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solo long weekend for adventurous eater

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i live in boston and i'm going to philly for a long weekend on a whim at the end of the month. and i eat anything. i'm staying at the sofitel and love walking, and want to see all the parts of the city that you would never recommend to a tourist, and eat all weekend. would love suggestions for divey ethnic restaurants, small local gems (if any of you know boston, my favorite "nice" restaurants are tw food and oleana), and anything in between. my bf went to penn so will have some ideas, but that was some time ago now so i'd love hounders' thoughts too. thanks for the reccs!

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  1. Make sure to hit Reading Terminal Market...very good if your eating alone. Great pancakes at the Dutch Eating Place, soft pretzels at Fisher's, roast pork sandwiches at DiNic's...a foodie haven. It's at 12th and Arch. The market is best on Wedsesday through Saturday when the Amish merchants are open. This may be the pinnacle of your Philly eating experience...there are a lot of places to try here.

    Also hit one of the Capogiro's either at 13th and Sansom or 20th and Sansom for great gelato and one of the Naked Chocolate Cafe's (one close is at Juniper and Walnut) for great Aztec hot chocolate. Also Brown Betty Petite just south of Rittenhous Square has great cupcakes, especially the red velvet ones.

    Make sure to explore Chinatown and the Italian Market if you have time. Also close to the Sofitel, Tria and Alma De Cuba are a few blocks away and are very good, and there is a great DiBruno's gourmet store on Chestnut St. between 17th and 18th. Finally, a half block south from the Sofitel is a hole in the wall Moroccan place (Argan) that just opened that has decent pita sandwiches that would be a good pit stop.

    1. Horizons Cafe, for extraordinary vegan cuisine (even loved by carnivores)

      http://www.horizonsphiladelphia.com/

      1. If you want a cheap, meatless lunch option one day. You might also try Mama's on N. 20th between Chestnut and Market ...they have good falafel sandwiches and they are open Sundays.

        If you feel like some spice, Szechuan Tasty House, in Chinatown is great! It's very divey but the food is very good and very spicy. I went with a large group there and everything was excellent.

        2 Replies
        1. re: megmosa

          I was just in Philly last Tuesday and ended up on Girard in Fishtown looking for a coupla of the more promising (paesano's, bar ferdinand, sketch) joints. Followed the street #s according to the menupages link, but didn't find the strip. Did I miss something (it's highly likely)? There next week so would love specs. Thanks, by the way, for your thorough run-down.

          1. re: junkyardsaints

            Paesano's is on Girard a block or two from the MFL subway stop. A lot of places in No Libs are on Second Street between the Spring Garden and Girard stops on the subway line.

        2. i'm a philly native (and lived in boston for three years (more than ten years ago), though i loved the cafeteria-style chau chau's) and i'll give you a few good walking options (with appropriate food selections)....

          from sofitel you can head three directions, west, south-east and north-east, and hit amazing food along each way. if you head west, walk up walnut and go over the walnut street bridge (it has a nice view of the city, but it is long and can be windy). you'll pass several fine dining restaurants on walnut (mixed in with our higher-end shopping options) on your way to the bridge. as you are about to cross over the bridge, stay on the right side and you can get a delicious cup of hot chocolate across from the gym to help you in your walk. once on the other side of the bridge, you are in university city and on penn and drexel's campuses. they abut each other, so it is hard to explain where one begins. once you've passed 34th though, you're pretty much exclusively in penn's domain. on walnut is the naked chocolate cafe (1 of 2) where you can get drinkable chocolate (like hershey's syrup texture, but a taste like heaven) and some delicious cupcakes. feel free to wander throughout penn's campus on the left, the quad is beautiful all through out the year. if you continue up walnut, turn right at 40th street and head to distrito, one of our top chef's restaurants (he recently beat bobby flay on iron chef). it is mexican, it is fun and it is delicious. mexicali is also right on 40th, good burritos, but i wouldn't say make a trip here. if you go left on 40th, you'll see more college-y type eats, but the greek lady is very good if you are in the neighborhood for lunch. they make excellent taramosalata. this is about a two mile walk out, but if you want to walk more and then take p trans home, head over to baltimore avenue and up another mile or so, there are a few excellent ethipian places and a decent brew pub (dock street) amongst other good options (ooh, also around 40th is nan (asian/french fusion), fatou & fama (african soulfood, GREAT for lunch and a few similar but good indian joints). you can take the trolley heading into the city on your way back (heading towards 'city hall', cost = $2) and it can drop you off at 15th or 19th street, three blocks from sofitel either way i think? this walk will have taken you through a collegiate but attractive part of the city and into west philly and some more local things.

          if you head south-east, you are headiong into the typically italian section of the city, but there are a ton of excellent mexican and asian eateries around there. walk over to broad (14th street) and head south (away from city hall) and cross over to the lower number streets whenever you want, if you want a prettier walk, cross at walnut, spruce or pine. turn right at 9th street and keep heading south. the italian market is a must see, and there is tons of food in and around it. it stretches on 9th from christian st to federal and it is a mix of italian specialty shops and mexican restaurants. off the italian market on christian (b/n 10th and 11th) is isgro's. i grew up on their cannoli and all of their pastries are delicious. their cookies are not to everyone's tastes, so if you want cookies, keep walking south on 8th to termini's, the best in the city (or you can get termini's at reading terminal, a place bluehens referenced). i still live in this part of the city and since i am italian, i don't go out to eat italian much (my food is better. :) ), but if you want good italian american food, go to dante and luigi's. ralph's can be hit or miss but i think they are open for lunch. if you keep heading south you can go to three excellent taquerias too (apparently almost all of the ones in this neighborhood are great, i've only been to three though): la lupe, el jarocho and taqueria la veracruzana (last two have the same owners). and if you walk past la lupe (at the very end of the italian market) you'll be at the infamous cheesesteak corner (pat's and geno's). their steaks are ok, if you want one for the experience go for it, but there are better food options in the city than the cheesesteak, and better cheesesteaks than theirs. search through this board for those threads, and oh, there are plenty! if you head back north to south street, there are a few very good restayrants around there too. ansill is delicious and lovely, with a focus on offal. southwark is also nearby, a whiskey bar and restaurant. there is also beau monde, a delicious burgundy-esque creperie, cochon a pig-centric restaurant and little fish, a delicious but spensivo fish restaurant. this walk is about 2-3 miles out....some of the good asian restaurants are along 11th and washington: nam phuong (vietnamese), pho hoa, pho ha, wokano, etc....

          heading northeast will be a less pretty, but very fun walk. you can go to reading terminal and chinatown and there are a ton of good places to eat around there. shiao lan kung is my personal favorite chinese restaurant, though almost all of them are good. vietnam is delicious too. if you keep heading east along market, chestnut, race or arch you will come to old city, also with some good eating options. i don't go there much, but there are a lot of options there. and if you head north once you get to third or fourth you will walk into northern liberties, an up and coming neighborhood. they have a many good gastro-pubs, including standard tap and n 3rd, a great sandwich shop (paesano's), the best italian in the city (modo mio) and a great beer shop. they also have a very good tapas restaurant (bar ferdinand), a great burger shop (actually farther north in fishtown, called sketch) and two great indian places on the border too (ekta, my favorite and tiffin. ekta looks more take-outy and it is, but oh damn is the food good). i am a late 20s y.o. female and i walk all of these walks frequently, though this one will probably look the sketchiest.

          and btw, we have a great website that will help you search restaurant locations and their menus:

          philadelphia.menupages.com

          sorry to be so in-depth, work was so slow today and i enjoyed it immensly! there are tons of places that i didn't mention that i probably could have, but my brain is done!

          1 Reply
          1. re: mazza3

            whew! i'm not even going to touch this... you've got the whole city covered!!!

            well, i'll touch it a little... to say that my favorite ethnic and/or divey places are central to two intersections: 47th + baltimore, and 10th + washington, two entirely different areas of the city. radiating out just a few blocks from each of those intersections are a lot of my favorite places, and a lot of the places mazza3 mentions above. get there, explore, and you pretty much won't go wrong.

          2. wow, awesome. thanks so much everyone! i'll def hit reading terminal market (i love little more than a food market) and chinatown. like mazza i'm italian and don't eat italian out very often, but i love visiting italian areas because it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside :) the taquerias are also very exciting...i'm originally from cali and mexican (and ethiopian, actually) is a cuisine we don't do that well here in boston.

            any suggestions for an evening meal? will i need to make a res anywehere? bar ferdinand looks fun; i checked out fork which i've seen mentioned on the board but wasn't too enthused. i love vegan so maybe i'll check out horizons one night.

            1 Reply
            1. re: dianalim

              would definitely recommend you go to at least one of Jose Garces restuarants for
              dinner. http://grg-mgmt.com/ (Chifa, Tinto, Amada Distrito) I have eaten at all of them except Chifa which just
              opened. The food is always fantastic, excellent service and atmosphere.
              You can eat at the bar at all of them I think.
              Would not come to Philly without a stop at one of these.
              Also love Horizon's definitely can eat at the bar there. Before they
              moved the restaurant into town I had eaten there almost weekly for a few years
              the food is delicious even if you are not vegan/vegetarian.

            2. hello! so i managed to get out of the city in spite of the storm by booking a last minute train ticket. i had a great trip to philly, in no small part because of all of your reccs. i'll do brief reviews here, in case anyone's curious, and for the benefit of future travelers.

              night 1: shiao lan kung. flight delayed, plans canceled with friend, what better place to go to dinner at 930 than chinatown. ordered 2 pan fried dumplings, salt baked squid, and pea greens. the dumplings were excellent (i loved the bits of onion inside) and the greens were very good except that i don't do so well with large chunks of garlic (but if you're into that sort of thing they would be incredible), and the squid was good but not the best i've ever had. all in all, solid, and i appreciated that they did 2 dumplings so that i could try them without letting some go to waste.
              Day 1: breakfast at dutch eating place. sooo good, blueberry pancakes and bacon. i loved the gigantic pat of butter on my pancakes, and the fresh off the griddle taste. the bacon was perfect in my opinion, a little crunchy but not hard. i thoroughly enjoyed my trip to reading terminal and got a kosher dill at the pickle patch to go.
              lunch at pat's. yes, i know. i had to, on orders from the penn bf and my own curiosity. i got a with, with cheez whiz, and it was very good. my pickle was the best i've ever had. i could only take half the sandwich, but i'm glad i did it.
              walked through south philly and the italian market, and did some fun antiquing and vintage shopping in bella vista. cool area! decided not to do termini's or anything...just not in the mood for more food.

              night 2: dinner at horizons. very good, and refreshing to have vegan food that was inventive but not wild...i found myself a little disoriented at millennium in sf, where they stuff all kinds of flavors into one dish. i had the winter plate and the saffron creme brulee, and everything was delicious. i was especially impressed with the texture and flavor of the tempeh, which was rich and soft and delicious. it was great with the veggies and much more tasty than any tempeh i've ever encountered. i wonder who their distributor is?i was very unimpressed with the room and the muzak-type soundtrack, but in all a solid meal, and so nice to have vegetables after my two very unhealthy meals earlier in the day.

              day 2: a bonte waffle to go for breakfast...got up late. it was yummy, we don't have sugar waffles here! i've had them at pain quotidien in nyc (and in brussels) and was happy to find them in philly.
              after a voyage out to the art museum, i had a delicious, huge, wonderful lunch at almaz cafe. found it elsewhere on the board, because i was looking for somewhere in rittenhouse with interesting food but where my friend wouldnt be awkward for not eating. i had the cabbage/carrot/potato dish, and thought the injera was delicious, the sides were wonderful, and my strawberry smoothie was also delicious. thumbs up to that place.
              for dinner i went to chifa, which i was really excited about. after all the ethiopian i wanted something light, and this really hit the spot. i just had two ceviches: the hiramasa (i think?) and the mixto with shrimp and tomato and avocado. so, one asian and one latin. they were really good, i liked the cornnuts and plantains they served with them. they also sent me a pre-course, which were like gougeres but filled with manchego, and with a guava dipping sauce, so kind of a variation of manchego and membrillo. it was delicious. i also got the white cabbage salad, which was a good idea and i love sesame but just tasted like crunchy sesame oil...there was so much of the stuff all over it. so, if they find away to do less dressing it's a nice simple dish, but as it was when i had it it was close to inedible in more than small quantities. i had the green tea/canteloupe dessert which was kindof weird in its presentation...like a giant petit four. the top green tea layers were good, but the cantaloupe gelee was not too enjoyable to me. they finally sent a little rice krispie treat, which was also very good. i had the lima bean cocktail, which was very interesting. i would also have liked to try the black tea sidecar, but i can only hold one drink. all in all, the room was beautiful, the service pretty good, and the food extremely interesting. i had an impossible time choosing. it would be fun to go with more people to try lots of things, because they're all small plates.

              day 3: well, it was a snowstorm. so i went back to reading terminal and had flapjacks and scrapple (had to try it!) at down home diner. very delicious, and the decaf coffee was incredible! that never happens, esp at diners. i liked the scrapple, too. it was hard to resist dutch eating place but i was happy to try somewhere new. i bought some preserves, pickles, and raw goat milk (so cool you guys can buy raw milk at the market!!!), as well as a metropolis focaccia and some local goatcheese at salumeria for dinner on the train, and went on my way. i had planned to go up to northern liberties and other off the beaten path areas, but with the weather i decided just to hang out at the independence museums...much warmer.
              i completed my philly eating extravaganza with a trip to naked chocolate cafe, where i had a hawaiian (i love chocolate or caramel with salt) and was very, very impressed. i loved the way they served it with the wafer cookie and the whipped cream on the side, which really helped to cut the intensity of the cocoa. i bought some truffles to go, which i'm excited to have sometime soon. it was a great way to end my awesome trip.

              2 Replies
              1. re: dianalim

                Glad you enjoyed Dianalim! Thanks for reporting back! Come back when the weather warms up a bit and the snow melts.

                1. re: Bigley9

                  Glad you enjoyed your visit despite the lousy frigid weather!

              2. Chinatown:

                Dimsum Garden
                59 N 11th St
                Philadelphia, PA 19107
                (215) 627-0218

                You have to go here for Xiǎolóngbāo (Shanghai Soup dumplings – Pork and Crab and Pork). Ambiance this place has none, but the food is really good. I also recommend the sauteed baby bok choy and scallion pancakes, pork an chive dumplings, pork and cabbage dumplings. They make their noodels and dumpling wraps in house. Oh the braised beef brisket noodle soup is really good as is the roaded pork noodle soup.

                · Nanzhou Handdrawn Noodles
                927 Race St
                Philadelphia, PA 19107
                Phone: (215) 923-1550
                Small noodle restaurant, they make their own noodles you can watch them in the back room stretching the noodles.

                Shiao Lan Kung
                930 Race St
                Philadelphia, PA 19107
                (215) 928-0282
                Salt baked shrimp, Salt baked seafood is good too. Sauteed bok choi, greenbeans, Dragon and Phoenix…

                ·Vietnam Palace
                11th and Vine

                Rice vermicelli combo, spring rolls (best in Philly, I think), beef jerky and papaya salad, pretty much all of their dishes are excellent.

                Sang Kee Duck House

                9th and Vine Sts.

                Duck! Dumplings, noodle soups, but the duck really rocks.

                Midtown Village:

                French:

                · Zinc Bistro a’Vins
                246 S 11th St
                Philadelphia, PA 19107

                Really quaint traditional French bistrot, nice wine list

                Northern Liberties:

                The Standard Tap
                2nd and Poplar Strs

                Great gastropub food and beer. Only serve local craft beers (Victory, Yards, Dogfish Head, Sly Fox, Troegs…) draughts ONLY. Food is excellent (featured in Gourmet Magazing, Bon Apetit and Food and Wine).

                South Philly

                Café Laos
                11th , just south of Washington Ave.

                Laotian cuisine

                1 Reply
                1. re: SpdRcr069

                  Ah, another devotee of Vietnam Palace's vermicelli combo. :)

                  I swear, if I had to request a last meal...I think I would ask for that. It's like heaven on a plate and such a steal for so much food for the price. The beef wrapped in grape leaves on that platter is just...ah.