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Last minute - Center City dinner place good for lingering?

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We have out-of-town vegetarian friends who are briefly in Philly and our only time together is dinner tonight, so our main point is just to have time to talk, we're not moving on to any other activity for the evening.

We're looking for good food but either inexpensive or moderate - let's say in the range of entrees less than $20 (suggestions significantly under that are welcome too, as we're not sure yet of their budget). And of course, since this is tonight, it can't be anywhere that needs reservations in advance of today.

They like ethnic foods and I'm thinking maybe Ariana's or Kabul, but it's been a while since I've been to either and I'm vaguely remembering they got us in and out a little more quickly than we'd be looking for tonight.

Any ideas welcome, thanks!

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  1. Well....maybe the best option would be to get a large array of take out from one of the above and have an elegant candle light dinner at home. I can't think of a restaurant whose wait staff would welcome casual lingering that take up their station on a Saturday night.

    Just a suggestion.

    1. Not sure what neighborhood you're in, but here are a few suggestions:

      Cedars (Middle Eastern) on Second Street just south of South Street (Queen Village) has very good food and usually is not so crowded that they are trying to move you out. Pleasant, reasonably priced, and they are very nice there. If you want to stretch the evening out, they have good appetizers and I'm sure you could linger over coffee and baklava if you like. Or, to stretch out the evening, head down the street after dinner to the new Turkish cafe at the corner of 2nd Street and Monroe (about two blocks further south) for coffee and pastry. A stylish cafe (maybe you can snag the sofa by the windows that open to the street.)

      I've always loved Kabul, but I'm not sure if their food is quite as good as it once was.

      A couple Fridays ago I ate at Molcajete (Mexican) on Christian at about 9th. It is a large restaurant and did not get crowded at all. I was there with a large group and they let us stay as long as we wanted and were very accommodating. Is it the best Mexican food in the world? Probably not. But people were pleased with their dinners, and especially liked the molcajete special and the moles, which I think are their specialties. It's BYO, and they have a fruit mix for sangria if you bring wine for that.

      1. Maybe find somewhere that has a bar/lounge that you can move to after dinner. That way you can have your dinner and not monopolize the table afterwards.

        1. Sorry, I somehow missed the word vegetarian in your post on first reading. I would not recommend the Mexican restaurant for vegetarian. My brother, who is vegetarian, loves Cedars, but it does not have a huge selection of vegetarian dishes. With appetizers, though, there is plenty.

          Another option in the same neighborhood is Mustard Greens (Chinese) also on Second Street, just south of South. Again, not a million vegetarian options, but sufficient, and I have vegetarian friends who love it. Good, fresh Chinese food. On summer weekends it doesn't seem to get so crowded as people seem to go out of town. Very reasonable prices, and with this location, you could also retire to the Turkish cafe down the street.

          I am recommending these neighborhood restaurants because, unlike some Old City places, they do not get so crowded and do not require reservations.

          1. Ly Michaels on 11th Street in Chinatown is lovely but casual, has a menu the doesn't exceed $20, some are around $10, and has a variety of seafood/meat/vegetarian options. I have never been rushed there, and the restuarant can accomodate larger groups is needed. Don't know about reservations, but on a Sunday it shouldn't be too difficult.