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Center City--2 nights in April

Hi,

I've searched this board already and found a lot of good information about restaurants near our hotel. My husband and I (late 20s-early 30s) are staying at the Westin for two nights in April. We like to walk around and find cute places to have lunch and drinks and we prefer to have reservations for dinner both nights.

I've made a reservation at Devon Seafood Grill for Friday night and Branzino for Saturday night. I don't eat meat, but I will eat seafood and my husband eats both. This is kind of like a mini-vacation so we don't mind splurging, but don't really want to pay Vetri prices. I was pretty happy with both of the choices until I started reading lots of reviews about bad service at Branzino on other sites. Is this still a good choice? We really look forward to wonderful meals out when we travel, and like to focus on the kinds of experiences we don't have in DC, but bad service kind of ruins the experience.

We would definitely like one night to be Italian, but would be flexible as to the other night. Is there anything that I'm overlooking? Also, are there any not-to-be-missed breakfast/lunch/drinks places near our hotel?

Thanks for any suggestions you can give!

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  1. I'm not sure where the Westin is, but Caffe Casta Diva in the Rittenhouse area is where I've made dinner reservations the last two times I was in Philadelphia. The food is great contemporary Italian; nothing pretentious, but much more tasteful and sophistcated than average.

    Its BYOB, so you can bring in your favorite wine, which also keeps the bill down. The interior is nicely appointed in a comfortable, understated way, with very accomodating and friendly staff.

    There is a great table all the way toward the back that I like, in a sort of alcove next to the kitchen, but its also nice to sit next the windows if its not too chilly.

    All four of us loved our food both times we went there. Another plus is that it's in Rittenhouse Square, so if it's nice after dinner you can walk around the park. Usually people are sitting out. Or you can just walk around the lovely historic neighborhood enjoying the architecture. Love this place.

    Check out what other hounds have said. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/339016

    "Romantic BYO in Rittenhouse "

    1. What days of the week will this be?

      Tria is right near your hotel, I'd definitely stop in there for lunch (or just an afternoon wine and cheese session) one day. Parc is also good for lunch, if the weather is nice you can sit outside and watch the people in Rittenhouse park across the street. You also must visit Capogiro at least once during your visit, there's a location near your hotel at 20th and Sansom.

      If you want to eat one Italian meal in the city without paying Vetri prices, go to Osteria, Vetri's other restaurant. He's often cooking there anyway. Seafood isn't their specialty but there are quite a few seafood and vegetarian dishes on the menu. It will probably require a cab ride from your hotel though, it's under a mile away but the walk isn't especially pleasant.

      If you'll be here on a Sunday morning you may want to consider brunch at Lacroix, it's pricey but definitely an interesting experience.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Buckethead

        We are driving up on Friday and leaving on Sunday after breakfast/brunch. It will be over Easter weekend. I looked at Osteria's menu and it definitely looked interesting, but there didn't seem to be too many choices for me. (I also forgot to mention that I'm allergic to nuts and capers). Thanks for the suggestion!

      2. I think I'd choose Estia over Devon - devon gets mixed reviews, and is a chain, Estia has only good reviews here (in my recollection) is a lovely greek seafood restaurant (with some veg options) not far away

        9 Replies
        1. re: Bigley9

          I agree with Bigley, I'd pick Estia over Devon. Estia is a beautiful restaurant with excellent seafood and service.

          For Italian, if you're into the old-school Italian vibe, D'Angelo's isn't too far from your hotel.

          For drinks, the Continental Midtown has specialty cocktails and a good "scene." It's worth a lunch trip too.

          I'd also recommend hitting Tinto for drinks and/or dinner. Garces' food is not to be missed. And go across the street to Capogiro for delicious gelato.

          1. re: lawgirl3278

            Admittedly I cringed when I saw you reserved at Devon. It's mediocre to be honest with you. I think you'd be much better at Estia (as another poster mentioned) and they have a $30 three course luch special with grilled octopus, a whole grilled fish, and dessert if price is an issue. The only problem is that the grilled fish at Estia has capers, but I am sure you can request the fish without them. I'd also suggest a meal at Tria (as previously mentioned) and would even consider Alma de Cuba. Also, don't miss the Reading Terminal Market and gelato at Capogiro.

            1. re: bluehensfan

              I'm glad I checked this board before we went! Is Branzino a good choice or should I switch to somewhere else?

              1. re: small fry

                I enjoyed Branzino. It's a BYOB, but I'm sure you already knew that. There's other great BYOBs near your hotel (Melograno, La Viola), but they don't take reservations and usually get quite crowded.

                1. re: small fry

                  We think Branzino is levels above the other Italian byob's in the area. We have always had excellent service - lovely atmosphere, delicious food.

                  We eat at LaViola West for the reasonable price and fast service, but I wouldn't make it a destination The new Melograno location has been getting negative reviews.

                  Caffe Casta Diva has a noise level that most of our friends (and us) can't tolerate. We hear it's worse since the renovation.

                  D'Angelo's was expensive and we found it ordinary. Not a light touch.

                  Devon is fine, but Estia would be more of an interesting experience. It's beautiful, and the fish is topnotch.

                  There will usually be someone who isn't pleased, had poor service, etc. but go with the majority. If you read this Board regularly, you could also find out whose taste you agree with, whose judgment you can trust, etc.
                  That's why it's great to read so many opinions.

                  Have fun!

                  1. re: sylviag

                    The new Melograno has been getting negative reviews? Really? I'm surprised I didn't pick that up on here.

                    1. re: sylviag

                      I'd pretty much agree with these comments. I've been to Bronzino at least 3-4 times and never had a bad experience there, and found the food better than a number of the other BYOB Italian choices in the area (I do like Casta Diva as well, but have only been to early seatings when perhaps noise wasn't so much of an issue. It is a very small room).

                      D'Angelo's would not be near the top of my list. Very expensive and not especially good or different (South Philly-style food at Center City prices). Devon is good enough, but not a real destination point by any means....it's a higher-end seafood chain but still a chain, nevertheless.

                    2. re: small fry

                      Branzino is a fine choice. Skip Devon if you want a special Philly experience. There are lots of places like Devon around.
                      I love Tria but it is more of a wine bar with good snacks and small plates. I would recommend Matyson. They always have a few great fish entrees.

                      1. re: small fry

                        I love Branzino and recommend it wholeheartedly. I think Estia would be a better choice than Devon though.

                2. Have you considered Davio's which is very near the Westin? Italian/steakhouse and there is also fish on the menu. Since you're from out of town I don't know if you want to fuss with bringing your own wine.

                  I've eaten at both Estia and Devon and liked them both. If you are looking for something with romantic atmosphere, consider Nineteen at the Bellevue...check my recent post for more description

                  You could also consider Table 31 which is offering a 35 prix fixe dinner if you don't mind eating before 7pm; the prix fixe includes a meat and a fish option.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: rocknroll52

                    I've always enjoyed Branzino. It's a great choice for italian in the immediate area.

                    Davio's is good, but also a chain. Estia is a great choice if you are primarily looking for fish. My very favorite restaurant in that area is Matyson, also a BYOB. If you don't want two BYOs (Branzino is one too), I'd suggest you also check out Tinto - basque tapas, lots of non-meat choices, delicious!

                  2. Let me recommend another place with really great fish options: Kanella. I've been there twice (once with a seafood-eating veg), and everyone's left happy. Its a small BYOB in Wash West (around 10th/Spruce). Its Greek (Cypriot), and won't break the bank.

                    Also, for breakfast, you can go to RTM for the Dutch Eating Place. Its am Amish breakfast/lunch place. Not fancy, but quite good and cheap.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: the scribbler

                      I always say that even fancier foods in town don't stand up to the pancakes at the Dutch Eating Place! And they have good dumplings too... http://www.readingterminalmarket.org

                      1. re: bluehensfan

                        I'll be visiting Philadelphia too. This thread has been very helpful.

                        Are there any good ethnic restaurants that one should be sure not to miss during a weekend in Center City?

                        Thanks for all the suggestions -- keep them coming!

                        1. re: designnewhaven

                          there is another post on this page specific to that question - it should be helpful

                      2. re: the scribbler

                        Of course! Kanella tops my list right now - love it there. Not a ton of vegetarian, but doable.

                        1. re: saturninus

                          Kanella is a fantastic choice if the OP is willing to venture a bit further from the Rittenhouse area. It is one of my current favorites as well. It's funny you say there aren't a lot of veggie choices, because it is always the first choice of my vegetarian/pescatarian friends when we dine together because there are several appetizers, usually at least two entrees, and two fish dishes on the menu.

                          1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                            4th Kanella, it's one of the best BYOs in the city.

                            1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                              Thanks for the suggestion. I changed our Devon reservation to Estia, but I will look into Kanella (and Matyson). I don't mind going little bit farther away, but I just figured I'd see what's around our hotel first, then venture away. You all are extremely helpful!

                              Also, I'm assuming there are stores near the Westin where we can buy some wine for the BYOBs?

                              1. re: small fry

                                Wine stores:
                                19th and Chestnut
                                12th and Chestnut
                                25th and South(smaller selection)
                                8th or 12 and south(someone help me out here!)
                                Right next to Reading Terminal Market(Which is where Dutch Eating Place is)
                                I'm sure i'm missing a few! Have fun and Estia is a great choice-------have never been real pleased with Devon

                                1. re: small fry

                                  The PA Wine & Spirits stores at 19th and Chestnut or 12th & Chestnut are probably your best bets...both have a pretty decent selection of wines at a range of prices.