In Philly for 4 Days
We'll be in Philly for four days for the Olympic trials-- so, it's two adults who love great food and wine, and two girls of 9-ish who are used to going to good restaurants, so can handle a very nice meal, but maybe something less than six courses.
Here's what I'm after:
We're planning a day out to the whole Lancaster thing. I have read up on the places to eat, and it seems like we should hit :
We're planning a cheesesteak showdown, so please name the heavy hitters!
Where for one fine dinner? I think Le Bec-Fin might be a bit much, but something not far off would be great. Perhaps a new up-and-coming chef?
And on the days we're totally free, what's within driving distance that we should visit (and, while there, where should we eat?)
I definitely agree with the recommendation of Amada for great tapas. For fine dining, excellent tasting menu Lacroix is wondeful.
Also highly recommend Osteria. Pizza was delicious as was the pasta, very good cheese course.
In Lancaster, definitely skip Shady Maple. Not worth your time or money. It's a huge buffet, lots of people and not very good food.
Haven't been to Gibraltar, but have heard good things. Log Cabin is okay, pretty setting, but food is just okay, nothing that special.
I wouldn't necessarily rule out Le Bec-Fin. It's now a la carte (with no decline in food quality) so you don't need to worry about having to eat and pay for 6 courses. Besides, I think your children would get a kick out of the dessert cart.
Here's my take on Le Bec. Basically, if you keep your alcohol consumption down to 3 per adult, then the costs are actually quite reasonable when compared to other higher end restaurants in Philadelphia. You can, in many cases, spend a lot less at Le Bec. For example, beers, mixed drinks, and non-French wines are priced pretty reasonably, especially when compared to Le Bec's logical competitive set. However, French wines (especially champagne and red burgundy), cognacs, armagnacs, and single malt scotch whiskys are over-priced beyond what I would consider fair for a restaurant of any caliber.
I don't know your price point, but I would recommend Fountain and Vetri as other excellent choices for fine dining. I have heard nice things about Amada, but have not been there.
I would strongly recommend avoiding the following establishments: XIX, Brasserie Perrier, Table 31, 10 Arts, Susanna Foo, any Stephen Starr establishment, any of the chain steakhouses, White Dog Cafe, and Cuba Libre.
Osteria - Rustic Italian, not too expensve, not cheap, very good. My 7 year old neice loved this place. Pizza is really good here. can't beat it. http://www.osteriaphilly.com/menu
James - Not sure if 9 year olds would appreciate the menu.
Positano Coast - Mediterranean small plates.
Fun place is:)
Yakitori Boy in Chinatown - (Yakitori / Japas- "Japanese Tapas").
Really cool contemporary design, nice selection of yakitori (grilled skewered meats, veggies, seafood also dumplings, soups), the sushi /sashimi is very good and fresh as well. Service excellent, friendly. Also, upstairs they have a karaoke lounge and private karaoke rooms (for parties of 4 to 20). Very fun time, very good "small plate" restaurant, very reasonably priced. 211 N. 2nd Street (on 11th b/w Race and Vine
I prefer Bar Ferdinand over Amada for Tapas as do my Spanish Ex-Pat friends. http://www.barferdinand.com/
Cheesesteak...well. There's always Pat's v. Geno's (10th & Passyunk Ave) -Right across from each other easy for a showdown. I was suprisingly pleased with Sonny's Cheesesteaks on Market, I think b/w 3rd and 4th Sts. Jim's Steaks are always a pleaser as well.
We totally disagree but I guess that's what makes Chowhound great.
I think Osteria is overpriced and uninspired.
I think James is pretentious and the portions are far too small.
I haven't been to Yakitori Boy.
I prefer Amada over Bar Ferdinand. The portions are fair, the service is much better. Much more worth the price.
For a day trip, you might consider coming out to Kennett Square for a day at Longwood Gardens (they have a newly opened children's garden which is awesome for kids of any age!) and some incredible tree houses (temporary 'exhibit', through November). If you come on a day when they're open into the evening (Thurs. - Sat.), they're likely to have some live entertainment included in your admission (they have a children's concert series, but also a variety of other acts from folk to orchestra to carillon). Definitely check their calendar. If you go that route, you could have an early lunch at Pizza by Elizabeths, and work your appetite up again during your Longwood visit and take in an excellent dinner at Sovana (byob). Also, there is a winery in nearby Avondale that sometimes has bbq on the weekends -- Va La Vineyards. They have great wine, and if you do their tasting, you'll get to snack on some lovely local cheeses and chocolates.
Re: your Lancaster choices, I would pass on the Log Cabin. It's stuffy and staid, imho. Try El Serrano (Peruvian cuisine; just opened and adjacent tapas bar which I have yet to try) instead -- Shady Maple is enough of a dutch country dining experience to carry you through to your next visit; you won't really need a second dutch meal on your agenda if you plan to eat there!
Re: your fine dinner -- I'll second (third? fourth?) the Amada recommendation, but will throw out Horizon's as an alternative. Incredible food, vegan but excellent and different enough to impress even the hardcore omnivore.
I think in Lancaster, a trip to Shady Maple is a good choice. I go there twice a year to eat breakfast and load up on meat from their market. Their buffett is rediculously HUGE! and very good!
Someone rec Jim's on South Street for cheesesteaks, to me they are just 'eh' and not worth the long lines that usually are there. If you wanna do a cheesesteak on South Street, try Steaks on South. Good steak and lots of it for the money. I much prefer it to Jim's. Just stay clear from Genos and Pat's, way to touristy. If you can make it to Front and Snyder before say, ,1 or 2 PM try John's Roast Pork for a great cheesesteak. Just know they close once they run out of rolls!
Best of luck in the try-outs by the way.
In Lancaster - I was surprised that people suggested shady maple. Although they do have quite the amazing breakfast buffet (with made in front of you pancakes and omelets), I would not suggest it for a lunch or dinner visit. Its country dutch with the ambiance of an Old Country Buffet.
Okay, confession time. I do not go to Shady Maple for the food, or the ambiance, and agree that better can most certainly be had elsewhere. I approach each visit like it's a foray into cultural anthropology. The place is SO huge, as are the lines and the capacity and the sheer volume of menu items, and so uniquely American, that I recommend this place to anyone looking for an unique 'experience' in Amish country. Yes, it's American in the same way Wal Mart is, so I'm not claiming it's representative of our country's finer points... Maybe I am just too easily fascinated, but I've taken several visitors there and have always gotten a fun reaction. (And some yummy buttered noodles, and even yummier eclair dessert.)
If you do decide to go try Shady Maple definitely go for breakfast. Their lunch and dinner buffets could be compared to Old Country Buffet in my book.
El Serrano has GREAT peruvian food. I love the fajitas.
During your trip to Lancaster you should check out the downtown area. Central Market is one of (if not the) oldest farmers markets in the country with a wide variety of goodies. There are plenty of good restaurants in that area as well. I would recommend Carr's.
I've never heard of Stoltzfus's but it sounds like a tourist attraction. Gibralter is good but I prefer Iron Hill Brewery, they are in the same complex.