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Need Recs for Philly Downtown

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Hi Philly Chowhounds,
We are coming to Philly for a conference next week (staying at Marriott downtown). I've never been to Philly (but husband has); we will not have a car. We would like to find bars/restaurants to have good drinks and appetizers (small plates, tapas, etc.) and/or great happy hour. We love great bars...looking for contemporary american cuisine, french, or italian. We are in our mid-30's, looking for a cool, fun urban scene and good food/drinks. I drink wine (by the glass) and husband drinks bourbon/whiskey and good beer.

We are also looking for authentic Philly haunts and Philly cheesesteak (but I think cheesesteaks are well covered on this board!)!

Any advice would be much appreciated! Thanks!

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  1. Tria is a great bar (well there are two locations actually) that serve good small plates and wine. Amada is a full-service restaurant about eleven blocks away from the Marriott and has great tapas. Also Lolita is a short walk down 13th St for contemporary Mexican and there is a Capogiro (for great gelato) a half a block father. There are an abundance of places near Rittenhouse that are a ten nimute walk away if you desire including Le Bec Fin and Vetri (but these two are pricey). Also Good Dog is a great bar with good burgers and other things about ten minutes away.

    Do check out Reading Terminal Market a block to the northeast for great roast pork sandwiches with rabe and provolone at DiNic's, massive pancakes and apple dumplings at the Dutch Eating Place, soft pretzels from Miller's Twists, and other treats galore. Make sure to go to the market on Wednesday to Saturday when the Amish merchants are there, and I'd avoid Sunday when many of the good merchants are not there.

    1. Tria is a great rec, definitely get there. If you like it and want to go back, try the other location as each show off different parts of town (both nice). Good Dog is a beer bar but they do change up their house wines regularly so you should be alright. Good pub food there, as well, and their Roquefort-stuffed burger is a city favorite. Another cool wine bar is Vintage on 13th St, and that whole block is pretty fun. One of my favorite happy hours is at the Oyster House with dollar off drafts and $1 oysters. Another good happy hour is at Pub & Kitchen where you can also get $1 oysters and $2 bar snacks, which tend to be very good. All of these places are in Center City, mostly walkable from your hotel.

      If you have time, you should try and get up to the Northern Liberties neighborhood for a fun, urban vibe outside of downtown (will require a cab ride but those are ample both downtown and in NoLibs; it will be less than $10). Standard Tap is the classic (and best) bar option up there. It is a beer bar--they only serve local beer on draft--but they do have wine and a full bar. The chalkboard-only menu runs from perfectly executed pub fare to more elaborate plates (duck confit, goat stew, elk steak). Up there, you can also check out North Third (gastropub), Bar Ferdinand (tapas) or the new wine bar Vino (which I know nothing about). There are a number of other bars and restaurants up there, too. The happy hours tend to be better deals up that way, since it is a more residential neighborhood, but I don't know the details.

      You can see some more happy hour deals here:
      but you may want to ask about specific places here, or look on Yelp, so you don't end up somewhere lame.

      1. Reader who recommended trekking to Northern Liberties was dead on. Bar Ferdinand is great and Standard Tap has excellent steak frites and a classy bar menu. There's another nice bar in the area called North 3rd. If you don't want to leave downtown, great tapas are at Amada and Tinto, both owned by Jose Garces. Somewhat commercial, but very good is The Continental. The one in Olde City is much more down and dirty. The one at 18th and Chestnut is more glitzy. If you want an upscale eclectic with a big bar, but more of a restaurant, you can't go wrong with Fork on Market St., around 3rd. I am not aware of any great Italian restaurants downtown except Vetri which is very expensive. South Philly is the place for Italian, although we go to a BYO called Radiccio on 4th St just south of Callowhill which is north of downtown. You would have to cab it and they don't take reservations, so, may be iffy for out-of-towners. For French bistro food, I have heard good things about Parc on Rittenhouse Sq, but I haven't been there.

        4 Replies
        1. re: middleagedfoodie

          and now there's an excellent portuguese byo called koo zee doo to add to northern liberties' yum factor....

          1. re: mazza3

            mazza, have you tried it? I'd love to see a little write up.

            1. re: barryg

              It's really good, try the Carne de Porco à Alentenjano, the Moela, and the desserts. The new place in Liberties' Walk, Sonata, is pretty good too.

              1. re: barryg

                sorry barry, i thought i did when i read this new post on it today. oops......going to add to it now....

          2. Definitely check out the Continental Midtown- awesome martini bar with fabulous tapas type food. Check out their rooftop bar for a drink too.

            The Reading Terminal is right out back of the Marriott- so definitely go there for snacks, lunch,breakfast, etc...

            Tria is a great recommendation.

            Also, stop by Rittenhouse Square for lunch, dinner or just a drink. Parc is excellent for people watching, drinking wine and sharing some delicous French Bistro cuisine, I always enjoy Rouge for a drink or two also,

            1. Sounds like you'd both like Village Whiskey, a bar from the man who brought us Amada, Tinto, Chifa, and Distrito (four great small plates restaurants in town): http://www.villagewhiskey.com/
              Great little snacks like cheese puffs and pickled cherry tomatoes, fantastic drinks, and a killer whiskey selection.

              1. Any of the Steven Starr restaurants would be fun/urban/cool - all have different infuences, but you will get a good meal at any of them!
                Continental (American) and Parc (French) are 2 that were rec'd previously, as well as:
                Morimoto (sushi/Japanese),
                Barclay Prime and Butcher & Singer (steak)
                Stella (new Pizzeria)
                El Vez (mexican)
                Alma de Cuba (cuban)
                Buddakan (Asian)
                Jones (Comfort food)


                1. For Italian hit East Passyunk Ave, about 1 or 1.5 miles due south of the Marriott. Old school and new school Italian now mixing with pubs, mexican and other cuisines. Search this board with East Passyunk or South Philly for specifics. This is an old neighborhood that is welcoming young hip folks so it's a great mix!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Bigley9

                    Paradiso on E Passyunk has a large wine list, but isn't particularly hip. Fond (contemporary American, BYOB) is new and modern. Le Virtu is probably the most modern Italian spot. If you're looking for hip, Cantina is the spot (nuevo Mexican in a casual pub atmosphere; think short rib tacos, cactus salad, etc.). For drinks, POPE (Pub on Passyunk East) is hip but maybe too hip (lots of skinny jeans and fixed gear bikes) and primarily a beer bar (beer list and draft is huge and changes frequently); wine selection is very poor, but you could get a wine-like beer (Framboise, or have them recommend something).

                    Le Virtu
                    1927 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148

                  2. Had dinner at Amada last night - chef's tasting menu (mid-price - $55pp) which was fantastic except for an octopus dish that could have used something to raise it above bland.

                    Three pretty good wines by the glass as part of the wine tasting menu ($20 for three 3 ounce pours):

                    Marqués de Alella Alella Pansa Blanca 2008 (Spain, Catalunya, Alella) - crisp, good acidity, lemons and pears on the finish, nice starter.

                    Juan-Antonio Ponce Manchuela Clos Lojen 2008 (Spain, Castilla-La Mancha, Manchuela) - I really liked this one - beautiful nose with lots of berries, palate much the same - not much structure for long term drinking, but expressive wine that went well with the food.

                    Manto-Negro, Binissalem-Mallorca, Gonzalez-Suner 2007 (Spain, Mallorca) - apparently a blend of the local grape Manto Negro (75%) with Callet, Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah (25%). Spicy, some more structure than the last, pretty closed. Decent match with the last meat courses but nothing special.

                    A glass of Spanish brandy was nondescript and way too sweet, like cognac with a teaspoon of sugar mixed in. Next.

                    Food highlights:

                    The cheese and charcuterie plates were great, lamb chops were spectacular as was the chorizo. Creme fraiche ice cream was also fantastic.

                    The service was great and the ambiance enhanced by several people in Halloween costumes.

                    217-19 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106

                    1. Thank you! I look forward to visiting your city this week! I will let you know where we go, etc.! Thanks again!

                      1. Just returned from Philly and had a wonderful time! Really loved the city! We were busy with conference activities, but got to have some great meals/drinks while in town. The first night, we went to Tria at Rittenhouse.....it was perfect. Great food, amazing cheese, and interesting beer/wine selection. It was packed, but we had a seat in only about ten minutes. We also tried Village Whiskey and had the $25+ burger with foie gras--amazing!--as well as some snacks, including fries, cheese puffs, pretzels. Yum! Fantastic whiskey selection as well, and loved the atmosphere. Terminal market was so close and perfect for breakfast/lunch. We went to the crepe place for breakfast one day and the Dutch Eating Place for lunch (had turkey melt special--soo good!), and I bought some fudge today before we left...from Sweet as Fudge Candy Shop. Literally the best fudge I've had in years. I've already gone to their website to see if I could buy more online, but no luck :(. We also took a late night trip to Pats (had to do it!!) which was fun. FWIW, I didn't think the cheesesteak was all that special, but a cool experience nonetheless...

                        I'm happy to say that I only ate one meal in the hotel, which makes me very happy. I really do appreciate everyone's insight and help re: places to go/eat in Philly. Chowhound makes visiting new cities so much more tasty! :) Let me know if you come to Norfolk/Va Beach/Hampton roads! Thanks again...and I can't wait to come back!

                        Dutch Eating Place
                        12th Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19102

                        123 S 18th St Frnt, Philadelphia, PA 19103

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: alsky

                          Glad you enjoyed your stay! Thanks for posting back.

                          1. re: Bigley9

                            Thanks for posting...next time make sure to try the Dutch Eating Place for breakfast!

                            Dutch Eating Place
                            12th Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19102