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Jul 22, 2010 09:52 PM

Philly in 5 days and 4 nights

Greetings Chow Hounds!

So, I will be taking a trip to Philly the second weekend in August and will be there for 5 days and 4 nights. Being a foodie, I see this trip as a food exploration of the city. Any suggestions? Places we MUST go to?

I'll be going with my boyfriend and we'll be meeting up with some friends, so group oriented restaurants are definitely a possibility. I know for sure that I want to hit up a good sushi restaurant while I am there. My friend who lives in Philly says she's yet to find a great sushi place, and I would like to remedy that. Something that is worth the price. I've been reading about Vic Sushi, Makiman, and Fat Salmon on other boards.

Also, other than the sushi, I am on a budget (most meals $10, maybe one night I'll spend more like $25 other than at the sushi place). Any good lunch spots? Hidden jewels? Great ethnic restaurants? There is nothing I wont try and there's not a genre of food that I do not love.

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  1. I don't know whether I would be so hot to find a sushi place in Philadelphia. The last time I tried seafood there I wound up hospitalized for a month. There are a lot of terrific Italian places downtown, and, I would not pass up the old time favorites - Italian hoagies and cheese steak sandwichs.

    1. Sushi would not come to mind as one of the strongpoints of Philly. Vic was all the buzz earlier this year but the head chef has since departed the Vic Sushi center city outpost, leaving it to staff. I'm not sure how large of a group you are planning to gather, but you might be up for quite a wait since it's a tiny place fitting only 8, maybe 10 people.

      You could always go for Morimoto, splitting things a la carte if your group is up for it.

      However, if I were to choose a meal of such nature, the place would definitely be Amada. I'd say you can't miss on hitting up at least one Jose Garces restaurant. Probably not the $25 range you're describing, but I'm sure you could get away with maybe $30-40pp if you have enough people willing to split. Distrito is another great Garces restaurant, and at a slightly lesser cost than Amada. You could also check out Garces Trading Co - maybe take home a souvenir or two.

      Definitely hit up a BYOB - plenty of Italian options here (L'Angolo, Melograno, Mercato, Modo Mio to name a few.) I might recommend Melograno among these because it's in the heart of Center City and would fit nicely around other evening plans.

      And if you were to take your sushi money and spend it somewhere else (my recommendation, personally), I would look into Zahav, Fish, Bibou, possibly Kanella or Koo Zee Doo as the small group of 'happening' restaurants right now. Marc Vetri is always in style - the price tag for the namesake restaurant Vetri is astronomical so Osteria or Amis might be more viable options.

      As for the $10 meals

      -Reading Terminal Market is the clear number one in my book for you. Some of my favs are Dinic's and Hershel's. Dutch Eating Place and Bassett's (ice cream) are also worth your consideration. Check out Salumeria.

      -Cheesesteak is a no-brainer. Where you want to start is up to you (not sure if this is your first time to Philly). You could obviously go for Pat's and Geno's to start like almost everyone, or just forego the training wheels step and opt for the big boys. Jim's, Tony Luke's, Campo's, Chubby's are all good but 'Junior Varsity' IMHO. For me the big three are John's Roast Pork, Dalessandro's and Steve's Prince of Steaks (although there are many I'd still like to try). Big asterisk next to John's. Two cheesesteak meals should by no means be out of the picture, but in the end it's up to your palate (and arteries).

      -Tacconelli's. This is a very polarizing pizza joint, but it's one of the best pies I've had outside of NY. There's a great thread on pizzas that's been active recently here: (


      - Not sure how tight your $10 budget is (it would be kind of tough to eat out on a strict $10 budget - as far as I'm aware most sit-down restaurants in general anywhere in the country usually require some sort of minimum order along the lines of $8 min before tax&tip).

      - In any case, you would be likely to get in a good Vietnamese fill-up for around $10pp. Recommend a place in South Philly - Washington Ave around 9-12th streets has an abundance of SE Asian digs. You can read up more here: ( and here: (


      -Chinese is another cuisine to fit the bill - Sang Kee Peking Duck would be the most interesting dig in Chinatown. If you're willing to venture out (and pony up a few more greenbacks), Han Dynasty in Old City is unequivocally the most phenomenal Chinese in Philadelphia. Spicy food that will definitely please your palate - and I'd have to think one of the most authentic Sichuan outside of SF, LA, NY. Now, most anything you get here is going to be $15-20, but you can always split family style in a large group to contain costs (which is how Chinese food is anyway).

      -Here's a wild card for you: Jong Ka Jib. Ok, not the best part of town by any means but if you have a local with transport, consider it if you'd be interested in soon du bu.) I can verify that this is up to par (and better than most) outposts in Los Angeles.

      -Potpourri: Famous 4th St, Cafe Beau Monde, Monk's Cafe, Almaz Cafe, Tria, Di Bruno Bros, Royal Tavern, Ekta, Saad's, Banana Leaf, Rangoon.

      and lastly

      -Italian Market - not as much of a must as Reading Terminal IMO, but quintessential Philly. There are a few great sandwich shops, some Mexican places, and plenty of others in the surrounding area for exploration. Don't take a pass on going somewhere in South Philly - if you come to Philly and don't get served up the classic Sout' Philly attitude at some point, you haven't truly been to Philly.


      2 Replies
      1. re: ramenbound

        Apologies for this post being so long. Hope this helps!

        1. re: ramenbound

          Don't bother with going with sushi for your special meal in Philly. It's not something we're known for. Granted there is Morimoto but for the price, I'd save your sushi cravings for when you visit some place like San Francisco.

          As previously mentioned, for your special meal, I'd consider Amada, Zahav, or Amis, or even hit up Estia for their $30 lunch special.

          You are fortunate enough to be in town for Reading Terminal Market's annual PA Dutch Festival Make sure to go there on that Saturday to see all of the sights. My go to food at the market is the pancakes at the Dutch Eating Place, soft pretzels from Miller's Twist, and roast pork sandiches with provolone and broccoli rabe from DiNic's. Also great are the cannoli and raspberry pound cake from Termini's, chocolate peanut butter pretzels from Mueller's, double chocolate chip cookies from Fourth St, and warm cinnamon buns from Beilers. All of the food at the Market is reasonably priced.

          You may want to add Zavino to your list for good pizza and then get some Capogiro gelato across the street. Also very good are the moroccan lamb sandwiches with eggplant for lunch at Argan.

      2. Actually, so far as Morimoto and sushi... you can go to morimoto and, if you order the sushi and some of the other items (including the ramen), you don't have to spend too much. Especialy if you go at lunch.

        It does mean that you're passing up more expensive stuff on the menu, and that you might have food envy of the people at the table next to you. But it is very doable.

        1. The best sushi I've had in the city is at Zento at 2nd and Chestnut, but I agree with the other posters that sushi isn't exactly something Philly is known for. A $10pp budget is going to limit your choices significantly, most of the places I think a visitor to Philly *must* go to are going to be over that. Not all of them, though. Here's where I'd go:

          Paesano's sandwiches at 9th and Christian in the Italian Market. Get the Arista and the potatoes. Actually I think you could do with two or three visits to Paesano's.
          Tacqueria Veracruzana at 9th and Washington. Get the carnitas tacos
          La Lupe at 9th and Federal. Get the queso tacos.
          Brauhaus Schmitz at 7th and South. Get the wurstplatte with the house bratwurst.

          Dinner for $10:
          Village Whiskey at 20th and Sansom. Get the Village Burger.
          South Philly Tap Room at 16th and Mifflin. Get the grass-fed burger. If they have the fried chicken on special, get that instead, two people can split that and an appetizer and leave satisfied. They make the best fried chicken I've ever had.
          Alyan's at 4th and South. Get the falafel platter.
          Brauhaus Schmitz if you didn't already go there for lunch. Ditto the tacquerias above.

          Dinner for $25:
          Han Dynasty, a few doors east of Zento on Chesnut. If you don't mind going slightly above your budget, I'd go to Kanella, it's the best restaurant in the city that's kind of in that price range. I agree with Ramenbound that Zahav, Fish, Bibou, Kanella and Koo Zee Doo are happening right now (I'd add Han Dynasty to that list, maybe Fond as well), but Kanella is the one that comes closest to hitting your price point. It's BYO, too, so that cuts down on the price a little. My favorite place in the city is Zahav if you feel like ignoring your budget entirely. If you're not drinking though, it's only slightly more expensive than Kanella.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Buckethead

            Thanks for all of the suggestions!

            Maybe I should clarify:

            I plan to have 1 or 2 dinners out, and one of those I'm willing to splurge on (in which the above examples look awesome!) I plan to eat out lunch and one or maybe two other dinners out, and I am hoping not to go too crazy with those meals (around the $10, if it's more like $15 then that is okay, for a plate, not including tip, tax, etc).

            Also good bars, late night happy hours are awesome to hear about.

            Thanks so far for the suggestions! I forgot that Jose Garces' empire is in Philly, and I will definitely be hitting up one of those! Also, Fish look downright AWESOME.

          2. There are some great suggestions here... and there is no shortage of good cheap food in Philly.

            The only additions I would make relate to the fact that coming in August presents some unique opportunities... There are great farmers markets around the city almost every day, as well as free concerts and movies to enjoy while you picnic.

            A great cheap lunch is the King of Falafel food cart at 16th & JFK, which is great because there is a free lunchtime concert at Love Park across the street almost every week day.

            I would also check out the Piazza at Schmidts for their Saturday flea market and farmers market. Personally, the organic sausage sammys from the Sausage Truck are one of my favorites, plus it is a great Saturday afternoon scene.

            If you are not opposed to bars, then take advantage of Center City Sips happy hour on Wednesdays for some good deals on bar food at some of the trendier places that might otherwise be out of your budget... same with the Old City Social on Thursdays, although the participating restaurants are generally not quite as good as Center City.

            Don't miss gelato at Capogiro!

            2 Replies
            1. re: xtian

              Hi Philly Chowhound!

              I just wanted to report back, be it a bit later than when I had arrived home. We took your advice, steered away from sushi, and stuck with the said suggestions. For our nice dinner out, we went to Kanela's, which was one of the best meals that I had there. It was very very very very good. I got the Papia, which was perfectly crispy on the outside with rich and juicy duck meat on the inside. The glaze was so good it was drinkable. My boyfriend got the tortelloni, which was also divine.

              We also went to Capogiros, and holy awesome gelato. I've never really had gelato, but I'm completely sold and if I could, would only get that over icecream. We also went to Lolitas for the BYOT, which was fun, and I got the salmon a la plancha con pure de palmitos. Pretty interesting and quite tasty, though perhaps not worth the price. We also went to the Italian market in South Philly, got some Philly cheese steaks, and went to DiBrunos (I think it is called?) I was in heaven with all of the cheese tasting and assortment of imported olives.

              But my favorite place of all was Reading Terminal Market. Holy. Crap. It was like food porn for me. I don't even remember everything I had (except for a soft shell crab, we don't have that in MN!), but I remember everything was to die for.

              Thanks, Philadelphia peeps, and I hope to be back again!

              1. re: linfr21

                Thanks for posting about your trip!