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My weekend trip eating in Philly - Reading Terminal Market (DiNic's/Amish pretzels)/Amada/Grace Tavern/Percy St BBQ/Federal Donuts/Pretzel Mart

Reading Terminal Market: It was a nearly unanimous verdict from Philly foodies/hounders to go with the roast pork sandwich (John's Roast Pork or DiNic's) over cheesesteak so I headed to DiNic's. I ordered a roast pork with broccoli rabe and provolone. The banana peppers offered as a condiment helped perk up this essentially flavorless sandwich. I just didn't get it. The Amish pretzels from one of the stands in the Market were great - similar to Auntie Anne's in flavor/texture but I'm sure featured less preservatives/chemicals on account of the Amish ingredients.

Amada: Despite being averse to restaurant weeks, I figured I would give Amada a try anyway. I thought the much-abbreviated RW menu must feature the restaurant's platinum hits. 3/10 dishes stood out - serrano ham with melon, beef shortrib flatbread and the fatty/beefy flavored beef brochettes. Note: The ham was the only dish I remembered without referencing the menu again just now. The rest were decent/fair excluding the fish I sent back for it's fishy (getting old) taste and the vanilla custard desert which had a very peculiar texture and should not exist.

Grace Tavern: So many hounders said Grace Tavern served their favorite burger in Philly and I noticed it was featured in Bon Appetit. I ordered it. The burger was dry and the medium I asked for came out medium-well. They should introduce more fat to their blend to help the meat stand up to the open flame. I'm sure somebody else in the city is doing burgers better than this place.

Percy St BBQ, Key Lime Pie: Went here to take slices home and they were awesome! Light, well-balanced filling (sweet and tart) and wonderful crust. It was not topped with meringue but rather a light key lime sauce. Far better than most of the pies I've been served in the Florida Keys. Next time, I'm pre-ordering a pie.

Federal Donuts: I got here late and only 2 flavors of donuts were left, pina colada and some kind of grapefruit. They were interesting but too sweet, odd on a donut and I wouldn't get again. However, the hot, made-to-order sugared donuts were perfect. PERFECT. I tried vanilla lavender and appolonia sugars/spices. Both were great but the vanilla was best. The chicken was quite good though the thinner pieces were dried out; Thick breast pieces were moist and delicious. The harissa blend of spices was entirely new to me but quite nice. I would like to try the Buttermilk ranch next time.

Mart Pretzel (Cinnaminson, NJ) - Voted best pretzel in Philly Mag so I decided to stop there on my way out of town. Dense and doughy pretzels - the kind I don't like. My girlfriend loved them.

Next time I visit, I'm trying Osteria for dinner and taking home Percy St's key lime pie and 1 dozen of Federal's vanilla lavender made to order donuts. Thank you Philly for all your hospitality, it was a nice visit.

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  1. Surprised you didn't like DiNic's. But to each his own.

    I haven't been to Amada, but your comment doesn't surprise me. I mentioned in another thread that I think his dishes are hit-or-miss, and that you really need to know what to order. I've been to GTC, Distrito, Village Whiskey, and Tinto. Of those, my favorite is Tinto.

    Never been to Grace Tavern.

    Percy Street is not bad, but their BBQ never blew me away. I like Sweet Lucy's better.

    Federal Donuts is good, but it's just donuts. Haven't got around to trying the chicken yet.

    Never been to Mart Pretzel, but real Philly pretzels are, in fact, very dense and doughy. Sounds like you got the genuine article there.

    Osteria is GREAT, especially the pastas. Go there next time.

    8 Replies
    1. re: deprofundis

      Thanks for the reply. I am a 1.5 hour drive from Philly and would do Osteria just on a day trip. Very eager to try it

      1. re: chowhounder411

        Sorry too about DiNics. It's a sublime taste that works for most people. I'd take it over any cheesesteak in town. They also have really good roast beef and I have been devouring their brisket in recent weeks.

        You lucked out at Percy St! A few weeks ago the key lime pie was temporarily removed from the menu only to be reinstated. Hopefully they will do the same with their banana pudding. That said, people go bonkers over their pecan pie. I really don't like pecans but think their pie is great. And they too have great brisket.

        1. re: bluehensfan

          You might enjoy a chess pie which is basically a pecan pie with no nuts. My family in NC served this.

          1. re: Seeker19104

            I think I had that at Dotson's in Tennessee and it was pretty good!

        2. re: chowhounder411

          I just noticed your other thread. You should go to Vetri. It's definitely worth the trip. The pastas at Vetri are just crazy good. Like, I-don't-know-how-the-hell-pasta-could-be-this-good kind of good. Osteria is excellent too. I would say it's almost as good as Babbo. Slight edge to Babbo, though. Vetri is better than Babbo.

          1. re: deprofundis

            Both of these restaurants are now at the top of my Philly hit list for next time. Better than Babbo is a big claim, I am a big fan of Batali's NY restaurants. Very excited to try these two. Thanks

            1. re: chowhounder411

              I've had excellent meals at every Batali place I've been. That includes Casa Mono, Babbo, and the Spotted Pig. Babbo is pretty great. It does edge out Osteria. But yeah, Vetri is pretty spectacular and I think would be considered one of the best restaurants anywhere, even in NYC. I really want to go to Del Posto to see how that stacks up, now that it's got 4 stars in the NY Times.

              1. re: deprofundis

                Del Posto started doing non a la carte menus a bit back and as a result you are forced into a very large and expensive meal. While a lunch menu is also required, you can get the flavor of the restaurant without breaking the bank, thus for me for a first visit lunch is the way to go.

      2. Agreed on DiNics. I dont' get it either.

        1. DiNic's roast pork is so garlicy and juicy calling it flavorless makes no sense. And what a shame you didn't have a Philadelphia pretzel from one of the hot dog carts in center city. Beiler's donuts in the RTM are fresh and traditional. And Aunt Annie's soft pretzels are the mall version of Amish pretzels. Glad you liked the key lime pie though. Come back .Many more places to try.

          1. Remember there are two DiNic's pork sandwiches. The regular involves sliced pork in cooking liquid that l agree with you is flavorless. Get the pulled pork with greens and aged provolone wet, wet, wet as they say. The jus used for this version is anything but flavorless and makes a very good sandwich. Perhaps l am prejudiced but the drowned Nick's roast beef sandwich is my fav in the city. DiNic's is good, George's is good, Paesano's is good, Tony Luke's is good, and John's is good, but Nick's is my go to.
            l am also one of the rare birds that do not like Osteria, not the pizza, not the mains, and even not most of the pastas. Vetri, however, is a very good place.
            Percy St is amazingly inconsistant for a large restaurant. One time the brisket is the bomb, next time dry and weak; same with the pecan pie. Always liked the Key Lime, bourbon list excellent as well.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

              Thanks for further info on DiNic's, I'm willing to try it again with a different meat. The Percy St. key lime is one of the best Key Lime pies I've ever had and I travel regularly through South Florida/Keys. I'll probably try a meal there next time on account of that high quality slice alone.

              1. re: chowhounder411

                Heed Deluca's advice and go to Nick's Roast Beef - definitely one of the best sandwiches in the city. But make sure you go to the one at 20th & Jackson - the others are pretenders.

                And he is right about the bbq at Percy St. Get a key lime pie to go and head up to Sweet Lucy's for good bbq.

              2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                I am truly amazed at the comments referring to DiNic's roast pork sandwich as flavorless. You can get a decent pulled pork sandwich all over the city but a to-die-for garlicy, juicy roast pork sandwich is something special.

                1. re: mmgth

                  I'm not surprised at all. I went there upon high recs from the Philly board and was utterly underwhelmed.

                  Presumably, it's one of those things one has to grow up with to understand the appeal. But then, I'm not crazy about cheesesteaks either. Had one, don't need another one. Unless I'm really really drunk and hungry '-)

                2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                  I hate to say it but I think you may be right about Percy Street. While it's usually very good, the last time I was there my sweet potatoes were flavorless (too bad they no longer put the marshmallows on top...that may have helped), and the brisket was a little dry and very devoid of flavor. Also the pecan pie was overcooked and parts of it were impenetrable with a fork. That's the first time I had that happen with the pie. And worst of all, my banana pudding is still MIA hint, hint.

                3. I'm most surprised that Grace Tavern came up as a good burger... I've never heard that around here. In fact, I haven't heard anything about their food in years. Village Whiskey and Pub & Kitchen are the reigning pub burger favorites. VW is my favorite meat-wise (some people are more burger topping people than burger meat people, I guess).

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: urbanfabric

                    I almost went to Village Whiskey but skipped on account of the mediocrity I experienced at Amada

                    1. re: chowhounder411

                      Smart move. Neither the burger nor the famed duck fat fries at VW impressed me.

                      1. re: deprofundis

                        l think l have found a chowhound with similar proclivities to me. My burger choice, boo hoo, is either Royal tavern or my current fav, Rouge.