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Tourists in Philly

My wife and I will be staying in downtown/tourist Philly this Sunday afternoon through Tuesday morning. We're looking for basically three things. 1) A nice sit-down kind of place for dinner in the area but not a touristy place. We'd like to keep the total bill under $100, but that's not a hard cap if the food and experience are worth it. 2) The best Philly cheese steak in the area (or outside the area for the best the city has to offer). 3) Cheap eats and snacks that locals grab--any kind of market or dive that might not appear on one of those tourist maps. Thanks in advance!

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  1. The best cheesesteak is a high order since it's a topic always in contention. John's (my fav) and Tony Luke's are the two usuals nominated for best, but neither are in Center City.

    Cheap eats/snacks: falafel truck at 20th & Market, Bonte waffles (17th & Sansom, 13th & Juniper, 11th & Walnut), a walk around Reading Terminal Market (not to be missed), soft pretzels (try one of the many Philadelphia Pretzel Company's outposts), DiBruno's (18th & Chestnut), hot chocolate at Naked Chocolate Cafe (18th & Ludlow, 13th & Juniper), gelato at Capogiro (22nd & Sansom, 13th & Sansom)

    As for restaurants, you've got a ton of options, depending on whether you want to do BYO or not. Le Bec Fin is totally affordable for mid-week under-$100 dinner. Ansill, Tinto, Alma de Cuba, and Meme are all non-BYO spots to considering. Lolita, Melograno, and Matyson are nice BYO options.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ali

      Thanks Ali...and yeah, BYO is fine because we don't really drink.

    2. Wondering what part of downtown Philly you are in - convention center, Rittenhouse or Old City are all possible and while in a two mile area it makes a difference!. Cafe Estelle on 4th between Callowhill and Spring Garden if you are near old city - Breakfast/Brunch/Lunch only. I recently fell in love with the duck/gorgonzola/pear flatbread. Dinner, not touristy - might want to check out Passyunk Ave, about a mile and a half due South of City hall (the absolute center of thecity) good Italian both old and new school - Marras/Tre Scalini on the old school end - Paradiso and Le Virtue on the new school. Or simply slink in to a local Taqueria - check the board all mostly near 9th and Washington.
      One of our best restaurants that doesn't get much press (like Garces, Starr) is Ansill or it's neighbor Gayle. Both are on 3rd st between south and bainbridge.
      John's Roast Pork (only open til 2pm or so mon-fri)is the best Cheesesteak but really the roast pork with rabe and sharp provolone is what the city people eat at John's or DiNics at the Reading Terminal Market.
      Lots of you think the terminal is just a big food court, but honestly for many of us it is our "supermarket" so it isn't just a tourist spot. If you aren't from NYC or SF I challenge you to find a market that carries more hard to find stuff. I love this place!
      Check out the places on Girard Ave in Northern Liberties (1/2 mile north of old city) Sketch - hole in the wall burgers, Paesanos (sandwiches) and while not my fav many others, Modo Mio for dinner.
      I'm getting tired but could go on - come back with an area or hotel and folks will help you more specifically.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Bigley9

        I'm here if this helps:

        Four Points by Sheraton Philadelphia City Center
        1201 Race Street

        Thanks so much for everything so far

        1. re: douglas525

          You guys are so close to Reading Terminal, and just as Bigley said, it's my supermarket too, not just for tourists by any means. It will be crowded on weekends but nicer on weekdays. (It may be closed on Mondays). There you can find: roast pork (DiNics), hoagies (Salumeria), falafel, diner food, fresh produce, and the best cookies in the world (Famous 4th Street). Chinatown is right there too, so you can check out noodle shops or dim sum places if you're into that. Rangoon is a great place in that area-Burmese food.

          Dinner options around the area would include Kanella, Mixto, Alma de Cuba, 10 Arts. If you're willing to walk a little further, you can try Little Fish, Audrey Claire, Ansil, or Matyson, some of my favorites.
          I haven't eaten at Vintage but that's close by and their menu looked really good when I was there for drinks! Anyone tried the food?

          1. re: hollyd

            I ate at Vintage once, it wasn't very good. It's better as a pre-dinner drink place. Especially around there, where there are quite a few great dinner options nearby (Kanella).

        2. re: Bigley9

          I want to eat a John's Roast Pork now. You've ruined my lunch!

        3. Thanks for all the suggestions. We actually wound up down in Chinatown at Ho Sai Gai. The Philly cheese steak egg rolls are amazing. I actually ordered another pair to go, even though I was already full. Our entrees, the curried shrimp with chicken and soy stewed pork belly, were excellent as well. And the homemade chili sauce topped it all off. The service, it should be mentioned, was attentive and friendly.

          As far as the suggestions on here, we're not sure we packed nice enough clothes for Le Bec Fin, and we can't find what's on the $35 prix fixe special...anyone know? We're going to hit John's and/or DiNic's in the Reading Terminal Tuesday for lunch. Does anyone know anything about Zinc? It got a good write-up in Where, but we don't know if that's a legit piece of just an advertisement.

          2 Replies
            1. re: douglas525

              We loved Zinc. Nice, unpretentious bistro with good food and good service. However, if you want a true taste of philly go to one of our great Italian restaurants. Hop in a cab and go to Radicchio at 4th and Wood or Branzino at 16th and Locust. The menu at Branzino is more varied with some fancier stuff but both are great. A good place to go on a weeknight is Caffee Casta Diva. Great Italian, beautiful atmosphere, but can be noisy on weekends.

              If you have time go to Capagiro for gelato. Have fun.

            2. Thanks for all the suggestions. We're definitely banking them for our next trip to Philly. We settled on Audrey Claire last night (thanks, Holly) and were thoroughly satisfied. The grilled octopus salad was on the small plates menu, but it was plenty big for two to share as an appetizer. Her salmon was delicious, and perfectly cooked. Because salmon is so forgiving, most places overcook it, but here it was still juicy and tender inside. My tuna would have been better if I had just kept my mouth shut...my wife ordered for me while I was in the bathroom, and when I came out I quickly asked the waiter to make my fish medium to make sure they didn't overcook it. But if I had just trusted the chef or just asked, it would have come out medium rare (I found out later when I took the time to ask) and I would have enjoyed it more. But again, totally my fault, and still, it was delicious. Finally, the cous cous that came with both our meals was the best I've ever had. Tax and tip, we were out of there for $60, and the meal was on par or better than meals we've had at twice the price.

              1 Reply
              1. re: douglas525

                I'm so glad you went and enjoyed it. I love that place. The food is simple good everytime. If you're ever in town when it's warm, they open up those huge windows and it's lovely.