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Two meals, skip the pretense

Hi all! What a great group of commentators on this board.

My wife and I will be in Philly for two dinners in what is essentially a birthday getaway for my better half. I'd love to get your take on where we should go.

We're staying in Society Hill but have a car and don't mind a bit of an adventure, although there does seem to be many good places right downtown.

We both love good food, with particular hankerings for high-quality ingredients inventively prepared. We tend to go the fish and veggie route but neither of us say no to red meat on occasion. We generally veer toward lighter, New American and Asian preparations as opposed to heavy, classically European dishes.

The one thing that we don't like is stuffy, overly formal atmospheres and we certainly aren't interested in paying extra for exclusivity. We prefer livelier places where the emphasis is on the food and not on the pomp. We'd also prefer something that is either unique to Philly or originated in Philly.

A few places mentioned on this board already have caught my eye. But I think I'll hold off on mention those and just see what people offer.

Thanks! Greg

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  1. You would probably like Littlefish in Bella Vista. Excellent fish preparation in tiny byob. It's only slightly fancier than when it was at its original place (a block away).

    1. Based on what you say, I'd put Zahav in the number one spot. It's right in Society Hill, has the exact atmosphere you describe, great drinks and inventive, delicious food. It's Israeli-influenced but really takes it to a higher level. While there are heavier things on the menu, it is perfectly easy to make it light, with lots of fish and veggie options (it's my go-to when dining w/vegetarians). The Tayim tasting menu is perfect.

      1. You are a perfect candidate for our chef-driven BYOBs. Little Fish is good, check out Kanella (Cypriot/Greek food), Russet and Meme too. Meme has as liquor license but is still a cozy one room chef-owned restaurant with a relaxed vibe. On the richer side of BYOB are Bibou and Fond.

        Zahav is excellent too.

        BTW some of these places might be a little far to walk from your hotel but take a cab, don't drive.

        1 Reply
        1. re: barryg

          I want to add Cochon, another chef-owned BYOB, to this list too--had a meal there a few weeks ago that was excellent. This dishes are very heavy on pork though--skip it if you aren't interested in that.

        2. If you like Asian (Chinese) and like a little heat, go to Han Dynasty. No pomp whatsoever.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Philly Ray

            How can you suggest that Han doesn't provide his own form of pomp ;-)

            I would throw in Khyber Pass if you want a good gastropub atmosphere with fish and veggie options and a southern influence.

            Farm and Fisherman is not too far away and is well worth considering as well.

            1. re: cwdonald

              I think Han is more outright abuse than pomp. ;)

          2. These all sound wonderful! The Googling and discussion has begun. BTW, hope I didn't come across in anyway as judgmental with the "no pomp" request. I'm certainly not against nice and not against spending some money, but, yes, I am definitely more interested in the chef-driven experience. Thanks so much again. Open to more if others have them.

            1 Reply
            1. re: gmunno

              After eating at Han Dynasty, a short walk to the Franklin Fountain would expose you to an only-in-Philadelphia experience:

              Fully-restored 19th-century soda fountain with authentic menu of ice cream, sodas, and other treats
              http://www.franklinfountain.com/

            2. + 3 on Zahavl,,,,,interesting food and seems to meet all your other criteria. I know, James Beard would agree and while it has received national recognition it is friendly and fun!

              1. another one for zahav! also throwing in a recommendation for monsu (cash only, byob)

                4 Replies
                1. re: InSearchOfTacos

                  Another vote for Zahav. And the Mesibah there (order ahead!).

                  1. re: bluehensfan

                    Another approach in response to what you wrote. Fuji in Haddonfield is hardly
                    Philadelphia, but if you have a car, an Omikase dinner there would more than meet
                    your criiteria and be mind-blowing chef creative: emphais on seafood, raw and cooked,
                    but you could make your special preferences known when making a reservation.
                    Great value for the quality. No pomp.

                    1. re: Bashful3

                      even if you don't have a car...you can take PATCO from 8th and Market to the Haddonfield stop and walk there!

                      1. re: BeeZee

                        Another vote for Zahav. Society Hill is in walking distance of Queen Village. I haven't been there yet, but Ela is getting great reviews.