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Oct 17, 2011 09:50 AM

Friday night dinner recommendation?

Hello Philly hounds!

My husband and I will be coming north from Baltimore to Philly this Friday & Saturday for a mini vacation and annual pilgrimage to the Italian market to stock up on kitchen essentials (olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, etc.). We were hoping to try somewhere new for dinner Friday night but could use some advice. Here's what we're looking for:

*Casual and not too pricey, let's say $30-ish for the two of us excluding drinks.
*Vegetarian friendly but not exclusively veg, where a dedicated carnivore would also be happy. Style of cuisine isn't important apart from this; we're both adventurous eaters.
*Fairly easy to get to from downtown without a car. Walking or a short cab ride would be best, and we're staying at the Doubletree at Broad & Locust.
*Good beer would be nice but not essential, because we're planning to go out for drinks separately after dinner.
*Not super crowded for an early meal - we would prefer not to have to make a reservation so we can be flexible on time.

Monk's is probably going to be our fallback if a new place doesn't work out, and we're big fans of Monk's.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. $15pp and good beer puts you in gastropub territory. The better and cheaper places are mostly outside CC though. My rec is Royal Tavern, it's not super close but it is walkable or a very short cab ride, food is good and cheap, good beer list. Not as good of a beer list as Monk's but the food is better. A little farther, Resurrection Ale House is good, better beer list than Royal. The best is South Philly Tap Room, it's farther but an easy and fast subway ride (station is next to your hotel), plus a walk of a few blocks. You could take a cab there but not so easy to hail one to get back, you could have them call one for you though. Khyber Pass Pub in Old City would probably work too, great beer list. Short cab ride or subway ride.

    All get crowded on weekends so may be a short wait. The earlier you go the better.

    1 Reply
    1. re: barryg

      I've actually had really good luck just walking back to Broad and grabbing a cab there north when we go to the South Philly Tap Room. We usually subway down and cab back, it's a really easy trip and definitely worth it.

      I'd also recommend Varga Bar at 10th and Spruce, easy walk, great beers and good food.

    2. All of barry's recommendations are excellent and I'd second any of them. And might also throw Grace Tavern into the mix, if only because I crave their blackened green beans around the clock.

      One other thought, since you mentioned Monks, would be La Viola, which is right across the street. It's BYO and it's menu items are very reasonable. Specials can be a bit pricey.

      Another alternative along the same vein is Bistro La Baia, just a few blocks south. Prices are very reasonable there as well, and we've always enjoyed it a great deal. It's also a BYO.

      The only problem with either is that they can be very noisy and crowded, so if your last item is very important criteria I'd steer clear of both.

      1. How about Pub and Kitchen? Might be a bit higher than $15 pp but the food is worth it

        1 Reply
        1. re: drjane

          unless p&k has changed the menu recently (which ive heard they have), i dont consider it to be very veg-friendly.

          i really like the food at tria- would recommend that over p&k or la viola/la baia any day.

        2. Thanks for the suggestions, all, really appreciate them. Have a few thoughts/questions:

          *I've been to Resurrection and liked it, but found the beer better than the food, and it's so tiny I'd be afraid of it filling up in the blink of an eye.
          *The menu I found online for P&K has basically nothing for vegetarians save for salad, which I don't count as dinner.
          *Tria sounded really good, but for more of a happy hour/snack destination than dinner.
          *Varga Bar made me a little nervous about food prices since they didn't include them in the menu. I know that's sometimes a case of CYA in case prices change, but not always...
          *Didn't think about it when I wrote the original post, but I guess we're not really looking for Italian places since we're hitting the market on Saturday and are going to get our fill there (especially if we get Tom at Claudio's!).

          So - out of Royal Tavern, SPTR, and Khyber Pass, which would you say has the best food? From what I can tell, we'll be able to get good beer at any of the three.

          5 Replies
            1. re: DaisyM

              Neither of those would meat the OP's preference for good beer selection...

              My personal preference is for SPTR, as their specials are always good, and I am a sucker for their wild boar tacos. Khyber is a great choice if you like cajun style food.

              1. re: cwdonald

                The Op said, "nice but not essential" since they are also going out for drinks. I was just trying to give an alternative since she said that they were adventurous eaters.

            2. re: guenevere51


              I think SPTR has the best food, followed by Royal Tavern, and Khyber (those last two are the same owners). But, as cwdonald suggested, Khyber is a better choice if you like cajun style food.

              1. re: guenevere51

                Varga is pricy, and I have not been impressed with the food. At $15pp you'd be limited. The beer list is awesome and rotates a lot, but beers are also expensive there, definitely more than at the other places.

                SPTR has the better food, def order off the specials menu but on the menu, the wild boar tacos and the haloumi-galia melon salad are must-orders.

                Khyber and RT are good too, I'd put them about the same for food quality but the menus are different. Also look at the chalkboard specials at those places.

              2. We ended up eating at Khyber Pass, and had a great meal. The tip about going early was a good one, because we pulled in at 6 and were looking at a half-hour wait, but got lucky and had 2 seats open up at the bar shortly after. I got the vegan sausage sandwich with sweet potato fries; the sausage was on a fantastic roll and had a really nice heat to it that gradually built, and the fries were just plain awesome. Husband got the standard burger and gave it high praise, and his onion rings were the lightest and crispiest I've ever come across. Beer was great - we tried a smoked porter, an Oktoberfest, and a few others that are escaping me - and the service was outstanding. Our bartenders were top notch, knew their stuff and were exceptionally friendly and attentive despite the crowds.

                Thanks again to everyone for the input. We ate so, so well in the brief time we had in Philly, between Khyber Pass, Reading (husband's still swooning about the roast pork from DiNic), and the Italian Market. You have truly an amazing food city, and we can't wait for our next visit.