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Visiting Philadelphia after 5+ years away

My husband and I are planning a weekend trip up to Philadelphia in March without our son before our second child is born. I lived there for 7 years about 5 years ago and haven't been back without my son since then. I think I've been to most of the restaurants that have been around for a long time-- most of the older Steven Starr spots (Morimoto, Budakan, Alma de Cuba), Le Bec Fin, good cheese steak places, etc. . . . But I was totally overwhelmed when I saw the latest lists of newer, great restaurants in Philly-- they all look great and I don't know how to start narrowing it down.

I'm looking for restaurants that are newish in the last couple years and special in some way (could be fancy/ expensive or hole in the wall). But interesting food. (we live in DC so have plenty of good restaurants here-- so interesting/ unique is really important).

We'd rather stick to Center City (though south, like Queen Village area is okay too) and will probably base where we stay on where we plan to eat.

Any help is appreciated! Thanks!!

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  1. I'd suggest Vedge, Osteria, Zahav, Kanella for starters.

    4 Replies
    1. re: rsgdmd

      That is a really good list

      Vedge vegetarian restaurant that is getting tons of raves. Its in the old Deux Cheminee.

      Osteria - second restaurant from Marc Vetri. Outstanding pasta wood fired pizzas and anti pasti.

      Zahav - modern israel cooking. Best known for their lamb shoulder in pomegranate. Michael Solomonov also has an interesting restaurant known as a Federal Doughnuts pairing fancy doughnuts with Korean Fried Chicken.

      Kanella - Cyriot food. Lots of great flavors. I personally really enjoy the breakfast on weekends. Small BYO.

      Koo Ze Doo - Portugese cooking. Unless you go up to the Iron Bound District around Neward NJ, you are not going to find as authentic portugese flavors. Highly recommended.

      We also have three tapas restaurants that are worth checking out.. Jamonera on 13th Street is the newest and has a great selection of sherry and ports. Amada and Tinto from Jose Garces are quite good.

      Stateside, Will, Vernick and Farm and Fisherman all opened in the last year and are producing new american style food with a flair.

      Lastly one of the hardest tables to get in the city is Bibou, a french BYO from a husband and wife team that used to work at Le Bec Fin.

      1. re: cwdonald

        Fantastic! Thanks so much, these lists give us a great place to jump off from.

        We definitely plan on going to Zahav (trying to decide if we want to try to get a spot at the special "kitchen counter" or just order off the normal menu).

        I have a feeling I may have some questions as I dig in and start researching these spots. Seems like we're going to have some hard choices-- wish we had a week instead of just a weekend!

        1. re: parnes77

          If you've already settled on Zahav I'd make your other dinner reservation (assuming you're going to be here 2 nights) at Vedge, and have brunch at Kanella, preferably the day you go to Vedge so you don't over-indulge. Kanella is one of the city's best restaurants and is one of the few places that does just as good a job at breakfast/lunch as they do during dinner.

          Osteria, KooZeeDoo, Will, and Vernick are all great too, but really if "interesting/ unique is really important" then Zahav and Vedge are the obvious choices. KZD meets that criteria too but it's kind of inconvenient to Center City, and not the best place for a party of 2.

          I wouldn't bother with Federal Donuts or Bistrot La Minette.

      2. I would also recommend Sunday brunch at Lacroix. It is the best high-end brunch in the city.

        1. The Philly hounds have provided an excellent list of fine, relatively new restaurants. Just in case you may be interested in some liquid refreshment; here are a few places which are probably new to you. One can find excellent cocktails at The Ranstead Room "speakeasy", Franklin Mortgage and the slightly veiled Hop Sing Laundry. I would be remiss should I fail to mention a very important new world class location for food for your mind and soul, The Barnes. Welcome back!

          1. I don't know if it's worth a visit on this trip but last year Le Bec Fin got completely new ownership, management and kitchen. It's run by French Laundry alumni. I haven't been; reviews of the food have been good but most seem to question the value given the influx of great restaurants at lower price points.

            I think the other posters pretty much nailed your request but I like to point people at these lists as another good jumping off point:
            http://philly.eater.com/archives/2013...
            http://philly.eater.com/archives/2013...

            The only place I would add to other posters is Le Virtu down on East Passyunk. It's Italian, but the menu is focuses solely on dishes from the Abruzzi region so it is unique. The East Passyunk restaurant scene has completely blown up over the past few years (also retail and drinking). Worth a visit maybe to see how things have changed outside of CC. Ditto for Fishtown, though the restaurants are in general and more ambitious and better on E Passyunk, and it is a little closer to Center City.

            1. Look no farther.
              Bistrot La Minette. It is a quiet winner and in the Queen Village area.