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Mar 18, 2010 09:15 AM

Center City Area: What restaurant shouldn't be missed?

Two of us are visiting Philadelphia for the first time, staying in Center City. We've been to a few times already and really like the Reading Terminal.
Is there a restaurant / pub / place selling food that we shouldn't leave town without visiting?

We are open to everything except a multi-course fixed tasting menu. A la carte small plates are fine though.

If the can't miss restaurant is outside of the center city area, I'd like to know about it as well.

Thanks for your help.

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  1. It is almost impossible to answer that question without asking several. Where are you staying? Are you looking for a destination meal, or combining it with another activity (art/theatre/music/shopping/etc.) and at what time? What foods are you most interested in, and what do you absolutely avoid? And perhaps most importantly - what's your budget? Philly is easily one of the top ten restaurant cities in the country, and there are as many opinions on what "can't miss" means as there are beers at Monk's...

    ...which by the way - is on my list of "can't miss" when friends are in town - the duck salad and thai curry mussels are to die, but the ambiance is not the main draw there.
    Matyson remains one of my faves if you want the BYOB experience.
    For view and decor - don't miss XIX at the Bellevue.
    For the deal of the century, go to Modo Mio in Northern Liberties and get the turista menu. If the weather is nice, hang out at Piazza at Schmidts (also NL) and "bar hop".
    For fun nibbly things and fantastic wine options by the glass go to Tria on 18th and then walk over to Rittenhouse and take your pick...

    Wander around my friend - in Center City you simply can't take a 10 minute walk without being within spitting distance of something yummy...just don't actually's rude...

    Have a great visit!

    1. Horizons Cafe-exceptionally creative vegan menu that even carnivores (like my husband) enjoy!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Karen K

        Thanks for the recs. We're staying at the embassy suites. Budget can expand as necessary. Foods--no central interest. We like everything that tastes good. I would say the only limitation is that we don't have time for a long multi-course tasting since we are going to be slipping away from a big group.

        1. re: Wolfgang

          Doxie did a good job. Spend every cent you have and order ala carte at Vetri - get wine, whatever the som recommends. Go to the Garces place that most interests you by region, consider Osteria or Amis. If Daniel Stern would get his ass back in a kitchen, I'd recommend it. Rumor says David Ansill is back in the biz - track him down. Start at Standard Tap and do a progressive "gastro-pub" tour. We kind of started the idea...Try to get a cancelation at Bibou. Eat falafel at Bitars, have tacos al pastauer at a taqueria on 9th street....

      2. It's really hard to pick "just one" as there are so many great choices in the city. I'd spend some time looking at menupages, restaurant websites, and of course check where you can get a reservation for the night in question if a local "hot spot" is high on your list.

        Since Jose Garces is our hot/top chef in town these days, one of his locations might be a good pick: Amada, Tinto, Chifa...these are all best experienced if you want to share a lot of small plates. Marc Vetri had three places in town, of which I've only been to Amis so far but I had a really great meal there of (mostly) authentically Roman cuisine. For Venetian, I loved Cichetteria 19 right off Ritt Square on a recent visit. There's also the Steven Starr empire if you're into pizazz: Barclay Prime, Parc, really all depends on what floats your boat. Meritage is also outstanding under their new chef, and right across the street from the popular upscale Pub & Kitchen.

        We have many great BYOBs in town if that's something you want to try--though if you're "slipping away" from a group you might not have a chance to pick up a bottle or anything on the way (although a number of BYOBs are fairly close to state liquor stores.) Melograno, Matyson, Mercato and Branzino are some of my top picks of the places I've been. If you love pork you might want to check out Cochon, where I had a great meal last night.