City Hall area Sunday night
A college friend is coming in from out of town and staying at the Hilton Garden Inn Sunday night, and she thought we could meet at Magianos or Chili's. I suggested that we were lucky enough not to HAVE to eat at chains in Philadelphia, so we should take advantage of it, but now...I'm stuck.
I've been out in the 'burbs for too long, so I need some Chowhound help here. So I'm looking for reasonably-priced, open Sunday, and obviously, if she's suggesting a chain, not too adventurous, but still good, and not chain-like..
Most of the places I know in Chinatown are just okay. Have never actually eaten at Tir Na Nog, which is the only other place nearby that comes to mind.
(I can pick up wine on my way into town, so BYOB or not are both okay)
If you do want to do Chinatown I have had a few great meals recently at Four Rivers (1000 block of Arch St). But if your friend is not that adventurous would just want to order Chinese-American dishes, you won't do much better than just ok anywhere. Their speciality is Szechuan and while not the cheapest place in Chinatown, the prices are very reasonable, everything is under $15. It is BYO but I would recommend beer over wine, or maybe a sweeter white wine.
Had STH a couple times, decent double cooked pork one time I went, but I got delivery another time and the three pepper chicken had no Szechuan peppercorns and--this is not a joke--the dan dan noodles were made with linguini pasta noodles. Didn't tast horrible but comeon. Haven't been back since and don't plan on it.
Han is better for some dishes than 4R but 4R better for others. Some dishes are just different.. the Dan Dan is better at Han, but the version at Four Rivers is different--no pork, no peanut flavor--and also very good. Cucumbers are a little different too (these are off menu but they have them), less oily but also good.
What is called dry pot chicken at Han is Peppercorn Chicken at Four Rivers, it is slightly different in preparation but excellent, amazingly crispy with great flavor and heat; I like both a lot but I think I the 4R version edges out Han. Lion Head meatball is called called Braises Meatball with Mung Bean Noodle, I have't had Han's but havent' heard positive reports; it is one of my favorite dishes at Four Rivers. Double cooked pork is great at Four Rivers too (called double sauteed pork belly), had this at Han once and it was similar, it didn't stand out there but it was part of a large tasting at a party so I may have had palate fatigue. Hot Pots I have had at Four Rivers are good. Basil Chicken is another good dish and I don't think Han has this.
The menu overall is much broader at Four Rivers, the only real misses I've had are the Chinese-American style dishes and a seafood in peppercorn sauce. I'm sure there are other misses given the size of the menu. The atmosphere is typical Chinatown, service efficient but not that friendly, but it's also much cheaper than Han. And it's not like Han has great atmosphere or service (though Han himself can be entertaining, the novelty has worn off). I like both but have been favoring Four Rivers due to menu variety, price, and ease of getting a table. Sometimes at Han I feel like I am just eating massive amounts of chili oil, evidenced by pools of it left on my small plate; not so at 4R. Also 4R is BYOB.
Vietnam and Vietnam Palace are close by, and they are passable. Both have liquor licenses.
Thirteenth street has turned into a restaurant row. You have Jamonera (Tapas), Barbuzzo (mediteranean/italian) Lolita (BYO mexican) and Zavino (artisan pizzas/wine bar/pasta/salumi and cheese). Around the corner you have Time which is a relaxed bar with good food/ drinks.
Barbuzzo has a wonderful budino for dessert... a bit loud... good to very good food. Both Barbuzzo and Zavino serve artisan pizzas. I personally prefer Zavinos. Jamonera is very good tapas, and recently opened. Lolita is ok mexican, with wonderful margarita mixes for BYO Tequila.
Avoid Tir Na Noog unless you like to watch english football. Food is mediocre. And do not eat at a chain if you don't have to.