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Nov 28, 2008 11:56 AM

Three days in Philly

I'll be in Phily for 3 days at the end of December. Would like recommendations for inexpensive restaurants. Love all types of food. The more interesting the better.

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  1. Villa Di Roma on 9th Streetin the Italian Market and for breakfast Honey's Sit and Eat at 4th and Brown or Sabrinas at 9th and Crhistian

    8 Replies
    1. re: LauraInPhilly

      I went to Villa Di Roma last week and would not recommend it.

        1. re: Bigley9

          The food was worse than mediocre, the service was indifferent, and there's no atmosphere to speak of. I was surprised that it was recommended.

          1. re: vicarious

            It is recommended for what it is - Italian American old style red gravy restaurant. Service is diner like as is the atmosphere. Perhaps you were looking for a different style, but in its category it is one of the best. It ain't tryin to be Vetri

            1. re: Bigley9

              I knew what it was--that's why we were there. I'd be interested to know which dishes make it "one of the best." It couldn't be the eggplant parm, which was the worst I've ever had.

              1. re: vicarious

                i had a similar experience. i agree with bigley that it's not trying to be anything other than an italian-american joint, however on my one & only visit the sauce was 'meh' and my pasta overdone. as far as italian-american places in south philly, i haven't been to nearly all of them, but we have enjoyed criniti very much thanks to recs from here; i've been back several times. the dining room is simple and the stained glass is pretty as well. and the vodka sauce on my raviolis was actually quite delicious.

                1. re: rabidog

                  and i agree with vicarious, it is what it is and it stinks. i've lived around the corner from villa di roma for my entire life and wouldn't recommend it to an enemy.

                  inexpensive restaurant recs include (in no ranked order whatsoever, and not all of these are restaurants, some are grab and go lunch spots):
                  bitar's (kebabs and hummus, grab and go)
                  a full plate (american cafe)
                  nam phuong (vietnamese)
                  cafe de laos (laotian and thai)
                  modo mio (not super cheap, but the turista menu is more than worth it)
                  shiao lan kung (chinese)
                  reading terminal (heaven for cheap eats of all types, no real restaurants per se)
                  tiffin (indian)
                  ekta (indian, i slightly prefer ekta to tiffin, but ekta is def not a restaurant)
                  la lupe (mexican)
                  banana leaf (malaysian? i don't love it here, but a lot of people do)
                  abyssinia (ethiopian)

                  1. re: mazza3

                    i pretty much said the same thing in a few more words. :)

                    just curious - why ekta over tiffin? i need to try ekta again as i've only been once, but i was not happy with the majority of my meal. tho i haven't been overly thrilled with tiffin lately, either (which i hate because i live around the corner). king of tandoor is the best indian meal i've had within city limits in the last few months.

    2. Where in Philly? Will you have a car? What do you consider inexpensive? There are many, many good choices, so more information would help. Many of the more interesting inexpensive eateries are not right in Center City, and are most easily accessible by car. Are you talking about little hole-in-the wall type places? Or moderately priced restaurants with nicer atmosphere? You might also get better advice if you browse through the board, pick some places and then ask us about them.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

        Sometimes I think people believe our city is only 4 square blocks. ;-)

        1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

          hm, interesting and inexpensive... my thoughts would be...

          cafe de laos on 11th st in south philly - really good laotian and thai food (this one is a BYOB, but there is a beer store near 9th on washington and a wine & spirits store further south on 11th)

          dahlak or gojjo for etheopian/eritrean on baltimore ave in west philly (just ate at gojjo yesterday - it was pretty good! is this place new? it looked it from the inside, and i hadn't noticed it before but stumbled upon it when dahlak was closed for lunch. the s-something ?shiro? wot was superb - we pigged out)

          either of the vietnamese places across the street from one another on 11th street in chinatown

          rangoon on 9th st in chinatown - burmese food - talk about interesting: order anything off their desserts menu!! i like the weird coconut milk soup. and the thousand layer bread will put a few inches on your waist but is soooo worth it.

          and my new favorite inexpensive curious item - the seed pizza at earth bread + brewery in mt airy. a bit out of the way, but for some excellent dough and malty beers that place hit the spot... and it was dirt cheap.

          Cafe' De Laos
          1117 S 11th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147

          Dahlak Restaurant
          4708 Baltimore Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19143

          Gojjo Bar & Restaurant
          4540 Baltimore Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19143

          Vietnam Restaurant
          221 N 11th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107

          Rangoon Burmese Restaurant
          112 N 9th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107

          1. re: rabidog

            I don't know how long Gojjo has been around, but it's definitely not new. It is, however, fairly unassuming as a restaurant. I remember that I used to think that Gojjo was strictly a bar.

            Anyway, if the OP is willing to venture to West Philly and likes Ethiopian food, there are actually 5 options in the surrounding area: Gojjo, Dahlak, Abyssinia, Queen Sheba, and Meskerem. Dahlak probably has the nicest atmosphere, but none are particular terrible, though I think Gojjo probably has the least fans. :)

            I'd recommend Zahav as an option. I haven't ever been for dinner, but I know lunch is extremely reasonable. My last trip there (less than a week ago) ran a little over $30 after tax & tip for 2 people.

            Tria (any one of them) is a good snacking/grabbing a quick drink option that can be very reasonable unless you're looking to get drunk or have extremely expensive taste (e.g., a particular champagne on the menu ran $18 or so a glass). The truffle egg toast is amazing, and the beer/wine/cheese selection is fabulous (which is good since Tria bills itself as a wine, beer, and cheese bar). It's also a nice option in the middle of that Rittenhouse/Center City area, which can get very expensive.

            Nam Phuong in S. Philly in that 11th & Washington plaza is pretty decent. Not the best Vietnamese ever but not too bad for Philadelphia. In that same plaza is Saigon Tofu, which recently opened up a seating area. The soy milk there is great, and some of the vegetarian entrees are good (bit of an acquired taste if you're not big into tofu or seitan, though). Saigon Tofu is definitely cheaper than Nam Phuong, but you know why as soon as you see the two places.

            Parc, the new Stephen Starr, is very reasonable for lunch. A friend & I went for lunch one day and ended up a $50 per person after tax and tip (a good chunk of this bill being the more than 20 oz of wine each of us had).

            Erawan, right around 21st (or maybe 22nd) and Sansom, is decent Thai. It isn't as good as when the old owners were around, but it's still a nice spot, and the lunch special is really cheap.

            And of course, if cheap is all you're after, you can't beat the Italian Market or Chinatown. And the few blocks of Washington east of 11th have cheap ethnic options as well, specifically Vietnamese and Mexican.

            1. re: Ali

              i thought i heard abyssinia was temporarily closed - can you confirm or do you know if they've reopened recently?

              i thought it was a bar, too, (gojjo) and immediately doubted myself upon walking in. there was a small, underheated room in the back behind the bar.

              dahlak has the best atmosphere for sure - go to the back room - but i guess they don't do lunch. they are always closed when i go past.

              to be quite honest - those are the three i've been to (got to try the other 2 you mention) i can't tell a whole lot of difference in the food quality. i am no etheopian expert (which is a shame, since i really discovered how much i enjoyed it right as i was moving from the DC area) but i have a hard time distunguishing any differences between the injeras, or the lentils (as a vegetarian, i order the vege combo platter at all places pretty much as a standard). perhaps the difference lies in the meats?

              saigon tofu - CHEAPER than nam phuong? wow! trying as hard as i could (with wine) i think i remember spending a whopping $9 at nam phuong. i have got to get myself to saigon tofu!!! sounds right up my alley... tofu... seitan... cheap (for the newly unemployed) :)

              1. re: rabidog

                Abyssinia is open again. At minimum, it was fairly crowded (for Abyssinia) when I walked by at 6:30pm last night.

                1. re: rabidog

                  Although we have much fewer Ethiopian options here than in the DC area, we're lucky because they're good ones. That could be why it's hard to differentiate the quality! There have been some pretty bad places in DC--you definitely would have noticed the difference if you'd experienced them (but thank goodness you didn't).

          2. Sazon - good BYO Venezuelan at 10th and Spring Garden. Radicchio, byo Italian at 4th and Wood. Figs - byo Medi on 25th. Erewan Thai on 23rd. Dutch Eating Place at the reading terminal for bkfst or lunch. Naked Chocolate Cafe for dessert. Campos deli on Market.

            4 Replies
            1. re: joluvscards

              If you are in the center of town at lunch time, try MInar Palace at 1304 Walnut. The local lunch crowd swore by this reasonably priced place that moved and enhanved it's decor.

              If you're in or near the Italian Market (South 9th Street near Christian), you will find a few Mexican places (glorified tacerias, but who cares?) that are terrific, ridiculously cheap, and, sadly, better than most of the Italian places the area is traditionally known for.

              1. re: schmave717

                Do go to Reading Terminal Market for great roast pork sandwiches at DiNic's, Amish soft pretzels at Fishers, and pancakes and apple dumplings at the Dutch Eating Place.

                1. re: bluehensfan

                  I second the Market-just had a roast pork sandwich from DiNic's this weekend. Awesome. Can't believe I've lived in Philly for about 3 years and have never tried one. Also, Dim Sum Garden for soup dumplings. Out of this world. And handmade. I believe it is about 11th and Arch, but I could be wrong.

                  1. re: mlplyons

                    Dim Sum Garden is good, but if you're in the mood for soup dumplings, Zhi Wei Guan (on Race, between 9th & 10th) is so very much better. My main gripe with Dim Sum Garden's soup dumplings was that the meat filling sat in one small lump, unlike Zhi Wei Guan's that crumble apart easier. I'm not describing it very well, but really, if I were to point anyone to soup dumplings in this town, it'd be Zhi Wei Guan.

            2. Reading Terminal, Lee How Fook, and if car Tacconellis, as well as the Israeli place across from Ritz 5

              8 Replies
              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                israeli place across from ritz 5? why am i drawing a blank??

                  1. re: Bigley9

                    I love Zahav, but inexpensive it ain't...

                    1. re: Bigley9

                      man that shows how long it's been since i've been to see a movie there!! how new are they? i'll have to check them out next time i am in the area!

                      1. re: rabidog

                        They've been around since May, and won some national attention in Esquire, Food and Wine and Bon Appetit. Make sure you get the hummus, crispy halloumi, baby eggplant, and fried cauliflower. They also have a vegetarian tasting menu on Thursday nights that is fantastic.

                        1. re: Buckethead

                          They also have some wonderful specialty drinks!

                          1. re: Bigley9

                            man... i finally went to zahav... very glad i did! had three things: hummus with tahini, fried cauliflower, fritters with cheese and leeks and honey. the latter i could have done without, as i thought it was 1: overly fried and 2: expensive as hell, but the cauliflower i loved. a great value for $5, i think, and i could have filled up on it. perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned, delicious sauce underneath. loved it! the hummus with tahini (haha, i just typed tummus :) ) was incredibly smooth and delicious with that flat, buttery bread. i added some of that bright green spicy condiment, and now i cannot remember what it was. just when i thought i couldn't eat any more i ordered the fruit dessert, which that day was a pear marinated in something molasses-ey with heavy whipped cream. small, but good. i could easily make this place a regular before-movie spot, now that i know just to order hummus and cauliflower and some wines. (and those two dishes i think total, what, $13? reasonable enough) very very good. service was attentive, tho i was like one of three people in the restaurant, having arrived three minutes before official opening time... but it was pouring rain out and i didn't want to stand outside! they were very gracious.

                1. Just came back yesterday and recommend Ansill a block from South Street (about 4th I think). An elegant little restaurant and very good prices too.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: bronwen

                    I also liked Ralph's in the Italian part of 9th Street. I had the chicken livers - an enormous amount of them - delicious!