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First time in Philly, early December

So, DH and I have a long weekend in Philly in early December. We have eaten all over the world and have the fortune of living (and dining) in central london. We have a passion for Sichuan food. For a three day (just) weekend, what do people recommend. Open on price, we are far from being hung up on Michelin stars, would rather get the gen on what is really Good, rather than what is "hot". Apart from Sichuan of course, which has to be hot! Thanks in advance from a long time lurker.
Ps - we eat meat, shellfish, offal etc. no holds barred cooking very much welcomed.

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  1. My picks for Szechuan would be Han Dynasty in old city, can be very, very hot if you ask.
    Also for a fine American meal, try Farm and the Fisherman.
    For a minor triumph Tacconelli's pizza is wonderful as well.
    Lastly for a sandwich, Nick's Roast Beef at 20th and Jackson has IMVHO, the best sandwich in the city.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

      2nd Nick's Roast Beef for sandwiches. Unlike many places that use select grade beef with tenderizers added for their roast beef sandwiches, Nick's only uses USDA prime grade beef delivered fresh from Kissin Fresh Meats on Richmond St. Melt in your mouth delicious.

    2. One Item my British colleagues often go for when stateside is beef. Philadelphia has good number of excellent Steak Houses from which to choose. Union Trust , Barclay Prime, Butcher and Singer to mention just a few and for prime rib, Prime Rib in the Warwick. Drinks at Hop Sing's, the Ramstead Room or Franklin Mortgage. Should you enjoy and perhaps get a chuckle at a local take on an English Pub with some variations on British mainstays try the Dandelion. The Oyster House is good drinks, bivalves and good fun. Quite good Italian at Osteria, small plates at Barbuzzo, Vegg for Veg!!, Zahav for good drinks & award winning Israeli cuisine. Upscale brunch La Croix . Expect to need reservations at many of these places especially on weekends. Yes you are lucky to be living and dining in central London. I believe you will find some quite interesting choices in Philly, have a go!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Bacchus101

        Agree with above. I'd add Amada for an upscale tapas place.

        1. re: sal_acid

          I just had a great meal at Osteria, and if you are interested in offal & the less conventional cuts I'd say that the chicken liver rigatoni there is an essential and probably one of the more popular pasta dishes in the city.

          I'd also +1 Paesano's (mentioned below).

          We have a pretty vibrant gastropub scene, so that would be worth considering as well. There are multiple threads on the subject, but the usual suspects are typically Khyber Pass, South Philly Tap Room, Standard Tap, and a few other that I am forgetting. If you are a beer drinker we have a lot of great local offerings. Dogfish Head IPA's are highly regarded, and I am a fan of most anything from Yard's Brewery (though particularly Philly Pale Ale & Brawler). There is also something of a cult following for Troeg's Mad Elf, which should be available depending on when you'll be here.

          To add another option for American, I've had several excellent meals at Matyson (though not since they've changed ownership, which was some time ago). They do a tasting menu typically focused on a showcasing a single ingredient (but this week it is "Five Senses"). Unfortunately that's only available Mon-Thurs so I'm not sure you'd be able to get there if you'll have obligations in Exton.

          I hope you enjoy whatever you find!

      2. Suggestions are good so far. Here is a list that I like for a starting point of restaurant research: http://philly.eater.com/archives/2012...
        I don't agree with it 100% but it's a good place to start.

        Since you have a passion for Sichuan you should also look into E Mei and Four Rivers in Chinatown in addition to Han Dynasty. You can search the board for discussion about this. There is also a lot of good Vietnamese food, especially soups like pho.

        Deluca is right that Nick's is way up there for sandwiches. There are a lot of great sandwiches around in general, also check out Paesano's, DiNic's roast pork, and Sarcone's hoagies.

        For a snack try Federal Donuts for gourmet donut flavors.

        1. (Sichuan) R & Z Ping Pong
          273 E Swedesford Rd
          Gateway Shopping Center
          Wayne, PA 19087
          (610) 254-0281

          Not as good as Han Dynasty in my opinion but more offal on the menu including multiple kidney dishes.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Chinon00

            Agree that Ping Pong has a much more extensive menu than Han Dynasty, including the offal mentioned by Chinon00. While the service at Ping Pong is not as polished or even as English-proficient as that of Han Dynasty's, the food and preparation are more consistently delicious and the specials are usually quite fantastic. The chef at Ping Pong really aims to please, while the kitchen has a number of people from Sichuan Province.

            1. re: mookleknuck

              Worth pointing out that Ping Pong is out in the suburbs, about a 30 minute drive or train ride. The other restaurants mentioned are all in or very close to the city center. The Chinatown Sichuan restaurants have a more extensive menu than Han Dynasty as well (I had a great pig foot dish at Four Rivers).

          2. (BBQ) Fette Sau
            1208 Frankford Avenue,
            Philadelphia, PA

            Wonderful American BBQ smoked to perfection. Brisket, Pulled Pork, Flank Steak (great), Pork Belly, Pork Ribs, sausage and other meats. All local craft beer and extensive Bourbon list.

            15 Replies
            1. re: Chinon00

              Liked the environs but not the food at Fette Sau. Too fatty!

              1. re: bluehensfan

                My pork belly and brisket (w/ side of potato salad and Italian sausage) and flank steak and pork ribs. ;]

                1. re: Chinon00

                  Dear me, that looks very good indeed...

                  1. re: FurryWritingDesk

                    I wish my brisket there looked like that :(

                    1. re: bluehensfan

                      That cut is unfortunate. And this has occurred on more than one visit to you?

                      1. re: Chinon00

                        No way I was rushing back after eating (well throwing away most of) it...

                        1. re: bluehensfan

                          So you've ordered the brisket there again w/ better results?

                          1. re: Chinon00

                            This shows a BBQ problem, maybe Phila, maybe in general. Been to Fette Sau in Brooklyn a number of times and it rocked, perfect meat each and every time, not been to the resto here. Been to Percy's a number of times here and has been all over the map, like a different resto map, sometimes brisket wonderful, sometimes overcooked and dry, even the pecan pie and mac/cheese there has been wildly different, both good and horrid. Thus l gave up on Percy's but will try FS when back in Phila.

                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                              BBQ is hard to get consistent in general. Given that Fette Sau's Phila location is brand new I think that we should give the a few more weeks to prove if they can be consistent or not.

                            2. re: Chinon00

                              I gave up after the first try and went back to Percy Street.

                              1. re: Chinon00

                                I gave up after the first try and went back to Percy Street.

                  2. re: Chinon00

                    Chinon did you like it better than Percy Street?

                    1. re: cwdonald

                      Haven't been to Percy since they opened. I liked it but just haven't gotten back so it wouldn't be fair to judge.

                      1. re: Chinon00

                        I recently re-tried Percy St. for the first time since they opened and it's much better now. Definitely not "first time in Philly" material but good. I haven't been to Fette Sau.

                        1. re: Buckethead

                          For a Londoner Percy St. could be a revelation - never underestimate the ability of Europeans to get American cuisine all wrong (and vice-versa). I've only been to Texas a handful of times but Percy St. does a pretty successful approximation of what I've experienced there, though I'm sure a Texan would laugh at that assertion.

                          Blue Belly BBQ doesn't really do any of the traditional regional styles so it's hard to compare to the others but I don't think there is a chef in town who does better with slow-cooked meat (also at Cochon). It's worth considering too.

                  3. Thank you all for your suggestions! We'll be staying in Exton on the Thursday night, owing to DH's work, then down into Philly itself Friday afternoon/evening for the weekend. So central recommendations are probably going to be what we chase.
                    That said, I think that Han Dynasty in Exton could be a runner for supper on Thursday evening - a few chillies to chase away any nastiness from a trans-Atlantic flight can't be a bad idea...

                    1. Lots of great recommendations - let me add Ela to the list for offal/off the hook cooking.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Bigley9

                        -1 for Ela, if you've never been to Philly before you can do much better.

                      2. Get fish 'n' chips at the Warwick. Having eaten in London, you'll appreciate this. Best fish 'n' chips I've ever had.

                        Please avoid any Philly cheesesteak. I will get attacked for this, but they are so very bland it is hard to understand why anyone cares about these sandwiches. Wow they are lacking.

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: EarlyBird

                          Early I completely agree with you about the cheesesteak... (Holly please do not kill me... ). I am curious where the Warwick is. The best fish and chips I have had in Philadelphia have been at the Dandelion....

                          1. re: cwdonald

                            Oh, I meant to indicate the Warwick Hotel downtown in Radisson Plaza. Really impressive food, especially for a hotel bar. I had a chopped salad there which was magnificent too. Nobody had mentioned it on Chowhound at the time I researched my trip, but I happened to be stayin there and got lucky.

                            Among the must eats I did while there which was a stand out was the burger at the Royal Tavern. Not only was the burger fantastic, but on a cold rainy day it was a wonderfully cozy place to sit and mingle.

                            Also, Dinic's pork sandwich in the Reading Market was quite good.

                          2. re: EarlyBird

                            EB, high praise for the Warwick FnC and a daring suggestion to a Londoner. We are not fans of the ubiquitous Philly Cheesesteak either but our tastes are certainly not shared by many as it is widely and successfully sold nationally . I have not had a CS from the Best of Philly joints and have not had one this year but for us dressed up a bit with provolone, red sauce and some fried long hots and they are certainly not bland. Yes I know a CS purest would and will argue the point. Your advise on avoiding them would be well heeded as their chance of getting a really bad one is high.

                            1. re: Bacchus101

                              Completely disagree about not getting a cheesesteak. If one is in the Italian market, meandering down to Pats/Geno's is a great experience. Roll the dice and try out a steak. What will you lose? Worst case scenario is that it's dry and not very good. Well the fact is that there are some great cheesesteaks in this city, and you didn't get a good one. At least you have an idea of what they are.

                              I can't imagine not visiting a chippy in London, and some will be pretty bad, but so what? It's an experience. Plus they'll get to see some more South Philly, which is fairly colorful.

                              Try a cheesesteak out once. If you don't like it, you only lost a few bucks. Definitely try a Paesano's though.

                              1. re: Boognish

                                You lose stomach space. When you're in a delicious city like ours with limited time in which to try things, that's valuable. The roast pork with rabe and provolone is the city's new official sandwich anyway. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

                                1. re: Buckethead

                                  Pork w/Rabe is good sh*T..... but Nicks Roast beef rocks!!!!! Philly cheese steak is also great but skip the Wiz.

                                  1. re: Buckethead

                                    Well said Buck. This entire site is build on identifying the good and avoiding the not so good. Yes these are opinionated comments which hopefully are offered in the spirit of providing meaningful direction. Time, money, opportunity, potentially wellness are other things that can be lost with a bad choice along with, as you noted, stomach space. Based on recent national acknowledgement and many locals voicing their new choice you certainly have a case for roast pork/rabe and provolone.

                                    1. re: Bacchus101

                                      There's plenty of room to try the items that fairly or unfairly define a region. It's important to remember that the OP is coming from another country all together. Sometimes the sandwich is more than just something for the stomach--there's the crowd, the atmosphere, the patois of the locals, and the general "it" ness of the shop.

                                      I would never argue that a cheesesteak is superior to a roast pork, but when a good friend of mine comes back to Philadelphia, his first stop is Steve's for a cheesesteak. It's greasy, inglorious, and chewy, but in his opinion, the greatest thing in the world.

                                      It seems to me that the current trend is to completely eschew the cheesesteak because there's a sandwich down the street with lasagna and bolognese on it. But odds are that in 50 years, they'll still be talking about Philly cheesesteaks. Can't say the same about a gustiao (which is my favorite sandwich in the city).

                                      1. re: Boognish

                                        Cheesesteaks: Somebody must like them as they sure sell a lot of them! I am going on nothing but a hunch but I bet Cheesesteaks out sell roast pork 5:1. I happen to love both!

                                        1. re: Tom34

                                          While you are certainly correct there are more cheesesteaks, I would argue there are an equal number of GREAT cheesesteaks and great roast pork sandwiches.

                                          1. re: cwdonald

                                            Yeah, the quality does vary considerably. The quality of key ingredients such as "Rolls, meat & cheese" can vary from poor to excellent.

                              2. re: EarlyBird

                                True that. Avoid the cheesesteak and opt for Paesano's.

                                1. re: cocobinga

                                  Agree on the cheesesteaks. That's why most locals gravitate to roast pork sandwiches.

                              3. I will also add an old favorite for food but primarily for LOCAL BEER, Standard Tap must be considered IF you enjoy beer. Standard Tap serves over 20 local craft beers (no Bud, Miller, Coors) all brewed within 70 miles of the city. Their food (gastropub) is always well done and satisfying. Mussels and sausage, chicken pot pie, smelts, duck confit salad are all favorites.
                                If you are a beer fan I'll continue . . .

                                1. In Philadelphia we also have a new burgeoning Mexican population. I don't know how popular or available Mexican food is in London but we have several here that Chowhounds seem to like.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                    Very true and ditto on Vietnamese.

                                  2. Right, kids. I am absolutely thrilled with the passion that people have weighed in with. And ├╝ber thanks for taking the time and effort to do so. I have finally booked Le Meridien as our hotel, which kind of anchors out location.
                                    At the moment (and this is without the input of DH so I could be overridden at any moment) we are looking at DeNics. Handynasty. And the rest is still to play for. Btw. He is a beer aficionado. I am, tragically, anaphylaxia allergic to beer. But cider works.... So, over to you, my lovelies. No vietnamese needed. No Mexican needed. Get local! Oh, and if anyone's game to meet up for a pint, I'd love to meet you guys.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: FurryWritingDesk

                                      "Btw. He is a beer aficionado. I am, tragically, anaphylaxia allergic to beer. But cider works...."

                                      Ok so I mentioned Standard Tap earlier, our city's first gastropub opening in 2000. They specialize in local craft beer. What I consider our better local breweries (which will be available at Tap) include Victory, Dogfish Head, Sly Fox, and Stoudts. Victory is my favorite mostly for their German styles: pils, doppelbock, and weizenbock. Dogfish Head is interesting with their most popular beers being their 60 minute (6% abv), 90 minute (8% abv) and 120 minute (18% abv) IPAs. They also brew ancient and experimental beers such as Chateau Jiahu based on Neolithic recipe of fermented rice, honey and fruit. Sly Fox and Stoudts also produce many German styles but also do English and Belgian styles.
                                      Ciders are an up and coming option in many pubs. A good local brand I've had in Jack's but Strongbow and Magners aren't uncommon.

                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                        Bainbridge Street Barrel House just opened at 6th and Bainbridge, the tap and bottle list are extensive, one of the better and more exotic lineups in town. They also have six or seven ciders in bottle and one on Draft, and not the typical brands you find in the states. It's a nice place but the food needs a lot of work. Would be a good place for a beer afficianado and a cider drinker to grab a taste.

                                        1. re: barryg

                                          That sounds really nice Barry. Do you know if they have anything on cask/hand pump?

                                          1. re: cwdonald

                                            You can see the list here: http://www.bainbridgestreetbarrelhous...
                                            I think the barrel aged selection is poured like cask but I didn't sit at the bar so not sure.

                                            The bottle list on the website doesn't list the ciders but they were on the printed list when I was there the other day,we ordered one.

                                          2. re: barryg

                                            Btw to OP, down the street from the barrel house is Southwark which has great cocktails but also very good food which focuses on local ingredients, even though they don't trumpet that like the farm to table themed places. Their housemade charcuterie is especially good, it's my favorite charcuterie and cheese plate in the city as they always have interesting and tasty cheeses as well.

                                        2. re: FurryWritingDesk

                                          Another idea is Tria with two downtown locations. Very nice wine and beer list, also cheese and some pretty good snacks/small plates. They always have several local brew options and also a selection of American microbrews and Belgians. They also have what they call "real" apple cider from Basque.