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Aug 18, 2008 01:58 PM

Philly Food Report: lots of short reviews!

I have been a longtime lurker on chowhound, but my recent trip to Philadelphia was so fun and yummy that I was inspired to actually register and write a post about my food experiences there. I hope this will be as helpful to future visitors as various of the threads were to me before my trip...

John's: This is pretty much the first place we ate. We took the subway down to South Philly, but didn't realize we'd still have to walk about 13 blocks east from there...long story short, we missed a cheesesteak by about 5 minutes (the grill closed at 2:30pm on Friday). I thought this was a bad omen for our trip, but luckily it wasn't. The Roast Pork we had was great, with juicy, flavorful meat. I loved the sesame seed bun. And the people there were really friendly!

Sarcone's: We had a hoagie here a couple hours later, after wandering through a closing-down Italian market (we were still on CA time, so were late to the party). Ultimately, after trying a roast pork, a cheesesteak and a hoagie, I like hoagies best. More variety on the roll and I like balsamic vinegar on a sandwich!

Capogiro: We had gelato all three days I was there. I was determined to try as many flavors as possible. It was delicious, although a little pricey (wish there was something smaller than piccolo). Favorite flavors are the hazelnut and pistachio. Still, it's not the same as gelato in Italy. Can't put my finger on it, and I wouldn't say it isn't as good at all...just different. And I didn't try Bassett's ice cream on this trip, unfortunately.

Vetri: we went all out for this dinner, with the Chef's Tasting Menu and the wine pairings. We were so lucky to eat here, because they were closing for their summer break/renovation the next day. It was a perfect splurge meal. A quaint space/atmosphere with top notch, friendly service. Our favorite dish was undoubtedly a roast foie gras with hazelnuts and blueberries. It melted in our mouths and the wine pairing was stunning (and my palate isn't even that sophisticated, but seriously, this blew us away). I would recommend Vetri to anyone looking for a special meal at a place where the food and the service matches what you are paying.

Dutch Eating Place (Reading Terminal Market): The line looked a little long, but they are efficient and keep things moving fast there. I had scrapple, which I thought was pretty good (I'm also an erstwhile fan of Spam, though, so who knows). My husband had the Apple French Toast which was just good, basic french toast. Nothing too heavenly here, but a good experience.

The Amish Pretzel Place (not sure of actual name): Right next to Dutch Eating Place. best pretzels ever. So soft and buttery. yum.

Cosmi's: We hoofed it down to South Philly again for Cosmi's cheesesteak. Enjoyed this sandwich (and again the people were friendly). On the way down we passed Jim's which had a line, and just kept on truckin'. Afterward, we passed by Geno's and Pat's and their insane lines and I was tempted to do a taste comparison, but I wasn't hungry enough to do the line. For what it's worth, the sandiches I saw people holding from Geno's looked very robust, while the people from Pat's seemed slimmer. Could be a total artifact of those people's orders, though. Cosmi's cheesesteak was tender, although I thought it was odd how finely the steak was chopped. Fine amount of cheese and a good roll. I like roast porks better, I think.

Matyson: Had to have the BYO experience and loved this place! The heirloom tomato salad was perfectly seasoned and my husband's trout BLT was a unique and tasty little dish. For mains, we had the scallops and the duck breast, which were both delish and cooked perfectly. For dessert, our table neighbors (regulars) really encouraged us to have the coconut cream pie and cheesecake and they were both solid. Our server was super enthusiastic about giving us recommendations for other places to eat, which my husband is still taking advantage of, as he is staying a few days longer than me. I loved the ambience and friendliness at Matyson, and the food was....not simple per se, but very approachable. And what they did they did absolutely right.

Monk's: Just had a couple of beers here, although today's lunch report from my husband says they do great sandwiches, too. Good knowledgeable bartender (older guy perhaps = owner?). He was very busy, but was also willing to give us some suggestions. A great selection of beers, including some from my own hometown of San Diego that we haven't been able to try before! A good bar (I somehow expected grungy, but it's not, really), although I was disappointed they didn't have a TV. We missed Phelps getting his 8th for this!

Southwark: We had brunch here on Sunday. Almost went to Beau Monde crepe place because Southwark (recommended by our Matyson server) had a really late brunch (didn't open till 11am) and we didn't want to wait. However, unluckily for us, Beau Monde was not open that day. Their menu looks really, really good, though. Southwark was nice, but ultimately not my favorite. My husband had the rabbit, which just wasn't super flavorful...but it wasn't bad at all. Just ok. The cocktails, which they are supposed to be known for, I believe, were kind of creative, but just tasted ok, too. We even had a blackberry cobbler, which was...nice. The lavendar ice cream was tasty. I wouldn't NOT recommend it, but for someone on a short trip, there are probably higher priorities.

DiNic's: Great roast pork here...although I liked John's better. I think the sesame bun at John's did it, to be honest. However, I also appreciated that John's has a choice between mild and sharp provolone, whereas DiNic's only has sharp. Both had great meat. And I like the broccoli rabe, though not sure it adds a lot as far as flavor? Mostly it made me feel better about getting SOME veggies amongst the meat and carbs in this weekend :)

Morimoto: After our two previous fantastic dinners, and knowing this as a "celebrity chef" locale and a Starr restaurant to boot (ok, that doesn't make it a chain, but it makes me suspicious that it's more style than substance when you have "restaurateurs" building restaurant empires), I definitely thought this might be the low point. But, it was a good meal, too! The restaurant is really fun and trendy. Go here when you feel in a party mood, vs. a romantic or family mood. But, the food doesn't disappoint. We had the omakase (chef's choice). It was about 7 courses, with a wide variety. The fish was all incredibly fresh and delicious and one course was a lamb chop course. I really enjoyed all the courses, but I have to make special mention of the dessert, which was a flourless chocolate cake. I know. I was totally unenthusiastic about it, too. However, they had this "miso sauce" on the side and it was super salty. When you got a little on a bite with the rich chocolate cake, it was a perfect combination. I have to say it kind of reinvented the flourless cake for me, and made it all worth it. It was familiar and tasty, but with a new addition. Perhaps a BIT pricey for what we got, but I was very happy with it overall. My least favorite of our three dinners, but with how wonderful everything was, that only means it was an A as opposed to an A+. Also, the server here was pretty friendly too (not quite as enthusiastic as our Matyson server, but he was very helpful and spot on with his food and drink descriptions/recommendations). He also recommended several places for my husband to check out.

Tria: We weren't stuffed after Morimoto, so we decided on one last drink before I had to pack for my trip home. After having it recommended here, and by both our servers above, we just had to go to Tria. it was a Sunday, so we got to do the Sunday School thing, which is a great deal (half off on their featured wine, beeer and cheese, with some good background and description of each). They have a great selection (for having all three, they don't seem to be sacrificing expertise or variety in any of them in favor of another). I had a great Swiss cheese paired with chocolate fig sauce, and the Itlian wine paired well. My husband had the beer and, sure, their selection might not be quite as broad as Monk's, but it's pretty darn good, and take note: It is CHEAP! Even the beers not on Sunday School special were a VERY good deal, cheaper than Monk's and not even marked up too high as compared to buying at a store. I wish I could have spent more time here, but my feeling is this deserves a very strong recommendation.

For what it's worth, the other places our servers recommended, which I was not able to go to, included: Alma de Cuba, the Latest Dish (get specials, as opposed to menu items), Panorama for their wine list, the Ugly American, Cochon (also recommended here and I was sorry to miss!), Eulogy (for beer) and Le Bar Lyonnaise (of Le Bec-Fin).

Seems like Philly is a GREAT food town, and I seriously, seriously considered calling up and changing my flight just to stay for a couple more meals, but it's probably best (for my waistline) that I didn't. Thanks to the locals for all their recs over time, which I totally mined and took as my gospel. It made a huge difference!

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  1. So glas you were able to enjoy all the great food in Philly!

    1. Excellent! Glad you enjoyed your trip. You certainly hit some great spots. I enjoyed that final pre vacation meal at Vetri as well (we were at the back table nearest he kitchen that seats two and faces out early in the night). The foie gras was amazing - and with the Vin Santo! Glad you sprung for the wine Jeff Benjamin and his crew should get as much press as Marc and his chefs. FYI, they are renovating during this year's vacation so the decor and restrooms will be different by Sept 5th when they return (contractors willing)

      2 Replies
      1. re: Bigley9

        We sat at the exact same table on Friday night!

        I thought the bathrooms were kind of cute, could be a shame if they get rid of that wall of broken plates/glasses. I noticed a lot of art like that in the city. buildings/walls with chunks of glass, bottles, plates, etc. Very interesting!

        1. re: pkt63

          You must have come in when we left! I love sitting at that table, we have been there several times. I think thewall will be gone in the bathroom. The artist who does most of that work in Phila is Isaiah Zagar.
          Also, just FYI, the 5 amuse boches were a few more than usual, but if we benefitted from the need to empty the fridge, I'm thrilled (the menu was a little shorter overall)

      2. Yo! You are a true Chowhound, having discovered that no one goes hungry in Philly - thanks for the report! Re Capogiro, I find the gelato in Italy different from theirs, too. I think Capogiro's tastes richer, creamier, more like ice cream than what you find in Italy - not that I'm complaining. Lots more to eat, see, and do in Philly, so I hope you return soon!

        1. What a wonderful report!
          Great eating for you, great reading for us.
          Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences.
          Come back soon!

          1. Hiya! Come back soon!

            That was a wonderful post and we who live in the suburbs and haven't yet experienced half of what you did really appreciate it.

            Now I gotta go out and sell the horse and tell Momma we need to get one of them new fangled gassy things to get our butts into "the Big Town" for some fine eating!

            Seriously.........great post

            1 Reply
            1. re: FriedClamFanatic

              I am another out-of-town visitor who got steered to Capogiro thanks to all the great writeups here. What a wonderful place! The bitter chocolate was to die for, and the raspberry sorbet is probably the best I've ever had - I've had a lot of find ones, but between the local raspberries and Capogiro's treatment of them, this was something really special. I found it to be very reminiscent of gelato in Italy. This is one of the greatest ice cream / gelato / sorbet places in the world.

              Other taste treats on this trip was a special Italian hoagie at Carmen's Famous in Reading Terminal Market - so that's what sharp provolone on hoagies is all about! - and a nice late-night cheesesteak at Abner's, just a couple blocks from my hotel. Broccoli rabe pizza and Hop Devil beer at Pizza Rustica in University City was another nice pairing. I've posted about dinners at Little Fish and Distrito separately. What a great chow-filled visit this was!