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Are these places I should check out for 3 nights in Philly - Other thoughts??

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Hi - I am on business in Philly for a few days by myself. I'll be working during the day, but I can do what I please at night. I am from San Francisco, love really good food and drink, and have no problem going and sitting at a restaurant bar by myself and having dinner. Here is what my friend form Philly (who now lives in SF) suggested:

Zahav
Standard Tap
Village Whiskey
Amada
Talulas garden

I am staying in Rittenhouse square area (my friend didn't know that when he gave me recs).

Do you have suggestions or confirmations of his suggestions? I am a 32 yr old single woman, and I don't mind going out alone, but I'm not looking to get hit on or a collgeg bar scene! :)

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  1. All very good choices. Someone knows where to go! You may want to consider Jamonera. It's a brand new place that just opened closer to Rittenhouse that is similar to Amada (not that there's anything wrong with Amada). Make sure to get the haloumi cheese at Zahav. If you could get someone to go with you (I think they may need more than one to do this but am not totally sure) you could pre-order the Mesibah at Zahav to get the lamb with chickpeas. One of the top dishes in Philly IMO.

    1. If you are staying in the Rittenhouse area, also consider Lacroix (which is in the Rittenhouse Hotel). It is one of our best fine dining experiences.

      1. Standard Tap is good, and if your main concern is trying local beers on tap there probably isn't a better place but it's kind of a trek and cabs never seem to be as plentiful in Northern Liberties as they should be so getting back to Rittenhouse might be a pain. (I guess it's not far to the Girard el stop though.)
        Bars with good food and beer are what we do best here so there are plenty of options along the same lines that might be a little more convenient for you. Among many others you might try the Khyber Pass Pub (probably the best beer list in center city, good Louisiana-style food), South Philly Tap Room, Pub & Kitchen - everyone here has a favorite and they're all pretty good. There are plenty of gastropub posts on this forum and you probably don't want this to turn into a (pointless) "which is best" argument so I'll stop there.
        If you've got good Spanish in SF I'd skip Amada in favor of your other choices.

        1. We moved to Philly from SF... and the one thing I would add to your list is a good Italian restaurant. Hoagies & Italian are definitely the big things that Philly does better than SF (and most anywhere else). I usually recommend BYO's (also uniquely Philly... but might not work if you want to sit at the bar) - Melograno's and Modo Mio's are among my favorites in the city. I'm sure others will have thoughts on great italian with a single-diner-friendly bar. And definitely get yourself a great hoagie while you're here, too. You won't find those in SF... we tried!

          1. I would add Jamonera (as bluehensfan suggested) and Barbuzzo to your list (both on the 13th Street corridor, not a far walk from Rittenhouse) and a.kitchen in the Rittenhouse area.

            As caganer suggested, Standard Tap is a long way to go for good beer, but a lot of places in Center City have good beer.

            For cocktails, try Franklin Mortgage and Investments.

            1. Since you are staying in Rittenhouse, you must got to Matyson. Either lunch or dinner there will do you fine! I have a dear friend who lives in SF, and when she’s back in Philly for her annual visit, her first question off the plane is, "when do we have reservations for Matyson?"

              9 Replies
              1. re: doxiemom

                Has anyone been to Jamonera yet? I was thinking about stopping by tonight. Is it possible to eat at the bar?

                1. re: Cheesesteak

                  It is, they're doing Restaurant Week though so the menu might be different from what's on the website, and of course it just opened and it's Friday, so you may have a hard time getting in. But if it's the same, I'd recommend the mussels escabeche, the pig's tail, and the merguez. They also have Spanish vermouth on the drinks list, I'd never had it before and it was very interesting.

                  1. re: Buckethead

                    Ugh, Restaurant Week. Thanks for the head's up. I'll give it a try but I'll be sure to have a few back-ups in mind.

                    1. re: Buckethead

                      You were right on point about those pig tails. They were excellent. We walked in sans reservation on Friday night at 7 and sat right at the bar. Tiny place but it was excellent. We had pigs tails, oysters, croquettes, fried potatoes, and I believe a braised oxtail dish that came topped with a gently fried egg. Everything was fantastic. Our bartender was very friendly and knowledgable. Those girls running the show certainly have the touch right now.

                      1. re: Cheesesteak

                        I agree, I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that their places are all on the same block, it must make it much easier to keep an eye on everything when you can pop in to all your kitchens in the space of 20 minutes. Did you try the vermouth?

                        1. re: Buckethead

                          Unfortunately I did not. I did however have 3 outstanding glasses of red wine that were recommended by the bartender. I don't remember the name, but it was earthly, smoky, and exactly what I was looking for that night.

                      2. re: Buckethead

                        Was the vermouth served with citrus and/or olives?

                        1. re: caga tio

                          Yes, a red Spanish vermouth was served on ice alongside the Bandarillas dish, the stuffed & skewered olives. It's also on the drink menu by itself, along with a white version.

                          1. re: Buckethead

                            Sorry I was not clear, I meant in the drink. That is one of the traditional ways to serve it.

                  2. Zahav is a must. Agree with the haloumi dish. And you have to get the Turkish hummus. I bet it'll be the best hummus you ever had. If dining alone, I would suggest the Tayim which is $38/person.

                    I live right around Standard Tap. Tasty beer and excellent food. I usually get the chicken pot pie. Also, hailing a cab back to Rittenhouse shouldn't be too difficult as long as you try to catch one on one of the main streets like Spring Garden. A great byob Portuguese restaurant in that area too called Koo Zee Doo.

                    Khyber Pass Pub has awesome Po'Boys.

                    I have yet been to Amada, but my favorite Garces' restaurant so far is Garces Trading Co. I go for the cheese and charcuterie board. I LOVE the potted duck. It can feel a bit crammed, especially during dinner time though. One of my pet peeves are the tables and chairs being so close together.

                    If your into spicy food, Han Dynasty in Old City is the place to go. Anyone that will recommend this place will tell you to get the Dan Dan Noodles. Spicy, saucy, and peanut-y goodness. Sometimes I'll even order it to-go after dining there.

                    If you're looking for sushi, I would recommend Zama, which is in Rittenhouse square. Classic sushi and japanese dishes as well as creative ones. After that, walk a block up Sansom to 20th Street and get yourself some gelato at Capogiro.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: SandyKani44

                      I've never had a problem hailing a cab on 2nd St, just at the front door of ST, at least on weekends. In any case, the bartender can always call you a cab, it's not a big deal.

                      1. re: SandyKani44

                        Sandy's comments about Northern Liberties are spot on.

                        With regard to Zama or Han Dynasty given that the OP is from SF, I would not waste my time on either of these restaurants as they have much better versions in the SF area.

                        The other beer bar that really deserves mentioning is Farmers Cabinet.. There you get: some of the best saisons you will find anywhere brewed by Terry Hawbreaker. And their selection of European craft beers are off the wall. Some folks are not thrilled with the atmosphere here (speakeasy theme with very dark ambiance) I personally think if you are looking for an incredible beer experience, you will find it here.

                      2. I would avoid Standard Tap and Village Whiskey. Standard Tap is good, but not "go out of your way when you're here for a few days from SF" good. Village Whiskey is over-hyped. The duck fat fries are a gimmick, and the burger is just good - not great. I'll take the burgers at Rouge, Good Dog, and Black Sheep over VW any day.

                        As for Amada - I've never been, but it's supposed to be Garces' best place. I have been to GTC, Tinto, and Distrito. I find Garces' food to be very hit-or-miss. You really need to know what to order. GTC is my least favorite of the Garces places, Tinto would be my favorite. So Amada is probably worth a trip.

                        Go to Zahav and find a way to get the Mesibah with the lamb shoulder. Hands-down the best dish being served in Philadelphia at this time (imho, of course). The rest of the stuff I've tried at Zahav has been hit or miss. I do like their hummus (especially the Turkish hummus). The salatim are just kind of ok, and the rest of the menu (small plates) is kind of inconsistent, in my experience.

                        Never been to Talula's Garden, so can't comment. It got a nice review in the Inquirer, though.

                        Definitely go to Capogiro.

                        Someone mentioned Farmer's Cabinet for beer. Based on my one (admittedly very brief) experience there, I would not recommend it. The place has like 20+ beers on draft. This is not a good sign. Think about it - how often could they be turning over those kegs with so many drafts? I ordered one fancy import on draft there. Sure enough it was flat. ymmv

                        For Italian I would recommend any of the Vetri places (Vetri, Osteria, and Amis - in that order). Go to Vetri if you can swing the cost (around $200+ pp, all-in). You need reservations for Vetri for sure, but if you're going on a week night it should be easy to get in. If Vetri is too pricey, Osteria and Amis are both great. I would stick to pastas over the mains, though. On 13th St, I like Zavino for pizza. I find Barbuzzo to be over-rated. Further west, Il Pittore (new Starr place) just got a great review, but I can't personally vouch for the food there.

                        Finally, no trip to Philly would be complete without a trip to the Reading Terminal Market for DiNic's roast pork sandwich.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: deprofundis

                          We tried Talula's Garden this past Friday. While everything was good, nothing really stood out for us. The atmosphere was nice, the food was well prepared, and the server, who seemed intent on up-selling everything on the menu, did offer some good suggestions about dessert choices. It was a good place to try but I doubt I will rush back, although the patio garden would really be a nice spot to enjoy dinner in warmer weather. But then again my wife commented the following day at Zavino that she enjoyed her pizza there much more than the meal at Talula's...

                          Do visit Capogiro, get the roast pork at DiNic's, and you'd be making a mistake not to get the lamb shoulder at Zahav. Now that's something memorable!

                          1. re: bluehensfan

                            I agree. Lamb shoulder at Zahav is not to be missed.

                            Zavino is a great value, comfortable and warm... they don't take reservations, but its worth the wait if you have to. Whole wheat crust is a great addition.

                        2. 1) if you want to check out neighborhoods out of center city, going to Northern Liberties makes sense. If so, sure, Standard Tap. Or N. 3rd. *But* I agree w/others who say that it's not worth a trip up there just to for the one restaurant (or 'gastropub').
                          2) If you find yourself only kinda hungry, Tria is a good option.Not great for if you're really hungry, but it's a place I like going to on my own. Near Rittenhouse Square.
                          3) Amada has a good bar to sit at and eat. I've never done it, but it's the sort of thing I'd do if I was from out of town and visiting on my own.
                          4) You could also go sit at the sushi bar at any number of places, including Morimoto.