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Feb 9, 2009 10:33 AM

Road trip w/ 2 day stop in Philly. Need suggestions!

My family of five will be taking a week long road trip from CT and plan to spend 2 nights in Philly. We would love advice on regional cuisine must tries. We love ethnic and could use any advice on any must try restraunts ranging from hole in the wall- moderate. we will be staying near the Franklin Institute but are willing to drive. Breakfast lunch and dinner recs. would be so helpful. Thankyou all fellow hounder so much!

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  1. You should head to Reading Terminal Market for lunch one day. If you search here you'll see some threads of people's favorite places in the Market. Regional specialties include soft pretzels with mustard, scrapple (a breakfast meat), and cheesesteaks. DiNics roast pork sandwich is very popular.

    Since you're near the FI, you should plan to stop by the Comcast Center (17-18th between Market and Arch sts). Its the tallest building in the city, you can't miss it! Interesting high def "video wall" in the lobby is worth looking at. In the basement, there is a food court called the Market. Good sandwiches available at Di Brunos...there is also a larger outlet of DiBrunos near 18th and Chestnut that has an extensive gourmet market downstairs and an eatery upstairs.

    1. If you like ethnic you have to try Vietnam Restaurant on 11th street between Race and Vine in Chinatown.. It is a 5 minute cab ride. Amazing fresh food which is very reasonably priced and nice atmoshere. Another Phila favorite is Dimitri's on 3rd street in Queens Village, a few blocks off of South Street. Fresh fish and Mediterranean inspired cuisine. It is a small BYOB where they will come get you in the bar across the street if there is a wait. Tons of great upscale places in Phila also, but every time I have visitors in from other cities they want to go to those 2 places. They are unique and Phila ethnic traditions.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ChefRich

        Thankyou so much for the recs. I forgot about the Market. Looks like we will be going to Vietnam as I am not so sure Dimitri will be kid friendly. What do you all think about bringing the kiddos to Buddahkan?

        1. re: askeenan

          How old are the kids? How many? I think kids could be ok at Buddahkan if you go early. I'd also recommend Rangoon, a Burmese restaurant in Chinatown. My kids love it there.

          The Reading Terminal Market is great for either breakfast or lunch. For a treat/snack , don't miss Capgiro Gelato--there's nothing like it in CT. Naked Chocolate Cafe is also a good place to bring kids for delicious hot chocolate.

          Philly also has a lot of great Mexican these days, particularly in South Philly/Italian Market area.

          1. re: askeenan

            Buddakan is a great restaurant but it is very'd be better off sticking with Chinatown for Asian food. For a hole in the wall place, try Viet Thai. My husband swears by the seafood noodle soup there.

        2. Philadelphia is a great city! I love it, and I hope you do, too.

          To maximize your time getting around, you may want to separate your two days into doing things west of Broad Street the one day, and east of Broad Street the next. Broad Street runs north/south through the city, and it's hub is City Hall, which is an amazing structure, has the statue of William Penn on top, and would be a good "starting point" both days. For my recommendations below, I will refer to them as east or west.

          Good place for lunch (or dinner): Osteria (it is actually right on Broad!) 2008 Winner of James Beard Award. They have some neat stuff, even things that would appeal to kids. Chef Marc Vetri - of Vetri fame. Vetri is the Best italian restaurant in the city. But Vetri is small, expensive, and reservations usually required well in advance.

          While you are making your way around the city, you might want someting refreshing. There are two Capogiro gelato places (one east and one west)- you AND the kids would love this, I am sure. They only have one other location outside of PA (in NY) - so it is a "local" place. They have cream-based gelatos, as well as non-cream based (my favorite is the Campari & blood orange - tart but wonderful). Flavors change everyday, and they have those little spoons so you can try bunches of flavors before you order.

          The recommendation to stop at DiBruno Brothers store on Chestnut Street (west) is a good one, they have ready made foods, you can eat upstairs in the cafe, and they carry an interesting selection of gourmet products. My husband, who enormously dislikes shopping, actually LOVES going to this place. It is very vibrant and active, and their business has been a part of Philadelphia since the 1930's.

          There is a neat piano bar at 20th & Arch (west): I do not know if they are kid-friendly, so you will need to call them. The pianists are very talented, sometimes people sing-along, that sort of thing.

          As a point of reference, Art Museum and Franklin Institute are both west.

          Definitely make the Mummers Museum a stop (east)- this is, for sure, only found in Philadelphia. The Mummers Parade has been a tradition on New Years Day for decades. The string bands have always been my favorite part - they really play their own instruments, dress up in incredible regalia, and strut their stuff. You will be able to see their ornate costumes, they have an art class for kids 5-14 to make their own masks.

          Independence Hall. A must see. (east


          Cuba Libre (east) has a cuban brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. This might be something neat to try. At night, they have a live band and salsa dancing. Lots of fun!

          Another fun place could be Victor Cafe - they have real opera singers (who are also the waiters and waitresses) that sing songs while you eat. You can request songs as well. This has been around for years - my mom took me there 15 years ago, and I still remember how neat it was. Haven't heard any reviews about the food, but the experience is unique. (east


          Ralph's Restaurant has been in Philadelphia for four generations. This is a casual, tight-tabled place, which serves good italian food, it is always lively, has the white and red checkered table cloths, and the small black and white tile floor. This would be a good pick for the kids, too. Reasonable prices. (east


          OK! Well, that is my abbreviated list for you, askeenan. I hope it helps! If you have any questions, feel free to PM me. Have a great trip! I hope you enjoy the city as much as I do! :)

          5 Replies
          1. re: CucinadiNana

            Thankyou So much. I really appreciate all the suggestions. i am looking foward to starting my itinerary now, it looks like we have some wonderful options. Again, thanks for helping us.

            1. re: askeenan

              You can take your kids to Vietnam, Dimitri's or Buddakahn. Obviously, you wouldn't be able to hang at the bar across the street from Dimitri's if you were waiting for a table and Buddakahn is a little fancy to take children all the time ,but we have taken our 6 yr old daughter to all of them. The question is "will the kids eat the food?" Vietnam has the best wonton soup and our daughter loves the spring rolls and noodle dishes. You may have a harder time at Dimitri's as their menu is fish and seafood oriented and the menu is limited. Buddakahn would be good early (which may be the only time you can get in anyway). Later it develops a bigger bar scene which might not be "kid friendly" Buddakahn is a Stephen Starr restaurant and its menu is on the internet.

              1. re: askeenan

                Reading Terminal Market is much more fun from Wednesdays through Saturdays when the Amish stands (such as the Dutch Eating Place for pancakes and Beiler's for cinnamon buns) are open.

                I think if you were considering Buddakan, I'd choose Alma de Cuba (another Steven Starr place) over it, as the food is much better there.

                Also, if you are close to the Frankin Institite, there is a Whole Foods Market a block north from there is you want a quick, healthy bite to eat close to there.

                I'm not sure if the Phlash shuttles are still running at this time of year, but they go close to the Franklin, but if you look, most places are within walking distance and you could always hop on the 33 or the 38 SEPTA bus heading east or take a cab.

              2. re: CucinadiNana

                um, not to be picky, but that statue is of William (or as many Phila folks lovingly refer to him, Billy) Penn - not Benjamin Franklin

                1. re: Bigley9

                  you are right! i hadn't had my coffee when I typed that! I will edit - (now that I am awake) :) Thanks!