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Visiting Philadelphia--Suggestions?

  • m

I'm visiting Philadelphia for about 5 days in March. It'll be my first time there and I'm staying near Locust/Broad. I would like suggestions that are either quite close to there or easily (less than 30 mins) accessible by transit. Am interested in a few things:

1. Scrapple or variations thereof--best places?
2. Cheesesteak--best places?
3. Excellent brunch--neighbourhood joints, no greasy spoons.
4. Mid-priced dinner restaurants--entrees from $15-$29. Will likely be dining with a celiac so would prefer to avoid places that serve mostly pasta & other wheat flour-based things although generally there are a couple of items on any restaurant menu that work. Also like good dessert--homemade, a bit inventive. Prefer relatively casual (nice sweater/jeans) as I won't be packing lots of dressy things.
5. Read somewhere about a prix fixe lunch at Le Bec Fin? Do they still do that? If so, which days of the week and how much does it cost? Are there other upscale places that are open for weekday lunches that you would recommend? Would prefer to contain eating costs, by having lunch rather than dinner if going to fancy places.
6. Anything else unique to Philadelphia that you feel I absolutely should try.

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  1. just noticed you're on the ontario/toronto board. i've done a few business based trips to philadelphia so there are a couple things i've tried out.

    2. my vote goes to jim's on south st. we did a whole tour around philadelphia... luke's, steve's prince of steaks, gio's, etc etc... and by far jim's is the one i love. chopped, wit', and extra cheeze whiz. it just seemed to fit what i felt a cheesesteak should be, but many people here will disagree with me.

    4. ansil was my pick just over a year ago and it was fantastic and casual. this is likely out of date since i don't notice anyone mention it in months. very jamie kennedy-esque but i found it less sauce intense.

    not really fitting at all for 6. but if you've ever found yourself craving a really good rare burger in toronto... the good dog bar does a great job. i could wax and wane but as long as you love roquefort you're in for a treat. and speaking of which, generally nice selection of microbrews in many philadelphia bars, so if you're into that kinda thing then you're in for a treat.

    oh, and if you like really rich chocolately coffee full of depth.... the old city blend at the old city coffee place in the market uses india a beans, something no coffee guy in toronto has nor seems to know what it is! i have serious cravings for that stuff.

    1 Reply
    1. re: pinstripeprincess

      Ansill is still fantastic, I was just there this past weekend and had one of the best meals I've ever had there. But like a lot of excellent places that have been around for a while, it just doesn't get mentioned as often as the newer places.

    2. 3. you'll get a lot of opinions about brunch, but my vote for the best brunch in the city is north third in northern liberties (on north third street conveniently). very neighborhood-y. then you can shop the cute neighborhood boutiques. it's very off-the-beaten-tourist-path.

      6. things unique to philly **that i am proud of** ... the BYO scene (chloe my most recent fave), the gastropub scene (standard tap, eulogy, many others!), capogiro gelato - not to be missed even in the winter!

      1. 1. Scrapple is good at the Dutch Eating Place in the Reading Terminal Market.
        2. Admittedly not a big fan of the cheesesteaks. Pats and Geno's (the tourist traps in town) are just so-so. Jim's on south street was horrible (dry and gristly). Rick's Steaks is the market is decent.
        6. Uniquely Philly would be the Reading Terminal Market http://www.readingterminalmarket.org for breakfasts at the aforementioned Dutch Eating Place (get the pancakes), soft pretzels at Fishers, a roast pork sandwich (the "other" cheesesteak in town) at DiNic's with provolone and broccoli rabe, and Bassett's 100 year old ice cream counter. The market is best from Wednesday through Saturday when the Amish merchants are open but it does get very crowded during the Flower Show (March 1st through 9th).
        Another great place a few blocks from where you're staying is the Naked Chocolate Cafe for hot chocolate http://www.nakedchocolatecafe.com and you should visit the Italian Market section in town on a warmer day if you have one.

        3 Replies
        1. re: bluehensfan

          Run, do not walk across the street at Broad and Locust to Estia for lunch. Pricey as it is for dinner, you can save with lunch. It is an upscale Greek seafood place and the food is delicious.

          1. re: idia

            i would run, not walk across broad street too! someone didn't tell half of philly that broad street's not an interstate highway. :)

            is estia's menu the same for lunch? i want to go soon but not sure if i can afford dinner! BUT, i must have that octopus salad.

            1. re: rabidog

              Wow...we were at Estia today. They have the octopus which is fabulous, a fish special of the day over briam vegetables for $14 and a few of the dinner fishes by the pound (we had the fagri and the louvaki). The former you can usually get a fish that weighs a pound or so (so it's about $25) while the latter usually weighs in a pound and a half or more so perhaps you can split it with someone else in your party. Our meal was great as usual!

        2. You must try the good dog burger (gooddogbar.com). It was voted best in the city. It comes with sweet potato and yukon gold fries..sooo good! Great beer and wine list too!
          Mercato (mercatobyob.com - italian) is a great BYOB on spruce. Their sister restaurant Valanni has great mediterrean (it's not byob - valanni.com)..and they do a great brunch!

          1. Scrapple, I'd say in the Reading Terminal just like another poster mentioned (but I cannot discourage Down Home Diner enough...make sure you go to the Dutch Eating Place).
            Since you'd all ready be going there for brunch, I don't know if you'd want to try any other places there, but at least walk around. Really good Amish Soft Pretzels, mac and cheese from Delilah's is amazing, decent smoothies from the one place (don't remember the name), check out Termini just even to look at their desserts, and DiNic's really does have fantastic pulled pork sandwiches.
            If you like sushi, I know that at least Pod caters to people with celiac's.. I'm not sure if that's just true of Japanese restaurants in general?
            Dessert's... Naked Chocolate Cafe. I highly highly recommend it in place of dessert at a restaurant one night. They have fantastic Euro style hot chocolate and fabulous desserts to boot (the flourless chocolate cake thing is amazing). Brown Betty Bakery in Northern Liberties is good as well (midday snack I'd say).
            And BYOs are a great way of keeping costs down a little ... just don't forget the bottle!

            1. I'm planning a weekend in Philladelphia in April. It's a two night affair so I've been scouring the board. MaryZ, I know that this post doesn't really address your questions, but I think that there's enough overlap that a little thread consolidation doesn't hurt.

              Despite the fact that I'm a New Yawker, I've yet to check out Morimoto NYC, perhaps because there are so many other Japanese restaurants that are my go to places; Totto, Tsukushi, Shimizu, Sakagura, Sugiyama. My first thought when considering places in Philadelphia was, "Hey, I'll finally check out Morimoto's. OK that takes care of Saturday night. OpenTable: 8 PM, bada-boom."

              Then I started in on Sunday night and now I have so many possibilities that I'm not so sure about my first move anymore. Le Bar Lyonnais (not serving on Sundays), Lacroix, Django, Cochon, Matyson, Marigold Kitchen, Ansill, Modo Mio, Apamate, Tinto. They all sound terrific. HELP!

              My current trip map:


              Restaurant Links:


              8 Replies
              1. re: corgi

                my my, cool map. what are you looking to get out of phila? what sort of foods do you really like, any particular dishes that we can narrow it down from? any particular scene you're looking for? working from the map link you provided, i think the two markets are a great start. you might couple john's roast pork with your italian market outing, especially if you'll have a car. without one, it's one of the more expensive cab fares in the city, and you'd have to take your sandwich back with you! i'm not a meat eater, but 100% of my friends vote john's roast pork over tony luke's.

                wow, i know i love modo mio (which count for like 25% of my words on this board practically!!) but honestly under your restaurant links list, you managed to list just about all the major players i haven't been to yet, but want to when i have the funds. my general vote would be to stick with the BYO scene... i know it's not a cuisine, but it might as well be. BYO food all has a similar feel, which i think mostly stems from an intense eye for detail and careful preparation. i mean, it would be hard to have crappy food at a BYO if the food is really the star of your show; whereas other places can lean on fancy drinks or a stellar wine list. when i go to BYOs i think i judge them all more harshly for this, or judge the food itself more intently rather than the overall atmosphere, and even places that aren't my favorite BYOs, like raddichio and bistro juliana, are still pretty damn good when generally compared to all restaurants. after modo mio, i'm also a big fan of chloe, la locanda del ghiottone, and il cantuccio. wish i could comment on some of your considerations there. i'll start scrimping and saving now. i've wanted to try django for literally years now! :)

                isn't chef morimoto at the nyc location now? if someone can confirm that i would recommend cancelling that reservation and trying out something else, new and different. we have so much to offer and you can try out morimoto anytime locally if you're really curious to see how they stack up against your other offerings.

                1. re: rabidog

                  Mrs. Corgi and I are getting a weekend away from the pups, Philadelphia is just near enough and just not NY enough for us to get away from it all and hopefully get some good eats and just relax a bit together. As for what we like, we're pretty ecumenical eaters. At home in Queens we do a lot of ethnic eats; Chinese, Thai, Uzbek are quotidian staples. A special night out is often Japanese, French or that highly french-influenced "New American." We like our food to be a little on the unusual side but still look like food, and being Chinese, we enjoy offal and other questionable comestibles. Since it's a just the two of us weekend, I'd prefer places that are a little intimate or charming or fashionable but not too cozy, overtly romantic or loud. Great food trumps all, though.

                  1. re: rabidog

                    Hard to beat modo mio. Wonderful food at a very reasonable price.

                    1. re: rabidog

                      So after spending some more time perusing the menus, my revised plan is as follows:

                      Saturday Lunch - Morimoto (Not a lot of the BYOs do lunch)
                      Saturday Dinner - Ansill
                      Sunday Brunch - Reading Terminal Market. (Mrs. Corgi is not a giant fan of greasy, cheesy, meaty sandwiches, so a pilgrimage to Steve's would be a chore for her. At RTM I figure I can get a DeNics Roast Pork Wit and we can find something that appeals to her)
                      Sunday dinner - Lacroix

                      Ultimately I passed on LBF/BL because it seemed a bit too much that purely classical French cuisine which is delicious but not that interesting.

                      Matyson, Cochon, Django got the pass because of their smaller selection and appetizer-entree-dessert format. Mrs. Corgi and I prefer to have a lot of little things that we can share.

                      Sadly, Mrs. Corgi likes but doesn't love pasta and the antipasti selection is somewhat limited so, arrivederci Modo Mio.

                      Finally, Apamate & Tinto both have the right format, but the dishes at Ansill and Lacroix just seemed more provocative.

                      And yes, I know that I spend altogether too much time thinking about things like this.

                      1. re: corgi

                        Hate to ruin your plans but Morimoto is not open for lunch on Saturdays. But, given that fact I'd hit Reading Termnial on Saturday (versus Sunday) because the Amish vendors and some merchants are not open on Sunday. DiNic's is open though. Also don't order your roast pork wit (as in wiz) but provolone and broccoli rabe are good choices.

                        1. re: bluehensfan

                          Boy, that is tricky. Thanks for pointing that out. Morimoto's website says "Reservations strongly suggested: ...Saturday 11AM - 10 PM..." OK then, RTM on Saturday, Apamate for brunch on Sunday. Steve's on the way out of town. As for the "wit" business, I thought that meant "with fried onions."

                          1. re: corgi

                            Strangely enough, the hours you listed are when the place is open to actually take reservations by phone (I know...odd) They actually open at 5 if you look under the hours tab. http://www.morimotorestaurant.com/ Either way, you're much, much better off at RTM on Saturday.

                            You're exactly right as to what "wit" means. You just don't want (and probably can't get at most places) fried onions on roast pork. Generally speaking provolone and broccoli rabe is the way to go but spinach greens or peppers have a following too.

                      2. re: rabidog

                        Mwa-ha-ha-ha. I just realized that we can make an easy detour to Steve's Prince of Steaks on Monday as we leave town via I-95...

                        Perhaps the Apamate brunch on Sunday then...

                    2. Mary,
                      Definitely Dinic's, if you must have a cheesesteak go to Sonny's on Mkt st. If you have a car and time go to Steve's Prince of Steaks in the NE about 20-25 mins from cc. I found the cooking at Lacroix spectacular, i was there just a few weeks ago. Southwark is an excellent spot for cocktails and the cooking is very good. Weekday lunch at FOGO is a deal if you are truly chowhounds. If you are eating in the Italian Mkt LaLupe is the brightest star.