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Planning help for Philly trip

My partner and I are coming from Chicago for a long weekend of eating and drinking and would love some input on what we have planned. We are staying at the Palomar in the beginning of December and won't be renting a car. We will mostly be walking or taking short cab rides, but we don't mind going a bit further if it's for something that really shouldn't be missed. We have been to Philly a few times before, but it's been a couple of years.

We will be staying for 4 nights and so far are planning dinners at Amada, Fish, and Osteria, and a lunch at Barbuzzo. The only one of these we've been to before is Amada- we love it and go back every time we're in town. We already have reservations for all but Osteria, as it seems on Opentable, they don't start taking reservations this far in advance. Anything here we should consider changing, omitting, or adding?

Most of our other plans are still up in the air, but we're thinking about hitting up Ranstead Room, Franklin Mortgage, Oyster House, etc for cocktails. We really want to try Zahav, so were thinking of doing a Friday or Monday Happy Hour for drinks and appetizers.

Places we are on the fence about are Fork, Tria, Supper, and Garces Trading Co. Also, I was positive I wanted to do Talula's Garden, but then read some very mixed things about it- has anyone been there recently that can tell me how they liked it? The menu LOOKS great, but you never know.

We also need a possible great brunch spot, and maybe a couple lunches. We've done cheese steaks before, and are probably going to skip that this time and try DiNic's at RTM for roast pork.

We'd appreciate any input- thanks so much!

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  1. Sounds like you will have a wonderful eating adventure. To vary things a bit you could consider going to Tinto rather than Amada for a slightly different take on Tapas. Have you eaten at Garces restaurant in Chicago? I was only there once and was a bit underwhelmed, preferring the Philadelphia outposts.

    Another place to consider for cocktails would be Farmer's Cabinet, though the three places you have mentioned for drinks are all great. You should be able to get into Osteria if you go early, or are willing to eat at the bar even without reservations, unless they have some big function going there.

    Brunch spots high end: La Croix. More relaxed either Parc or A.Kitchen. Dandelion also does a nice brunch.

    For a different take on Sandwiches go to Paisanos down at the Italian Market.

    I haven't been to Talulahs since they are on their third chef. I think they are still settling in. I personally would give A.Kitchen a try over Talulahs (that is the husband of the former husband and wife team that ran Django and later Talulah's Table in Kennett Square.) Similar philosophy, slightly better executed at the moment.

    Other place to perhaps throw on your radar would be Koo Zee Doo, a wonderful Portugese BYO up in the Northern Liberties section of the city.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cwdonald

      cwdonald- thanks for all your advice! Yes, we have been to Mercat a la Planxa (Garces' Chicago spot) quite a few times and while we do like it, I agree, it definitely falls short based on our Amada experiences.

      Going to add Farmer's Cabinet to our list for cocktails. A.Kitchen and Dandelion sound like they are right up our alley- thanks again for all your help so far. Looking forward to some great eating and drinking in Philadelphia.

    2. Garces Trading is better for lunch. I'd skip Fork, do a happy hour at Tria, and have dinner at Kanella. Lacroix is epic for brunch, but Cafe Estelle is my favorite for a regular Sunday brunch.

      2 Replies
      1. re: urbanfabric

        +1 for Koo Zee Doo(you'll take a cab) I'd skip Garces Trading Company and have the tasting menu with lamb shoulder at Zahav (needs to be ordered 24 or 48 hours in advance)

        1. re: urbanfabric

          A contrarian here, the best reason to go to Fork is you you love simple French bistro food. And the house cured meats are great too. Its not transcendent, but in many ways comfort food made with good ingredients. The same could be said for Supper.

        2. Also, for our counter-part to the Italian Roast Beef sandwich, check out John's Roast Pork for lunch and grab a roast pork sandwich. Be careful, it has wacky hours, but also DiNic's in the Reading Terminal is a good spot to try this sandwich with better hours.

          1. You should really try to hit Zahav for dinner to do it justice. Definitely better than any of the places you are on the fence about.

            3 Replies
            1. re: barryg

              Thanks to everyone for the responses- all extremely helpful. Sounds like I need to definitely consider a dinner at Zahav or Koo Zee Doo.

              1. re: Bdav1818

                Yes! We were at Koo Zee Doo this weekend and I highly recommend the duck, salt cod fritters, and the chopped salad. It was one of the best meals we've had in Philly. It is a byob. And the lamb at Zahav is just amazing. Hope you have a great time in Philly.

                1. re: DaisyM

                  I second the lamb at Zahav. One of the best things in town IMO.

            2. Tinto and a.kitchen are walking distance from your hotel. Tria is a great place for drinks and snacks. On Sundays, they offer a "Sunday School" deal where a certain beer, wine and cheese are half price.

              Not food related, but since you're coming in December, I recommend walking over to Macy's to check out the Xmas light show. It's been a Philly Xmas tradition for decades, and while it's definitely old school, most people who check it out really like it. Enjoy your trip!

              1. Thanks again for all this info- a few follow-up questions-

                For anyone that has been to both Amada and Tinto- is there a compelling reason to try Tinto over Amada, already knowing that I absolutely love Amada? Torn between these two.

                Marigold Kitchen looks very intriguing to me, but I can't find too many recent comments on this board about it. The recent review in Philadelphia Magazine is making me seriously consider it, but I was wondering if anyone here has any thoughts?

                Still sold on Fish and Barbuzzo, but I'm a little torn on Osteria - I'm seeing lots of people who really love it, and then an equal amount of lukewarm reviews (I've never been to a Vetri place and have been wanting to try one, but not at the expense of missing something better). Since I only get to Philly once every couple of years, it seems like I'd be crazy to miss Zahav, so I'd better work that in somewhere.

                We'll have plenty of time to check out tons of great places for cocktails, snacks, etc, but am having trouble with my larger meals because there are SO many great places to choose from. Philly is one of my all-time favorite food cities- I might just have to move there!

                3 Replies
                1. re: Bdav1818

                  I prefer Amada to Tinto. I've been to Osteria twice and am one of those people who are lukewarm on it. Zahav and Koo Zee Doo would be on my list.

                  1. re: DaisyM

                    I was just at Osteria last night and had another stellar meal. Personally prefer it over Barbuzzo, including the pizzas. To eat we split a vegetable of the day platter, fried smelt appetizer, the calamari pizza made with squid ink riccotta that was really good, and had the chicken liver rigatoni which was lovely and rich with a very earthy taste. Barbuzzo's food is good, but the space is so cramped, I find it detracts from the enjoyment of the meal. But if you want to try a Marc Vetri restaurant, Osteria is the one to go to first, and the easiest place to get a table.

                  2. re: Bdav1818

                    I prefer Amada to Tinto, based mostly on atmosphere. The food is great at both. Amada is livelier and more fun. To me, Tinto feels a little cold and stuffy. Other people love it, though.

                    I am another Osteria fan. I have never had less than a stellar meal there. I would strongly encourage a visit to a Vetri restaurant, and Osteria is probably the best, unless you want to spring for the expense of Vetri, which is a truly special experience. I enjoy the Garces places, especially Amada and Distrito, but overall I enjoy the Vetri restaurants more.

                    I agree about Zahav. I also saw that review of Marigold, but I don't know anyone who has actually been in years (and neither have I). I think it's become more of a neighborhood place than a destination.