Staying at Temple University in June, no car -- what's awesome and convenient?
Hey, folks. I'm a regular on the Florida Chowhound forum, but I'll be coming to Philly in early June with my wife, who is speaking at a conference at Temple University. We'll actually be staying ON the Temple campus and won't have a car. I've heard the area directly around Temple is "sketchy" at best, but I don't suppose there are any good places to eat ON campus, or nearby in safe areas?
Also, my wife has a disability that makes it hard to walk too far, and we're always concerned about the accessibility of public transportation. We may take a cab once or twice if necessary, especially if there are any can't-miss dinner recommendations. I'll probably have some down time during the days, so I don't mind taking public transportation on my quest for good things to eat by myself.
I'd love to try authentic cheesesteaks -- are any of the famous places near Temple? On my own, I'm a sucker for really great delis, either Jewish or Italian style. Cured meats, smoked fish, amazing sandwiches, anything like that. For a nice meal together, we love New American/gastropub-type places (although we don't drink) or really good Italian. But with my wife and her walker and our reliance on cabs, safety and convenience will trump almost other consideration. We appreciate any advice!
Hey everyone, we're back and we survived Philadelphia! Thanks so much for the food recommendations. Good eats were definitely a highlight of the trip.
My wife and I made it to Osteria for our one romantic night on the town, based on all the good word of mouth here. We shared cannelloni pasta as an appetizer, browned in a garlic buttery sauce and stuffed with kale and ricotta cheese and crumbled black peppery sausage. It was a small portion, but very rich -- not bad, but actually my least favorite thing we tried there.
Then I ordered spaghetti alla chittara, these thick pasta strands that may have been egg noodles, with fresh mussels from Maine in a garlicky white wine sauce with green tomatoes. It was amazing. Even better was what she got, a special of baby pig, cured for several days with a salt and pepper rub. We got a few different cuts -- the shoulder is the only one I remember. That was easily the best pork dish I've ever had. The cure gave it a great salty and spicy flavor, but it wasn't dry at all -- still extremely juicy with lots of delicious pork fat. It came with two thick, crispy pieces of pork skin that reminded me of jerky made from a spicy pepperoni or similar cured sausage, and some crisp fried potato cubes. We got a gelato sampler for dessert, with a sweet milk gelato, a tart yogurt gelato, and a fresh blueberry sorbetto. Perfection.
We also went to the Reading Terminal Market on two separate days, and I’m so happy we did. We’re both “foodies,” at least as far as our budget permits, so this place was like heaven for us. Florida has NOTHING like this place, let me tell you. On our first trip there, I got the best Italian cold cut hoagie of my life from Salumeria (with the hot pepper relish but hold the artichokes), she got a pastrami sandwich on rye from Herschel's Deli (not nearly as good as Katz's Deli in NYC, but better than Toojay's, the only deli option in Orlando), and we shared the amazing sandwich of roast pork, super-sharp provolone cheese, and sweet roasted peppers from DiNic's. She wasn’t impressed by this, but I loved it. I spaced out on getting it with broccoli rabe (I think the sign just said “greens”), so I went with the peppers instead. She also got an assortment of cupcakes and brownies from the Flying Monkey Bakery, but the cupcakes were almost universally disappointing. I, for one, think cupcakes are usually disappointing anyway. She loved the chocolate marshmallow ice cream from Bassett’s, though. Before we left, she got me an assortment of beef jerky from one of the Amish butcher shops, and most of that was pretty good.
On our second trip to the RTM, we were a little better prepared, but a lot hungrier. I went back to Salumeria right away for a smaller Italian hoagie, and she started out with an eggplant hoagie that didn’t seem very impressive to me. She loaded up on snickerdoodle cookies from one of the general stores (I forget the name), but they were chewy and fresh and perfect. That’s also how I would describe a glistening hot pretzel from Miller’s – chewy and fresh and perfect. It was surprisingly similar to the pretzels from Auntie Anne’s, located in almost every mall in Orlando, and a real weakness of mine. Is that the standard style for Philadelphia’s famous pretzels? I ask because I also tried a sourdough and fennel pretzel from the Metropolitan Bakery at RTM that was very disappointing in comparison. Before we left, she also got an apple dumpling and some sugar cookies from the Pennsylvania Dutch bakery near the back, and I got a rib sandwich from The Rib Stand to have later for dinner – another Chowhound recommendation that was well worth it.
My wife was sweet enough to treat me to a tiny sealed package of jamon iberico from one of the high-end cheesemongers. I love cured meats, and I’ve never tried this, apparently the Rolls-Royce of hams. We brought it back with us, and I’ll bust it out for the next special occasion. Finally, we stopped by Delilah’s, the soul food place in the middle, since The Oprah had said they have the best macaroni and cheese in the country. Honestly, it was okay… I’ve had better. We got a huge piece of fried chicken from Delilah’s that was bland and dried-out, but you can’t win them all.
I should explain that we didn’t eat everything there, but brought a lot of food back to our hotel room for quiet dinners in, since we luckily had a mini-fridge. The area around Temple was pretty desolate as far as places to go within walking distance, and the food court in the student center was closed for the entire week. At least the trucks were out in force, and I did get to try a “Fatty” sandwich from the Sexy Green Truck (chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, and marinara sauce), and a greasy, relatively disappointing cheesesteak and a stale pretzel from other random trucks. I definitely agree with everyone who said that DiNic's roast pork ought to be the official sandwich of Philadelphia, although the wonderful Italian hoagie from Salumeria would fit the bill quite nicely as well. Thanks to everyone who shared their advice and experiences!
re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou
Thanks for reporting back! I don't think the pretzel you had from Miller's Twist is the standard Philly soft pretzel, though I've only had one type of pretzel at Miller's it was as you described, similar to Auntie Anne's in texture. The typical Philly soft pretzel is thicker, more dense and chewy, and it looks more like a figure 8 than a 'normal' pretzel shape.
re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou
A 5 min cab ride will take you to a neighborhood called Northern Liberties, where you can meet 2 of your requests. The Standard Tap is the resto/bar that started the gastropub movement here and is still the measuring stick. N3rd is another great gastropub in the same neighborhood. You can get your cheesesteak fix at Rustica which is next door to the Standard Tap. Though known primarily for their amazing pizza, their cheesesteaks are some of the best in the city. My fav is the truffle cheesesteak.
How is your wife with steps and stairs? Because that's one thing to keep in mind. A lot of the best places I can think of in Philly aren't good with handicap accessibility...I know someone upthread mentioned Vetri but I do believe they are up from some sidewalk steps that could be difficult to navigate.
One thought I had was Mercato...it's not far off the Broad Street line (or a reasonable cab ride), great Italian, plus they have sidewalk seating if it's a nice night so navigating in/out of the place shouldn't be an issue.
Thanks to everyone for the great recommendations so far. Please keep them coming!
I'm already figuring out how to make it to the Reading Terminal Market on my own, as that sounds like a way to spend an afternoon in paradise. I'm also a fan of street/truck food, although my wife isn't as adventurous as I am.
re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou
I'm sure that there are good cheesesteak places on campus, but I haven't found them. have found a couple of mediocre ones.
my favorite on-campus food truck, hands down, is a place that serves chinese and vietnamese food; it's a truck that parks on montgomery, btwn broad and 13th (closer to 13th). they have a plastic chinese food menu, but order off the hand-written vietnamese items. great food and cheap. i really like hte chicken bun and the lemongrass chicken. pork w/rice is also very good.
other trucks are hit and miss; there's a decent korean truck at 12th, north of berks; an overstuffed crepe place on norris. a lot of food that's good, but that i don't find myself craving much.
also in june, not all food trucks will be open.
You don't need to bother with subways at all. The Route C bus runs north and south on Broad Street, which is the major north-south artery - and you are very close to it.
The driver will lower the steps and make it easy for your wife to get on and off.
Osteria is right on Broad Street, so it's really easy to get to. Make a reservation.
The Reading Terminal Market is an exciting place to visit, especially from Wednesday to Saturday when the Amish farmers are there. It's a short cab ride, and there are places to sit inside it, especially if you don't get there smack in the middle of lunch hour.
There is a section called Northern Liberties which isn't too far from you by cab. We love a tapas bar/restaurant called Bar Ferdinand - casual, great food. Worth the trip. Avoid Saturday night there, as is true of many places.
You're getting lots of good advice. Enjoy your visit!
Sylvia -- great advice about the C bus.
BBVLou: The city has 2 major streets: Broad Street (which is actually "14th Street") and Market Street. They intersect at City Hall. If you get to City Hall on the C, you can change to another bus to get to Reading Terminal Market. Once at RTM, it's not all that far to China Town. Get a good map, and do some googling to find the best public transportation. If your wife has walking issues, the subway is not such a good idea since there can be a lot of steps involved.
Jane Pond is correct about the street food. Tons of trucks around Temple.
Another hot spot for trucks and for lots of smaller, ethnic restaurants, is University City, around the Penn and Drexel campus's.
Be aware that many of Philly's smaller resto's are BYOB, meaning you bring your own wine or beer. If you enjoy an adult beverage with your meal, make sure you check the resto before hand to see if they have a liquor license. Hard for outsiders to comprehend, but it's a way of life here (grin).
400 Lacey Rd, Whiting, NJ 08759
as a frequent tourist in philadelphia, i just wanted to remphasize what patticakes has mentioned about not taking the subway with your wife. you mention she requires a walker... well there are a lot of stairs in the subway system and to make the connections that seem so simple on paper, it sometimes requires quite a bit of walking to get from one line to the next and i'm not afraid of walking. buses would be your best option. google offers a handy public transportation option when you're searching for directions but double check connecting lines as it missed one final bus connection for me that would have saved me 10 minutes of walking.
i haven't had extensive exposure to the italian scene in philadelphia but i would highly recommend osteria. besides being in a very good location for your needs, i think the food is quite good. i didn't get a chance to try the pizzas but was very very happy with the pastas and most of the apps/mains (least impressive was their octopus). i would give them a heads up in advance as i do recall some of the tables being tight together and you may want extra room to maneouver. vetri is a step up in and offers a real homage to ingredients, but would be more work to get to in a brick street nabe.
also, my understanding of the smaller ethnic restaurants in University City was that many of them were west of 40th? which seems like a fair trek out. if there are a good number of places east of 40th then i'd love to know of them.
I'm guessing you are staying at the Conwell Inn, as I can't imagine anywhere else on campus to stay. The neighborhood used to be sketchy, but really isn't anymore, especially if you stay close to Broad Street.
There's a Saxby's, which is a decent coffee place, just around the corner. The Cecil B. Moore subway stop is a long block and a half south and gives easy access to Center City. At the corner of Broad and Cecil B. Moore, the Barnes and Noble cafe has a pretty big selection of food. There are a bunch of places in the block south of there. There's a Qdoba, Koja Grill (vaguely korean/asian) and Noshery (sandwiches and salads). They are all perfectly decent, though nothing special. There are also a large number of food trucks, of varying quaility. On Montgomery Ave. (half a block below the Inn) along the back of the law school, there's a pretty good Jamaican truck, and a Chinese/Vietnamese truck that has pretty good vietnamese bun. Lastly, Tiffin, which is a good Indian restaurant, will deliver to Temple campus.
Other than that, you have to leave the area for really good food. I echo the Osteria recommendation for a nicer meal. It should be a very cheap cab ride, and no more than 10 minutes from main campus. Of course, if you take a cab, the whole city is at your disposal and there are so many good places. just browse the board for ideas.
How many days are you going to be here? The Broad Street Line of the subway system has a stop at Temple and will get you into Center City pretty fast, so you don't necessarily need to restrict yourself to the immediate area of Temple, depending on how far the subway stop is from the building you're actually staying in. Temple isn't far from Center City by cab either, maybe an $8-$10 cab ride one-way. A subway ride would be $4 for the two of you one-way, unless you buy some tokens, which are $1.45 each.
For your amazing Italian, Osteria is close to Temple (it's right on Broad St. and there's a subway stop 2 blocks away) and is fantastic. If you have the budget for it, it's early enough to make a reservation at Vetri if you want. Osteria is Vetri chef Marc Vetri's more casual, less expensive place, Vetri is his first. It's also pretty subway-accessible, it's a block east of Broad St. on Spruce.
For New American, I can't think of a place that's convenient to the Broad St. subway, you'll probably have to take a cab.
At this point I am going to try to talk you out of trying a cheesesteak, most of which suck, and into trying a roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe and provolone, it's Philadelphia's *good* sandwich specialty. You can get a great one at DiNics in the Reading Terminal Market. The only decent cheesesteak that exists (in my opinion) is at Steve's in the northeast of the city, which is not really accessible to you from where you'll be.
There are probably good cheesesteaks near Temple and you will be far away from anything touristy. Ask around campus. The neighborhood will definitely be sketchy, so go at day time and probably without your wife.
The subway stop you will be using at Temple will be, I think, Cecil B Moore which is handicap accessible, which means it has an elevator. However, SEPTA has a habit of having broken elevators, so check before you go: http://www2.septa.org/elevators/
Everything else Buckethead said is pretty spot on, except that not all stations are handicap accessible on the Broad St Subway; eg the one near Osteria does not have an elevator. You can look at the station map and see: http://www.septa.org/maps/transit/bsl...
The buses should all be fine as they can be lowered close to the ground and the seats in the front are easily accessible.
For Jewish deli, do not miss the Famous 4th St Delicatessen. The meats and fish are top quality. They have two locations; the 19th St one is maybe 5 blocks from the Walnut-Locust subway station which does have an elevator. If you are by yourself, the City Hall station is a block or two closer, or you can switch to the Green Line to get to 19th St. Their original 4th St location is 10 blocks or so from the closest Subway Stop, but the walk down South St is pretty interesting and will give you something to do if you don't mind the walk. You could also switch to the blue line at City Hall and get off at 5th to save a few blocks and you could hit historical sites like Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, etc on the way down if you go that way.
BTW, Google Maps have public transit directions for Philly which are actually pretty decent.
Yes, sketchy is putting it mildly. Speaking for myself, I would not go out at night in that area at all. Being on foot with a handicapped person makes you even more vulnerable. Please be careful and take a cab.
Now on to a happier subject - food. No one mentioned it, but the classic places for Cheese steaks are Pats and Gino's in South Philly. If the fresh fruit food trucks are out by June, they are delicious and not be be missed. If you are into Spanish Tapas, Amada is a great choice for an evening meal together.
As I said before, as long as you stick to Broad Street, it really isn't sketchy. I'm a middle-aged woman and I work on campus. I never feel uncomfortable walking through main campus, even at night.
I also thought I'd mention that along 12th street between Montgomery and Berks, there is a row of food stands including a quite good middle eastern - Ali's, and a decent vietnamese (though not as good as the truck I mentioned earlier). At those places, you order at the window, and there are a number of tables out front for sitting.