middle East delights and a decent price that won't harm your pocketbook. BYOB
                                              Want to part with your money?: Radnor's Pond is exquisite in landscape and a menu that almost matches the outside.
                                              For simpler fare, kinder to your purse and outdoor seating in Radnor: Right down the street is 333 Belrose Lane.
                                              A mile from there is the sophisticated and classy Savona (very pricy and trendy)
                                              Want Japanese?: Samurai in Rosemont
                                              How about a killer steak dinner? (with a price tag to match) Flemings (also in Radnor)
                                              The quintessential neighborhood Chinese restaurant in Bryn Mawr: Yangming
                                              Also in Bryn Mawr is Blush for trendy, eclectic food popular with the "madding crowd."
                                              And finally, saving my favorite for last: In Bryn Mawr a small classic little dining place with maybe 12 tables tops and a chef with a very sophisticated palatte is a wonderful BYOB Sola.
                                              Bon appetit.

                                        3. I am recent transplant from SF to Philly. Driving in from KoP can be time consuming, so if you make the trek, you want to eat good food that is as good as or better than SF. That is tough to beat, but for me that is good Italian food, brunch, and tapas. You can definitely get good food in all these categories in SF, but I guess I was pleasantly surprised with the food in Philly and that is why I recommend the following:
                                          For Italian I like James (8th and Christian) and Mercato (BYOB).
                                          For tapas, Amada or Tinto.
                                          I enjoy Sabrina's or Morning Glory for brunch.
                                          BTW, I wouldn't make the drive all the way down for a cheesesteak. Although a tradition, most of my SF visitors dont understand the hype.
                                          Visit the Reading terminal as well. Quite a difference from the Ferry Plaza, and worth a visit.

                                          1. I appreciate all the input. Chowhounds have so much great info to offer! Here's what I'm thinking schedulewise:
                                            *Night 1: Arrive in PHL around 5:00 pm and drive to City Center/Philadelphia proper for dinner. Hope traffic isn't too bad...not sure what time to schedule reservations but will have to build in rental car pick up time, drive time, traffic. Location still TBD...but thinking Le Bar Lyonnais, Mercato, Pumpkin, Striped Bass. Then drive to KoP for hotel/class. Might stop for dessert at the custard place if i'm still hungry.
                                            *Night 2: Go to KoP mall and take advantage of tax free shopping for a hour or two after class. Then dine at Alison at Blue Bell or somewhere nearby KoP
                                            *Night 3: It's a toss up...either will stay in KoP area or go to Philly. This is a Thursday night...is traffic somewhat predicatable based on days of the week?

                                            Unfortunately I'll be in class during the day and can't visit the Reading Terminal Market.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: mandyf

                                              the airport to center city will take about 20 mins or less and is basically never a traffic problem.. Every night can be a problem, but if you can wait until 6:30 or better yet 7:00 to start the drive you should be OK. Your choices look good!