"Just Good Food" Ideas for 4 Days/3 Nights in Philly?
Hi: My wife and I will be visiting Philly toward the end of the year for a convention, staying downtown at the Ritz-Carlton. We would appreciate some restaurant recommendations for B, L & D within a 1-5 mile radius.
As the title suggests, quality of food is #1 by a mile. Other parameters: For us, the important factors are: honest food, local flavor, icons, character, reasonable prices, traditional/ethnic, casual. NOT so important are: trendy, celeb chefs, architectural grandeur, global/ nouvelle, fancy plating, fawning service, $$$$, big wine list, view, formal. We're more interested in places where you'd go for a "fix" of a certain thing, or take your brother or sister to, rather than places to see and be seen with biz associates over food. And we do not mean to exclude places that are true dives, as long as they're serving up great food, and are safe.
Also, any recs for a good lunch place near Fantes would be welcome.
You'll certainly want to check out Reading Terminal Market for a lunch - great selection of local foods and specialties, and nothing "fancy" about it. Don't miss the roast pork sandwich from DiNics and maybe some treats from one of the Amish stands.
For dinner, I just had an amazing meal at Salento which I just wrote about. Unpretentious, affordable, *real* Italian food. The kind of place where a "simple" bowl of linguine with tomato sauce can be a revelation.
Rangoon in Chinatown is also great, super affordable, a unique place as it features Burmese cuisine which you don't see every day.
Second the Reading Terminal Recommendation, especially the roast pork sandwich at DiNic's for lunch (the market is not open for dinner). Also worthy of a few calories (well more than a few) are the pancakes at the Dutch Eating Place, the double chocolate chip cookies at Fourth Street Cookies, the soft pretzels at Miller's Twist, the chocolate peanut butter pretzels at Mueller's, and a cannoli at Termini's.
Make sure to get gelato at Capogiro (a block and a half or so from the RC at 13th and Sansom), and you may want to try the lamb sandwiches at Argan on 17th St. for another lunch.
Well you are in luck because the people on this board, and Philadelphians in general, value quality food over glitz and hype. Not to say that we don't have those kind of restaurants, but with only a handful of exceptions, the food needs to be good for a restaurant to have any staying power.
There are a lot of posts on this board asking similarly broad questions to yours, so I suggest you look at those to get a feel for what's available.
That said I would recommend the following types of restaurants as starting off point to ask questions, or search the board, Yelp, etc. Others will chime in with specific suggestions I'm sure.
- Gastopub, we invented this genre, at least in the US.
- Vietnamese, good places for a full meal as well as quick Pho and Banh Mi spots.
- Mid-priced BYOBs. We have a lot of BYOBs, which usually have a casual, neighborhood-y atmosphere and are food focused and affordable (eg, Kanella, Cochon).
- Upscale BYOBs. A number of our BYOBs serve food that competes with larger and fancier restaurants (eg, Bibou, Matyson) but in a more intimate setting.
- Italian, almost every region is covered well.
- Vietnamese, lots of good places for both full meals and quick Pho or Banh Mi.
- Mexican, a plethora of authentic taquerias dot South Philly.
- Sandwiches, lots of good stuff to get on a long Italian roll. Including but not limited to cheesesteaks, hoagies, and roast pork sandwiches.
There are a lot of great neighborhood oriented restaurants in Center City but you should definitely get to other neighborhoods like Northern Liberties, South Philly, and West Philly to get the full experience.
Barryg - Great list + without a doubt those are the differentiated culinary highlights of this city! Friends come in from SF or NYC -- they're still impressed by our offerings in the categories you mentioned.
Maybe add to that list too, the emerging upscale food carts, as well -- done previously only in LA and SF, but I'd say we're holding our own in this category as well.
If you insist...
Gastropub: South Philly Tap Room
Vietnamese full meal: Nam Phoung
Pho: Pho Ha
Banh Mi: Ba Le
Cheesesteak: John's Roast Pork
Roast Pork Sandwich: DiNic's
Italian Hoagie: Sarcone's
Plenty of debate on most of these picks. I'm punting on Mexican and Italian because the options are too numerous.. it really depends on what you are looking for. Other hounds have more expertise in these areas.
i agree that gastropubs and BYOBs are styles of dining refined to perfection here in philly! gastropubs... prohibition taproom and north third top the list for me, with south philly tap room, memphis taproom and standard tap a not-too-distant second. BYOBs - love modo mio, kanella, melograno, dmitris. modo mio is some of my favorite italian in the city. same owner as paesano's which has also been recommended for sammiches. modo mio is upscale (not comfortable) italian dining with an amazing prix fixe menu (last time i checked i think it was around $33 for 4 courses?). they can do no wrong in my book. a word of warning - they are not about subtlety there. many have taken my rec and not loved it because of too much salt, which tends to be a non-issue for me.
and fish. go to fish. 17th and lombard. seafood. full bar. amazing. it is hands-down my favorite eating experience in the city... and perhaps in the world?
late to see this, but please make fish a must-go on your list! i was just talking to friends tonight over thanksgiving dinner how each new place i try i rate against fish, and no place QUITE stands up (though close). i went to meme the other night and they were pretty close, though :)
Here's another lunch recommendation from me: XIX in the Hyatt at the Bellevue. Yes, it's a hotel restaurant but they do an amazing spread for lunch for $20/person that is delicious and classy without being stuffy in the slightest. I've taken friends to it who have been seriously blown away, plus it's kind of a "secret" deal that doesn't get a lot of hype. Basically there's a tasty salad/charcuterie/cheese buffet to start, you choose 1 of 5 entrees prepared fresh in the kitchen (the steak is always great), and then unlimited selections from a dessert buffet as well. Make a reservation and you'll likely get a great table with views of the city as well. If your convention is at the convention center, it's also really convenient, but budget in time for it as it's a leisurely experience.
I wrote it up in more detail here:
Bibou is the place we would take everyone we know who appreciates good food. It is a must do if you like french bistro.
2nd for Fish as well as Paesano's
Radicchio and Matyson are two of our favs.
We love Tria for small bites, salads, cheeses and a nice glass of wine. Great fun.
Do visit DiBrunos on Chestnut. The best gourmet shop in the city IMHO.
Capogiro for gelato.
We love Doma for korean and sushi.
Reading terminal is a must do. Preferably on Wed - Sat when the amish stands are open.
Sazon for Venezuelan - not fancy just wonderful authentic food.
With other Hounds providing the more "insider" knowledge and recs: I will just add a few which fit into your categories of ethnic and casual but may also cross the trendy line just a bit. Amada and Zahav are small plate establishments which offer great choices of interesting and delicious foods in a very pleasant friendly environment. My out-of-town friends alway enjoy a few drinks at the City Tavern for the authentic feel of the restored structure which provided our Founding Fathers with food and lodging when coming together to evolve the creeds which formed our nation. I believe Tria was also mentioned which is nice small plates and loud and crowed fun. BTW for drinks before dinner at either of the small plates first mentioned, the City Tavern is only two short block away from either.