birthday dinner in University City
I'm guessing you mean the Inn at Penn since that's the only Hilton I can think of in U. City.
As the previous poster mentioned, Pod & Nan are both options. Pod (right behind the hotel, on Sansom) is a Stephen Starr theme restaurant, and the food isn't bad, with the sushi being quite decent, but I don't know that it's a "special birthday food" kind of place. Nan (40th & Chestnut) is a good spot but has slightly odd hours, like not being opened on Mondays when I last checked, so make sure it's open before you make the walk.
If you're willing to go slightly farther, both Marigold Kitchen (45th & Larchwood) & Rx (45th & Spruce) are good spots.
On the other side of the Hilton is Lemon Grass, around 36th & Lancaster - Thai food, pretty decent stuff all around. Right near there is Zocalo's, which I'm not fond of but know more than a few folks who like it.
As an actual rec, I say that, provided you're willing to make the trek, Marigold Kitchen is good. If not, Nan is a good birthday choice.
I found Marigold Kitchen overpriced, the food was merely adequate, and the service was a nightmare...I wouldn't recommend it for dinner, much less a special occasion. Rx is far better, though I haven't been there recently, so it may have had a downward spiral.
Zocalo isn't terrible.
Go for Pod or Nan.
I'll admit that I'm only at Marigold for the special dinners, so the food is not the usual menu, but the service is great. The last time I was there, the waiter was extremely nice, personable but not overly chatty.
Rx, on the other hand, has strange connections for me. I like it lots and go for brunch every once in a while. However, as far as recommending it, I am always reminded of the perfectly cooked, grossly under-seasoned skate I had there once.
Overall, I prefer Marigold, but experiences seem to guide our different opinions.
I'm with you Ali. Although I live less than 5 minutes from Rx, I doubt I'll ever go back. It's probably just that we've had off-experiences with the place, but the experiences were bad enough to sour me forever.
When my fiance and I were first dating, we were seated next to the door on a cold windy night (hey someone has to sit there) and then promptly ignored. No bread, no water, our entrees arrived long after the table of four next to us who ordered considerably after us, and our waiter was rude. We alerted the owner and received a complementary dessert, but the waiter informed us that next time we should make reservations to avoid the problems (we had).
Well, that's just a one off. Every restaurant has a bad night. Fast forward to several years later when we moved back to Philadelphia. We went for brunch. They once again ignored us and swapped Prosciutto d'Parma on my egg dish with Canadian Bacon. I brought it to the attention of the waiter who said, "yeah, we're out of the prosciutto". Well, in my opinion, there's a price difference between prosciutto and canadian bacon, but hey, these things happen.
The final time we went, again for brunch, the waiter dumped an entire container of creamer on my fiance's lap. With barely an apology, they cleaned it up and brought us our entrees. At the end of the meal, my dairy soaked woman was charged full price for everything until we brought it up with the waiter. Now luckily she was wearing a hiking skirt and most of the cream didn't sink in, but if we had been visiting for out of town on this 100 degree day, our day would have been completely ruined. Luckily she could change as we live nearby.
I'm sorry but 3 strikes and you're out.