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Sep 30, 2010 09:00 AM

I'm New to Philly Dining Scene!

Hi all, I'm going to be in Philly for Columbus Day w/e and beyond, for the World Bridge Championships. Staying downtown. We eat anything & everything, and are looking for all price ranges. We may have large groups for some of the meals. I was there for an afternoon/evening a few years ago. We did the trad cheese steak for lunch. We had a lovely meal at a New Zealand (!) pub. I don't recall the name of it. Is it still there?

Thanks for all your suggestions!

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  1. Welcome, If you follow some of the threads here you will see many great suggestions. I would suggest Amada, Zahav and Budakan for tasty, varied and interesting dining. For a historic touch the City Tavern is quite interesting with some good choices, they would handle a large group as could the others mentioned, with some advance notice. The steak houses, while pricey, are quite impressive venues. Others more expert than I have noted here their favorites. The Oyster House is fun with good choices including a great raw bar and would handle a group. Best wishes in your Chanpionship and in EATING PHILLY!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Bacchus101

      Excellent, thank you Bacchus101! I'm super excited, can you tell? I will definitely explore the threads. I really appreciate you giving me a stepping off point.

    2. I urge a visit to Chinatown, which you'll be very close to from the convention center. WIndow browsing in fun enough (don't miss the tiny old fortune cookie factory on 9th street!), but you'll eventually want to settle for a meal. Ken's Seafood would work well for a seafood-loving group; the best approach here is to ask what live fish and shelfish Ken's got that day. Sang Kee is great for Peking duck and noodle soups. If you want something more adventuresome, you could try Rangoon for Burmese food, Penang for Malaysian, or Vietnam Restaurant for, well, Vietnamese; they'll all wonderful. Finally, not in Chinatown, but if you like spicy, Han Dynasty (also in Center City) is a must.

      I also encourage you to explore the restaurant corridor along 13th street, also very close to the convention center. Most of these places are small and wouldn't work well with a large group, but El Vez, a trendy Mexican restaurant, is an exception. If you're with a smaller group, consider Bindi, for an updated take on Indian food (note: a BYOB); Zavino for pizzas, pastas and Italian small plates; and, though I haven't been to either, Lolita (Mexican, and also BYOB) and Barbuzzo (Italian, has booze), operated by the same folks as Bindi. Finally, this trip wouldn't be complete without a stop at Capogiro, an awesome gelato place.

      Enjoy eating Philly!

      1 Reply
      1. re: nwinkler

        nwinkler, wow & wow! We just lost our place for Peking duck in the Boston area, so we'll definitely check it out. We have a member of our party who loves spicy, I will get us to Han Dynasty. I'll have time for sightseeing, and will take yr advice!

      2. i'd heartily echo han dynasty. if you're going into chinatown, you also have to try either sakura mandarin or dim sum garden, our top two places for xiao long bao. i would go to any of these places well before visiting buddakan, which i think is a vastly overrated asian fusion place that is about 10 years past its prime.

        i see you're from boston. the place where philly excels over boston (at least the boston of 2008, when i lived there) is in the reasonably priced BYO category. places you should check out:

        matyson - new american, local cuisine

        melograno - italian trattoria, pastas are their strength

        meme - well-executed pan-mediterranean, not a byo

        kanella - one of philly's hot spots right now. greek cypriot byo. leagues better (and a better value) than zahav in the broad middle-eastern category (zahav is israeli), in my opinion.

        bibou - for my money, the best dining in philly. former le bec fin chef. classic french, exceptional execution

        garces trading company - from our local celebrity chef, and new iron chef, jose garces. sort of a european style bistro. great wine store on premises that you can use to supply your dinner

        village whiskey - another garces place. best gourmet-style burger i've ever had (as opposed to fast food style, e.g. in-n-out.)

        that should be a start. what are your favorite places in boston? i can give more recs based on that guidance. for example, i do like oyster house, but it doesn't even compare to neptune oyster in boston's north end, so you may not want to spend your dollars there.

        25 Replies
        1. re: coookie

          wonderful suggestions, thanks! I'm about to suggest meme to my peeps tonite.

          I'm not an oyster person, and I've not been to Neptune. I do love seafood and particulary mussels. I like Greek food, we go to Steve's on Newbury and the Agean. I'm on a steak frites obsession at the moment., so we got to Petit Robert bistro, aquataine, You've hit a lot of my kind of places, thanks!

          1. re: CookieLee

            Hi CookieLee, remember me from the Boston board? I just moved here!

            Second coookie's byob recommendations, especially the Mon-Thur $45/6-course tasting menu at Matyson and the amazing Bibou (hard to get in, so make a res on OpenTable ASAP). But I hope you brought your own wines! Boston's wine shops are an order of magnitude better than Philly's state-run shops.

            1. re: Tir_na_nOg

              agree re: wine stores in philly. there is one exception: the wine store inside garces trading co has a smaller and better curated selection than the state-run stores, and the lady who runs it is terrific and knowledgeable.

              also, cookielee, have i got a thread for you:


              i pursued the very same boston steak frites project several years ago, much to the detriment of my waistline. it was awesome.

              1. re: coookie

                Just to clarify, the wine store inside Garces Trading is in fact a state-run store, as are all other wine stores in the state of PA. It just has a better manager.

                1. re: Buckethead

                  I heard the Trading Co. got a liquor license. Anyone know if this means the state store is going to close or if they will start charging a corkage fee?

                  1. re: coookie

                    I have a place for you. We had dinner one night in the Phila downtown Marriott restaurant, it's called "13". coookie, we had the best skirt steak I have ever had. they have french fries, but we had the lobster mac & cheese. We were v. surprised at the high level of deliciousness for a hotel restaurant.

                  2. re: Tir_na_nOg

                    I sure do! How are ya?! We didn't end up getting to Matyson, too bad. nwinkler, we took a lot of yr recs. Loved Sang Kee and LOVED Han Dynasty! And Vietnam. We couldn't get into Kanella, so dined across the street, at Vargas. It was warm enough to sit outdoors, and I liked it.
                    Thanks so much to everyone for yr suggestions. I am the facilitator for our group when we travel, and they loved the places as much as me!

                    1. re: CookieLee

                      I'm giving my own thread a bump, as we are returning to fabulous Philly soon. People are already talking about dining again at Vietnam. Is it still there? I'm looking forward to a return visit to Han Dynasty, still just as great?

                      1. re: CookieLee

                        You should really try to get into Kanella or somewhere else instead of returning to Vietnam. Han Dynasty I would say is worth a repeat visit. Vietnam is fine but isn't any better than most Vietnamese restaurants I've been to in other cities or elsewhere in Philly, it's actually worse in some respects (soups in particular, and the overall depth of menu which is pared down compared to places that cater to more SE Asian clientele).

                          1. re: barryg

                            We succeeded in going to Kanella! Everyone in my party loved it. We got 2 veg price fixe, and 4 non veg. It was more than enough food, and it was all very interesting and delicious. Thanks so much for the rec from everyone!

                          2. re: CookieLee

                            With regard to Han Dynasty, they have a new outpost in University City that has a bar, which might enhance the experience for some folks. They also opened an outpost in Manayunk. So you have three choices for Han Dynasty in Philadelphia proper.

                            1. re: cwdonald

                              Thanks to you all! The schedule allows for a more leisurely pace for dinner, so I will definitely shoot for Kanella. I'll find out if they take reservations.

                                1. re: CookieLee

                                  If you're up for it, Kanella does a prix-fixe on Sundays, you pick vegetarian or non-veg and they bring out 7-8 courses of small things. It's a lot of food but a great way to sample everything they're capable of there (which is a lot). When I was there it was $30 for veg and $35 for non-veg, my wife and I got one of each so we ended up tasting 15 different dishes, and with one exception they were all very good, about half of them were fantastic.

                                    1. re: CookieLee

                                      CookieLee! I was just doing philly research for nationals and saw this! We should compare restaurant notes. So far I have reservations are at Chifa (peruvian-chinese), Zahav (Israeli), Osteria (Italian), and Barbuzzo (Mediterranean small plates) for the week.


                                        1. re: Buckethead

                                          What he said... if you want to do a Garces, I would do Tinto, Amada or Distrito. Jamonera if you want to do Tapas but do not want Tinto or Amada.

                                          Kanella or Koo Zee Doo offer much more interesting food unless you are from Boston.

                                          1. re: cwdonald

                                            I'd skip Chifa for sure. I'm also not a fan of Distrito. I think Zahav is the best restaurant in town right now. For French, Bistrot La Minette (not stuffy). The original Dimitri's in Queen Village still has the best grilled octopus.

                                            1. re: evansaunt

                                              Sounds good! I love grilled octopus. And French!

                                    2. re: Buckethead

                                      Made a res for Kanella, thanks! Do you have any thoughts as to which Han Dynasty I dined at? It was an open room, up a short flight of stairs from the street. We sat at a large round table.

                                      1. re: CookieLee

                                        Must have been the Han Dynasty in Old City (Chestnut St. between Front and 2nd Sts.), that was the only one in the city at the time of your last visit.

                                        1. re: Buckethead

                                          Yes, you're right. I didn't make it back there this trip. However, I'm planning to return at some point, Philly is so close to Boston. I just need to be there when the weather isn't quite so hot...