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Where should we go for my 50th birthday?

I'm a cook, a chowhound, a lover of food of all kinds (but prefer simplicity done really well). I'm turning 50, and we want to go into Philly (don't get there often enough). I know this is annoyingly broad, but got any recommendations? I'd like somewhere cozy and wonderful. If I had the time and money, I'd fly to Chez Panisse. I'm hoping to book it tonight, as we want to dine a month from today. Thanks for any help-- you guys are great.

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  1. Vetri (http://www.vetriristorante.com/) would be perfect, if they have a reservation available.

    1. I really think that brunch at Lacroix is very, very special and birthday worthy.

      1. Lacroix or Le Bec Fin are very special and although expensive, live up to the hype. I've been to Vetri 5 or 6 times and only when someone else is paying. I think it's overpriced and over rated

        1 Reply
        1. re: Den

          How about the original Morimoto? It's not cosy, but it's cool looking and they're so nice there. If you told them it was a special occasion, they'll treat you well.

        2. LaCroix isn't really cozy, but you don't feel like you're in a large room surrounded by people. I love celebrating occasions there. It's unique.

          2 Replies
          1. re: sylviag

            Thanks! Keep ideas posting if you have them. I made a few reservations, and will cancel (WAY ahead of time) the ones we're not taking. I have been to Vetri once, and loved it. I'm on the wait list for there. It'd be nice to go somewhere we've never been...
            I went to Le Bec Fin once (for lunch) and liked parts of it very much, but overall it's a bit much for me. I'm a simple gal. Silver domes covering the entrees as they travel to the table don't turn me on.

            1. re: sylviag

              Try Osteria. Mark Vetri's other spot on No. Broad

            2. all kinds eh? i just had a truly special meal at horizons, the all-vegan place at 7th and south. i mention them because i think your statement 'simplicity done really well' sums up my thoughts on my dinner there earlier this week.

              someone else mentioned morimoto - which i think is cozy in its own right... if you go there, you must do the omakase, though!

              1. For cozy and simplicity done really well I would head to Overtures. It's lovely, quiet and the food is very good. Not cutting edge just excellent renditions of the standards. Avoid the Starr factories unless you like a lot of noise with your meals.

                4 Replies
                1. re: joluvscards

                  Lacroix is lovely.
                  I must also mention Estia for simplicity in excellent Greek seafood.
                  I also prefer small, intimate places which this is not -- however, I always request mezzanine seating (I was there Tuesday night) and it is so cozy and quiet there that I would swear I was in a different restaurant.

                  1. re: idia

                    You could come here to Kentucky, stay in a bed and breakfast and take the Bourbon Trail and visit all the distilleries and participate in their tastings.

                    1. re: BourbonHQ

                      I'm appreciating all the suggestions! We can only go to one place for my birthday, but the others that you mention, and which I will investigate, all go into the mental file for another time. Question about Horizons: I was there before they moved into Philly. I wonder if it's the same or more ambitious now? We did like it (not for a major birthday, but just for a nice place to go)...

                      1. re: watercress

                        never went to their original location, though i've heard reports that the city location is more upscale than the former.

                        i guess it depends on what you mean by ambitious. an all-vegan restaurant in what i'm sure is an expensive location seems pretty ambitious to me. if you are talking about more than just lettuce and carrots with oil dressing, or fake meats trying to imitate the real thing (as is the case i've found at most vegetarian places, like the RTM vegetarian food stand, which is why even as a vegetarian i've steered clear of most strictly vegetarian eateries) then i think you will be pleasantly surprised. my taste buds got a most welcome slap there. quite a variety of spice combinations are offered, and the seitan, tofu and mushroom dishes i tasted were all so vastly different and unique. had i not known, i would not have guessed my food was vegan.

                2. If you are looking for a nice cozy place for dinner try James, on 8th and Christian. They will take great care of you, the food is fantastic and the owners couldn't be nicer people. Great atmosphere!!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: philashopgirl

                    everything she says is true but the food is ridiculously overpriced. have they corrected that?

                  2. The Water Works is a great place. We were there a few times. Ask for Table 42/1
                    It is located in the small room between the main dining room and the bar. There are three huge banquette..very private. 42/1 is in the middle.

                    1. I'm not sure if anyone has said this yet but have you tried Fork? It has been my family's "special occasion" restaurant for many years. We go there for birthdays...my college graduation..ect. Great food, reasonable prices, cozy, and I would say, in your words "simplicity done really well". You should call them for the most recent menu because it changes daily.

                      Actually Ellen Yin, the owner of Fork hosted a Food Tour last night that was a blast! Maybe I am still reeling from that experience! Good luck!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Alissavlad

                        i like fork, just so long as you don't get one of those low tables right next to the bar that line the right side of the restaurant. i know it's a small place, but i just hate that design with rear ends constantly swinging by your face... too close for comfort. i much prefer to eat at the bar, or at the tables on the left, or if you can snag it, that front table is very secluded and would be very special. service there is super friendly, too.

                        1. re: rabidog

                          I have always considered Fork to be one of the best places in the city. Consistent through the years, much better atmosphere than most of it's Old City neighbors (at least for this discussion), good service, great seasonal menu that's well thought out. (It also scored me huge points on my first date with my wife....so that's cool)

                          While I haven't been there, I've heard nothing but stories of horrible inconsistency from the Water Works...great looking place, though. James???....good food, but IMHO...if you want Italian head to South Philly and throw a stone, or go to Vetri if you feel like dropping some cash. I just don't see how James "fits in" in Philly, considering the prices.