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Help with a 1st Timer in Philly

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My girlfriend and I will be venturing to Philly for 2 nights December 20-22. We are looking for places to eat and really have no idea as to where to go. Neither of us have been to Philly and this will be the final stop in our trip from Charleston(home)>DC>NYC>Boston>Home. I have the following ideas in mind...

--BYOB Restaurant for dinner - new american, nothing too expensive, but good food. Entrees under $30?
--Philly Cheesesteak - cliche, i know, but I love them and i'll be damned if I leave Philly without one
--Chinatown? We love dim sum and all chinese food

We are big foodies and like just about everything, we're not too picky but we don't want the run of the mill dining experience, we'd like to experience local places that are big on farm to table. Chain restaurants are no go's for us. Given the trip's length I know we're really limited and because we aren't on a spending spree our budget is limited, but we want to enjoy ourselves.

Any and all suggestions are greatly appreciated.

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  1. 1. Fond on E Passyunk Ave. in South Philly. We have a few excellent New American BYOs, this is my favorite. Entrees are all in the $20s. Farm to table isn't their raison d'etre or anything but they usually list the source of the main ingredients on the menu. Most places in Philly that trumpet their farm to table cred are not that good. Bistro 7 is another excellent one, the prices are slightly higher than Fond and I do prefer Fond. Sonata is another good place, I haven't been there since they opened but it was very good at the time and they just got a good review. It's very slightly less expensive than Fond.

    2. Please skip the cheesesteak and get an Arista from Paesano's at 9th and Christian.

    3. Han Dynasty in old city is the best Chinese in the city that I know of. We don't have any excellent dim sum here, but I'm not a big fan of dim sum to begin with so I'm biased. If you want to try something you probably won't find at any other stops along your trip, Rangoon in Chinatown is Burmese food and is excellent.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Buckethead

      I agree with Buckethead about Paesano's Arista sandwich, get it and walk across the street to George's just below Christian on 9th and get a cheesesteak if you must!

    2. 3. Rangoon, absolutely. There's a lot of great Chinese places, but if you really want something not run of the mill, it's one of the most unique places we have to offer - and I really believe one of our best as well.

      1. For the BYO, I highly recommend either Matyson (New American w/global influences), or Bibou (French). Matyson has a fantastic weeknight (M-TH) prix fixe for $45. It changes every week and is based around some theme, often seasonal. The food is consistently excellent.

        I second Rangoon for the second dinner. Burmese is sort of a cross between Thai and Indian, quite unique, very delicious, and very reasonably priced.

        Another great Philly place to check out during the day is Reading Terminal Market - a giant indoor market with a mix of prepared food and grocery stand. You can get the classic Philly roast pork sandwich with greens and provolone there from DiNic's (much better than a cheesesteak, and just as Philly).

        1 Reply
        1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

          I agree that Rangoon is a good choice, but if you are a fan of soup dumplings stop at Dim Sum Garden (a dive on 11th street between Market and Arch) or Sakura Mandarin right up at 11th and Race. They are exceptional. Both places also have good scallion pancakes and I recently had great hand drawn noodles from Dim Sum Garden.

        2. 1. Matyson would be my pick. Tasting menu or regular (when I go with the SO usually one of us gets the tasting and the other does selections from the regular.)

          2. I like Jim's on South Street, if you must do the cheesesteak thing. Better pick would be roast pork from DiNics in Reading Terminal Market.

          3. I always loved Kingdom of Vegetarians all-you-can-eat dim sum, even for non-vegetarians. Otherwise in Chinatown love Vietnam Palace and Rangoon.

          1 Reply
          1. re: sockii

            I concur with your choice of Matyson. Four course tasting menu for $45 each and very high quality.

          2. This may give you some places to find a good cheesesteak.

            http://www.philly.com/philly/restaura...

            Done in 2002 and by four college kids, they did hit some of the good places. As a lowly pizza steak (tomato sauce and provolone) lover I am not worthy to comment on cheese steaks but only to give directions to information regarding same.

            1. Matyson for the byob.

              1. jims for the cheesesteak and I am a fan of Joy Tsin Lau for the dim sum ...Reading Terminal Market is a must do for at a minimum snacks for the hotel room

                1. I think you should consider another classic Philly dining experience over the chinatown thing--- we have a lot of craft breweries and a young, fun bar&dining culture. There are a lot of midpriced choices for excellent food & good drinks (I am assuming you both drink, so go ahead and ignore this post if not).

                  Jose Garces' Village Whiskey is in a great neighborhood/walkable area and is the best gastropub grub in the area, in my humble opinion.
                  Resurrection ale house might not be walkable from your hotel, but is excellent, with amazing beer and feels like a great value.
                  The Northern Liberties area is a cool, younger scene. Depending on the weather it might be a no-go if you are staying in the heart of the city, but there's good pub food, mexican, and lots of excellent bars (N. 3rd, Standard tap are both good grub and great for drinks & conversation).
                  Eulogy belgian tap in the old city has about a million cool choices, and that is also a fun section of the city to visit.

                  I'd recommend you do a dinner in the rittenhouse/center city section and one in the old city if you want to see more of philly. In winter, the old city can be much prettier. Right in the center, naked chocolate cafe is my favorite place for an after dinner dessert, so if your gal has a sweet tooth you can take her there for amazing drinking chocolate, and it's a fun way to make 10 bucks seem like amazing icing on the cake of a good night. er...just some suggestions, out of the blue!

                  1. I'm among a vanishing minority of chowhounds who thinks a Philly cheesesteak is a worthwhile experience. The roast pork is great too, but I, for one, can empathize with your need for a cheesesteak fix. You could try Campo's, in Old City. They use bread from the famed Sarcone's bakery in the Italian market, and they have the whiz option, which for whatever reason is how I prefer mine. Jim's is a safe bet, too, but is a bit bland for my taste.

                    Several great chinatown places have been mentioned. In the same vein, consider a trip to the Italian market area for either (or both) Mexican or Vietnamese. There are a number of great taquerias along 9th street that are suitable for a quick lunch (Los Taquitos de Puebla for tacos al pastor, Taqueria La Veracruzana for chicken tacos), or for something more recognizable as a restaurant, consider La Lupe and Plaza Garibaldi. There are a number of Vietnamese places along Washington Ave, many specializing in pho. For something other than pho, consider Nam Phuong or Le Viet. I've only been to the first, but they both get love on these boards. At either, try a "broken rice" platter if you've never had one.