In Philly during all of Oct -- help me chow down!
Hi, Philly 'hounds. I'll be on a research trip Oct 1 - 30 and living in what I understand is the Historic District. (Apologies if this is misstated and please correct me.) I'm a grad student, so I'm looking for maybe one or two spendy meals -- one with my boyfriend when he visits and another with a friend visiting from NY, but other than that I will be on more of a budget. But, really, BRING IT. What are places I shouldn't miss? White tablecloth, hole-in-the-wall, great bakeries and cafes (esp if there is a place with good breakfast/coffee/pastries near where I'll be working at the American Philosophical Society on 5th St.), local specialties, quirky grocery stores and co-ops... They all interest me. Oh, and I brew beer at home, so I'm interested in brew pubs, too. Many thanks!
You are not too far from the unique Asian restaurant called Buddakhan (sp?) and I would sincerely go for it!
Reading Terminal is also a must for breakfasts, pastries, sandwiches, you name it.
Get yourself a sloppy, messy cheesesteak. (I'll leave others to fight over the best one!)
Seafood/Greek restaurant that is pricey but great is Estia off Broad and Locust.
Right around the corner on Broad Street is the lovely Bliss.
Grab a bottle of wine and head on over to Caffe Casta Diva on 220 S. 20th St. for a delicious Italian dinner or Branzino's (also fine!)
Going out of the city a bit appeal to you? Try Jakes' in Manayunk.
Reading Terminal Market is a few blocks to the north at 12th and Arch and has great pancakes at the Dutch Eating Place (Weds thru Sats only) and DiNic's roast pork sandwiches. Termini's at the market is a great Italian bakery with great pastries. Avoid the diner there though. Also, at Walnut and Juniper (very close to you) is the Naked Chocolate Cafe, which has killer hot and frozeen chocolate drinks and really good cupcakes. Estia, as mentioned above, is very good but very pricey (once had a $51 fish for lunch accidentally).
The only place on idia's list that fits into a grad student budget for regular dining is the Reading Terminal Market. All the others would only be good for one of the two "spendy" meals. For more budget-conscious options, do gelato from Capogiro, Burmese from Rangoon, hoagies from Primo's, tacos from Los Taquitos de Puebla, and I second the recommendations of Szechuan Tasty House, pho on 11th and Washington, Monk's, Eulogy, and Good Dog.
As the previous poster said, you are near Buddakhan, and if you want to splurge, that is an option. Personally, I'm not overly fond of it, but tons of people seem to really love it. For a splurge Stephen Starr, I would probably pick Alma de Cuba.
For beer, you'll want to check out either Eulogy or Monk's. Monk's, around 16th & Spruce, is closer than Eulogy, which near Penn's Landing around 2nd & Chestnut. The Foodery is a good place to buy gourmet beers if you just want some to take home. Dock Street, a Philadelphia brewery, just opened a spot at 50th & Baltimore, so that's something to check out if you're up for a small trip.
Reading Terminal Market will probably be recommended over and over again for good reason. If you want to get some sandwiches or whatever, there's some great ones here - I love DiNic's. Alternatively, this is also a good place for fruits or veggies or cheese or whatever your fridge might need that night.
Chinatown, around 11th & Race, will also be good for you. Sang Kee's has good duck & wontons. Lakeside, Ocean Palace, Joy Tsin Lau are all good places for dimsum. Ong's is good, and I just went there the other night for a surprisingly decent and cheap soft-shelled crab appetizer. There's a bunch of other places in Chinatown you'll want to check out, and I'm guessing that other folks will chime in with their favourites.
Good Dog, just a couple of blocks from you, have great burgers, my favourite in town. It's also a good place to hang out and grab a beer.
Naked Chocolate & Bonte are 2 little sweet shops/restaurant on Walnut, right before Broad. (They're next to each other.) Bonte has Belgian style sugared waffles and coffee, amongs a few other things. Naked Chocolate is, I suppose, somewhat self-explanatory in that they most have chocolate in the forms of drinks, cookies, etc - there are, however, a few other non-chocolate items on the menu that are pretty tasty, too.
That's all I can think of off the top of my head, but really, you're in a great place for food, just pick a direction and walk. You'll find something.
I personally do not like Bonte's waffle. It's sticky, not fluffy and a little too sweet. Their pastries are not the best I've had. But I do go there cause it's the closest there is other than Starbucks (I live near there). Plus, it's at 9th and Walnut...which is a good 10 minute walk from 5th, where you work...I'm assuming.
0. I don't know if there's a place near where you work. There's Cafe Ole in Old City (3rd and Quarry), which has a more "local" scene and regulars who hang out there.
1. Try Beau Monde, which is an excellent creperie/french for brunch.
2. Farmer's market on Sunday at S. 2nd street (it's 2nd between Lombard and South) for very good produce, bread, etc (I don't know when it starts exactly, but I usually go there around noon). I go to Whole Foods on South Street for groceries during the weekdays, but it's not anything unique to Philly or anything. But they do sell quality seafood, meat, organic produce, EXCELLENT brownies (I got very good Chillean seabass and dry aged NY strip the other day---they were a bit pricy though).
3. Honey's sit n' eat in Northern Liberty for good breakfast/brunch (order from their specials menu!)
4. Try BYOB places (there are so many)...Lolita, Matyson, Audrey Claire, Raddichio, and a number of other good ones I haven't tried.
5. Most Starr restaurants are more for the hip experience and ambiance rather than it being good food (that's worth what it costs)...in my opinion. Most of them have been disappointing...except Morimoto's tasting menu (but I'm a little biased---I am a huge fan of the iron chef).
6. Italian market on 9th street. Good frozen pasta and gnocchi, meat shops specializing various sausages, olives, baked goods, gelato, and so much more!
7. Vietnamese groceries, restaurants on 11th and Washington Ave. If you want awesome, authentic, cheap vietnamese food, go there. All the places in that little strip mall is good. impossible to find parking most of the time and most ridiculous sidewalk violation you've ever seen to increase parking space.
8. Szechuan Tasty House for greasy, authentic szechuan place.
I agree with the assessment of Stephen Starr establishments as being more "hype and ambiance" than quality food. Last time I spoke with Chef Morimoto, he indicated that he would spend most of his time in Manhattan now that his non-compete with Nobu has expired. His preference has always been New York City; Philadelphia just happened to be outside his geographical non-compete.
If you're looking for a good "splurge" place, I'd suggest going to Le Bar Lyonnais. They have a very fine menu apart from Le Bec-Fin's menu, and you have access to the Le Bec-Fin's dessert cart and cheese cart. You can also order a la carte off of Le Bec-Fin's menu in Le Bar Lyonnais at a reasonable price. Le Bar Lyonnais is in the same price range as a place like Buddakan.
As for BYOBs, the ones I would strongly recommend are Caffe Casta Diva and Matyson. However, buy your wine in NJ if you can; the PLCB's selection is underwhelming, at best. There are two good places in Pennsauken: Moore Brothers in Pennsauken (7200 N Park Dr) and Roger Wilco Liquor Store (1001 Route 73 in Pennsauken). If you can make it up further to Princeton, the Princeton Corkscrew and Joe Canal's Discount Liquor are also good.
I second the suggestions for Moore Brothers. Very friendly staff; they will suggest wine for your meal (so think about what you'll eat with the wine before going there). They only have European wines though.
Yea, I never met Chef Morimoto. But the omakase is always very creative and uses the best, freshest ingredients. If you're a Gourmet food fan, however, you should at least give it a try and say "I went to Morimoto's restaurant". :) Just like I would go to Babbo at least once if I were in Manhattan for a month.
this was the most recent place i see honey's sit'n'eat mentioned, so i guess i'll post here. i don't know if anyone's noticed, but they've quietly opened for dinners as a BYO spot. they're not my favorite brunch spot out of the plethora of neighborhood options, but they are one of the only places open for a decent breakfast before the brunch spots open up in late morning. i figured i'd try them for dinner.
first off, their dinner menu is overwhelming. four pages of small print. i was starving, so i skimmed it quickly. lots of fish dishes. i tried the crabcake to start with the mahi mahi in a white wine sauce for the main course. the crabcake was near-perfect (from a former marylander). nicely lumped together, no breadcrumby goo, atop a baby greens salad with cocktail sauce on the side. it was really good. i would have been happy with another of those.
main course came, and we were i suppose less than thrilled. my dining companion's pork chops she actually sent back (she's a picky one) in favor of the chicken breast, which she liked much better. my mahi mahi was way overdone. i'm not a food-sender-back at ALL (there's got to be a more grammatically correct term for that), so i finished my plate, though it was so tough my jaw feels strained. equally overcooked was my side of a potato latke. i chalked it up to an example of offering TOO many choices but specializing in only a few of them (one of which i had apparently not picked). this is a shame, because overcooking aside, the seasonings were quite pleasant and not overdone at all.
great place to escape dinner crowds for sure... possibly for a reason? prices were reasonable. if you find yourself there for dinner i highly recommend the crabcake (saw it comes as an entree too). good luck getting a table for brunch though. people think that place is the best thing since sliced bread. (i skip their line in favor of north third, for brunch)
if you like burritos, el fuego (walnut by 7th) and the place at 5th and south are both good, filling options. not as cheap as burritos should be, esp. if you're coming from california/new mexico/etc., but still a good filling healthy meal for the money.
bars that are good to eat in, but don't cost too much, include fergies (13th and sansom) and good dog (already mentioned). fergies is more of a good place to sit, eat, and have a drink than an actual food destination. very non-profit-y kind of crowd.
definitely take advantage of reading terminal.
brew pubs - you should check out nodding head on sansom. ask for a taste first - some of their beers are quite good, some are just kinda wierd.
re: Bob Loblaw
Call me a snob but I don't like el fuego that much. Everyone I know hyped it up for me so much, but I felt like I had better near Northern Liberty somewhere (I forget the names). There's a post somewhere that talk about taco carts...so search for it if you want cheap, good mexican. But it's dependable, decent, and healthier than street cart food.
If you want to walk about 5 mins for lunch, Aso Sushi (right next to El Fuego) has a great selection of rolls. Their special sushi and sashimi are always very fresh; the sushi chef will remember you the 2nd time, etc. Being typical Japanese food, it's not cheap. :)
might be fun to check out some of the off-the-beaten-path places, too, if you can rent a bike or take the el and get out of center city. there are a bunch of polish places up on allegheny ave sorta up in the close NE/port richmond. i have been to new wave which was a total hole in the wall but really good!
on the south side, head down to washington street and check out the italian market, all the little taquerias, and pho - all vaguely close to 9th and washington. los taquitos de puebla has been my fave mexican joint so far. verrrrrrry cheap, no ambiance (except for bright orange walls) but awesome food. folks here will recommend the tacos al pastor. they also have eyeballs (ojos) if those are up your alley. :) i think their guac and salsas there are excellent, the backbone of any good mexican place!
there is a felafel thread around here with all your options, but my fave is mama's with locations at 6th and south, and 20th and market (the latter all-vegetarian). good for when you have $5 to spend on dinner and are hungry!!!
northern liberties has a bunch of fun brunching spots. there's north third (my fave), standard tap, the abbaye, honey's, a full plate, m room (that's technically fishtown) ... am i missing any? within a couple blocks' walk of each other. also a bazillion coffee shops, all independently owned. two great italian BYO cash-only (but not cheap) options in the same area are modo mio and il cantuccio.
Hey rabidog, have you been back to Modo Mio since Craig LaBan's review? I remember reading your positive review way before his was published, but I think I also remember reading on this board that a few people who went right after his review were disappointed. Wondering if it's still worth the cash.
okay, this got me wanting modo mio tonight! i headed out for the unfortunately-named turista (the first time i heard the term was in the "don't drink the water" travel sickness context) $30 four-course menu. i have heard from three different people recently that the food there has been too salty, which admittedly lured me back. i like salt and capers - and i think this is really a place to go if you favor extreme tastes. there is nothing subtle about anything i have eaten there, right down to the shot of sambuca they hand out on the house at the end of your meal. first out came a complimentary dish of thinly shaved meats (which i don't eat, so i'm no help there). i do eat seafood, so they brought me out a bite of toast with tuna and balsamic. then they brought bread with dipping oil and mascarpone (the only subtlety of the entire meal). first course i had a crabcake topped with a creamy sauce and a lot of lemon zest. i thought it was delicious. my s.o. had a salted cod brushcetta (in retrospect this was a bit blandly flavored in comparison to the rest of the meal as well). next course we had two different pastas, a delicious thick, hollowed spaghetti in a REALLY spicy marinara (hold the pancetta) which was perfectly al dente. then a flat noodle in a creamy sauce with mushrooms - i couldn't place the spice details, and it was dark outside by this point which didn't help. verrry rich, and by this point i was full. third course i had a trout with capers and pistachios in a light butter sauce - this was very salty which i liked. the s.o. had a veal cheek which i had no part of, but supposedly it was tasty. for dessert we had the pannacotta (i think that was its name) which is like a creme brulee that's not fired on top, topped with berries, and a flourless chocolate torte. capped with sambuca and a cappucino, i was totally stuffed. i think it was a good meal, but i wish they had chairs outside that reclined after such an intense, filling experience. waiting for the check at a glass-top table in stiff chairs while totally stuffed was a bit awkward. a dessert lounging area sounds great, but maybe i am asking too much. i like this restaurant a lot. our waiter mentioned they are shopping around for spots to possibly open a pizza joint. that would be an interesting thing. their bread there is awesome.
I've never really had anything vegetarian at a Vietnamese place...or vegetarian meal at any type of restaurants (maybe with an exception of Italian that have really good gnocchi). But a lot of south-eastern asian cuisines liberally use fish sauce, so if you're hardcore about your vegetarian diet, it's hard to get by in Vietnamese or Thai. If you do eat seafood, bbq-ed shrimp vermicili noodle salad is good. We usually go to Nam Phuong (there are several places), but there are also other places in the strip mall so check the places out.
Italian market on the weekend is not to be missed.
Also, one of my favorite places in the world is Johnny Brenda's - it's up in Northern Liberties/Fishtown. They now have live music upstairs, but the best is really the 'just afterwork' crowd during the week.
Astounding grilled octopus, mushroom cigars (thin dough rolled with cheese and mushrooms), astounding grilled octopus (worth mentioning twice) and such a good good bar.
Take a cab, it's worth the brief $ to get from Locust to where you're staying, and you can usually catch a cab out front after a bit pretty easily. Plus, the neighborhood's a bit rough (but I hear it's softening).
Johnny Brenda's is right next to the M Room -- for me, I've never dug the M Room.
Rest of the list:
veal cheeks at Monk's
mussels and beers at Eulogy
only bar snacks at any and all Stephen Starr places (because they're good and the bar's really the big deal at all of them, yes even Morimoto's)
coffee at Old City Coffee
sandwich at Tony Luke's
fresh mozzerella at Italian Market
awesome Dim Sum in Chinatown - Ocean Palace was my favorite
gumbo at The Abbaye
steaks/sandwiches at Standard Tap
Eagles games at North 3rd
and an astounding sushi place that's classic Jersey (i.e. it's under an overpass) Sagami in Collingswood - when/if you have a car - an early movie at the Cherry Hill multiplex and then dinner at Sagami is a good night.
hah, just watched the eagles game at n3rd sunday night! it was nice and uncrowded so 30 mins into the game had no problem getting a table with a view of the screen. they had a really lovely crabcakes (lovely for PA anyway - i'm from maryland!) served with fries, coleslaw and corn-on-the-cob. waaaay too big a meal so i took about half home. as i said liked the crabcakes, love their fries. the corn-on-the-cob i didn't dig, but i'm convinced you just can't make corn-on-the-cob by boiling it. i keep it in the husks and wrap it in foil with ice and toss it straight into a fire. boiling corn does not do it justice. but the rest i enjoyed. and i enjoyed getting attentive service since it wasn't packed!
1. Ants Pants for a yummy breakfast on South Street...around 20th, I believe.
2. Tria is a nice place for pre-dinner cheese+wine+beer. Sundays are a great deal, as they offer one of each at half (or more) price. 12th and Spruce.
3. Lolita is a nicer Mexican place (definitely a spendy place). I believe right at 13th and Locust. Far better than El Vez, which is across the street.
4. If you head up to Northern Liberties (a bit north of the Philosophical Society, but around 5th) you can get some mean tacos at Taco Riendo...a block above 5th and Girard on 5th.
5. The Reading Terminal Market is not to be missed (see other responses).
6. Good Dog has an excellent burger (see other reviews). As does the Misconduct Tavern, which is around 15th and Locust somewhere (I'd google it).
7. Get a cheesesteak at your choice...there's plenty of threads debating this.
I'm not a fan of Naked Chocolate Cafe (I may be the only one, but I found it very overpriced and not very good). Stephen Starr places are a bit...well, predictable.
Hey, Philly 'Hounds. Thanks for all your suggestions. I'm going home on Tuesday, so my chowing days in Philly are numbered, but here is a list of things I tried, in no particular order, and a couple of comments:
El Fuego -- had lunch there a few times. Love the chorizo and guac. Yum.
I had dinner at a nice Vietnamese/Thai place in South Philly that I cannot remember the name of, but we had a great duck curry and also this appetizer that I really loved of a plate of toasted coconut slivers and peppery relish and peanuts, etc, that we wrapped up in leaves (not lettuce -- something else) and dribbled with honey. Does anyone know this place? It was great. Not a cheap Vietnamese/Thai meal, but excellent! The menu is huge...
La Fourno on South Street for pizza -- Had the fior di latte. Didn't look that special at first, but I really liked it. Would order it again, even though I think it is overpriced ($10 for a pizza that served me for dinner, $20 for a large one). Very simple, clean, delicious, with just a little char taste on the crust from the oven.
Reading Terminal Market -- loved it. Tried the DiNic's roast pork sandwich yesterday with provolone and roasted peppers (I asked the server what was most popular and she said that was it). Very good. When my boyfriend was in town last weekend we split an open-faced turkey sandwich with gravy and mashed potatoes (simple, good, and comforting; sometimes you don't *want* complex flavors, you know?!) and an apple dumpling that BLEW MY MIND. I've also tried a peanut butter bar at the Metropolitan Bakety and a Mexican brownie, cookie, and cupcake from Flying Monkey. All were okay, but I wouldn't walk over there specifically for any of them. I also bought local veggies from the special stand in there and produce from Iovine Bros, which made me feel dumb for buying produce at Whole Foods on a grad student salary. This would be a regular stop for me if I lived in Philly for real. But, can I just say, it drives me nuts that they close at 6! And this is the drop-dead closing time; many vendors shut down before then. Sheer madness.
Dim sum at Ocean Palace. Three people was the perfect number. The half hour wait on a Sunday morning was worth it. Delicious.
During my boyfriend's visit last weekend, we tried:
Rangoon -- we both really liked the thousand layer bread with chicken "dip" (more like stew to sop up) and I particularly liked the ginger salad.
Audrey Claire -- We tried to go to Monk's, but it was packed. We fell upon Audrey Claire because we were roaming and starving, and thus forgot to buy wine. (We're also from Minneapolis, where there are no BYOs, so we're not trained.) We we asked our waitress where one of us could pop out and buy wine, she offered us some that other patrons abandoned. We loved this! Hooray for free wine. Our food was great. We split a beet salad with oranges and feta and the Boy had a fish special that was good. I loved my wild boar sausage with risotto-style spelt. Yum. My only complaint was that the place was ridiculously loud. Like, have to yell at the person across the table loud. But the food was so good.
Monk's -- The beer was great and this would definitely be a regular spot if I became a local. We split the Sourpus, a sour ale-marinated octopus starter. It was just okay. The Boy's burger was fine, he said, and my mussels were fine. The frites were fine, as was the "famous" mayo, although I found them to be a bit cold when they got to the table. Basically, the beer was awesome and the food was okay.
Sabrina's for breakfast -- The Boy's omelette was overcooked, I thought, but good and my French toast was freakishly large -- so large that I took half home and ate it for breakfast the next day. And it was good. The coffee was terrific. We loved the '80s mix they were playing. A great place whose menu gems I think we might have somehow missed. Would definitely go there again and go for it with the more unusual things on the menu, with the exception of a rocky road French toast that sounded inedible unless you're five years old and have been on a diet of vegetables for the last week.
I had one drink at Alma de Cuba, which was fine, but not $10 worth of fine. The nibbles on the bar menu looked good and I should have spent my money there. I had the overall feeling of the place being overrated, but then again I paid $10 for a pretty basic cocktail and didn't eat anything.
I've had a brownie and a made-to-order (not take away) sandwich from Fork in Old City. If I continued to work in the neighborhood, this would be a semi-regular lunch spot for me.
I am in love with Capogiro's gelato. I've had gelato in Italy and I must say that this is better. When the Boy was here, we had some and he liked it, but I'm smitten. The bittersweet chocolate and the sweet potato with praline are out of this world. This is a true Philly find, in my mind.
Finally, I had beer, spaetzle, and bratwurst at the German place around 13th and Sansom the other night. Like Monk's, the beer was great and the food was ho hum. I'd go there again for a happy hour no problem. The bratwurst was very good, now that I think of it, and the spaetzle was okay; the rotkraut and sourkraut sides I had were mediocre. But, man, what a hefeweizen.
I might try one more place before I leave, maybe Beau Monde since one of my professors at home recommended it and it sounds great. Again, thanks for the suggestions and if anyone needs Minneapolis recs, don't hesitate to post to the Midwest board. The MSP 'Hounds are very helpful!
P.S. A few hours later. I went out to do some pre-leaving-on-Tuesday errands and tried a Bonte waffle on the way home. Wow! Very interesting and yummy. Maybe I'll try to make these when I get back to Mpls...