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Need "best of" Philly recs

billyeats Jan 1, 2009 09:47 AM


We will be visiting Philadelphia in a couple of weekends. Two couples, each with small children. I would love to hear some recs for the best stuff in town. Obviously, they have to be kid-friendly to a certain degree, but we're all Chowhounds, so we certainly won't be dining at chains or places that specifically cater to kids. Looking for moderately priced, casual places.

Are the best cheesesteaks at Pat's & Geno's (I think those are the names)? Or are there other under-the-radar spots that are better? Other sandwiches? Ethic, like Vietnamese or Thai perhaps? Seafood? Rustic american type spots? Anything else that is a must would be outstanding.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. saturninus RE: billyeats Jan 2, 2009 09:34 AM

    Cheesesteaks - do a board search, you will find your answer there
    Other sandwiches - John's Roast Pork
    Vietnamese - Vietnam Restaurant
    Thai - nothing phenomenal in Philadelphia
    Seafood - Dmitri's
    Rustic American - Standard Tap, Good Dog
    Other - Kanella, Marra's, Jones

    4 Replies
    1. re: saturninus
      rabidog RE: saturninus Jan 29, 2009 09:33 PM

      i just did a search of the boards and there isn't a whole lot posted about the standard tap (yet it gets reviewed nearly every day on yelp - i suppose from more of a trendy standpoint than a foodie one). i actually haven't been myself for a few months now, but i just went for dinner tonight and wanted to report back that there is an EXCellent octopus appetizer on the menu. it's with kalamata olives and cherry tomatoes, in a balsamic dressing with lemon. possibly one of the best octopus dishes i've ever had. this ends up often being a place where we... well, just end up... but i often forget that the food can be really good here sometimes.

      1. re: rabidog
        rabidog RE: rabidog Feb 1, 2009 06:52 PM

        i went back again today for the octopus appetizer. i was craving it. not as smoky as the other day but still good. verrrry chewy.
        i also got an almost bouillabaisse type dish - clams and monkfish with stewed tomatoes and leeks in a tomato-white wine-butter broth (i think). it was heavenly. i'm disappointed in myself for not hitting the standard tap more often. i'm going to start doing this. the food is excellent. also had victory's old horizontal for the first time - my that is a strong drink!! one will do ya.

        1. re: rabidog
          Rondo RE: rabidog Feb 2, 2009 08:51 AM

          Good call on the Octupus app at Standard Tap, R. Went there Saturday night and it was delicious! Ordered the BarBQ Rib sandwich as well and only ate about a third of that as I was stuffed. Took the rest home and let my mutts (son and daughter) have at it. Have the Victory Lager next time you go if you don't want to get snockered after one drink. But if you do want to get s***faced, have a Golden Monkey. That stuff is obscene!

          1. re: Rondo
            rabidog RE: Rondo Feb 2, 2009 01:43 PM

            yep, i love golden monkey. i just had it the other night at gojjo, goes great with some spicy lentils. yea, for both that and the old horizontal, two's about my limit most nights. it's sneaky stuff!

    2. b
      Bigley9 RE: billyeats Jan 5, 2009 06:39 AM

      In addition to Saturninus' recs, I'd say a vietnamese hoagie from O sandwiched on 9th street is worth the trip (right by Pat's and Genos, which I personally don't care for.
      The other thing you'll see everywhere on this board is to go to the Reading Terminal Market 12th and Arch - big PA dutch breakfasts, DiNics sandwiches and lots of other local favs.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Bigley9
        bluehensfan RE: Bigley9 Jan 5, 2009 04:57 PM

        Second the DiNic's and Dutch Eating Place (for the pancakes) recs at Reading Terminal Market. They have great Amish soft pretzels there too . I'd add taking the kids to the Naked Chocolate Cafe on Juniper and Walnut. Wicked Aztec hot chocolate for the adults and cupcakes for kids (or kids at heart) make for a good rest stop. Also, any Starr place (El Vez, Jones, and to a lesser extent Buddakan) is fine with kids. Also Estia has great extremely fresh fish and octopus and is kid-friendly. It's very pricey but they have a great lunch special that is very reasonably priced.

        1. re: Bigley9
          bucksguy14 RE: Bigley9 Jan 6, 2009 05:46 AM

          DiNics is the place for roast pork with garlicy rabe and provolone. I'm making myself drool!! I think Jim's at 4th & South is the best cheesesteak in the city, but that's something where everyone has a favorite - just stay away from the touristy Pat's & Geno's.

          1. re: bucksguy14
            Philly Ray RE: bucksguy14 Jan 11, 2009 06:59 AM

            And Jim's isn't touristy???

            1. re: Philly Ray
              bucksguy14 RE: Philly Ray Jan 11, 2009 05:09 PM

              Touristy as it relates to South St. being touristy.

        2. gina RE: billyeats Jan 5, 2009 07:48 AM

          Additional outstanding Asian cuisine: Banana Leaf (Malaysian) and Rangoon (Burmese).

          Ethiopian: Abyssinia (although not sure if they've re-opened yet) and Almaz Cafe.

          Cheesesteaks: Sonny's

          1. d
            drjane RE: billyeats Jan 5, 2009 02:17 PM

            Please don't go to Pat's or Geno's for cheesesteaks--IMHO, (and I grew up in Philadelphia) those are caricatures of the real thing. John's or Tony Luke's are good bets--you can find their locations many places. I agree with the recs for Vietnam or Vietnam Palace and Rangoon in Chinatown. Modo Mio or Radicchio for Italian, but you may need to reserve (MM) or wait. Naked Chocolate cafe for hot chocolate and desserts (and free samples for the kids). Las Bugambilias is kid-friendly and the owners are delightful. (Food's pretty good, too) haven't been to Sabrina's but folks love it.

            1. m
              Mr Siegal RE: billyeats Jan 5, 2009 02:47 PM

              Forget the others and go to John's Roast Pork, both for the best cheesesteaks and really great Roast Pork sandwiches (if only they had the garlicky broccoli rabe as Dinics). You will find the true nature of both sandwiches though and be very impressed.

              Definitely check out Jones with the kids. The food is good, drinks are great, atmosphere is fun, and definitely represents the Steven Starr kitsch if you don't make it to any of his other places. Although I really like El Vez for a fun time.

              For other sandwiches, I like NIck's Roast Beef on 2nd just below market for roast beefs. Check the Italian Market for grazing on pizza, taco's, and hoagies at Sarcones. You must make it Capogiro. Check the web for exact locations.

              1. e
                emmazum RE: billyeats Jan 6, 2009 05:40 AM

                All the other recommendations are great but I would add Honey's Sit'n Eat in Northern Liberties for an excellent kid friendly menu. Xochtil or Zahav are also good ethnic options.

                Enjoy your visit.

                1. y
                  yankeefan RE: billyeats Jan 6, 2009 05:45 AM

                  I always hit the Reading Terminal Market if I am anywhere near Philly in my travels. The Amish pretzels alone are worth the trip as well as some other great vendors in that market.

                  It is extremely kid friendly as well, starting with Bassett's ice cream.

                  1. j
                    Juli8 RE: billyeats Jan 10, 2009 08:25 PM


                    I second Kanella. It's really amazing Cypriot food, and my toddler is welcomed there with adorable plastic cutlery. Lunch is really reasonable I believe (only had dinner there, dinner entrees 18-24 or so). It's currently our favorite restaurant.

                    Beau Monde has delicious crepes and is family friendly. I always find it takes a long time, though, and the kid gets antsy. Pho Ha has fantastic Vietnamese noodle soup. I think Reading Terminals' best breakfast is Down Home Diner, on the south edge of the market.

                    I don't think I would take my kid to Zahav at night, it seems too loud, but the food was excellent the one time I went.

                    We love going for dim sum at Ocean Harbor. Go early on Sunday (10.30 am at the latest) or be prepared to wait.

                    Franklin Fountain ice cream is a really fun visit in Olde City. Delicious and atmospheric, and if they have pie it's good. Capogiro Gelato is pretty great too.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Juli8
                      bluehensfan RE: Juli8 Jan 12, 2009 07:01 AM

                      I'd consider skipping to Down Home Diner in Reading Terminal. Much better food is at the Dutch Eating Place.

                    2. b
                      billyeats RE: billyeats Jan 28, 2009 12:44 PM

                      Okay, I happen to be down here for ONE NIGHT! Stuck here because of the weather. I need a rec for one great dinner, moderately priced, somewhere reasonably close to my hotel (the Westin on S.17th St. Had Asian last night, breakfast at the Dutch Eating Place, so something else would be appreciated? Perhaps Rustic American (I don't know how else to describe), or Italian? Or anything else that is a must.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: billyeats
                        lawgirl3278 RE: billyeats Jan 28, 2009 12:48 PM

                        Branzino is only a few blocks away. It's a nice Italian BYOB.

                        1. re: billyeats
                          Philly Ray RE: billyeats Jan 28, 2009 01:31 PM

                          Maybe Matyson? It's more contemporary American than rustic, but it's one of our best BYOs. And it isn't too far from your hotel (19th and Chestnut).


                          Although, with it being Restaurant Week, most places might be full already but you might luck out with a cancellation or two from the weather.

                          1. re: Philly Ray
                            bluehensfan RE: Philly Ray Jan 28, 2009 02:24 PM

                            Alma De Cuba and Estia are very close too (although not rustic or Italian...)

                            1. re: bluehensfan
                              billyeats RE: bluehensfan Jan 28, 2009 05:05 PM

                              Thank you, thank you for the Alma De Cuba rec. I just went and had the restaurant week menu. I truly had one of the best meals I've ever eaten. Seriously. Not to sound like a New York snob, but I live in Manhattan and have had a lot of transcendent meals. This ranks right up there. Great suggestion!

                              1. re: billyeats
                                bluehensfan RE: billyeats Jan 29, 2009 03:17 AM

                                Glad you liked it. Dunno what was on the RW menu but some of the food at Alma (especially the lechon asado, pastillon (sp?), arepas, and vaca frita are very good and my son even had a great burger there which was a big surpise. The decor is funky and relaxing and the cigar dessert and ice crems and sorbets are pretty good. The only disappointment our last meal was the current version of ceviches on the menu...not their best over the years if you ask me.

                                As an aside was the Dutch Eating Place ok?

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