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woefully i have but 36 hours in philly - WHERE for my only dinner??

hi all...

last time i was in philly for a weekend, i had requisite cheese steak en route to mouth when i was seized with some strange chest thing (seriously) and spent the rest of the day in bed wondering what was happening to me. dinner plans were cancelled and we haven't been back since.

now that i'm local for one dinner and one lunch (and obviously the lunch is to finally ingest that requisite cheese steak...) i'm looking for recommendations for something low key but spectacular for dinner. something unique to philly, in/around the rittenhouse area, that won't break the bank.

considering alma de cuba...tinto...pumpkin...thoughts?

thanks in advance, as always.

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  1. First of all forget the cheesesteak. Go to Reading Terminal and get a roast pork sandwich with sharp provolone and either broccoli rabe or spinach. The chest pains were your body's way of telling you that you need to skip the cheese steak and have roast pork instead.

    Around Rittenhouse, depending on what you are looking for, you can get some really fantastic food. I am a huge fan of a.kitchen (Brian Sikora's restaurant), Dandelion (english gastro pub), Tinto or Village Whiskey (high end burger and great whisky selection.) I am not a fan of Alma de Cuba, and Pumpkin while good is not going to blow you away.

    Also is there are particular cuisine you are looking for? Or something to avoid? Also, what day of the week will you be here?

    4 Replies
    1. re: cwdonald

      I second the roast pork advice! As far as restaurants go, it's about 10 blocks from Rittenhouse Square, but I've really enjoyed Garces Trading Company the few times I've been there.

      1. re: cwdonald

        Ha! Maybe so, re: cheesesteak. But isn't it breaking some sort of rule/religion/pact to come to Philly and NOT ingest a little wiz? No?

        Just read the menu @ Village Whiskey and have drooled all over myself - can't really imagine going anywhere else at this point. They seem to be the same group/people as Tino?

        We're coming in tomorrow night (friday)...open to any cuisine...hubby is allergic to nuts but otherwise we're without restrictions...may take a chance with Vill Whiskey...I mean...burger and pickle bar...where can I go wrong?

        1. re: nycreba

          VW is same owner/exec chef as Tinto--Iron Chef Jose Garces--and they actually share a kitchen, though they are two different restaurants from the patron's perspective. VW is tiny and gets very crowded, even if its only two of you there is a good chance you'll have to wait, especially because of the holiday weekend. But you can always get drinks at Tinto next door or somewhere else (Ranstead Room nearby makes great cocktails) and they will call your cell.

          Most cheesesteaks are not that great and the best often don't even use wiz. However, at VW I suggest you get the fries with short rib and Sly Fox cheese sauce... similar consistency to wiz and it's made with a local beer, so get your local flavor and wiz fix that way instead :)

          1. re: nycreba

            Village Whiskey, Tinto, Amada, Chifa, Distrito, Garces Trading Company, JG Domestic are all part of the Garces empire (ie Jose Garces of TV notoriety if you watch Iron Chef). JG Domestic does nose to tail dinners with different animals that are quite good. Amada is reknown for their suckling pig, Chifa brings the fusion of Peruvian and Chinese food you find in Peru to the menu (though truth be told better examples can be found in South Florida). Garces recently purchased a farm in Upper Bucks county where he is starting to source produce and eventually animals for his restaurants.

            Village Whiskey really is a treat with their burgers and their pickles.If you like french fries they are fried in duck fat. They also do fine cocktails and you are near the Ranstead Room which is a great speak easy type of bar. Only risk at VW is the wait as it is a very small place.

            Re the cheese steak, have it if you must, but if you like flavor, Roast Pork really is the way to go. And if you go to Reading Terminal, you will also get to experience another part of what makes Philadelphia a special place for food Another time you need to get to Paesanos which is a local sandwich shop that brings the sandwich to a new level. The Arista there which is from suckling pig with fried long hots sharp provolone and greens is a thing of beauty.

        2. Skip the cheesestak and get almost anything else at Reading Terminal Market, maybe a roast pork from DiNic's or an Italian hoagie from Salumaria.

          I wouldn't go to Alma or Tinto for unique to Philly. Never been to Pumpkin but maybe get outside of Rittenhouse just a little bit and look at Barbuzzo or Kanella.

          1 Reply
          1. re: barryg

            I have to add my vote for a roast pork from DiNics and Barbuzzo.

          2. Pumpkin is a small byob (which sets it apart from the Stephen Starr and Garces places mentioned). The food is excellent. That would be my recommendation.

              1. Thanks for all the stellar recommendations...good times in Philly.
                Husband couldn't be deterred from cheesesteaks so we had our mandatory sammy at lunch - good, but ultimately forgettable.
                Wandered out for drinks @ Tinto while waiting for a table at Village Whiskey...was fine...better for wine & tapas than for cocktails but a nice bar. Wandered back to VW before our table was ready in time to see 2 seats surrendered at the bar - perfect! Gave up the table to while the night away there, sampling bourbons and gorging ourselves on the pickled appetizers (um...tomatoes and ricotta? there is nothing better. nothing...) and cheese puffs. I had the burger (pretty great - not the best ever, but worthy of accolades, definitely) and he had the mac & cheese which was marvelous.
                Its kind of exactly what we were looking for - wish there was something akin in DC. Marvin is all I can think of but its not the same thing at all, really.
                Thanks for all the recs - tried our hand at Roast Pork @ Reading Terminal, btw, but it was the morning of NYE and was chaos. Also wandered by Di Brunos and dropped mad $$$ on some amazing charcuterie....yum.