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Nov 23, 2009 03:26 PM

Please help finalize Philly list!! (Researched)


I'll be in Philly this weekend and am looking for around 10-11 meals. For some background, I love big bold flavors (think Indian , Southwestern, etc.) and am a big fan of trying out new and eclectic cuisines, will practically eat anything and if possible would not want to repeat the same cuisine during my stay there. I am looking for anything that's stellar! Based on my research, I have come up with a list. Will appreciate your help in shortlisting and adding to it. Also, barring a meal or two, cannot do > $30 meals (without alcohol). Also, if you guys have specific dish suggestions, please feel free to chip in!

1. Dutch Eating Place - Pancakes.
2. Millers's Twist - Pretzels.
3. DiNic's - Roast Pork
4. Ice Cream - Bassets, Franklin Fountain and Capogiro
5. Zahav
6. Rangoon
7. Cheesesteak - Choose from Tony Luke's, Johns roast pork, Steve's and Chinks.
8. Oyster Bar - The $1 oyster happy hour and cocktails.
9. Am a big cocktail fan - Franklin Mortgage and Investment, APO, Southwark n Chick's cafe
10. Italian - Choose from Modo Mio, Radiccio (Traditional) (Don't think I can afford Osteria)
11. Completely confused between Amada, Distrito and Tinto
12. Am a huge dessert guy - Matyson (Coconut Creme Pie).

Guys, please help me refine the above. Excellent brunch places, deserts, everything else ;-)


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  1. Amada is Andalusian tapas
    Tinto is Basque inspired tapas
    Distrito is Mexican served "tapas style"

    Of the three, my fave is Amada, but I also liked Distrito. I would look at the menus for each and go to the one you think you would like. Tough to go wrong at any of them.

    Hope that helps.

    1. are you mobile? do you have a car? if so, cafe estelle is an outstanding brunch spot in the northern liberties area. closer to center city is sabrina's, which is popular and therefore infamous for looong waits.

      i think you mean oyster house rather than oyster bar? if so, i'd suggest straying off the $1 happy hour menu. those oysters are fine, but the other ones are really, really good. look for the skookum inlet if they have those.

      1 Reply
      1. re: coookie

        Yup, I'll have a car. I'll definitely look into Cafe Estelle n Sabrina's. What is the reputation of Tinto's brunch? Looks pretty interesting. Aah! so there is a catch to the Happy Hour :-) There goes my plan to save a few bucks I guess!!

      2. I'd hit Vietnam in China Town. Great food for reasonable prices. While you're there go to Sang Kee Duck House on 9th.

        You got to go to Sarcones for a great hoagie. It's on 9th and Fitzwater. Get the Ave Maria. The roasted long hots and the sharp provologne...ummmm.

        Morning Glory is pretty good for brunch too if you're in the Bella Vista neighborhood.

        You can also hit Hot Bagles on 4th and South.

        Oh and Pif on 7th and Washington is great BYOB french.

        Happy eating, it's a great food town.

        5 Replies
        1. re: thesmoker8

          Pif closed years ago, it's Bibou now but you can't get a table there till next month.

          For the OP:

          5. Zahav

          Get the prix-fixe, it's $36 and comes with the salads, hummus and laffa, and your choice of 4 other dishes (2 small, 1 large, 1 dessert). Get the crispy halloumi, kibbe naya, and the Bulgarian or Galil skewers. Skip the fish skewers, do NOT skip dessert, they make good ones. Good cocktails, too

          6. Rangoon

          Get the thousand-layer bread and the firecracker lentil fritters.

          10. Italian - Choose from Modo Mio, Radiccio (Traditional) (Don't think I can afford Osteria)

          Modo Mio, get the Turista prix-fixe. Another option is Le Virtu in South Philly.

          11. Completely confused between Amada, Distrito and Tinto

          Distrito's my favorite, they're all good though. Just look at the menus and go to whichever ones appeals to you most. Distrito's food is more casual than the other two. Jose Garces just won the Next Iron Chef on Food Network, so his places may be busier than normal for a while. I'm not as big a fan of Chifa, his fourth restaurant.

          12. Am a huge dessert guy - Matyson (Coconut Creme Pie).

          David Katz also makes great desserts at Meme, so does Carla Goncalves at Koo Zee Doo.

          1. re: Buckethead

            Are there any recommendations for Meme or Koo Zee Doo?

            1. re: indiefoodie

              They make great desserts, I've had 3 different ones at Meme and they were all fantastic, they were my favorite part of my meals there. The only one I've had that's currently on the menu on their website is the chocolate cake. I've only had one at Koo Zee Doo but it was so inventive and delicious (a fig stuffed with chocolate, coated in chocolate), I'd recommend going there just for that. I wasn't recommending either for dinner, both are very good but your list is full enough as it is.

              One place missing from your list is Kanella, they do great brunch there (and dinner too).

          2. re: thesmoker8

            Sarcone's is awesome and definitely has some of the best, if not the best, hoagies in Philly. Definitely check it out if you can. Their sandwiches are in the elite of the holy trinity of Philly sandwiches (Cheesesteak, Roast Pork, Hoagie). If you go, grab a slice of their tomato pie for a South Philly treat.

            Pif has been closed for a couple years, but its replacement at the same location, Bibou, is also a French BYOB and has been getting great reviews on this board and elsewhere (I have not been yet).

            Hot Bagels is OK but Philly is not a good bagel town and only great ones I have had are in the 'burbs.

            I don't think that Vietnam is a destination spot if coming in from out of town, sorry. I haven't been to Sang Kee.

            1. re: thesmoker8

              Adding Sarcones to my list :-) Thanks!

            2. Great list. There is nothing bad on here at all and I think you are in for a very delicious weekend.

              A couple comments:
              If you like and appreciate street food at all, DiNic's is a must. Order with broccoli rabe and sharp prov. You can do spinach if you are squeamish about the rabe (but the rabe is better). This should take precedence over the cheesesteak if you need to choose. This is a big sandwich and can easily be split.

              The cheesesteak places you picked are spot on. Of those four, Steve's Prince of Steaks and John's are tied for my first place, though the styles are actually pretty different. If you go to Steve's, get "both cheeses"--it is a whiz-like orange sauce and a white American sauce, and it is sublime. They have two locations in the city and both are equally good. At John's, I recommend sticking with a standard American or Provolone (not sharp) with onions unless you know what you're doing. The sandwich is bigger than Steve's and can easily be split. Note that John's is only open on weekdays and the grill shuts off at 2:30 (or is it 3?). I would also double-check that they are open on Black Friday. Also, John's is much closer to Center City than Steve's and Chink's, though it is still a bit of a drive. A little bit of ketchup is acceptable on both sandwiches, and this is how I eat them. At Steve's you will add your own; at John's you need to ask for it when ordering. I also recommend getting cherry peppers on the side and adding them as you eat if you want to spice it up. One other note: Steve's has indoor seating but John's only has outdoor. Any cheesesteak should be consumed as soon as possible as the half-life of a cheesesteak is probably like 5-10 minutes.

              Staying under < $30 at is possible everywhere you mentioned but you will need to be careful when ordering. Zahav has a $36 prix fixe (with your choice of small plates) that is a good deal. No matter what you do there, you MUST order the salatim and hummus to start your meal. FWIW, I've never been too impressed with the desserts.

              Modo Mio has a 4-course "turista" menu for $32 (pick one app, pasta, entree, dessert) from the whole menu that is an tremendous deal and the food is fantastic. I wouldn't do anything else there. It is BYOB, so you will save money that way.

              You can't go wrong with Amada, Tinto, or Distrito, but my favorite is Amada followed by Distrito.

              Reservations strongly recommended at Amada/Tinto/Distrito (chef just won Next Iron Chef) and Modo Mio (it's small and always packed).

              2 Replies
              1. re: barryg

                Wow!! Thanks for the detailed reply barrryg!! I have never tried basque cuisine so I just made reservations for Sunday brunch ar Tinto. I hope it is good :-). Left a message for Modo Mio, keeping my finger's crossed!! Please let me know if there are any Philly delicacies that I might have missed.

                1. re: indiefoodie

                  You are off to a great start. I completely agree with everything Buckethead said. Distrito is also my favorite of the Garces places. Get the lobster ceviche, los hongos huarache, and hamachi tacos and you'll be happy. They also make great margaritas and do tequila flights for tasting.

                  I'm not a huge modo mio fan because I've had bad service experiences there, though the food is good. Another great Italian BYO to look into is Melograno.

                  At Rangoon, get the spring ginger salad. It always gets the biggest wow from the out-of-town guests I bring there.

                  While at the Dutch Eating Place, get some scrapple to go with your pancakes. It is a uniquely regional breakfast meat, and yummy.

                  If you remember, please report back. I love hearing how things went. And enjoy!!

              2. it sounds like you have a nice list put together.

                don't feel too bad about not being able to afford osteria. modo mio is about a thousand times better! i was just there a couple weeks ago and you must have reservations!! i thought i'd be safe walking in around 9 on a thursday... not so much :) it's a popular place, and for good reason (and tiny!). i stuck to a total seafood-based turista menu on my last visit. great value, and the flavors of EVERYthing were spot-on.

                brunches: i second estelle, and i'll add on another rec: cafe lift, on 13th. fritattas like you wouldn't believe. other than that, kinda similar menu and feel as estelle, and also in that weird "loft-district" block between callowhill and spring garden.

                now that i've mentioned cafe lift, i feel compelled to mention their sister pub across the street: the prohibition taproom. this place is seriously excellent, and a great place to go on a weekend night to (kinda) avoid the crowds. i say kinda cause it's been getting popular lately. the local beer selection is wonderful there, and the food is out of this world. the fried green beans are a must. i just had the frisee salad, which came with buttery potatoes and a truffle vinaigrette that nearly had me in tears, it was so good. i really, really, really love that place. and if you're coming to philly, you've really got to sample some of the local beers, which you can do here for sure!

                zahav: i go here once a week for happy hour, which sounds excessive, but it's NOT, because their happy hour rocks. as far as i know, you have to sit at the bar to get it. but wines are all $3 off (and there's a really great pinotage on the HH menu) and a small-size hummus is $4. can't beat that. the new mushroom hummus on the menu is to die for. agreed that you've gotta get the crispy haloumi - yummy and salty atop a crushed date paste - perfect sweet/salty combo. also the fried cauliflower - DEFinitely don't skip that... perfectly braised and set atop an herbed yogurt sauce (i think)... it's perfect. you can probably split those three things with one other person and be stuffed. but it would be a shame to leave this place without trying dessert. desserts (and all plates for that matter) run small, but are packed with flavor. my favorite (a yogurt ice cream with tiny chopped melon bits and paper-thin cucumber slivers) unfortunately left the menu with the warm weather, but there are some nice warm pear desserts & such. i've never gone wrong with dessert here. happy hour is 5-7pm, weekdays. every wednesday (except this one, heading out of town) you'll find me perched at the bar eating everything i've mentioned above. :)

                re: rangoon... agreed on the firecracker lentil fritters... but generally speaking, on recent trips i've been underwhelmed by the OVERwhelming amount of fried items! several times now we've ordered much of the app menu to share and even though the base ingredient may differ, the taste is often the same between dishes. also, many of the entrees have more of a thai feel than burmese (tho after spending some time in both countries recently, i can't say that's a bad thing :)

                finally, get a strawberry lemonade with that pretzel. and make sure you do it on a day when the amish are in the market! saturday is a real blast to forge your way through the crowds.

                anyway, enjoy philly! i hope you report back on your ambitious trip! make sure to schedule some naps in there :)