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Jul 29, 2012 03:06 PM

If you were to update the 50 best/quintessential restaurants of Philly

Let me preface this post by saying that while I clearly am referencing the PhillyMag 50 lists of yesteryear, I do not intend for this to be a Food Media & News topic.

I am an ex-Philadelphian of five years returning for one day tomorrow after having relocated to New York one year ago.

For myself, I would like a meal that is either in University City or within a straightshot of the FML, Broad St, or SEPTA bus system. Bus back to NY is 9:00pm at 30th st. Lunch is Han Dynasty Univ City, so something 'different enough' is preferable. I would like something that showcases where Philadelphia has gone in the past twelve months. Right now, the restaurant that comes to mind is Ela, but it's closed Mondays.

Since I'll be back sooner or later with similar demands (as would others, I'm sure), I would appreciate the discussion extending beyond my one meal tomorrow. To elaborate a bit more on what type of restaurant I desire (both for tomorrow and for future trips)-- a restaurant that has emerged in the LTM and best showcases what Philadelphia has to offer, from the perspective of a now-New Yorker. IE, restaurants that would have made a new 'Philly 50' type list, had one been published. I had visited 35 of the 50 restaurants in the most recent PhillyMag 50 list, including (just about) all of the ones within the city.

Restaurants that I miss include Fond, fish, Cochon, Pumpkin, Matyson. Obviously Vetri and LBF are worth exploring again some time but it's really that mid-upper-level BYOB type of restaurant I yearn for.

In short, what's new and good?

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  1. In one word Vedge. Showcasing what one can do with vegetarian cooking in high end setting. Gone are the days of the Moosewood cafe tofu dominated vegetarian cooking. In are the sophisticated flavors in a upscale atmosphere complete with a good beverage program, and a fine pastry/dessert offering as well. In the former Deux Cheminee space which five years ago would have been on the top 50 restaurants.

    The other option would be Zahav. New Israeli cuisine by a regionally recognized chef.

    1. 1. Vedge, it's on the 1200 block of Locust so just get off the blue line at 13th and walk down to Locust. Ela is OK but way overpriced and not in the running for any best of lists in my opinion. Zahav is great but it's a few years old now, you have probably been there, and it's not convenient to public transportation.
      2. Bibou (would be my answer to #1 but they are closed on Mondays and you usually can't get in there on short notice anyway). If you only left a year ago you may have been there but I didn't see it on your "restaurants I miss" list.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Buckethead

        Zahav is only 3 blocks off of the El.

      2. Do we have more suggestions outside of Vedge? I'm certainly open to exploring vegetarian but my company may not be. (sorry to add in additional criteria)

        Thank you for the feedback thus far.

        3 Replies
        1. re: ramenbound

          Talulah's Garden, Zahav, Russett, Farm and Fisherman, Sbraga, Calaca Feliz, all would be new good restaurants that are worth considering.Older ones would include Osteria, Little Fish, in addition ot the ones you mentioned above.

          If you like Pumpkin, Russett would be a great choice.

          For a business dinner blow your socks off experience go to Zahav and pre order the lamb tasting menu.

          And yourpost made it sound as if you were dining solo, so you got recommendations for what is new and outstanding.

          1. re: cwdonald

            Thank you for all of the input, all. Wound up doing Talula's Garden this time around.

            Glazed Colorado lamb belly, pickled baby carrots and turnips, fragrant citrus, spices, and garlic olive oil vinaigrette
            Sliced raw tuna, salted watermelon, olive oil, local edamame beans, and jalapeno lime vinaigrette
            Sweet pea ravioli, goat butter sauce, snap peas, shoots, and grated aged goat cheese

            Braised Lancaster chicken and tender potato gnocchi, summer sweet cherry tomatoes, basil, zucchini
            Farro risotto, English peas, green tomatoes, fava beans, baby carrots, garden herbs, and crunchy walnuts
            Roasted mushrooms galore, fines herbs, shallots, and butter (side)

            Starters were stronger than the mains. In all, I think in most cases there was one element too many on the dishes for my taste. I would have appreciated much more simplicity for the lamb, tuna, and risotto in particular. Aside from overcooked chicken (and mushy accompanying gnocchi) there were no major technical missteps.

          2. re: ramenbound

            How about Vernick Food & Drink (helmed by a Jean Georges alum)?

          3. The Eater top 38 list is more up to date than the Philly Mag list and worth a look:

            2 Replies
            1. re: barryg

              Popolino (BYOB) is at 5th and Fairmount. I do not know if this qualifies as near a bus or not but if so, grab it!

              1. re: arepo

                Is Popolino better since they got the new chef? I remember hearing things when it first opened that everything was way too salty...

            2. koo zee doo in northern liberties

              9 Replies
              1. re: coookie

                Saw this thread as I'll be in Philly for a day on business. Is there anything comparable to Vedge (fully booked)?

                1. re: lily369

                  If you are going alone, Vedge does have a bar you can eat in. And if you are judging totally booked by opentable call the restaurant directly.

                  In the suburbs there are two very good vegetarian restaurants. In Southampton there is Blue Sage and in New Hope there is Sprig and Vine. Neither are as refined as vedge but both are vegetarian, with a large number of truly Vegan options.

                  1. re: cwdonald

                    Great! Thanks. I'll look into these! And sorry for confusion, I meant comparable in terms of contemporary vegetarian. I do eat meat but enjoy many of the new vegetarian/vegan popping up...a nice break from all the comfort food trends of past few years.

                    1. re: lily369

                      In that case I'd follow cwdonald's advice and call Vedge to see if they have tables, and if they don't, I'd just go there anyway and sit at the bar. It's one of the best restaurants in the city, if you're looking for something vegetarian/vegan you shouldn't miss it.

                        1. re: lily369

                          If Vedge is really totally booked, I'd make a backup reservation somewhere nearby in case you can't sit down at the bar at Vedge. Kanella is only a few blocks away and is excellent. There's also Fish, practically right across the street from Vedge, it was very good when I was there but there have been some changes there since then.

                  2. re: lily369

                    Comparable how? Vegan? New and good?

                    1. re: Buckethead

                      Vegan yes... comparable would be a stretch, but many of the people associated with each of the restaurants has a history going back with the folks that run Vedge, even going as far back as the restaurant in Willow Grove. Your point about it not being the same dining experience or quality of food is fair, but if the OP were looking for the better vegan dining experiences in the greater Philadelphia area besides Vedge each of these restaurants should be in consideration.

                      1. re: cwdonald

                        I was asking lily369 what s/he meant by comparable, since the thread was originally about places that are new-ish.