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Point us in the right direction, please.

We will be visiting Philadelphia for 4 days in early August. We are looking for guidance from local chowhounds as well as past visitors to helps us get started on our quest for restaurants.

we are staying at Le Meridien 1421 Arch St
-will be relying on transit.
would prefer to have dinners within 20 - 30 minutes of hotel
-entrees that run around $25 pp would be great, - or + would be ok too
-we live in SW so we love to have fresh seafood and fish whenever we are on the coast. It doesn't have to be a seafood restaurant as we love fish prepared using ethnic restaurants.
- we will need dinners Th, Fr, Sat and Sun

I was in Phildelphia many years ago and had dinner at Warm Daddy's. I know it has moved, and it may not be considered chow worthy, but I remember having great fried chicken, yams and the music was really good. Is it worth a visit given we only have 4 days?

Good food while traveling is a high point for us so please point us in the right direction to make our time in your town special. Thanks!

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  1. center city isn't very big. arch street is towards its norther border, but broad street is right smack dab in the center (and at 1421, you're right off broad), so there are a lot of places w/in that 20-30 minutes, even if you're just going by foot. rittenhouse square, chinatown, reading terminal are all relatively nearby. old city isn't that far. it's only stuff like fitler's square, south street, that are a long walk, yet still considered center city. and there are some good south philly places that are an easy trip on either the broad street line (subway) or the C or 23 bus.

    Other neighborhoods - manyunk, northern liberties, etc., are farther, and less transit-friendly, but if you don't have a particular destination there, don't bother - center city has plenty of options.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Bob Loblaw

      Great info Bob, thanks. While I did mean areas that would work, I am also looking for specific restaurant that would work for us. Reading Terminal is on the list, I loved it last trip.

      Seeing:
      Alma de Cuba, Osteria, Parc, Tavern 17, the new place Amuse [@ Le Meridien], Le Bec Fin, Davio's

      ?????

      1. re: DebitNM

        I would cross Tavern 17 off that list. I'm actually kind of curious how you got that amidst that collection of other (much finer) restaurants.

        1. re: ramenbound

          from Open Table

          1. re: DebitNM

            Alma de Cuba offers Ceviche tastings, at 3/28, 5/45, 7/58. They are half size portions and well worth it IMO.

            Osteria is an easy walk from where you are, probably about 15 mins. I'd definitely say include Marc Vetri in your plans and Osteria would seem to be the right fit given your price range and distance concerns

            In terms of a pure seafood place, I would say Fish. Have not been but I enjoyed my eats at the previous place (Little Fish) and Fish has been on my to-go list.

            1. re: ramenbound

              I've done the walk from Osteria - and parts north - to center city many times. While the dangers are overrated, it's definitely not the most scenic stroll that Philly has to offer. And crossing the vine street expressway - even though you're well above it - is the sort of experience best avoided, if possible.

              2x on your Fish advice, based on my Little Fish experience I'd definitely try it out.

    2. For seafood I highly recommend Fish at 17th and Lombard. It has an all seafood menu and by far the best new restaurant around. Matyson is a personal fav. While everything is good I love their scallops. The desserts are amazing.

      1. When you say you're relying on transit, do you mean public transit or will cabs be an option? For two people to go somewhere on the subway will be $4 one way, $8 round trip, unless you buy tokens, so a cab is usually not much more expensive. I live in South Philly and a cab to around where your hotel is usually runs about $7-$8 including tip.

        If I was going to four dinners in Philadelphia, I'd go to Zahav, Bibou, Kanella, and Koo Zee Doo. Those are the four best restaurants in the city right now in my opinion. If there are only two of you, you may want to skip Koo Zee Doo, as the portions are huge and you wouldn't get to taste as many things as you would at a another place. Of those four places, I'd say Bibou and Zahav are the places you absolutely should not miss for dinner. Kanella serves lunch Thu-Sun and they do just as good a job at lunch as during dinner, you didn't mention needing lunch but if you do, I'd maybe do Kanella at lunchtime one day and save the dinner for another place. Kanella is walkable from your hotel. So is Bibou if you don't mind walking, it's about 1.5 miles on foot.

        None of those places specifically specializes in seafood, but they all have at least one fantastic seafood dish. Kanella does a nice whole fish at dinner and a couple fish dishes at lunch, Zahav has a great fish soup, and the chef at Bibou makes the best scallops I've ever had, though they don't seem to be on the menu right now. KZD has a great clam dish.

        I like Fish (the restaurant), personally I don't think it's in the top tier of restaurants in Philly but if you want to do one seafood-centric meal, I'd go there. So I think I'd skip KZD in favor of Fish if I were you. It's also closer to your hotel.

        Some other places you may consider are Fond, Osteria, and Meritage. And no matter where you have dinner, stop by one of the two Capogiro locations in center city for the best gelato in the city. They're both on Sansom St., one at 13th and one at 20th. There's also a smaller Capogiro on East Passyunk Ave. a couple doors down from Fond.

        1. For seafood I'd recommend the following:

          Estia-Greek restaurant specializes in grilled fish
          Devon Seafood Grille -also very reliable for seafood
          Oyster House Philly-updated version of the old Sansom St Oyster House

          For something a bit more elegant, XIX at the Bellevue

          I think Warmdaddy's is a fun spot to go for a meal with live music. I've only been there once but thought the food was good.

          1 Reply
          1. re: rocknroll52

            I'd second Estia for the very fresh fish flown in daily from the mediterranean. They have great octopus too (tenderized in a washing machine).

            I have heard great things about Fish but have not been there...yet. I'm not a big fan of Kanella or Devon...just didn't like the fish there all that much.

            I'd second the Zahav and the Capogiro tips and of course you know about Reading Terminal. If you are lucky with your trip dates you will hit the annual Dutch Festival there the second weekend in August.

            Alma de Cuba's good but have not been in a few years (seems like

          2. Fish was exactly what came to my mind... Its a fabulous restaurant.

            Assuming you are looking for more than just dinners, I would also consider Kanella's weekend brunch.

            Bibou and Zahav are probably the other dinner spots I would try to book (Bibou, especially books in adavance). Bibou is also BYOB.

            If you like Warmdaddy's, you might also like Chris's Jazz Cafe, which is very close to your hotel. They don't get much press, but the food is always good... although the service tends to be slow. It might be a perfect stop for dessert & music, or after-dinner drinks.

            I would also mention Tria, as a nice spot to stop for a mid-afternoon snack with a glass of wine or beer. Their outdoor tables are good for people-watching.

            1. You have received some excellent suggestions! I heartily endorse the recommendations of Estia and Bibou. You'll have two v-e-r-y different experiences (large/small; Greek/French; licensed/BYO; Center City/neighborhood)--both terrific.

              Joluvscards' mentioned Matyson, a BYO favorite of ours, too. The menu changes frequently and, in my memory, always has several fish/seafood selections. Monday through Thursday they offer a $45. five-course prix-fixe dinner. Check on-line (or sign up for email notification) to see the week's prix-fixe menu.

              (Seeing the raves about Fish, we must make a point to get there soon.)

              Enjoy your time in Philadelphia, Debit. In preparation for a December visit, I appreciated your many posts on Chowhound and elsewhere on activities and dining in Santa Fe.

              11 Replies
              1. re: k_marie

                Thank you all! Chowhounds are the best. k_marie, let me know if I can help you with Santa Fe.

                BYO's - we don't have them here, and always find them having different rules in various locations. IS beer part of BYO? Is there a per table limit? Can you leave with open bottles? Can you bring in an open bottle? What do corkage fees run?

                Thanks.

                1. re: DebitNM

                  IS beer part of BYO?
                  Yes. We actually have several beer stores in the city now where you can buy chilled individual bottles of great beers for takeout.

                  Is there a per table limit?
                  I've never seen one, but you shouldn't be getting smashed at a BYO. Bringing multiple bottles to complement different courses is fine.

                  Can you leave with open bottles?
                  Yes, though you should stow them in a bag or something before you leave.

                  Can you bring in an open bottle?
                  You can, but I wouldn't unless it was something special I had decanted earlier into another vessel. I have a stainless wine carafe for this. I wouldn't bring a half-empty bottle. There are no rules against it, but it would be tacky.

                  What do corkage fees run?
                  Usually zero. I've never been charged a corkage fee in the city, unless it was a place that does sell their own wine but still allows BYO.

                  1. re: Buckethead

                    So, BYO's don't serve any alcohol?

                    1. re: DebitNM

                      just so you know, i'm a frequent tourist vs a local....

                      my understanding is that the licenses and insurance for serving alcohol have become limited in number and very very pricey in philadelphia (and surrounding area?). as a result, a number of restaurants open up without a license and operate as a BYOB instead. some manage to get a license and still offer byob but in that case they are highly likely to have a corkage fee. one interesting commonality between many BYOBs is that they often are also cash only. i'm not sure how most diners deal with the cocktail aspect, not something i would ever consider BYO, but if you enjoy cocktails then i would suggest checking out a happy hour (which seems fairly abundant) at a licensed restaurant before dinner.

                      i've only been to a couple byobs, but bibou is currently my favourite of the bunch. i'm not sure what time the italian market area shutters up, but it seems like a fun place to explore before dinner at bibou. the atmosphere is really fantastic, it's a community there.

                      zahav... i'm of two minds here. if you don't have anything like this at home then i think it certainly is an experience, but if you do then it will likely disappoint. with careful choosing you can have a very good meal. if your party is not very large then i strongly suggest eating at the bar, the service is much better there.

                      seafood -> fish. mostly because it's a completely seafood menu. the selection does seem a bit generic and i would also like it if they were more specific about where all the seafood comes from, but i adore their truffled spaetzle with parmesan broth. one of my favourite restaurants in philadelphia but more for the whole package (service, atmosphere, etc) than just the food.

                      then i'd be tempted to pick a garces or vetri spot.... or maybe even throw in morimoto as an option, but i'd also be somewhat picky on the menu here since it can add up VERY quick.

                      1. re: DebitNM

                        No, none. Also, cash-only restaurants are actually very rare, Bibou is one of the few.

                        1. re: Buckethead

                          then perhaps it's just the most talked about ones.... at least when i'm looking up restaurants the websites often say cash only.

                          cash only: bibou, modo mio, cochon.... but matyson (which i thought was atrociously bad) did take card.

                          1. re: Buckethead

                            Actually there are a number of cash only places I can think of: Cochon, La Baia, Caffe Casta Diva, Audrey Claire (at least it used to be, did they ever change that?) I personally find that kind of annoying as, being a business owner myself, I've always found the sales/business lost for not accepting a card far outweighs the potential fees for doing so. And some have said being cash-only allows businesses to be a little shadier in reporting their earnings...

                            In any event, always call first if you're not sure if a BYOB takes cards or not.

                            1. re: sockii

                              So, is it just BYOB's that are cash only, or are regular restaurants like that too? We almost never use cash.

                              1. re: DebitNM

                                Very few places that we frequent are cash only. Most of the BYOB's take credit cards.

                                Bibou is cash only - worth the trip to the ATM.

                                1. re: DebitNM

                                  A place that is cash-only will almost always tell you that when you call to make the reservation.

                                2. re: sockii

                                  Re: cash only restaurants. I ate at a Middle-Eastern restaurant in D.C. several years ago that took cash or checks. On my way to the bathroom I noticed on a wall of pictures one of Yassar Arafat. I had my suspicions about that place after seeing that! One can only surmise where some of their money went.

                      2. I'll add another vote for Fish. It's our current favorite. You can take a bus south on Broad Street to Lombard and walk west three blocks.

                        Bibou is another favorite, and you should be early enough to get a reservation. Bibou is farther away - a short cab ride, not really very direct public transport. You can reserve online one month ahead, but if you call, you can probaby reserve way ahead.

                        Not every place is open on Sundays - you better check.

                        Lots of other good suggestions here. We weren't as enamored of KooZeeDoo as some people - the chairs and tables wobbled, and I had a sardine bone stuck in my throat for several days. Probably just unlucky.

                        Osteria is walking distance. Matyson is an easy bus ride on Kennedy Blvd to 19th - not far.

                        We have brought half-bottles to restaurants when there were just the two of us and that's all we wanted. I don't think anyone cares. We always take home the unfinished portion of wine; we cork it and put it in our wine bag. A paper bag will do.

                        1. All good recommendations. I had lunch at Amuse about a month ago and it was wonderful--------i'd vote for one leisurely lunch with wine and upstairs for a nap!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: bonappetite

                            :o)

                          2. I didn't see anyone address the Warm Daddy's issue, so I wanted to throw in my opinion on that. Seeing as you only have 4 days I don't know if it's worth the trip, but we really like it there. The music is great, the food is very good and we just love the overall atmosphere. I don't know where it used to be, but it's now very convenient off I-95 near the water.

                            1. Thanks for all the great replies; I am working on culling the info and narrowing it down. What is the dress code in August for these restaurants? Slacks and a collared polo for hubby? Capris and blouse for me? OR do we need something dressier? Thanks again to all who replied so far!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: DebitNM

                                Casual is the norm everywhere except the Fountain and LBF. In August you can wear jeans and shorts most places.

                              2. One more vote for Fish and Zahav-- because the food is great and so are the neighborhoods for strolling afterwards. Debit, some tips for making a night of these places-- you might want to try to hit Fish during happy hour (5-7 M-Th or weekend HH from 11 p.m.-1 a.m.). Four great oyster choices for a buck apiece, good bartenders with great cocktails, and other tasty seafood appetizers. Leaving Fish, walk north on 18th St. and you'll run into Rittenhouse Square, where there's a nice variety of restaurants alongside the square (think mid- to upscale restaurants with European-style sidewalk seating). Great places to grab a bite and a drink-- lunch, happy hour or dinner-- provided you can get a seat. On that path (and one of the places another poster mentioned) is Devon Seafood, a mini-chain with another good buck-a-shuck HH and some other good bites at the bar from 5-7. On that stretch, you'll find good burgers at Rouge, and pretty good brasserie fare at Parc.

                                Zahav's also located in Society Hill, located within walking distance of many of the historic monuments in Philly. I think the $36 tasting menu is a great deal and the Israeli focused menu offers something different than is available in most places. Next door, there's a coastal Italian restaurant, Positano Coast, that specializes in crudo, antipasti, cheeses and is, again, a little different from anything I'd experienced in the SW US. Again, good happy hour from 5:30 to 7:30 with discounted wine and small plates. Overall, Philly does well with Italian cuisine-- we've got all the regions covered and quite a few places with a seafood slant.

                                Re: other suggestions: Modo Mio is a great Italian BYO (turista menu = good value), but offers little in the way of pre- or post-dinner diversions. A cab is a must. Osteria is also quite delicious, but as Bob L suggested, the walk to / from is not exactly scenic or tourist friendly, and you'd have to take another un-scenic walk to get to post-dinner drinks in the Art Museum or Center City. Plan to call a cab upon leaving at night. Vetri, though more expensive and difficult to secure a reservation, is my preference among Marc Vetri's restaurants with more interesting, yet refined Italian food and a walkable location through Center City. The degustazione menu is $115 and up, but a la carte is available M-Th. The only caveat: they close for vacation in August, so you'd want to call ahead.

                                On other suggestions: Alma de Cuba does have great ceviche and interesting desserts; good location near your hotel and Rittenhouse Square / Walnut St shopping. Kanella is good and much less formal a Greek restaurant than Estia, which is good but caters to the theater crowd (i.e., a little more expensive than Kanella). I've not yet been to Bibou, but have heard it's quite good. If you're looking for good lunch deals, however, our big French restos have simple express lunches at relatively good deals: Le Bec Fin, Fountain (at Four Seasons), and Lacroix (Rittenhouse Hotel). The best lunch deal might be at XiX (Nineteen, at the Bellvue Park Hyatt), and the same restaurant has a quite extensive seafood and raw bar selection. Easy walk from your hotel.

                                Re: non-food questions: cabs are probably your easiest bet if you're unfamiliar with the city and travel outside the Rittenhouse Sq or Old City / neighborhoods. Walnut Street (a few blocks south of Le Meridian) is a nice street to walk on, to either of those neighborhoods. . Ask your concierge to outline a walking map for you so you can see where the major neighborhood borders lie-- this'll help if you do plan to walk about. Finally, your clothing ideas sound about right. Unless you go to one of the more upscale French restaurants, Philly's a relatively relaxed town, fashion-wise, so you should be fine. If you have questions about attire, I find opentable to be helpful with listings by the restaurant, or call ahead to ask.

                                Have fun!

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: megansk

                                  i'm gonna second?third?fourth?tenth? what so many have already said and vote for both fish and zahav. i just wrote about fish in another thread (titled fish! :). both have awesome food, service, drinks and atmosphere, and are well worth the money. they're also great strolling neighborhoods as others have mentioned. walking around old city after zahav you could always get a nightcap belgian beer at eulogy! and after a dinner at fish it would be nice to head north, as mentioned, to rittenhouse square. a pleasant walk. you can get gelato or froyo nearby there too. :)

                                  for brunch you're really not far from one of my all-time favorite spots, cafe lift - near 13th and callowhill. ask your concierge for directions if you go - it's an easy walk, but there's a lot of construction in that area with the new convention center. absolutely everything i've had there has been fabulous, though i always rave about the frittatas. especially tasty with a side of their (i believe) homemade spicy tabasco.

                                  on a non-food-related note, depending on how much zipping back and forth across center city you're going to do, it might be worth it for you to either get the phlash (purple bus) day pass ($5) or SEPTA's one-day convenience pass good for (at least) 8 rides (around $7 or $8). if you decide not to go for a day pass, you can save money if you head down into to the station (suburban station/city hall station is a block from your hotel) and get tokens at a machine or counter instead of paying the full $2 fare. tokens are $1.45 each.

                                  1. re: rabidog

                                    other than the base fare of $2, everything else is going up on Thursday, July 1. tokens will be $1.55 each, although they are still a good deal if you're jumping around the city.

                                    1. re: urbanfabric

                                      ...and still no smart cards. SEPTA, get with it!!! thanks for the info.

                                2. Getting close, finalizing:

                                  Bibou - regular a la carte menu or go on Sunday for prix fixe?
                                  Fish - regular menu or Sunday tasting? {What are entree prices, no prices on website menu}
                                  Le Bec Fin - booked; 40th anniversary/ $40 four course
                                  but which room? { MAIN DINING ROOM, FRONT DINING ROOM, OR MEZZANINE. }
                                  Osteria - booked

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: DebitNM

                                    Bibou: They offer (or at least they did, last time I was there) a prix-fixe every night, 7 courses for $70. I'd recommend getting it. It's smaller portions of 7 courses off the regular menu for that evening, though when I did it I think one of our courses wasn't on the menu. If you go a la carte, make sure you get the escargots.
                                    Le Bec: Main dining room.

                                    1. re: Buckethead

                                      Forgot to mention that I was talking to a couple the other day who have been to Bibou a few times and have had the Sunday prix fixe, they said that it was their least favorite of their visits. I've been there maybe 5 times now but I've never had it. I'd still recommend the $70 7-course tasting menu, it's more than you'll spend a la carte (or on Sunday) but you'll get to taste many more things.

                                  2. I second the main dining room as well---got the mezzanine once--boring and small----all of the action is in the main dining area.
                                    Although steak and salmon straightforward, both were very good in the past.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: bonappetite

                                      What is "the action" at a restaurant?

                                      1. re: barryg

                                        LOL---------snooty waiters, grandiosity(not right word....perhaps aged grandiosity) and of course Georges grumbling and/or flirting with the ladies! Ok, i've only been there (upstairs) twice---but i found it all somewhat entertaining.