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Feb 24, 2010 07:39 AM

Saturday Night in Center City

My husband and I are visiting Philadelphia for one night and will be staying in Center City. Since we only have one night, I want to make sure we hit the right restaurant for dinner. Any suggestions for a restaurant that's more on the casual side?


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  1. When? This Saturday?
    Where are you staying?
    How much (about) do you want to spend?
    Any food likes/dislikes?
    BYO or no?

    3 Replies
    1. re: Buckethead

      In 3 weeks, we're staying with family and I'm not familiar with the area but I think its near Thomas Jefferson University. We love all types of food and want to stay at the mid- to low price range.


      1. re: sbolduc

        All the suggestions on here are good. Since we are just listing good restaurants downtown I'll toss in Kanella, a Greek/Cypriot BYOB that is close to Jeff. Prices are mid-range and you save money on the booze.

        1. re: barryg

          I would go with Kanella as well, the food is fantastic and as barryg says, it's close to Jeff, not expensive, and BYO. There's a wine store nearby on the 1200 block of Chestnut St.

    2. Good question!

      I'm interested in a good place to eat in the area too. We are going to the Phil. Flower Show Monday, March 2 thru March 4 at the Convention Center and will be staying at the Four Seasons on Logan Square.

      We like all kinds of food, anything from casual to fancy is fine for us.

      I haven't been to Philadelphia for forty years, so I am excited about it.


      3 Replies
      1. re: dumas

        do you have a car? are you ok with a bustling atmosphere? if yes to both, you might try osteria for artisinal tuscan pizzas and pastas by one of philly's top chefs, marc vetri:

        if you walk south down 19th to sansom, there is matyson, a cozier, new american / locavore BYO spot. it's a gem:

        cross over a block to 20th and you could hit up tinto, a terrific and sultry basque tapas joint by our very own iron chef, jose garces:

        a few others that are probably not worth your only meal in philly, but worth mentioning in case they fit your mood:
        audrey claire - 20th and spruce - very casual but satisfying new american byo.
        dmitri's - 22nd and pine - greek seafood, homey and hearty

        1. re: dumas

          Being in town on a Monday - Wednesday should give you more flexibility than trying to nail a top spot over the weekend. Some of my picks would be, depending on what you're looking for:

          - The previously mentioned Matyson. They have great weeknight tasting menus as well as a good regular menu. Plus a wine store is very nearby and it's BYOB, as are many of the city's top spots.
          - I'm also a fan of Audrey Claire, though it can get noisy and cramped. Make sure to get one of the flatbreads as a very filling starter if you go.
          - Amis for Roman-style Italian small plates. Loved it on my one visit so far, and better staging of the dishes in a small-plates manner than I've experienced at one of Garces' places like Tinto or Chifa (that is, Garces' places are fine if you intend to share everything and don't mind if all the dishes come out weirdly staged, with long waits in between, etc. But it can be awkward if you and your companion aren't intending to share everything.) Amis did a much better job IMHO of bringing out small plates in a timing that would work whether you intended to share or not, plus it was a great mental trip back to Italy for some very authentic flavors. Great and affordable wine list, too.
          - Meritage for an interesting Asian/New American fusion experience. Loved it on a recent visit, plus you're just across the street from the wonderful Pub & Kitchen for a nightcap, or bar snacks before dinner.
          -Branzino for a more traditional Italian staged meal (apps, pastas, mains) - very substantial, very good, and very reasonable.
          - Vietnam Palace for a great meal in Chinatown very near the convention center. Super cheap but in classy room. Whatever you do, don't miss the grilled stuffed grape leaves or the Vermicelli Deluxe platter.

          1. re: dumas

            THANKS so much for all the suggestions.

            I am copying them down and plotting out a map. I expect we will have lots of good choices from the sounds of it!

            I suppose I should get busy and make some reservations.

            Will let you know where we end up. Bon appetit!

          2. My pic of the moment is Zahav, which does a modern take on middle eastern food. I'm not sure I would call it causal, as the OP requested, but it isn't expensive--the amount and quality of the food given for the $36 tasting menu make it almost a steal in my book.

            Other recommendations: I second the above mentions of any of Jose Garces' restaurants; the cooking at all of them is really really good (Distrito--Mexican tapas--is my favorite, but opinion seems to favor Tinto and Amada, which serve Basque and Spanish tapas respectively). I worry that these places, along with Osteria, may fall less on the casual than the chic side, but check out their menus and see what you think.

            I also second Vietnam restaurant. Their appetizers, broken rice platters and noodle dishes are knock-outs.

            Finally, I'll submit a vote for Melograno, a Roman-style Trattoria in Rittenhouse Square.

            Let us know where you end up deciding to go, as some of us will surely want to recommend dishes!

            4 Replies
            1. re: nwinkler

              I may be confused, but I realy thought Matyson is between Market and Chestnut?? Have been dying to try it there since reading all of the postings on this site. Wine store is on 19th and Chestnut.

              1. re: nwinkler

                Just went through all the links above and checked the websites. So many great looking recommendations.

                It's very interesting that there are so many BYO places~~I suppose we'd better find a good wine store in the area, too!

                Thanks for the tips and details, everyone!

                1. re: dumas

                  There are no good wine stores in the entire state of Pennsylvania, but that's another story..

                  1. re: Buckethead

                    Hi, Friendly Philadelphians,

                    Just wanted to follow-up with youon our few days in Philly (since I always want to know how those who ask about Cincinnati fair in our town)...

                    So, we arrived Monday evening and met our business acquaintances and they took us to 'Capital City Grille'. We were a little disappointed that they didn't choose a 'local' establishment, but we were in for some excellent steaks (I ordered sliced filet with wild mushrooms and my husband had the veal chop). For starters I had a very nice king crab with remulade cocktail (the special) and my husband had the caesar salad which he always orders at Capital City Grilles (in D.C. and Baltimore). So that was that. Martinis were excellent, of course.

                    The next day we ate breakfast at the Four Seasons Hotel restaurant, and I highly recommend that to anyone who wants a luxurious place for an early meeting with clients, etc. (Always better if someone else pays!) I had 'toad in the hole'~~a slice of brioche (from Hudson Bakery in NYC) with a baked egg layered on cured salmon. Divine. Coffee and other normal breakfast stuff was excellent and service was impeccable. For those who want local fare, they did feature scrapple, and other (scary sounding) Philly breakfast food, but I didn't have the nerve to try it! 0-: I am sure it was good.

                    For lunch we ate at the Flower Show Food Court and I think the deli service was provided by a deli called 'Bossi' (?) if I'm not mistaken. Gourmet cheeses, hard salamis, pasta various, all very good. We had a lovely casual lunch.

                    And the Flower Show was spectacular, by the way.

                    Then we walked over to Rittenhouse Square and had St. Germain Frappes and Creme Brulees at 'Parc' bistro on the square at tea time. We stayed and chatted (my sister was with me) for a good hour and two more frappes. The waiters were very hospitable to our lingering. We of course had no idea it was so late!?!

                    Then back to the hotel where we found the concierge made us reservations at 'Melagrano' for 6:30. Later we set off by foot (with umbrellas in the rain) so that we could stop at a wine store (on 20th and Chestnut, I think) and found a cheap bottle (12.99) of Italian red (which was surprisingly good) to take along. At Melagrano we split an order of fried smelt, then split a Spaghetti Carbonara and finally I ordered a Mixed Seafood Grille~~salmon, octopus and prawns. Husband had shortribs. But we ran into a glitch with our last two courses: beautifully prepared, but way-way-way too much salt on the carbonara, fish & shortribs. So much so that we had to mention it to the server so that the chef pulls back on the treatment for later diners. They did send out a comped dessert which was nice.

                    Then we stopped at Tinto's (which was packed) on the way back for a drink (fun) and Tria, too, which was crowded and busy. These last two are definitely the places to be seen! Then we headed back to the hotel for Amorettos and Coffee~~ my new drink of choice for rainy days.

                    Next day we were off to the Picasso Exhibit at the Art Museum (You must go! The PMA has a very impressive Picasso collection thanks to the Annenbergs). After spending a couple hours there, we walked through the parking lot to the gazebo and down the lovely stone stairway through the gardens to the Waterworks Restaurant on the river. It was a picturesque place to stop for wine and lunch~~I ordered a Pinot Gris from Oregon and my husband had a Pinot Grigio, then I had a Waterworks Salad (not particularly good) and husband had the Lobster Club Sandwich, which he said was OK. Mostly we were there for the wine, the scenery and the nice upholstered banquette, so that worked out just fine for us. There were a lot of other Picasso visitors there enjoying the ambiance and food, too.

                    So, I can't tell you what a lovely time we had on our visit. And from your recommendations for good restaurants and the avenue of museums we passed along on our walks, I can see I'll have many more reasons to return. Luckily, my husband goes there every six or eight weeks, and from now on I'll make it my business to go along!

                    Thanks again for all the tips!! (t's so fun to have friends on line!)