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Oct 25, 2009 01:03 PM

Philly for a weekend (as in a Saturday & Sunday)

I'm visiting from NYC and will be staying around the Rittenhouse Square area. I would like to know what would you fellow 'hounders recommend for eating out in a weekend? I'm visiting the city as a break from NYC and as a birthday present to myself.

I know the Reading Terminal is a must visit, Capogiro for all things gelato, and I read about Chifa from the NY Times and it looks good when I looked through their site.

What I'm looking for eateries that serves interesting, robust food. Price range is basically something under $50 (not including tax and tip). Cheaper is always welcome but if it's above $50, please tell me what's make it worth it.

To give you a few examples of what kind of food I like to eat in NYC, Momofuku Ssam Bar and Degustation. Burger places are welcome (that can match something like Shake Shack or those of you who've been to San Francisco, In-N-Out Burger) and pizza. Chinese food is welcome, though I'm not sure it's the city's forte. Sushi is cool but I don't think I can afford Morimoto. Is there a great brunch place?

The last time I visited Philly, about three years ago, it's just a tourist blitz for all historical places and not food oriented. Please help!

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Bar Lyonaise at Le Bec Fin has smaller portions of the good stuff at LBF. Amada is a superb tapas place.

    1. Philly has a couple local places that do the kind of burgers to describe: PYT in Northern Liberties and SquareBuger in Franklin Square. But really, Philadelphians prefer a gutsier burger. Here is a good rundown on some of the city's finest from Grub Street:

      For the record, my favorite is at Royal Tavern, which is a good bar to check out at any rate (although it is a bit outside of Center City). Matyson, which is near your hotel, cooks up a mean burger as well (lunch menu only).

      Reading Terminal Market is of course a good choice. As needed to be said on all of these types of posts, Tommy DiNic's Roast Pork sandwich (order it with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone) is probably the best eat in the place and one of the finest sandwiches in the city.

      I haven't been to Chifa, but I don't think it is better than Amada based on my experiences there and what I've seen on this board. If you like the small plates thing, you can't go wrong with a tasting menu at Amada. Another great high end dinner option is Zahav, an Israeli small plates restaurant in Society Hill. If you like seafood, fish. is a new restaurant near Rittenhouse that does creative seafood small plates and when I went it was great and much cheaper than Morimoto.

      Brunch in Center City is a bit tricky and I don't know what is reliably good that is not really fancy. People talk about Ants Pants Cafe but I don't know anything about it. It sounds like you are an adventurous eater, so if you don't mind taking a cab or bus/subway you might want to check out Carmen's Country Kitchen (11th & Wharton in South Philly). It is a small, quirky place (the slogan is "she puts the cunt in country") with a constantly changing menu of 4 items which can include some interesting savory options like oysters, quail, and turtle. You can walk to the Italian Market from there, which is a nice foodie kind of thing to do. Other classic brunch spots are Honey's (Northern Liberties) and Sabrina's (two locations), all of which would require a cab ride.

      Enjoy and please let us know how it goes!

      3 Replies
      1. re: barryg

        Thanks for all the recs, barryg!

        I understand what you meant about "gutsier" burgers after flipping through Grub Street's slideshow. I ate similar ones in NYC but for some reason or another, it doesn't tickle my fancy for that style but I'm willing to try it.

        Side note, for some reason, Carmen's Country Kitchen reminds me of Shopsins in NYC. Gruff owners, small places, and quirky food. Difference for the latter, the menu is huge.

        Thanks again,

        1. re: chocokitty

          I 2nd Zahav. I don't think there is much like it in NYC. It is quite a treat for a foodie. Last time we went there, we ordered as one of our small plates Jerusalem Grille, a dish of grilled offal which changes every night. That night it was duck heart, duck testicles and lamb sweatbreads. Can't say if I will ever order testicles again, but it was an experience.

        2. re: barryg

          Ants Pants is good, but not something I'd really go out of my way for. Also it's a complete mob scene on weekends with slow/shakey service unless you show up right at opening. I prefer to go there on weekday mornings when it's quieter, and I get a craving for sweet potato fries and a bacon stack.

          For a great burger in the area there are lots of choices, but I give Pub & Kitchen my vote.

          For BYOBs I'd probably put Matyson, Melograno, and Branzino at the top of my list in the immediate area, with Audrey Claire also getting a mention (it doesn't seem to get much buzz here but I've always enjoyed it). My one experience at Tinto was not overwhelming but others seem to enjoy it, but it can get pricey depending on how much you order.

          Instead of Chinese, I'd recommend checking out Rangoon for Burmese or Vietnam Palace or one of our other great Vietnamese places. Maybe not "destination" dining but would make for a great lunch.

          Ants Pants Cafe
          2212 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19146

        3. I've recently had brunch in the Rittenhouse area at Parc which was very good, mussels, frites and wine. I also had brunch at Tinto which was exceptional. It is prix fixe at $25 you select a first course and I had cheese, excellent, main was duck leg which was superb, side dish of asparagus, incredible and then desert. If you have a choice of the grapefrui brulee, try it, it was really good and very different. Good luck and let us know what you try.

          1. Estia has a great $30 business lunch special that they serve on the weekends including grilled octopus (granted not quite as good as Gotham Bar and Grill), excellent grilled fish, and dessert. The fish is fabulous!

            You may also want to consider Tria for smaller bites.

            1. IMO, Philly doesn't really have restaurants in the vein of Ssam Bar and Degustation. One thing Philly has to offer that NY doesn't is the small, chef-driven BYO, where you bring your own wine (no corkage) and can get fantastic, original food for much lower than NYC prices. Some of the best these days:


              They all have menus on the websites. They can also be tough reservations, so plan ahead.

              One thing I think Philly does better than NYC is Mexican food. For more upscale food in a fun atmosphere, Distrito can't be beat. For much cheaper, down and dirty, there are several South Philly Taquerias.

              Rangoon, a burmese restaurant in Chinatown is inexpensive, unique, and delicious. Sort of a mix between Indian and Thai, if you like those flavors.

              I also second the Zahav recommendation. They have a prix fixe in your price range, and I think it's available on weekends.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                Right on, Hungry. Add Lolita to that a list, a BYOB upscale Mexican restaurant. Bring your own tequila and they will mix up a fine margarita. They don't take reservations, though.

                1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                  Oooh... Mexican! I haven't had a great taco in a long time. Thanks for suggestion, Hungry!

                  I'll look up your other recommendations a bit later but they do sound enticing. Zahav is something I'm thinking of after reading barryg's earlier suggestion.

                  1. re: chocokitty

                    Zahav is really good and I can't really think of a place in NYC off the top of my head that is like it. I'd also suggest that you consider Amada as opposed to Chifa, but that might be my personal preference.

                  2. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                    Another 2nd for me on Kanella. It is a treat.