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Philly: did some homework, would like some feedback

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Have done some homework on Philadelphia restaurants (will be staying within the downtown area) but would like some additional feedback or corrections. Among other things, it appears that:

1. Reading Market is a good place to go for cheap eats, especially grazing.

2. Bassett's is the ice cream of choice.

3. Cheese steaks -- good options would include Jim's, Tony Luke's, John's, Rick's. Geno's and Pat's are not good options despite their fame.

4. Roast pork sandwiches with cheese and rabe or spinach -- good options would include Tony Luke's, John's, DiNic's.

5. City Tavern is touristy, opinion seems divided, but some definite positives. Looks like the food is akin to Pennsylvania Dutch cooking with some classic German slants.

6. DiNardo's is a good place for crab.

7. Chinatown: Sang Kee, Lee How Fook, Vietnam seem to be good choices.

8. Fisher's is good for pretzels.

Corrections to the above are welcome.

Any other local cuisine specialties I'm missing? I'm also open to other possibilities -- might try one pricier spot, but will likely stay mid-range to inexpensive. Preference goes to something you can't get in Boston and that stays within the downtown area or on safe public transport routes. No national chains in any price range.

Also saw these recent threads:

Top 30
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/495210

Vegetarian
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/512243

Many thanks!

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  1. Szechuan Tasty House on the corner of 9th and Arch in Chinatown is great for fans of the Sichuan Peppercorn. Reading Terminal has many terrific options - my favorites are the rotisserie chicken from Diener's in the Amish section of the market (Wed - Sat), Salumeria for a different take on the hoagie, as well as their antipasto salad, and DiNic's for the roast beef w/ horseradish and peppers. Fisher's is very good for pretzels (also Wed - Sat). Tony Luke's is the best roast pork, John's the best cheesesteak . If you are around 15th Street, head to Good Dog for the burger stuffed with roquefort, topped with carmelized onions. A great burger, with a good list of beers on tap. Skip Basset's and head to Capogiro for gelato (13th St and 20th St locations). http://www.capogirogelato.com/main.html

    1 Reply
    1. re: brightman

      I can second Szechuan Tasty House, I go there for lunch regularly. Rangoon
      on 9th St very near Szechuan is also very good for Burmese/Thai type food.

      Your summary on cheesesteaks is right on if you eliminate Rick's from consideration.

    2. You really did do your homework, and well too. A few comments/additions:

      1. Reading Market is a good place to go for cheap eats, especially grazing.

      Absolutely. Dinic's is great for a classic Philly roast pork sandwich with greens and provolone. Salumeria is great for hoagies. The Amish places are all good when they are there. If you like cookies, Famous 4th street are great. Also check out Termini's for Italian pastry.

      2. Bassett's is the ice cream of choice.

      Bassett's is in the RTM and is great for a simple cone. For more of an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, check out Franklin Fountain. Also, an absolute must is Capotiro Gelato--there are two locations in Center City. I can guarantee there is nothing like it in Boston.

      3. Cheese steaks -- good options would include Jim's, Tony Luke's, John's, Rick's. Geno's and Pat's are not good options despite their fame.

      That pretty much sums up the usual debates. My personal opinion is that Pat's is pretty decent for a cheesesteak novice. I had my first there and liked it fine, though I have since become a fan of Steve's Prince of Steaks in the Northeast. Given where you'll be, I'd try Jim's if you can't make it to John's.

      4. Roast pork sandwiches with cheese and rabe or spinach -- good options would include Tony Luke's, John's, DiNic's.

      Again, DiNic's is great. IMHO Tony Luke's is better, but not so easy to get to w/o a car.

      5. City Tavern is touristy, opinion seems divided, but some definite positives. Looks like the food is akin to Pennsylvania Dutch cooking with some classic German slants.

      6. DiNardo's is a good place for crab.

      It's ok, but not great. Philly really isn't a great crab town. Unless you really can't pass it up, I'd go in a different direction.

      7. Chinatown: Sang Kee, Lee How Fook, Vietnam seem to be good choices.

      Two others--Shiao Lan Kung for great classic Cantonese. To me, it is better than Lee How Fook. Also, Rangoon is a pretty unique and delicious Burmese restaurant. If you like (or would like to try) Malaysian, check out Banana Leaf.

      8. Fisher's is good for pretzels.

      Fisher's pretzels are delicious, but are not the classic Philly Soft Pretzel. For that, look for the Philly Soft Pretzel Factory, with a few locations sprinkled across Center City.

      1. I haven't been to Boston before, so I'm not sure what is or isn't there...
        But I would definitely recommend Capogiro's :)
        http://thesweetgourmand.wordpress.com...
        http://www.capogirogelato.com/flavors...

        As for Chinatown, I haven't tried a normal meal there, but I love Joy Tsin Lau for dim sum. Personally I wasn't too impressed with Lee How Fook for their dinner items..even their well-praised salt-baked shrimp. I do love Sang Kee though, whether it be their peking duck (mmmmm) or their roasted duck noodles.

        Also, you might like to try Bonte waffles... http://www.mybonte.com/cafe-entry.php
        You can pick your own toppings (I like strawberry and dark chocolate

        )

        Other than that, I agree with the rest. (To add to the cheesesteak madness, I like Jim's). Enjoy!

        2 Replies
        1. re: mesohuangry

          You did a great job as far as checking things out. I added my two cents below...

          1. Reading Market is a good place to go for cheap eats, especially grazing.
          Bets bets are pancakes at the Dutch Eating Place for breakfast. Avoid the Down Home Diner. DiNic's has great roast pork sandwiches (try them with provolone and broccoli rabe). Termini's bakery has some good Italian pastries and Beiler's has good cinnamon buns. Make sure to hit the market between Wednesday and Saturday when the Amish merchants are there, and realize that things wind down after 3 or so in the afternoon and shut down.

          2. Bassett's is the ice cream of choice.
          It's good for ice cream, especially the peanut butter. As mentioned Capogiro has some good gelato flavors but try before you eat it because it seems hit-or-miss to me.

          3. Cheese steaks -- good options would include Jim's, Tony Luke's, John's, Rick's. Geno's and Pat's are not good options despite their fame.
          I'd pass on Jim's unless you like dry, gristly meat.

          4. Roast pork sandwiches with cheese and rabe or spinach -- good options would include Tony Luke's, John's, DiNic's.
          Good call there...

          5. City Tavern is touristy, opinion seems divided, but some definite positives. Looks like the food is akin to Pennsylvania Dutch cooking with some classic German slants.
          City Tavern has a great atmosphere and pretty uninspired food. Once we had prime rib there that was good but the rest of the meal is pretty standard traditional American and german cuisine. It would not be tops on my list as a foodie.

          6. DiNardo's is a good place for crab.
          I'd pass on that one. You are right in that it's probably a good place *in Philly* for crabs, but you wouldn't expect great BBQ (for example) in Maine, so I'd pass.

          7. Chinatown: Sang Kee, Lee How Fook, Vietnam seem to be good choices.
          Nan Zhou is also pretty good (albeit a bit dumpy).

          8. Fisher's is good for pretzels.
          Especially hot out of the oven. They are more like Auntie Anne's versus the traditional "Philly" pretzels in town that can be found sprinkled downtown (like at Philly Pretzel Co., etc.

          Corrections to the above are welcome.

          Any other local cuisine specialties I'm missing? I'm also open to other possibilities -- might try one pricier spot, but will likely stay mid-range to inexpensive. Preference goes to something you can't get in Boston and that stays within the downtown area or on safe public transport routes. No national chains in any price range.
          Estia has great Greek food, especially the very fresh fish and octopus. It's pricy but well worth it!

          1. re: mesohuangry

            I'm going to vote against Joy Tsin Lau and say Ocean City or Ocean Harbor for dim sum are better. I've been to Joy Tsin Lau once and didn't love it; I do think Ocean City is quite good though

          2. You picked a lot of good places, all incredibly casual. Are you interested in a nicer meal out?

            1. 1. Reading Market is a good place to go for cheap eats, especially grazing. YES!

              2. Bassett's is the ice cream of choice. YES, but check out Franklin Fountain in Old City it's on 116 Market Street. http://www.franklinfountain.com/.

              3. Cheese steaks -- good options would include Jim's, Tony Luke's, John's, Rick's. Geno's and Pat's are not good options despite their fame. EH? I still like Pat's and/or Geno's. I prefer the slabs of freshly cut steak over the chopped up frozen "steak-ums" style like the others mentioned above...

              4. Roast pork sandwiches with cheese and rabe or spinach -- good options would include Tony Luke's, John's, DiNic's. TONY LUKES!

              5. City Tavern is touristy, opinion seems divided, but some definite positives. Looks like the food is akin to Pennsylvania Dutch cooking with some classic German slants. Never Been... Heard same, touristy, older folks like it.

              6. DiNardo's is a good place for crab. Not a Fan... Snockey's

              7. Chinatown: Sang Kee, Lee How Fook, Vietnam seem to be good choices. Yes, Yes and Yes (I also like Vietnam Palace), Penang - Malaysian and Rangoon (Burmese) Also, Dim Sum Palace for Shanghai Steamed Buns (soup dumplings). For fun time in Ctown, check out Yakitori Boy (new contemp Japanese "Tapas" - yakitori bar, sushi bar, small Asian/Japanese plates and upstairs Karaoke lounge also has private rooms.

              8. Fisher's is good for pretzels. Yep.

              Have Fun in Philly!

              1. For a good cheese steak in Center City try Sonny's at 216 Market St. I find their sandwich to be much better than Jim's.

                When they have them Sang Kee, on 9th St. at Vine, has tremendous softshell crabs.

                1. Great research!
                  Depending on your time and where you are staying I would add the Italian Market/9th street market - Sabrina's for brunch (long lines) or the Morning Glory, great Italian Cheeses and meats, George's cheesesteaks, Lorenzo's pizza - and just below there at 9th and Washington an assortment of Mexican taquerias (search the board) that are very authentic and inexpensive.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Bigley9

                    Another Italian Market recommendation -- Sarcone's. Get there before the bread runs out. I notice you quoted a thread re: veg-friendly spots in Phila. in your original post -- they have several excellent veggie options there, as well as a ton of selections for the carnivores.

                    Also, you may want to sample a bahn mi (Vietnamese hoagie) while you're there -- Just up the street from Geno's & Pat's is a new place called O Sandwiches that has delicious ones...

                    1. re: spyturtle008

                      Thank you spyturtle for the addition. Interestingly, I am reading this having just returned from Sarcones with tomato pie and bread from the bakery and an assortment of hoagies from the deli for my office staff! How could I have left them out!

                  2. I visit Philadelphia two or three times a year. I ADORE Reading Market...it's the coolest grazing food-browsing place ever! The only other place on your list I've tried is City Tavern, where I was served the worst food I have ever eaten in Philly (other than that place, it's been almost impossible for me to find bad food in that city).

                    1. Make sure you don't go to Reading Terminal on a Sunday. A lot of places are not open, the Amish in particular. I do my produce shopping there on Sundays and I often run into disappointed tourists.

                      Also I second Franklin Fountain for ice cream.

                      And please skip DiNardo's. My boss makes me go there at least once a week and it's just not a place I can recommend.

                      1. #7 - If I have to compare Boston's Chinatown to Philly's Chinatown, I would skip the Malaysian restaurants here (born & bred Malaysian, lived in Philly 23 years, visited Boston every 2-3 years). I would go for Vietnamese in Philly but the ones on Washington Ave, not the ones in Chinatown.

                        1. Bassett's is not so hot, whereas Capogiro is one of the best culinary experiences in the city. I've had a lot of gelato and I think Capogiro could compete with the best in any city, anywhere.

                          Pat's and Geno's are pretty weak. They sell hundreds of sandwiches a day to mobs of tourists and you can tell. A lot of folks who seem to know what they're talking about like the steaks at John's Roast Pork, but it's a little bit hard to get to. My favorite is at George's at the top of the Italian Market (not to be confused with George's in the middle of the Italian Market, which is not very good).

                          If you're eating your way around the Reading Terminal Market, DiNic's and Fisher's are great places to stop. If you get the pork sand at DiNic's you need to get it w/ provolone - it's really not "right" without it. I like it w/ greens and peppers as well, and I find it's not really complete w/out some spicy banana peppers sprinkled on top - the point is, don't be afraid to tweak the sandwich to help it achieve maximum tastiness. Fisher's makes pretty delicious filled breakfast pretzels, like bacon and egg in a very buttery pretzel envelope. So you could start w/ Fisher's, wander around til you're hungry again, then have a sandwich at DiNic's, then slip into a coma.

                          Sarcone's deli just north of the Italian Market makes (my opinion) the best hoagies in the city - just as emblematic as a cheesesteak or roast pork sandwich, just as unique (if you order carefully). Sarcone's are less gigantic than some of the other favorite hoagie places (like Primo's) - this makes them second-best for folks who really value size, but much better to my taste, as the ratio of filling to bread is better calibrated (and Sarcone's bread is the best). Get something like the Old Fashioned Italian - again, you want to get flavors like aged provolone in there (as opposed to regular old deli provolone) so as to have a genuinely unusual, regional experience. That stuff and the great bread is what separates a great philly hoagie from a sub sandwich you could get in any corner deli anywhere.

                          I've always been curious about Franklin Fountain and haven't made it there yet - so please report back on your trip, esp if you go there...

                          Btw, for for great, informative reviews of local places by a philly old-timer w/ good taste in comfort food, check out www.hollyeats.com. I found the site just before I moved here and he has steered me to a lot of my favorite spots. Don't agree with him on everything, and some of his posted reviews are a little out-of-date, but still it's a very useful collection of info on some of the city's best cheap eats.

                          1. Your Chinatown choices are good but they're all on about the same level as the best places in Boston's Chinatown. I'd say go for Rangoon for Burmese to get something you can't get in Boston. Or Szechuan Tasty House, as others said, for the 3 pepper chicken or ma po tofu (I never saw the 3 pepper chicken in Boston or any of the Szechuan places outside their Chinatown).

                            I moved from Boston so I can say that I was mostly impressed by the 'sandwich culture' of Philly and would second all your roast pork suggestions (as a roast pork is also a vastly better Philly sandwich than a cheesesteak, I think). Also in this category would be an Italian hoagie from the Salumeria in Reading Terminal (with oil and vinegar with artichokes) and the bbq pork sandwich from the Mennonites in the northwest corner of Reading Terminal.

                            I'd also add a medium-rare burger Good Dog burger from Good Dog.

                            For pricier I'd hit Ansill and get the pork belly, the bone marrow crostada and the osso bucco sandwich.