Dinner for 2 under $100
My wife and I are going to Philadelphia for a weekend in August minus the kid. We are staying in Center City but will have a car. We're looking for fun, non-touristy, non-cheesesteak restaurants to eat in. We like Continental, Italian, Spanish, French but probably want to skip the Chinese, Japanese, Thai on this trip. Nice neighborhood places or places with a good scene or places with unsual/interesting food/decor would fit the bill. We'd like to spend $100 or less per meal so no fancy French places or steakhouses.
We're also looking for lunch/cofffeehouse/brunch spots in addition to Reading Terminal Market which we'll definitely hit.
I've rarely spent over $100 at any of Center City's Italian BYOBs so you can easily have a full meal (2 apps, 2 entrees, 1 dessert to share or something like that) and do well, especially if you're not big drinkers and maybe just want to pick up something simple and inexpensive nearby. Salento, Branzino, Melograno, Caffe Casta Diva and also Matyson might all be worth you checking the menus to see what appeals (I love Salento of that bunch, especially).
We ended up going to Modo Mio and Kanella based on recommendations here and in other posts.
We loved them both so thank you!
My wife nearly killed me upon arriving at Modo Mio as we took the subway from Center City in what ended up being a driving rainstorm. We got soaked walking from the Girard station even with a huge umbrella. The restaurant more than made up for it. The fried Mozzarella sandwich for me followed by the farfalle with lamb ragu including a hint of chocolat mint (Yum!), a pork loin, and the delectable flourless chocolate cake (great). I was so focused on my food I barely recall what she had. She did get the bass which was nice. It was an extra $5 which helped push our total with tip to $103, above the $100 mark, but I'm not complaining. Great meal. Nice atmosphere. We took a cab back to hotel and dried out.
Kanella was next. Loved the neighborhood and our window seat. The hummus which had lamb in it (a theme here) was sensational. My wife and I voted it our favorite dish of the trip. We also had a salad with very fresh feta to start. She had the chicken and I had what was the equivalent of Cypriot Wiener Schnitzel. Both were good. My wife ordered three desserts for table, Greek yogurt, mixed dessert plate, and an olive oil infused cake. They were creative and tasty. The yogurt was shaped like flan and had a lighter consistency. I liked it as it was different from the Greek yogurt now available everywhere, though I would imagine some would be disappointed. This meal with tip was $119, no complaints either.
I fourth Modo Mio though I know they (and it's sister restaurant Monsu, which is Sicilian and also a good choice) is closed Labor Day weekend. I would add Vietnam in Chinatown, if you are up for Vietnamese. If you go, we love BBQ platter for two which about $28. Best deal in town and delicious. Service and setting is a cut above many Chinatown restos.
The $100 is a rough guide. I was looking at it as an inclusive price with tax and tip which would mean about $80 before these. We may have a glass of wine each but that's it on the drinking so most of the money would go to food. We might go a tad higher.
Thanks for the ideas so far. Keep them coming.
Try Radiccio, which is just north of center city. Warning, difficult to find parking. BYO real Italian.
You didn't mention Mexican, but Lolita on 13th St is modern, sophisticated, non Tex-Mex and BYO and would easily be below $100. On the same block is Barbuzzo. Haven't been there, but have heard good things and there is always a crowd. In fact, just walk up and down the blocks of 13th St between Chestnut and Walnut to see what appeals to you. Bindi, across from Lolita, belongs to the same people as Lolita and offers modern takes on Indian. There is also a French wine bar on the block. Never been in, but looks interesting.
Parc on Rittenhouse Square will be over $100 for dinner unless you watch what you order, but it is a nice choice for people watching and fairly authentic French bistro food for lunch or brunch.
If you want to venture farther out, Collingswood in South Jersey is in the midst of a dining Renaissance. It's a dry town, so everything is BYO. Our favorite there is Sapori, a Sicilian place with an extensive menu. Definitely not a red gravy kind of place. Our next favorite there is Bistro di Marino which is slightly more traditional Italian, but with a modern twist.
Most of the Tapas places are with bars and pretty good, but unless you want a snack or don't drink, your tab could easily go over $100. We love Amada in Old City, Tinto near Rittenhouse Square and Bar Ferdinand in Northern Liberties. Bar Ferdinand is probably the most neighborhoody, but difficult to find parking. In the same neighborhood, on the northern edge of Northern Liberties is a Portuguese BYO that will be under $100. Very interesting and a bit different than Spanish.
You didn't mention other cuisines, but a definite neighborhood gem is Kanella, a Cypriot BYO east of Broad St. Very noisy and popular. Great seafood. Interesting takes on Greek classics. Much better than your average Greek Taverna.
601 Haddon Ave, Collingswood, NJ 08108
re: dining with doc
Modo Mio is probably the best value in the city, the four course menu is $33 and you can pick from the entire menu, it's not set, and the food is great. It is a bit cramped and definitely loud, and the food is on the salty side. The BYO places we have are great for staying in budget if you drink. A couple other very good BYOs--Kanella in Center City, Cypriot food and also has brunch/lunch Thurs through Sunday, and Melegrano off Rittenhouse for Italian.
If you're looking for casual neighborhood places, you can wander down to some restaurants off the beaten track. I really like the Royal Tavern for gastropub and Catahoula for Cajun food (more sophisticated cooking than Royal). Both very casual and not touristy in the least, and both have great brunch, too.
An interesting brunch idea is Carman's Country Kitchen in South Philly. Only open Thurs through Sunday. A tiny, quirky place with only four items on the rotating menu (plus some sides). Very friendly staff and definitely an experience. A bit pricey for what it is (expect to pay $15+ pp) but unusual for sure. Her slogan is, "She Puts the C*** in Country." http://www.hollyeats.com/Carmans.htm