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Jun 8, 2009 08:13 PM

Philadelphia restaurant itinerary help

Hi all!

I'm planning a trip to one of my favorite cities for either this month or sometime in July and was hoping to get some comments/advice about my very, very preliminary restaurant list.

*Osteria - I'm from NY, so Italian is something I can get all the time, but I think I'd like to have a good Italian meal in Philadelphia as it seems to be a strength of the city. If not Osteria, where else would you suggest? Somewhere in the Italian Market? I'm open to anything.

*Tinto - I really want to try a Jose Garces restaurant and the one time I've had Basque cuisine, I loved it. There's another Basque restaurant as well that gets good reviews, Apamate......Also, is Amada Basque as well?

*Little Fish

*Zahav - I love Middle Eastern food

Plus - I will be spending some quality food time at the Reading Terminal Market. I've marked off these places (though I doubt I'll get to half of them, lol):

*Pancakes at Dutch Eating Place and other Amish yummies
*Roast Pork at DiNics

I love ice cream, so I need to make a special trip to the Franklin Fountain - that place looks fantastic.

Overall, I'd like to get a good taste of Philadelphia while I'm down here. Thoughts? Thanks so much!

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  1. Amada is not Basque. The website calls it "Spanish Tapas"

    Franklin Fountain is definitely worth a visit, but also go to Capogiro for wonderful gelato.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Philly Ray

      Thanks, Philly Ray!

      I will surely make a point of visiting Capogiro - I should have put that on my list. It sounds really, I'm getting hungry now.

      Also, I won't have a car. It seems that most of the best cheesesteak places require one. Are there any decent places in the city itself?

      1. re: Philly Ray

        Yep, your right, Amada isnt Basque, Tinto is,...Amada is actually Andalucian.

        I loved Tinto, and hoping to get to Amada sometime soon!
        second the Capogiro for the Gelato, and suggest Maron's Chocolates/Scoop De Ville for great Ice Cream (try the pumpkin pie).

        1. re: danielandresleon

          I thought I read that Capogiro gelato is sold at Whole Foods, but I went to my local store and they didn't have.......bummer. I think there is a branch in NYC.......In any case, I've seen pics of the gelato and it looks amazing. I love good ice cream - my real food vice, so thanks for the tip. I'm looking forward to Tinto.....

      2. You've got a great start. Of the Garces places, only Tinto is Basque, so if that's really what you want, go there (disclosure: Tinto is my least favorite of the Garces places, but many people love it).

        Franklin Fountain is fantastic, so is Capogiro. They are different. Go to both.

        Zahav is unique and well worth it, nothing like it in NYC.

        Matyson and Little Fish are both excellent, but not so different than places in NYC (unless the byo aspect appeals to you, as it does to many).

        Osteria is fantastic, as good as any Italian in NYC. Another option for Italian would be one of Philly's many small BYOBs, for a more casual atmosphere and less refined, but still wonderful food. I like Melograno and Branzino, but search the board and you'll find many other options.

        Another uniquely Philly offering is Rangoon, a Burmese restaurant in Chinatown. Nothing like it in NYC that I know of, and it's delicious. Philly also has better (and more accessible) authentic Mexican, particularly the taquerias in the 9th St. Italian Market area. My personal favorite is Los Tacitos de Puebla. For more upscale Mexican in a fun, lively atmosphere, Distrito, another Garces restaurant can't be beat.

        As for cheesesteaks, check out this thread for a recent visitor who drove out to Steve's but ultimately found Geno's as good if not better:

        Have fun!

        26 Replies
        1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

          Hmm.....Burmese food? I have to look into Rangoon - I like to try different cuisines and no, I don't think there are many Burmese restaurants in NY.

          What is your favorite Garces restaurant and why? I will check out the cheesesteak thread later - yum! I don't have such high standards - I don't get a chance to eat cheesesteaks very often (well, never....unless I come to Philly), so if it tastes good, it's ok with me.....

          I really appreciate your help - I will do some more research and post later when I have a more definite list.

          Oh and Franklin and Capogiro are both on my list and I will very likely do both more than once. I can't live without ice cream.......

          1. re: Betsypaige

            Sonny's and Campo's are both in Old City (near Franklin Fountain) and serve cheesesteaks that often make our lists here

            1. re: Bigley9

              Ooh, yummy.....a cheesesteak topped off by ice cream for dessert? Shear heaven. Thanks for the tips - I will search these boards for reviews on both places.

            2. re: Betsypaige

              Rangoon is great--lots of Indian and Thai influences, but also unique. Standouts include the spring ginger salad, squid salad, crispy tofu triangles (tofu is made out of something other than soy, but I can't remember what), thousand layer bread w/potato curry, the jungle curry (choose your protein, I like shrimp), festival fish soup, and banana leaf fish.

              I'd say Amada and Distrito are tied for my favorite Garces restaurant, for a combination of food and atmosphere. For me, Tinto is a step lower on both counts. It is smaller and not as lively. The food is purely personal preference. I know many people who would put Tinto first.

              If you are interested in BYOBs, another great one is Kanella--a cypriot restaurant. The food is a lot like greek, but not exactly the same, and done at a very high level.

              1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                Yumm.....I love Indian AND Thai food; that bread with potato curry sounds incredible.

                Garces must be a fantastic chef to have so many restaurants that people are passionate about. I put Tinto on my list above the other two because I've wanted to try Basque cuisine again since the one time I tried it in Paris. I will make a point to check out Amada and Distrito the next time I get to Philadelphia ....

                I don't drink, so I'm not particularly attached to BYOBs, but I love the idea of them. Kanella sounds very interesting. I'm not sure if I'm going to be in Philly for 4 or 5 days - either way, I will not have a chance to try all the places I want to. Thank goodness Philly and NY are so close, lol

                1. re: Betsypaige

                  go to tinto, you will not be disappointed. as everyone says, it really is a matter of taste, and if you liked basque cuisine then go for it! other than that, all my advice has pretty much already been given, but if you really want to go to little fish, then i suggest calling now for a reservation. the word has leaked out and their sunday tasting menus (which used to be a BREEZE to get) are now booked solid through October.

                  and modo mio is excellent, i am surprised people didn't like the food (service can be good or bad anywhere). and it is pretty novel that one of the best italian joints in the city is owned and run by an irishman....:) their tasting menu is cheap and awesome too....but osteria does = bliss.

                  1. re: mazza3

                    Mazza, I have Little Fish as a possibility -not a definite, but ......Sunday tasting menu is booked through October? Wow - that must be some meal and it must be some restaurant.

                    I don't know my dates yet, but I figure sometimes around mid to end of July. Aside from Little Fish, do I need reservations way in advance (meaning weeks) for any of the restaurants we discussed (right now, I'm leaning to Osteria, Tinto, Zahav, Rangoon. Then I need to consider Kanella, Little Fish and Matyson)? If so, I will need to start getting serious pretty quickly, lol


                    1. re: Betsypaige

                      Osteria for sure. Call as soon as you can.

                      1. re: Betsypaige

                        Osteria can be a tough reservation, though you have plenty of time. Also, if you are dining alone, it is pretty easy to get a seat either at the regular bar, or the bar facing the open kitchen.

                        Zahav is pretty hot these days and needs an advance reservation, especially on the weekends. Matyson also fills up quickly on the weekends. The others should be ok.

                        1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                          Thanks! As soon as I know my dates, I will book the restaurants - no point in waiting.

                        2. re: Betsypaige

                          I encourage you to read all the reviews of Osteria before finalizing your choices. While it has a large number of vocal supporters on this board there are many (less vocal) people who found it truly disappointing. We found the pizza soggy with oil and many of the other items too greasy. This tracks with the opinion of many we trust. Perhaps it is a matter of knowing what to order but that really shouldn't be an issue at a fine dining establishment.

                          If you are set on Italian try one of our many fabulous philly BYOs (Radicchio, Modo mio, L'Oca) that consistently turn out mind blowing stuff without the hype, attitude or prices. I would certainly move Matyson up to a sure choice. We have friends who come from out of town (nyc) just to dine there.

                          1. re: joluvscards

                            Hi Joluvscards.......I agree with your last comment that when you go to a fine restaurant, you really shouldn't have be ultra careful about what you order. That said, I find that the vast majority of restaurants (not just Philly, either) have their supporters and detractors - there's almost never unanimity when it comes to opinions. I will certainly take everyone's opinions re: Osteria into consideration. Oddly, I never go for Italian on vacations because I eat it quite a bit at home and NY has great Italian restaurants. I figured that Italian looks to be a strength of Philadelphia - and I make a point to take advantage of a city's strengths when I go away.

                            I've read many positive reviews of Matyson. Is it considered better than when the original owners ran it? It seems like a nice change of pace from some of my other choices, so it might be a sure thing for me now......and I read their desserts are great. That's a big deal to me, lol.........I think they actually have coconut cream pie. Yum. Is it good? I love anything coconut.......


                            1. re: Betsypaige

                              Ok here is the deal with Matyson. The original chefs were Matt and Sonya Spector. Great couple. He was the main chef and she did all the pastries. They moved to Calistoga about two years ago. Matt's cousin who had been with him on the line from day one took over. I am not associated with Matyson just a big fan.

                              Boy I freaked when they left because it was my world wide favorite. I mean that literally. We judged every place by Matyson standards. The food is about 95% as good as before. I would say that Matt is a genius with cutting edge cuisine. Ben is great but he has tough shoes to fill. We still love it and it is still our "go to" restaurant.

                              Yes the desserts are phenomenal. The coconut cream pie with the chocolate bottom is their signature dessert. Go for it.

                              Note: we recently went to Calistoga just to eat at JoLe. It was unbelievable.

                              1. re: joluvscards

                                Joluvscards, thanks! I know what you mean when changes take place at your favorite restaurants. Unfortunately, things don't last forever. I still mourn the loss of my favorite little Mexican haunt..... I'm glad to hear that the restaurant is still doing well and that the Spectors are doing well. Is Calistoga in Napa Valley?

                                I will go to Matyson, by the way, just for the coconut cream pie, lol

                                1. re: joluvscards

                                  I'd just like to chime in with another vote for Matyson. I don't get there as often as I wish I did, but have found it a fabulous experience both with the original and now with the new owners.

                                  When I go with my sweetie, one of us usually orders the tasting menu for the week (always awesome for the $45 price) while the other gets a starter & main off the menu. Works out great (they are wonderful at staging the courses, whether you get the tasting menu or not) and we get to sample a lot of great food for a very reasonable price. With a PLCB liquor store right up the street, it's easy to grab a bottle or two if you're not already "prepared" as well.

                                  1. re: sockii

                                    Great idea, Sockii. If I were with someone else, I would do the same thing. Glad to hear another rave about this place - I think this will be one of my "musts".

                      2. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                        I see that Kanella has gotten really great reviews........just concerned that the cooking is very similar to that at Zahav?

                        1. re: Betsypaige

                          They're not really that similar, both are fantastic though. The only glaring omission I see on your list that hasn't been mentioned yet is Ansill:


                            1. re: Buckethead

                              Hi Buckethead

                              Keep in mind that I only have 4 or 5 nights in Philly, so I may have to try some of these places next time. From reviews (just a few, I admit), it sounds like the food at Ansill is a bit too far out for my taste. **Just checked the menu (sample) and it does look very nice. I will search out other reviews of Ansill on this board to get more of an idea of what the restaurant is like.

                              If Kanella and Zahave are not that similar, I will keep them both on my list ....they both sound absolutely delicious.

                          1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                            I honestly was not all that enthralled with Kanella on my one visit there. The sardines and spreads they had were fabulous but the whole fish and the octopus at Kanella was not nearly as good as what they serve a few blocks away at Estia. And the ravioli was just a weird combination of mint and cheesy flavors that was barely palatable.

                            1. re: bluehensfan

                              Kanella is a board fav but I don't get it either.

                              1. re: joluvscards

                                Whew! Thanks for posting...I thought I was the only one who is not in love with Kanella!

                                I also never quite understood why Estia is not as well liked or mentioned here...maybe because a lot of people go at dinner when it's exorbatantly expensive? We go there at lunchtime when they have a $30 business lunch where you get grilled octopus, grilled fish, and baklava for example. The food is all good, the interior's filled with beautiful limestone, and they have great servers (especially Saki and Beth)

                                1. re: bluehensfan

                                  I went to Estia during one of the restaurant weeks. Thought it is fine, nothing exceptional. Haven't rushed back. Maybe we should give it another try.

                              2. re: bluehensfan

                                I tried Kanella for the first time last week. Everything we had was excellent, and we will be excited to return again soon. We are vegetarian, though, so I can't comment on the fish / seafood. Started off with a small basked of mustard seed bread and the best tahini I've ever had. There was an excellent selection of appetizers from which to choose, one better than the next. We shared four and one entree, the mousaka. The mousaka was a hunk of heaven on a plate -- tender, delicious eggplant, pillowy egg wash on top, on a bed of perfectly sauteed tomatoes. Homemade ice cream and pastry plate for dessert -- would pass on the pastries next time, but the ice cream was distinct and nicely paired (mint, cardamom, and carob). Also good to be able to BYO, which made for a very reasonable tab. We were able to try a lot of different dishes, all fresh and memorable, with gracious service and an unpretentious atmosphere.

                                1. re: spyturtle008

                                  Thanks for the report! I either save restaurants for my next trip into Philly or I end up staying 2 weeks instead of 5 days just so I can try all the places I'm interested in, lol.

                                  In any case, I'm not a vegetarian by any means, but I love veggies......everything sounds delicious. Homemade ice cream? yum.

                        2. The list looks pretty good to me.

                          By the time you get here, Rick's Steaks will be open in the Bellevue. It used to be in the Reading Terminal Market before getting the boot (drama,,,). They always made a good steak and once they are in the groove at the new spot, I don't see why that will change.

                          Pat's/Geno's are only a short cab ride away and it's not too far to walk, and includes a a nice stroll the Italian Market.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: barryg

                            Where is the Bellevue? I don't mind taking cabs when it comes to food because I just love to eat - a cheesesteak is worth the extra $$$, lol.

                            I definitely want to stroll through the Italian Market - I didn't get a chance to do that last time I was in town.


                            1. re: Betsypaige

                              The Bellevue is downtown, at Broad & Walnut. There's a "gourmet" as they call it food court in the basement which is where Rick's is. If you want to go to the Italian Market anyway, you should definitely do that. You can get a cheesesteak there (Lorenzo's on the corner of 9th & Christian) or walk further down to Pat's & Geno's.

                              (playing with link to a place for the first time...)

                              Lorenzo Pizza
                              900 Christian St, Philadelphia, PA 19147

                              Park Hyatt Philadelphia at the Bellevue
                              1415 Chancellor St, Philadelphia, PA

                              Pat's King of Steaks
                              1237 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA

                              1. re: barryg

                                I love lorenzo's slices of pizza, but if I was getting a cheesesteak I'd go next door to George's

                                1. re: Bigley9

                                  Ah, yes, I meant George's. I don't know if Lorenzo's even does sandwiches.

                                2. re: barryg

                                  Thanks, Barry! I won't ask how Rick's stacks up to other places because I am sure there are a thousand cheesesteak threads here - I will search them out and do my appropriate research. I'll probably avoid Pat's and Geno's. I prefer to eat where locals eat and it appears that those two places aren't that highly regarded anymore (from what I can gather).

                            2. Great list Betsy. If you're in the Reading Terminal Market anyway and from NYC, you might try one of those amish pretzels from, is it Millers or something like that? I took my friends from new York there on their last visit and I swear it was the one item of food they are still talking about.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: hollyd

                                The pretzels at Miller's Twist are great. Just remember that the Amish merchants are only at the Market from Wednesday through Saturday and a number of merchants in the market do not open on Sundays. And the market is closed on July 4th. I'd also suggest trying the cinnamon buns at Beiler's and the peanut butter chocolate pretzels at Mueller's in the market. If you hit the market on the day the Dutch Eating Place is closed, resist the temptation to eat at the Down (and out?) Home Diner at the market.

                                Bacio is the flavor to get at Capogiro but you can sample any flavor you like and really can't go wrong there.

                                And Rick does have a pretty good steak.

                                1. re: bluehensfan

                                  I won't forget because I will draw up a food "itinerary" and make note of the hours, lol. I plan my trips down to the last detail, esp. when it comes to food! I will make it a point to visit RTM Wed. through Saturday.......Would I need to get to Dutch Eating Place early or would it be no problelm at, say, 9 or 10 am? I'm an early riser ordinarily, but I don't necessarily want to get up early on vacation....

                                  Bacio - is that a chocolate based flavor?

                                  1. re: Betsypaige

                                    The best time to get to the Dutch Eating Place would be at 8 when the market opens because you are vurtually assured a seat. If you show up later on (even as early as 8:10) a line tends to form, especially if a big convention is in town. Fortunately the line moves quickly because the food comes out very fast, and if you only have a party of two the wait is not all that unbearable. And they do serve the pancakes well into the lunchtime hours.

                                    Also the cinnamon sugar covered pretzel sticks at Miller's are a killer...

                                    Bacio is a combination of chocolate and hazelnut gelato with carmelized hazelnuts.

                                    1. re: bluehensfan

                                      Thanks - and that's good to know about the pancakes.

                                2. re: hollyd

                                  Hmm, soft pretzels? I'm talking a big game, but I'd better face it - I won't be able to try half, 1/3 or even a 1/4 of the foods I've referenced (that is if I want to still fit into my clothes). I'm afraid I will have to prioritize....

                                  1. re: Betsypaige

                                    these pretzels are outrageous. Different. Buttery. Airy. I don't know. They're worth a go.

                                3. Great list.

                                  I would skip Osteria. If you want Italian and something really different go to modo mio. Small byo with really cutting edge Italian. The real deal.

                                  I was underwhelmed with Franklin Fountain. I don't really get it. We went with a group last Sept and we all found the ice cream to be just fair. The quality didn't seem great. Capagiro is great tho.

                                  Have a great time.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: joluvscards

                                    Thanks, Joluvscards! I willl look into Modo Mio as well........I'm open to most anything

                                    1. re: joluvscards

                                      I know I am in the minority on this board but I really don't care for Modo Mio and I don't think it is in the same class as Osteria. I'd go to James or Paradiso for Italian if not Osteria.

                                      1. re: Bigley9

                                        I completely agree with you, Bigley9. You aren't alone. I've had terrible service issues at Modo Mio, and found the food to be very good, but not exceptional.

                                        1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                                          Modo Mio is fine. But if James is on the table it will always get my vote.
                                          They don't get talked about much, and are a little pricier than some other places on their same level, but man. Once you eat there that food really gets stuck in your brain.

                                          1. re: hollyd

                                            The thing is, there will never be a consensus on any restaurant because people have different tastes. Ultimately, it's up to the traveler to make a (hopefully right) decision.....

                                            I'm probably more inclined to go with Osteria because I've heard so much about Marc Vetri........

                                            What kind of restaurant is James?

                                            1. re: Betsypaige

                                              I wouldn't necessarily go there if you're only in town for a few nights. There are better places in town. But they have a few dishes that really resonate with me. And the wine list is great. The chef is a Vetri acolyte.

                                              1. re: Betsypaige

                                                Jim Burke (James) got a nomination from the James Beard foundation last year (I think last year) for best chef mid-atlantic and also was one of the Best New Chefs in Food and Wine mag last year. They describe their food as American - I think it has an Italian bent. The restaurant is very modern and warm. They make an excellent "Jameshattan" and they are committed to local/sustainable/organic. It's worth a stop for a drink and a snack if you can't fit in dinner and are down that way.