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Visiting in May, which reservations do I need to make ASAP?

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Hi all,
I'm visiting Philadelphia in mid May and wonder if there are any hard to get reservations I should start thinking about ASAP?

Restaurants I have enjoyed in the past:
Per Se in NYC
Eleven Madison Park in NYC
French Laundry in Yountville
Le Bernardin in NYC
Moto in Chicago


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  1. Osteria or Vetri or both ;-)

    1. Depending on if you are here on Wed-Sun, I would suggest Bibou. But note that it is cash only and bring your own wine.

      Also if you are okay with high prices, The Fountain Room at the Four Seasons hotel is an elegant place to dine.

      1. Vetri is the only place on par with the restaurants you mention and along with Bibou (which while different than the above is still excellent) two for which you should seek reservations far in advance.

        1. If you will be here on the weekend, consider Lacroix for Sunday brunch. But if that weekend is Mother's Day, you might be out of luck already.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Philly Ray

            Now THAT looks decadent! I take it's $69 for the Sunday Brunch Buffet?

            1. re: nowai

              Yep..$69 for the buffet. And all of the hot dishes are served in the kitchen, so you get to walk right in and help yourself. It is a really nice experience. Make the reservation for 11AM so you can maximize your time there.

            2. re: Philly Ray

              Thanks for the reminder Philly Ray. I just made Brunch reservations at Lacroix for my husband's newest milestone birthday. (I'm going straight to Italy for mine!)

            3. bibou as others have suggested should be on your list.

              1. How many dinners are you going to be here for? I'll third Bibou and second Osteria but -1 for Vetri for me, it's just not worth the extravagant price. Osteria is better in every way and much less expensive. You probably don't need to worry about reserving Osteria now for a May visit though.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Buckethead

                  I will be here for 5 nights but probably won't be eating out every night. Looking for maybe 2-3 places.

                  Vetri: Is their tasting menu more like a prix fixe menu where you pick one course out of each section? (http://www.vetriristorante.com/index....


                  Is the Osteria the one that's in the same restaurant group as Vetri?

                  1. re: nowai

                    If dining alone at Osteria you can almost always get a spot at the bar or the counter. If you prefer a table it helps to make a reservation.

                    Bibou and Zahav would be the two I would make reservations for. The latter especially if you want to do their special tasting menu with the lamb.

                    1. re: nowai

                      The menu at Vetri is just what they have available on any given night -- the chef will choose your dishes: two from the first three sections, one dessert, a pre dessert, and a plate of amuses with crudite to start (I think that is right). If you are a couple they will not serve the same dish to both for any course. You can however tell them to include or omit specific dishes if you have strong preferences.

                      1. re: barryg

                        We went to Vetri last year for our anniversary, and it was spectacular. We were served about 5 small plates each, 2 different dishes each time, and there was plenty to share. Mark Vetri visits all the tables and is happy to make suggestions; in our case, he said the mushrooms were great that night, so we asked for some, and had several lovely dishes featuring different kinds of mushrooms. Service was also unobtrusive and skillful.

                        1. re: drjane

                          I've been to Vetri several times since they opened, and Marc Vetri has never visited our table. Maybe it's me...

                      2. re: nowai

                        Osteria is Vetri's second restaurant. I love it there but if you're only looking for 3 places at the most I don't think Osteria needs to be one of the 3. I'd do Bibou, Vedge, and Zahav (in that order).

                        1. re: Buckethead

                          Yeah, and you need to reserve the lamb shoulder in advance at Zahav (their signature dish).

                    2. None of the restaurants mentioned in this thread are in the same league as the ones you mentioned having enjoyed in your original post. I assume you listed them because you are looking for the Philly equivalent.

                      You obviously appreciate truly exceptional restaurants, with 4 of them being on Restaurant Magazine's Top 100 in the world, whereas there is not a single Philly restaurant on that list. Just to cite another "Top 100" list, in the last Opinionated About Dining survey, only 2 Philly restaurants appear, Morimoto at #61, and #80 Vetri.

                      Of the Philly restaurants mentioned in this thread, Bibou, while not in the same league, is certainly a very unique dining experience that I highly recommend (see the review I just posted). You should call them (don't use OpenTable) to get a reservation as soon as possible.

                      Unfortunately, I've never been to Vetri, but many seem to think it is our best restaurant, and it certainly needs reservations well in advance. It's just my personal opinion, which many will disagree with (there seems to be peer pressure not to say anything negative about it), but I wouldn't go to Osteria. The one time I've been, well, I didn't like anything about the experience and have no plans to ever go back. And it's certainly nothing like dining at Per Se, Le Bernardin, etc. (which I've been too).

                      There are plenty of other famous, high-end restaurants in Philly, such as Le Bec Fin, Morimoto, The Fountain, Lacroix. If I had to pick one, I would say LBF, again a controversial opinion perhaps. However, their French Laundry-trained chef recently left and I haven't been back since. The Lacroix brunch is great, and a bargain, although it is buffet style and the food is just good, not exceptional.

                      But if you truly want to enjoy Philadelphia, you should focus on what we do best: small, chef-driven BYOBs.

                      In this category, some of the best are:
                      Blackfish (a bit outside Philly)
                      Farm & Fisherman
                      Zeppoli (across the bridge in NJ)

                      These are all popular restaurants, and reservations a couple of weeks in advance are probably a good idea, particularly for Fri/Sat evenings, but only Bibou is an actually tough reservation to get. [Look up Talula's Table, if you want to see a truly tough reservation. It was recently called the 4th hardest res in the world! I would recommend it to you, but you are not going to be able to get reservations, so there is no point.]

                      Anyway, that's my advice. Philly isn't NYC, but I prefer the food scene here any day, as long as you set your expectations appropriately and focus on what we do better than anywhere else on the east coast.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                        One other thing, if you do go the BYOB route and want to enjoy some good wines with your good food, it might be best to bring them with you (or have some shipped to you hotel room--illegal in PA, but you will get away with it).

                        There are plenty of wine shops around Philly, but they are all state-owned and offer variable selections (look for the "premium" shops). You can't ask people "what's the best wine shop in Philly" and expect to pop in and find an exceptional, particularly older, bottle of wine, like you can in NYC. You can certainly find good wines, but it takes more leg work here.

                        That's one downside of Philly. But it does have the silver lining that it is the reason we are the World's Capital of BYOBs!

                        1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                          I also just looked at Philly Magazine's Top 50 list, just trying to think of places to suggest to you (it's more of a "hot" list, than any sort of "best of" ranking, but it has a pretty good selection of our best restaurants).


                          And beside Zahav that was already mentioned, Vedge is another totally unique restaurant that I would recommend to out-of-towners wanting to experience Philly. Some apparently feel it may be the best Vegan restaurant in the US. While I'm as carnivorious (is that a word?) as it is possible to be, even I love it. Not BYOB, but an excellent inexpensive wine list and you can BYOB for a $15 corkage fee. Not sure how tough the reservation is, but probably similar to the other BYOBs I mentioned above.

                        2. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                          Modo Mio needs to be on that list of the city's best BYOBs.

                          FWIW I too was underwhelmed with Osteria. I had some great dishes there but also some flops. I felt the same way about Amis and I don't appreciate the "atmosphere" (loud an crowded) at those prices. Vetri is twice the price, and maybe it's not perfect, but at least offers a true fine dining experience.

                          1. re: barryg

                            I almost put it on there, but I haven't been in a long while.

                            Only been to Amis once, and enjoyed it. It didn't seem as loud as Osteria, and we had some really unusual beers and food. And our waitress was charming, not like the surly guy we had at Osteria.

                            1. re: barryg

                              I agree with barryg re: Vetri over Osteria. I've only been to each once. Had an absolutely delightful experience at Vetri. The food was excellent; perhaps not the most creative/inventive we've had, but everything was delicious and well prepared. Service was exceptional--the kind that makes you feel like you're special.

                              Osteria was hit or miss with regard to the food. Salumi and pizza appetizers were good but not exceptional. My pasta entrée was excellent, if a bit too salty, but my husband's rabbit dish was dry and tough. Overall, we were very disappointed with the food and the service was forgettable.

                              Perhaps our expectations were too high for Osteria, but expectations for Vetri were even higher and Vetri exceeded them.

                              1. re: msiangal

                                Your experience at Osteria is consistent with mine, and I have dined there over 20 times. I will eat their appetizers, and pasta dishes and do not order the entrees. The pizza are good but I will only get them occasionally.

                                I actually prefer the pasta at Amis, but do not like the fact you cannot order half portions the way you can at Osteria. Amis actually has a better cocktail program but the wine selection at Osteria is better. Osteria can be loud in the main room but if you are in the garden room or the back room the noise level is a lot less.

                            2. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                              I haven't been there but have heard very good things about Fond. I am thinking Craig LaBan gave it a very good review recently but I may be wrong about that. However, since they have moved are they really considered a BYOB or is that something only allowed on certain days?

                              We may try to get there in the next few months so an update on their wine policy is appreciated. Thanks.

                              1. re: FayeD

                                Fond was at three bells before they moved and they retained that rating after LaBan re-reviewed them at the new location. They are now serving alcohol, but BYO is allowed for free during the week and $10 corkage on the weekends. We were there about a month ago and everything was great.

                                Latest review here...


                              2. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                PhillyBest, thanks for a well written, knowledgeable and informative post. Excellent observations throughout which are even more insightful as I happen to agree with them. (shy smile) With only two visits to Osteria I have concluded there is no reason for me to return as I find the food just ok and on my visits served with way too much attitude at too high a price for just ok food. And yes, for some reason it does seem to be verboden (sorry don't know the Italian) to say anything negative regarding either Osteria or Veg. +1 on Chef driven BYOBs that is a Philly niche for sure.