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Sep 27, 2012 08:18 PM

NYC coming to PHILLY

Hi all,

I'm planning on visiting Philly in a few weeks with the beau. We both enjoy all types of food and drink and are looking for must-eats/must-drinks. We'll be there for 2.5 days.

- Philly cheesesteak is a must (boyfriend, who is also a cook, loves them)
- causal dining suggestions
- fine dining suggestions
- cocktail bar
- any sightseeing tips?
- what area to stay

thanks in advance!

ps. we'll probably stay in the heart of philly (wherever that is) so all suggestions and tips should pref. be walkable or accessible by public transportation.

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  1. Gosh so many possibilities. You will go crazy with all the answers.
    I'll start with a few faves.
    Cheesesteak: Gino's
    Casual dining: Reading Terminal Market
    FIne dining: Vetri for Italian/Estia for Greek seafood/Bibou for French
    Sightseeing tips: Barnes art gallery

    6 Replies
    1. re: arepo

      Whatever you do skip the touristy cheese steaks. Pats and Ginos are horrible. Go to Tony Lukes or get one at the Reading Terminal Market. At the Reading Terminal Market you should also try the roast pork sandwich at DiNics, it is served with sharp provolone and greens (brocoli rabe or spinach). Ask for it wet, and you will really get a great sandwich. Alternatively you should also go to Paesanos, which has superior sandwiches.

      I would suggest for fine dining Zahav, or Vedge. The latter is probably the best vegetarian restaurant on the East Coast. Zahav is what I would all modern israeli cooking. If you can pre order the lamb shoulder which is roasted over coals and is one of the best dishes in the city.

      Estia is a very good restaurant, but seafood is not really what we are known for and relative to what you can get in NYC I would not waste my time.

      Vetri is a superior restaurant, but you are going to be spending 150 plus a person there. I personally would go to Osteria. I put Osteria in the same class as Lupa in NYC with the addition of hearth baked pizzas.

      Other casual place to eat... Federal Donuts. Depending on when you come this place is going to be in CC and makes korean style fried chicken and some of the better doughnuts in the area.

      Other thing to try out are the gastropubs in Philadelphia.. some of the better ones are Standard Tap in Northern Liberties (get the fried smelt if available.. ), South Philly Tap Room (really like the wild boar tacos) or the Khyber Pass (oyster Po Booy there). Each of them have a great beer selection with an emphasis on craft beers, many of which are brewed here in Pennsylvania.

      Sightseeing: the new Barnes is great if you like impressionist art. The Philadelphia Museum is great (rocky steps.. ) and has a new whistler exhibit. Rodin Museum just reopened and is dedicated to this great French sculptor (the thinker) and is free.. very close to the barnes. Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts is very good as well and has very good 19th centerury artwork including a lot of work by Thomas Aikens. For the weird, go to the Mutter Museum, a great museum dedicated to medical oddities, where you will see preserved body parts and learn about the effects of disease on the city of philadelphia. For the historical side of things you have Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Constitution Center, and Betsy Ross's house if that is your interest. There are also great walking tours of different parts of the city.. ghost tours, tours of the great murals in the city etc. Check out

      . In terms of where to stay, there are a range of prices. A friend recently stayed at a b&b on south street, southbridge bed and breakfast if you want a different experience. VisityPhilly has a good list of the hotels.

      1. re: cwdonald

        Great list. Definitely check out one of the gastropubs. For cocktails, check out Ranstead Room and Southwark. Franklin Mortgage has good drinks too, but I prefer the atmosphere at the first two.

        For hotels I want to add that as pretty much anywhere in what in what would be referred to as Center City (name for Philly's downtown), Old City, or Rittenhouse would be fine with the vast majority of sights and restaurants walkable or accessible via short cab or bus/subway rides. About a 2mile radius around the city center (City Hall).

        In general, your question is so broad that you may also want to look at some lists of restaurants, narrow down from there, then ask a more directed question to get answers that fit your tastes. As it stands, your question reads something like, "where is good to eat in downtown Manhattan?" on only a slightly smaller scale.

        Check out these links to start, 90% of the places are easily accessible from Center City.

        1. re: barryg

          thanks for the links, very helpful!

        2. re: cwdonald

          CW, great guidance indeed. If doing the history walk, stop at the Historic City Tavern for a pint or a punch, with good timing the pedal harpsichord might be in use. My guests have also always enjoyed the Oyster House. The Ritz Carlton lobby offers a lovely venue for a cocktail and for a upscale lunch or dinner the Four Seasons with windows on the Parkway is quite civilized and would answer the fine dinning question right on the edge of Philadelphia's Museum Mile. Sure can't go wrong with any rec's I have seen here.

          1. re: cwdonald

            I know this is an older thread, but am another NYer going to Philly this weekend, and wanted to thank cwdonald for a really helpful post. Especially useful relative to NYC food quality :) Thanks!

          2. re: arepo

            John's Roast Pork for cheesesteak or the beloved roast pork.

            For casual, I would say Kanella brunch or dinner. The food is excellent with a really affordable price point. Reading Terminal Market for a variety of snacks or breakfast/lunch. Rangoon in Chinatown is a low-key Burmese restaurant that I absolutely loved.

            For fine dining, I would say Vetri, Zahav, Bibou.

          3. This is a really broad request! What do you like? In what area are you staying? Here's some basics:

            1) Cheesesteak - if you have a car, go to John's Roast Pork or Tony Luke's. Get a cheesesteak and a roast pork sandwich w/sharp prov and broccoli rabe. If you're in Philly, you should try both.

            2) A trip to Reading Terminal Market is a must - You can also get roast pork there at DiNic's, plus yummy Amish treats like pretzels and pastries, and pretty much anything else you want

            3) We've got a slew of excellent gastropubs if you're into those - Standard Tap, Royal Tavern, South Philly Tap Room, Pub & Kitchen. If you like NOLA style food, check out the Khyber Pub. For good food and cocktails, try Stateside or Southwark.

            4) Sightseeing - If you're near Independence Hall, check out the Dream Garden mural in the lobby of the Curtis Building. Massive beautiful mosaic of glass by Louis Tiffany and Maxfield Parrish. I take all out of towners there

            1. Nick's Roast Beef. They only use USDA prime. Melt in your mouth.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Tom34

                +1 for what Tom said. Make sure you go to the location at 20th and Jackson. The others are not as good.

              2. meh, I guess I'm the only one not super-impressed by the trendier Gastropubs. I just feel that places like Standard Tap have become so loud and crowded that it's no longer a relaxed pub feel. I'm a fan of Good Dog a good beer and burger.

                I would also like to say that you should take advantage of the BYOB scene. It's one of the few things that we offer that NYC does not. It's normal here in Philadelphia to be able to go to the liquor store, buy whatever you want, beer, wine, stuff with bubbles and drink it at pretty much any restaurant that doesn't have a liquor license. One of my favorites is BYOB brunch at Carmen's for example. What kind of food and/or experience are you guys most interested in?

                1 Reply
                1. re: musugu

                  + 1 zillion on Bibou. Go if you can but book it now or it won't be an option. Bring 2 bottles of good wine and have an awesome night.

                2. My own 2 cents...

                  I wouldn't really bother with either Italian or Japanese coming from NYC, where both are done better and with more variety (at least IMHO).

                  For a uniquely Philly BYOB experience, consider Matyson, especially if you'll be in Philly during the week when they do their weekly themed tasting menus.

                  Reading Terminal is a must, if just for the roast pork sandwich at Dinic's. Around there are a lot of great cheap eats in Chinatown: Rangoon and Vietnam Palace are two of my favorites. Vietnam Palace's $15 vermicelli combo plate would probably be my request for a last meal (Charbroiled chicken, shrimp, meatballs, stuffed grape leaves, crispy spring roll over rice vermicelli.)

                  For fine dining, if you are in Philly over the weekend consider the over-the-top brunch at Lacroix. (It's in the Rittenhouse Hotel which is a lovely and central place to stay if your budget can afford it.) Even if you don't normally like brunch, it's an experience like no other. Also, I haven't been but I sent some out of town vegetarian friends to Vedge recently and they have raved about it for months, even though it was rather far beyond their normal dining budget.

                  Sightseeing: The Art Museum is wonderful of course. For things unique and different, check out the Mutter Museum or Eastern State Penitentiary for a taste of the macabre. If you enjoy quirky art spaces and like to do photography, also visit the Magic Gardens on South Street. Every friend from out of town I've taken there has been completely enchanted.