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Out-of-town foodie trying to find a restaurant...help appreciated!

We'll be in town on Valentine's Day weekend, which probably a bad weekend to eat out, but what can you do? We're on the wait list for James. We'd like to spend about $100 for two (no wine). I'm looking at Osteria but am concerned it might be a little loud for a romantic dinner with my hubby. Am I wrong? Any other suggestions? French, Italian, or New American preferred. I like tapas, but husband doesn't find them them filling enough. I appreciate your help!

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  1. So...it's hard to find a restaurant on Valentine's Day weekend. I was able to make a reservation at Fork and Matyson. Which would you pick? I'm still hoping a spot will open up at James as that would be my first choice. Should I bother going on the wait list at Osteria?

    7 Replies
    1. re: Magnificat2005

      Those are all good choices. Matyson is one of my favorites, and I'd choose it over Fork. You'd have to order pretty carefully to stay within your budget at Osteria.

      1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

        I was leaning towards Matyson over Fork so I'm glad to hear that. Would you choose Matyson over Osteria?

        1. re: Magnificat2005

          Matyson and Osteria are very different, and I love both, so I wouldn't choose one "over" the other except based on my mood. Both have their menus on the web, so you can see what appeals. Matyson is New American, the food is somewhat more refined, the atmosphere is a little more casual. Osteria is straight up Italian, with a hipper vibe. The really are both excellent.

          1. re: Magnificat2005

            I've been to Matyson once, maybe 2 years ago; I've been to Fork twice, once 2 years ago, once 2 weeks ago.
            I'd choose Matyson over the olded Fork experience, newer Fork experience over Matyson . i was quite impressed. Very good fish options.
            I actually like it when a place has its own liquor license. I know that you can save money at a BYO, but it usually winds up more compilcated for me bringing wine (leaving from work, forgetting stuff, then ordering food based on what i brought with me as opposed to what's on the menu). if you want a BYO, though, obviously you go with Matyson.

          2. re: Hungryin theBurbs

            I think it's not that hard to stay under $100 for dinner for two at Osteria *if* you're not drinking, though you do have to order a little carefully. Normally our dinner for two there consists of an antipasti, maybe two, a pizza, two pastas, and a dessert or two, and costs around $90 not including wine, tax, or tip.

            I wouldn't consider it loud but it's noisier than what you might normally consider a 'romantic' setting to be.

            I'd go to Fork, Matyson, or Osteria over James any day of the week.

            1. re: Buckethead

              Matyson over Fork, and I think it's BYOB. (I don't drink so haven't noticed if there is a bar, which would be tiny.)

              1. re: Buckethead

                Yeah, we usually get wine at Osteria, which definitely pushes up the price. I guess if you stick to pizza/pasta and steer away from the entrees, it's pretty easy to stay w/in $100. I could be totally happy there with apps and pizza.

          3. You guys are great! This is good feedback. So the word on James isn't all that? I was leaning towards it based on the Philly Mag review, but now, I think I might be feeling Matyson. Osteria sounds great, though.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Magnificat2005

              The word on James is good, but almost everything I've had to eat there was underwhelming and way overpriced. I went once a few weeks after they opened and I've been at the bar and had snacks a few times since then, nothing I've had has changed my initial impression. It's not bad, but not good enough to warrant the prices they're charging or the glowing reviews they've gotten, in my opinion.

              1. re: Magnificat2005

                I love James, you definitely get mixed reviews on this board but it has more to do with portion size generally than with the food. And James is romantic. Try to leave time to get a cocktail in their lounge (with fireplace) if you are so inclined - I sometimes stop in just for a cocktail and an appetizer! The new chef at Fork has done wonders too!

              2. Just to clear things up, I'm expecting so no alcohol for me. My husband isn't much of a drinker so alcohol options won't influence our choice of eating establishment.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Magnificat2005

                  See if you can get in or on a waitlist for Bibou. It's French, BYOB, and definitely heartier than James (which I loved, but it's a small plates place). I think most would say that Bibou tops Matyson and Fork.

                  1. re: urbanfabric

                    I really don't see James as a small plate place. There are appetizers, pasta - which is served in a snaller portion than Americans are accustomed to but as it is served in Italy intended to be followed by a main course, and entrees which while not gargantuan are certainly reasonably sized - with an appetizers most people would be full. When I do all three courses I am very full and sometimes can't finish (and I eat - all the courses on Vetri's tasting menu for example w/o issue). What's with the "small plates" rep?

                    1. re: Bigley9

                      Because, like you said, they are smaller portions. Seems that "small" and "large" are the only classifications that anyone uses anymore. And, James is definitely, as you said, in the class of restaurants where you order three courses of smaller plates (smaller than is the standard in most restaurants, but more similar to Vetri, Amis, Supper, etc). I think it's more than enough food, and gives you an opportunity to have more of a variety of tastes and textures than you might get in two courses or a salad and an entree. However, for some people, it's outside of their comfort zone. Since the OP mentioned that her husband is not hot on tapas, I thought that the smaller plates (or shall we call them medium plates?) might not be what they were looking for.

                      At places with similar plate size, there is also sometimes the issue of how the food arrives at the table. If you like to share, it is enjoyable to allow the food to arrive as the kitchen prepares it. However, if you are hoping for your own three courses, separate from your dining partner, it can sometimes be difficult to get everything to arrive in sync. James, however, was able to do that quite well.

                      1. re: urbanfabric

                        Another vote for Matyson vs. Bibou (although we really did like bibou ) - I just think the presentation was a little more 'finished' both in plating, food, and service' vs. Bibou's rustic although very French bistro feel! BTW, all the dishes we had from the appetizers, entree, and desert were exceptional. and the pork chop was amazing - and I'm not usually a porkchop person!