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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 visitphilly.com

      . 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.

                  1. thanks for all your suggestions. I know i was asking pretty broad questions but I'm really open to a lot.

                    I didn't know philly had a lot of byob places...what are some good ones to check out?

                    1. Cheesesteaks are not really a Center City thing...the best ones are in the neighborhoods. Of the tourist-trap places, for a cheesesteak I'd go with Pat's. As an actual native of Philadelphia, I like extra fried onions, and American for the cheese. Whiz is a cruel joke the food media seems to like perpetrating on tourists. Some Philly people do whiz, but most of my friends who are also from here prefer American. Some like provolone...provolone has better flavor, but it doesn't get melty enough for the texture to be right.

                      For casual dining in and near Center City, stay with Chinatown. A lot of wonderful food, mostly cheap to reasonable in price, in a small area.

                      Like Chinatown, Reading Terminal Market has the advantage of a lot of food options in a small space, but expect to pay through the nose for whatever you get, and the quality can vary wildly. My favorite place in Reading Terminal is the Down Home Diner. Prices are...not totally unreasonable, and the quality is consistent. I love them for breakfast, and after 6 years living in Tennessee, they make the only fried chicken in Philadelphia that makes me happy.

                      For sightseeing, if you are going to stay in the Center City area, and don't want to leave that part of town, I'm partial to Independence Hall (though expect to be wildly disappointed by the Liberty Bell). The Thomas Jefferson House, the Betsy Ross House and Benjamin Franklin's House are all very interesting. You could combine a fine dining meal with sightseeing and have dinner at City Tavern. The food is good, and the ambiance is downright colonial! You aren't far from the Art Museum area in Center City, and The Barnes Collection is certainly noteworthy, as is the Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Rodin Museum. However, I'd say if you had to pick only one Museum in Philadelphia, go to The Franklin Institute. It's fun, fascinating and my favorite place in the entire city.

                      You'll end up staying in Center City. If you aren't driving, you'll find it's the only area that will make sense.

                      19 Replies
                      1. re: StrandedYankee

                        I'll prob stay in center city but i'm willing to travel further out as long as I can get there by public transportation easily. Being an NY-er, I know there are amazing things in other boros, outside of Manhattan and I'm willing to make the trek.

                        thanks for the tips!

                        1. re: ashleylau

                          There are some good spots in the burbs, IMHO there is some much variety and high quality food choices in the city that traveling out to the burbs is a bit of a waste of time. That is unless there is some very special specific reason for doing so. Let us know what you do please.

                          1. re: Bacchus101

                            Agree with Bacchus101. No compelling reason to travel to the burbs.

                            1. re: JanR

                              I didn't necessarily mean the burbs..but I also didn't mean I will ONLY stay in Center City. Def. willing to explore other neighborhoods in Philly.

                              thanks for the tips though =)

                              1. re: ashleylau

                                If you want to explore some other neighborhoods and try some BYOs, I like Cochon and Fond (both South Philly) and Modo Mio and Koo Zee Doo (Northern Liberties). Both neighborhoods are easy to get to from Center City. Also in South Philly but not BYO are Stateside and Le Virtu. Cochon is in walking distance to Southwark which is my favorite cocktail bar (they do classic drinks only, no modern stuff).

                                A couple good BYOs in Center City are Melograno and Matyson. A lot of people like Russet and Farmer & The Fisherman too. There are a handful of other Italian BYOs in CC too but IMO the food is nothing special at those.

                                1. re: barryg

                                  Also on Passyunk, Will BYOB is very good. Russett not so much IMHO.

                          2. re: ashleylau

                            You can probably think of Center City as a very small Manhattan, the philadelphia burbs as actually leaving NYC for like the Hudson Valley, south philly as queens (complete with good ethnic food) and west philly as brooklyn.

                              1. re: musugu

                                Not that it matters or that there are any perfect analogues but I'd say that South Philly is more like Brooklyn too because the E Passyunk area is so trendy and gentrified, and that the Northeast is more like Queens with it's very large immigrant population and less sexy status, and also the suburban-style housing that it has in parts.

                                Really the entire city of Phila is a lot like Brooklyn and its diverse neighborhoods, except with Center City having the cultural and transit amenities of a city center like Manhattan.

                                1. re: barryg

                                  It's interesting to hear you say that about South Philly because I've lived there for about 8 years now and am totally confounded by the trendy hipster craziness going on in the E Passyunk area. Maybe I'm just living in the jogging stroller-less idealized past? But I would still argue that S. Philly is queens because if you wander off the E Passyunk beaten track there are still ethnic communities with really great food ex: hardena and sky cafe.

                                  1. re: musugu

                                    Yes but there are huge communities of Russian, Brazillian, and Asian immigrants in the Northeast too with their corresponding ethnic restaurants... there are Chinatown buses that stop up there from NYC. And there are plenty of immigrants in Brooklyn too. Again no perfect analogues but the hipster foodie thing is very prominent in South Philly as it is in Brooklyn.

                                2. re: musugu

                                  so what's fishtown? I was thinking williamsburg; but maybe hoboken?

                                  1. re: Bob Loblaw

                                    South Bronx? Or is that up Broad Street?

                                3. re: ashleylau

                                  The Philadelphia suburbs are NOT like the NYC outer boroughs. Also, our mass transit is NOT like New York City's transit, which runs thick and fast nearly around the clock. There is a Vietnamese enclave in South Philadelphia, along with some old school Italian-American places that are great, and walkable from downtown, or a short taxi ride will get you there. There is a really cool Koreatown in Far North Philadelphia that has some great stuff, but considering what you have in Flushing, I'm not going to recommend making the trip (it would be the better part of an hour each way on transit). Same thing with the Russian enclave in the Far Northeast (well more than an hour each way on transit). Why bother when you could go to Brighton Beach? The thing is, all the stuff I might recommend checking out in the neighborhoods...since you live in NYC, it's all pretty similar to what you can already do in NYC. So I'd stick more with the stuff that would allow you more time for the museums and such.

                                  1. re: StrandedYankee

                                    I think the OP wanted options outside the touristy and tonier areas of Center City, which I think can be worthwhile, especially for an experienced traveler. I agree that the suburbs offer little and North Philly and the Far Northeast are not worthwhile given the transit options and what is available in NYC. West Philly and South Philly are very accessible and have some good options.

                                4. re: StrandedYankee

                                  Chinatown is fine but nothing special, especially for a New Yorker. One thing Philly arguably does better than NY, or at least does well more consistently, is bars with good food and great beer. I like Khyber Pass Pub or Good Dog in Center City but there are good ones all over town.
                                  There are also great sandwiches all over town - another thing we do better than NY. I like Sarcones and Paesano's on 9th st in the Italian Market, which is worth a visit anyways. If you go that route I'd stop at Termini Bros. on 8th St. for good Italian pastries (and less-italian ones too) from a cool looking old shop.
                                  The Maurice Sendak papers and drawings at the Rosenbach Library are a lot of fun.

                                  1. re: caganer

                                    I was thinking that Chinatown would be good for tasty, moderately priced, potentially reasonably healthy food. I know our Chinatown is nothing next to what is available in NYC, but I was trying to think in terms of what I am always hoping to find when I am traveling. Inexpensive and tasty is usually a big thing for me.

                                    1. re: StrandedYankee

                                      I really liked Rangoon in Chinatown. I'm sure you can find Burmese in NYC, but found it to be high in flavor and a great value.

                                    2. re: caganer

                                      Thanks for the great tip on Sendak at the Rosenbach.

                                  2. does anyone else recommend Brunch at Lacroix?

                                    ps. does anyone know how dim sum is in philly? chinatown in general is VERY VERY small...and coming from NYC, chinatown is pretty legit.

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: ashleylau

                                      Don't bother with our dim sum. The only thing in Chinatown worth visiting for an out-of-towner from NYC is Hop Sing Laundromat for cocktails (which I'd highly recommend, it looks like you haven't gotten any cocktail recs yet).

                                      1. re: Buckethead

                                        ive been to a few great speakeasies in nyc but def checking out hop sing laundromat. any recommendation when the best time/day to go is (for party of 2)?

                                        1. re: ashleylau

                                          The earlier the better, I usually go there after dinner, around 8:30 - 9, and don't have a problem getting in with 2 people. They open at 5:30 (follow them on Twitter though, sometimes they have private parties that delay their opening), I've been there a few times around 6 - 6:30 for pre-dinner drinks and it's of course less crowded then. I've never not been able to get in, even on weekends, but I've also never gotten there any later than 10 or 10:30.

                                          1. re: ashleylau

                                            If you like classic cocktails (Manhattans, martinis, pisco sours, etc) also consider Southwark. They have good food too. The atmosphere at the bar is great and there is no pretension, unlike Hop Sing with a secret entrance, dress code (check before you go), various rules and such. I haven't tried Hop Sing yet and the cocktails do sound good, but the attitude is a turnoff for me and may be for others as well. Also I think Hop Sing is cash only (someone correct me if that has changed).

                                            As for Chinatown, it is better than many, but I agree with the others that it doesn't offer much for a New Yorker. Many people say the Vietnamese food we have in South Philly is better than NYC though.

                                            1. re: barryg

                                              i don't understand the pretension comment with hop sing. i was welcomed in and treated extremely well when i was in town on business. as long as you wear pants and no sneakers, there's no issue. they take time and care in making a cocktail and like serving those that apprecaite them. they probably frown on pretension when you get inside.

                                              hop sing is one of the best bars anywhere.

                                              1. re: barryg

                                                Unless you've been it may be best to reserve your opinions about Hop Sing. I liked it a lot and the "attitude" is shtick. The owner is really a nice guy who makes it his mission to serve the best cocktails anywhere at a reasonable price. Yes it is cash only.

                                                Philly has a decent Chinatown, but it pales compared to Manhattan.

                                                Brunch at Lacroix is well worth it. The food it well prepared, fresh and inventive. Great quiet upscale atmosphere and a nice view of Rittenhouse Square.

                                                1. re: george2

                                                  Ok I finally tried Hop Sing for myself. The entry procedure with the speech is definitely an annoying schtick, but the drinks were great and I agree the prices make it a steal.

                                          2. re: ashleylau

                                            Brunch at LaCroix is fantastic. An experience no matter where you are coming from.

                                            Don't bother with Chinatown here. There are a lot of decent places but nothing special for an out-of-towner.

                                          3. thanks, i'm def interested in checking out hop sing.

                                            made reservations for sunday brunch at lacroix / skipping dim sum in philly ;)