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A Baltimore and a London 'hound seek South Street surprises

My sister, an active member of the U.K. board and an adventurous eater, is coming over for Christmas and we're spending a couple of days in Philly. We'll be staying near South Street and I want to take her to one or two great food restaurants that she wouldn't experience in London, i.e. not French, Indian or Italian. Decor doesn't matter as much as food quality, but it should be a place we can chat a while, and I'd like it to be in walkable distance if possible.

Any ideas? maybe a Chef's table one night? We'll be going to Reading Terminal Market for at least one lunch. Many thanks, and I'll report back

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  1. You might try Zahav for dinner - it's not far from South Street - and while there's plenty of good middle eastern food in London, it's really just where the restaurant takes it's cue - it's not "traditional" in any way...www.zahavrestaurant.com

    You should also take advantage of our local "iron chef" Jose Garces - you won't find better burgers than at village whiskey...www.villagewhiskey.com - it's not close to South Street but South Street itself isn't much of a food destination in my opinion. It's more for lunch than dinner.

    London isn't known for Mexican food - so you might want to look at some Chowhound postings on that topic...http://www.chow.com/search?query=mexi...

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      1. Agree with the Zahav recommendation. Philly is a very walkable city and you also have a lot of options in Old City, 13th St. corridor, and Rittenhouse areas not too far away. If you want something vegetarian, Vedge is a few blocks off South Street. Percy Street BBQ on 10th and South Sts has excellent BBQ, particularly the brisket and pecan pie. Zavino on 13th st has really good small plates and pizzas.

        1. re: bluehensfan

          I second Percy Grill (or any quality BBQ joint in the city) for a visitor from Britain. Now when it comes to BBQ, Philly isn't Texas. But I'm sure you can't get this quality American BBQ in Britain. I'd suggest Mexican as well but can't think of a solid spot near South Street.

          1. re: Chinon00

            Las Bugambilias is very good. Xochitl is good too but I like Bugambilias better.

      2. Some excellent suggestions, totally agree with Zahav. What type restaurant is not found in London? Now there is a good question. Agreement here also on South Street not being a food destination, while popular with many I would think other areas of the city may be of greater interest in many aspects. English colleagues always enjoy "Steak Houses" there are a number of very excellent ones in Philly. I avoid the chains, although they are also popular and quite good and many from which to choose. Perhaps consider Barclay Prime, The Prime Rib, Butcher & Singer for beef. Should you be interested in some high octane beverages try Franklin Mortgage, Hop Sings or the Ranstead Room.

        1. If there aren't good Jewish delis in London try Famous 4th St, a block off South at 4th & Bainbridge, for brunch. Across the street, Southwark is great for a nightcap cocktail and snack (great housemade charcuterie).

          Otherwise I agree with the others, there is no reason to restrict your search to the South Street area, as all of Center City is walkable or a very short transit/cab ride. But, in the Queen Village/Bella Vista area blow South, there are a few options that may be of interest to an international visitor.
          1) Catahoula, a small bar serving good cajun food.
          2) Kennett, a neighborhood bar/restaurant focused on local, seasonal ingredients.
          3) Royal Tavern, one of Philly's best gastropubs, which I know they invented in England but this is a very American/Philly take on it. All the food is great but they also do fantastic versions of typical American bar food like nachos and burgers. Good American-craft focused beer list. Very good Bloody Marys as well. Much better than the more expensive and pretentious "gastropubs" around IMO.
          5) Cochon, pork-focused BYOB. Pretty representative of Philly's chef-driven BYOB culture.
          6) Little Fish, tiny seafood BYOB that does a tasting menu on Sunday nights. Reserve early.

          3 Replies
          1. re: barryg

            If you are going to look on South Street, Pizzareia Stella is worth considering. Its at 2nd and south and makes decent neopolitan style pizza. I think it is better than Barbuzzo but not as good as Zavino and a lot closer than either two.

            Right off of south streeet is Ela, a great innovative restaurant with interesting cocktails and small plates menu that is quite good. The whipped foie gras, or the diver scallop noodle are wonderful dishes.

            1. re: cwdonald

              Have you been to Nomad (7th St just off South)? Blows Stella out of the water IMO. Haven't been to Zavino in quite some time so can't compare to that but Nomad is awesome. I didn't mention because I figured that style of pizza is common in England, but don't really know.

            2. re: barryg

              Also I should add Fitzwater Cafe at 7th & Fitzwater for great American breakfast food.

            3. Thanks to all my fellow chowhounds. I think I misled some of you by saying that decor doesn't matter-- we still want a semi formal meal, so pizza, cheese steak and bbq (specially above the mason Dixon line) are out.
              Zahav seems really interesting, and Ela sounds great-- even though the protein will be familiar to my sis, many of the veggies and accompaniments, like butternut squash, pretzels and kale will not be. Also going to look at Fitzwater Cafe for a breakfast.

              9 Replies
              1. re: curioussheridan

                Not that they are better choices than Zahav or Ela but Stella, Nomad and Percy Street are real restaurants with nice atmosphere and service. I don't mean this is a negative way but they are yuppified versions of those cuisines. They are not on the level of Zahav or Ela though which are more upscale.

                1. re: barryg

                  For the food, I would choose Kanella over Zahav - not that they are exact matches but they feature similar eastern Mediterranean flavors. Though I'd qualify that statement by saying that really professional service, decor or liquor license aren't big concerns of mine...

                  1. re: caganer

                    Kanella-- wow! I can visualize and already mentally enjoy these surprising combinations

                    1. re: curioussheridan

                      At Kanella be prepared to have both elbows on adjoining tables. As noted by Yogi, "it is so crowded nobody goes there any more" ! Perhaps Zahav shares some flavors with Kanella but IMHO that is the only similarity.

                      1. re: Bacchus101

                        Kanella is small and gets crowded but it's not uncomfortable even for my 70-year old parents. Not every meal needs to be eaten in perfect comfort and tranquility. To me the atmosphere and decor of the side dining room of Zahav is caravanserai-meets-retirement-home-dining-room. I'll take the crowd at Kanella.
                        In the fall and early winter Kanella gets the most amazing wild birds from Scotland. It's that time of year and those birds with those flavors are amazing.

                        1. re: caganer

                          Cagarner do you know what dishes Kanella does with game? My go to game restaurant is always Picholiine in NYC, and I had no idea that Kanella did game birds.

                          1. re: cwdonald

                            The story they tell goes that the chef has managed to keep his game connections from his time as a chef in London, so he's getting top-notch birds. Grouse, wood pigeon, partridge and quail have all been on the menu. Pricey but worth it for a one-a-year opportunity.
                            The rabbit dish on the menu is good also. And it's not game but their goat stew with wheat berries and yogurt is very good.

                          2. re: caganer

                            Small and crowded but not uncomfortable is certainly an individual judgement as those descriptors most frequently do not coexist. Love your interesting description of the side dining room at Zahav. Never been there and thanks to you I will make an effort to avoid it. Game birds from Scotland does add an interesting option to the Kanella highly regarded menu; the quality of which I have never heard questioned.

                            1. re: caganer

                              Does anyone else share my opinion that Kanella is kind of over salted?