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Osteria or Bibou??

Occasion is a birthday dinner (mine) and I am having trouble deciding which of these choices is best for my husband and I this weekend. We have been to neither restaurant and I was certain that Osteria was my preference because I love italian food, have wanted eat there since before it opened (been to and LOVED Vetri), and need a good excuse to venture up to N Broad but I am now having second thoughts. Bibou sounds wonderful in terms of food, service and location (walkable from our house) and has the benefit of being a BYO, which sits well with my with my wine-loving husband (who still bristles at the markups at PA restaurants after 4 years here).

At the risk of asking you to compare apples and oranges, which would you choose and why?

Thanks in advance for any insights and advice!

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  1. I've enjoyed both and IMO, the food at both was excellent. I have a hard time as I love both Italian and French food as well. Osteria is much larger and less of a personal experience than Bibou...you eat the food, it's very good, and you leave. Bibou, you're dealing with a tiny place and a very nice husband and wife team that could easily greet you at a countryside bistro in France. I think it depends on what type of experience you want. The food at either is great in terms of cuisine.

    1. It is apples to oranges: I'd choose Bibou myself, but if your preference is for Italian over French, I'd go to Osteria and not think twice about it. Both are excellent, but in my experience Bibou is more *consistently* excellent than Osteria. Still, I've had many very delicious things at Osteria, and only one thing I can think of (a truffle pizza) that I really thought was bad.

      You didn't mention cost exactly, but Osteria is probably going to cost you more than Bibou as well, partly due to the BYO factor but also entrees at Bibou top out around $25, at Osteria they start around $25. On the other hand, I've never had an entree there, usually my wife and I will split a pizza, a couple appetizers, and each get a pasta dish and that's plenty.

      1. It really is apples and oranges. Both have excellent food, though extremely different. Bibou is very refined, pure flavors and delicious sauces. Osteria is more rustic, and, obviously, Italian rather than French. Osteria has a pretty good wine list, but it can get pricey there very quickly. I thought the 7 course tasting menu ($70 each) at Bibou was a great way to celebrate a special occasion.

        The atmosphere's are also very different. Bibou is warm and intimate. I was struck by how friendly and comfortable it felt. Charlotte is just charming, and so many people seemed to know each other, it was just a happy place. Osteria is larger, with a cool, hip vibe rather than a warm, cozy vibe. Both can be appealing, it really just depends on what you are in the mood for.

        Good luck deciding.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

          I must have spoken to Charlotte when I made my reservation - very sweet and charming. She made a point of reminding me that it was cash only and that she'd remind me again when I call to re-confirm. If the restaurant takes on anything of her personality, I can see why it's so popular.

          1. re: Betsypaige

            Don't be scared of the pig's feet dish...it's got awesome flavor!

        2. Another vote for Bibou over Osteria (although I've only been to each once). As everyone has said, the atmosphere at Bibou is much more intimate and the chef and his wife are charming. Food is great and price will be less. Personally, I love Vetri and I'm not crazy about Osteria.

          1 Reply
          1. re: JanR

            We love both of them and would find it hard to choose. BUT if your husband prefers a BYO, then there's a deciding factor. We try to go to Osteria once a month -- like Buckethead, we order a pizza, a couple of appetizers and a couple of pastas which are always wonderful. We're returning to Bibou this week for the third time in just a couple of weeks, this time with guests. If Bibou is near your house and you can walk over, then that's just great.

          2. Many thanks for your thoughtful replies! Looks like we will be dining at Bibou. The warm service, excellent food, and walkability...combined with the promise of a great bottle (or two) from the cellar...make it a perfect choice. I can't wait and will report back!!

            1. Thanks for your recommendation...we had a STELLAR meal at Bibou this weekend. Based on the reviews I'd read here, we asked about the tasting menu option (which is not on the menu and was not initially offered by our server) and went with it. The food was out of this world good and included:

              - Chilled cantaloupe soup with slivers of smoked duck breast. I likened it to the classic prosciutto and melon, reduced to its essence in a bowl. Delicious
              - Quail mousse, with a side of pickled cabbage and frisse salad. light and airy with a lovely texture and great poultry taste
              - Bone marrow in the horizontally split "brontosaurus" bone. I'd never had marrow before, so don't have a point of comparison, but this was very addictive and tasted a bit like the best thanksgiving stuffing ever
              - Halibut in a red wine sauce over artichoke fricasse. the sauce was extremely light and a nice complement to the mild fish and the delish artichokes
              - Foie Gras for me, scallop for my husband, both superb. The Foie was served with a bit of pumpkin bread and a plum chutney, which had almost a tomato sense due to its high acidity. The scallop was served still attached to its shell, with a beautiful broth.
              - veal medallions served over a narrow fettuccine in sage sauce. This was an entree special for the evening and was just excellent
              - dessert of apple tart for hubby, chocolate cake for me, both really nice and accompanied by a pot of french press coffee and madeleines.

              I was struck by how comfortable and warm the atmosphere at the restaurant was. All the diners seemed relaxed and there was alot of (unobtrusive) talking and sharing of wines among tables. We and several other couples were seated at 4-tops, so we had plenty of room to relax and did not feel like we were on top of our neighbors. And both the chef and his wife are incredibly gracious and generous with their time.

              All in all, a spectacular meal...best we have had in Philadelphia (on par with Vetri) and among the top 5 anywhere. I was so pleased with our choice, consider the $70 pp for the tasting menu a true bargain, and am heartily recommending Bibou to anyone who will listen!

              3 Replies
              1. re: PhillyLaura

                We are simpatico on Bibou! Love the place.

                1. re: PhillyLaura

                  I'm so glad. Your experience sounds almost exactly like mine, except the food was different. I can't wait to go back!

                  1. re: PhillyLaura

                    Sounds good! Thanks for reporting back.

                  2. Outstanding. I ate there last night to celebrate my mother's birthday. I am in NYC and do not go out much when in Philly, so this place really surprised me.

                    The best Foie Gras I have had in many years and the other dishes were quite excellent. For appetizers, I would recommend the Escargot and the Chanterelle Mushrooms special. For mains, the hanger steak was quite good, but the scallops were excellent.

                    The service was just right (friendly, attentive, not over-bearing), the hosts were gracious, and the noise level of such a small place was surprisingly not loud. I also felt that this was an excellent value for the high quality of food and expect to pay $50 per person for a three course meal.