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Quick bites, portable meals, and toddler friendly dinners

Underdog Rally Jul 15, 2013 07:33 PM

We'll be on a road trip, stopping in Philly for 3 nights and traveling with a 2 year old. We normally travel by finding interesting places to eat, and sight seeing along the way.

We're staying near Rittenhouse square, and expect to spend the first full day wandering around the standard touristy areas, with lunch at Reading Terminal. Beyond that, I'm looking for suggestions on interesting local dining, anything from DDD up to a family friendly bistro in terms of formality (nothing high end or that would require more than an hour of sitting still).

Any suggestions?

Coming from Toronto, I'm especially looking for things that don't translate well across the boarder, like Mexican, BBQ, meals involving chunks of meat, and obviously a cheesesteak. We're happy to drive for a good dinner, but would prefer to walk or take transit for breakfast and lunch. Portable lunches are also a plus.

I saw this link in another thread, which led me to Max Brenner (!?): http://philadelphia.foobooz.com/2010/... . How would a 2-year old fare there?

  1. Underdog Rally Aug 5, 2013 08:20 PM

    An update on our trip. The recommendations were fantastic, and we managed to get in a lot of food. Food hunting with an assertively curious 2 year old can be exciting, and I hope my experiences will help other travelers in this situation. For context, we stayed at the Radisson-Warwick, and this was the start of a road trip through Philly and NYC.

    We got in late the first night, so I ran over to Alma de Cuba and got... take-out ceviche. They were a bit flustered and confused at seeing someone in traveling shorts show up and ask for a sampler to go, but were wonderfully accommodating nonetheless. The chef (who was probably a tiny bit offended) even tried to "plate" the ceviche in the take-out containers. The ceviches were clever and very tasty, with the caveat that I ate it with a plastic fork out of a plastic container. I've had better high-end ceviches, but this would have been welcome as takeout in Miami, let alone Philly. Toddler liked the "Lenguado Al fuedo." Didn't care for the habanero, though...

    Day two we stopped at Miel next door for a quick breakfast, no comments, followed by DiNics roast pork for brunch. Fantastic sandwich. The meat was moist, flavourful and well seasoned throughout.
    - We later stopped at the Eakins Oval to grab some shrimp tacos from a truck as per the suggestion. Tacos were great, if surprisingly expensive, and we would have liked to sample more, but were rained out. If not for the rain, we could have easily spent an afternoon here.
    - The storm also left us stuck at Prime Rib for dinner. Decent prix fixe with well prepared sides, but not terribly memorable (or toddler-appropriate). Definitely better options if not for the rain.

    Day 3 we managed to get in:
    - Federal donuts: Really nice cake donuts. I'm more of a yeast fan, but they were tasty. We did find most baked goods in the city a bit overly sugary, and probably wouldn't go down that road again.
    - Beck Cajun "Train wreck": This ended up being my cheesesteak proxy. Delicious in a ridiculously indulgent kind of way. Do it for the experience.
    - Miller's Twist Pretzel: Probably one of the single best items on our road trip. It's just a pretzel in the end, but someone takes their craft seriously.
    - 4 seasons (also RT) smoothies: Served as toddler brunch.
    - Underdogs "Back in the day": Totally unexpected and very good. Definitely worth getting as a tourist, as it really captures the whole "let's take these things that we like and put them together in a sandwich" mentality.
    - Capogiro gelato and granita: This was perfect for the toddler. Gelato-wise it's pretty consistent with what most big cities offer. The granita in particular worked really well, since it naturally diluted the gelato for my toddler as he ran around the park between bites.
    - Oyster house: Turtle soup and shrimp were good. Fried Ipswich clams and smoked octopus were great. They did an excellent job of accommodating us. It's very loud, which was perfect! Definitely the most toddler-friendly sit down meal of our visit.

    Day 4: Early brunch at Parc before heading to Sesame Place. Restaurant was empty on a weekday morning. Brunch was decent, standard fare with a nice ambiance. While not unfriendly, everything from the table layouts to the food arrangements make eating with a toddler unnecessarily uncomfortable.

    Quick Summary:
    - With a toddler's schedule, you're best off mapping things out close to your home base. Downtown and the tourist areas are very walkable with a stroller in good weather, and food is readily accessible everywhere. The flip side is that transit and cars are both poor options. We were stuck rather helplessly in a storm, unfortunately.
    - Reading terminal was easily the most important food hub for us. It's conveniently close to all the major tourist areas, and also offers the best selection and quality in the area. We even picked up fruit daily from the grocer.
    - Toddler ate (almost) everything we ate, so Philly's incredible variety of portable food was very helpful.
    - Sesame Place has terrible food. Bring a picnic from RT.
    - There are 7-Elevens and and Dunkin' Donuts EVERYWHERE. What's up with that?

    Thanks to everyone in this and other threads for your great suggestions, they're much appreciated.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Underdog Rally
      b
      Bob Loblaw Aug 6, 2013 07:01 AM

      thanks for reporting back, and glad you enjoyed your stay!

    2. f
      fava_bean Jul 17, 2013 04:47 PM

      Be sure to take that two year old to Capogiro, just off Rittenhouse Square, for some great ice cream. (You might indulge too!!)

      1. h
        Hungryin theBurbs Jul 17, 2013 08:30 AM

        Just saw that they have turned Eakins Oval, the area in front of the art museum, into a park with a beach, daily programming, and a rotation of food trucks. Might be a good option if you are thinking of a museum trip.

        http://www.phila.gov/ParksandRecreati...

        FYI, just to be clear, the truck scene in Philly is very vibrant, with a lot of excellent food being turned out of these mobile restaurants.

        1. Underdog Rally Jul 16, 2013 04:49 PM

          Thanks everyone, great suggestions. Upscale Mexican sounds like a good option, and the take-out/picnic table/food truck lunches will be very helpful.

          1. b
            bumble Jul 16, 2013 01:48 PM

            If you'll be down by the Elfreth's Alley and Betsy Ross house, you could do take out or eat in at Fork, Etc.

            1. b
              Bigley9 Jul 16, 2013 08:20 AM

              Just north of the constitution center is Franklin Square - it can seem a little hard to get to because the streets around it are very wide, but it is amazingly quiet and calm once you are there. There is a burger stand called Square Burger that makes good small burgers, cake shakes, etc. Plus there is a playground, carousel, and a miniature golf course with a different city attraction as each hole. It's a great place to take a break from wandering the city.

              1. h
                Hungryin theBurbs Jul 16, 2013 06:52 AM

                Agree that Rangoon is probably the only place in Chinatown worth exploring, if you are unfamiliar with Burmese cuisine. Fette Sau is a great recommendation for BBQ, an easy drive or cab ride.

                For lunch options, check out Federal Donuts for fried chicken and donuts--it's pretty much a take-out place, but you can walk the food over to Rittenhouse square for a picnic. Food trucks are also a potentially good option. Both Love Park and City Hall Plaza (as well as the Porch at 30th Street station) have a rotating selection of excellent trucks, depending on the days you are here.

                For Mexican, you could go more upscale with Distrito or El Vez. They are both big, lively restaurants where you could take a young child, especially early. On the other end of the spectrum are the various Taquerias in the 9th St./Italian Market neighborhood. I like Los Taquitos De Puebla, but there are a number of places in that area.

                1. c
                  cwdonald Jul 15, 2013 09:31 PM

                  BBQ... Fette Sau, or Percy Street would fit your need. Both are a cab ride/short drive from the Rittenhouse Square area.
                  Fette Sau is an indoor/outdoor relaxed atmosphere with large picnic tables outside, and regular tables inside. You order and get your food at the counter and bring it to your table.

                  Skip the cheesesteak and get the roast pork at DiNics in the Reading Terminal (ask for it wet). Paesano's or Johns Roast Pork for takeaway sandwiches would be another good choice.

                  Everyone often recommends Chinatown for visitors with children, but I hesitate to suggest that given the quality of the chinese food in Toronto. The only restaurant that comes to mind that might be a bit different is Rangoon, a Burmese restaurant in Philadelphia's chinatown (definitely kid friendly.)

                  Other folks would be able to suggest the best Mexican places.

                  You would do fine with a young child at Max Brenner.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: cwdonald
                    b
                    Bob Loblaw Jul 16, 2013 06:44 AM

                    There are some surprisingly good lunch options in the basement dining court area of the Comcast Center. On the ground floor of the building is a pretty impressive screen display - don't know how to describe it, but it's worth 5-10 minutes if you're nearby w/your kid - and, if you're willing to brave the heat, you can take this all with you to eat at the nearby Sister Cities park - http://www.centercityphila.org/life/s... - very toddler friendly.

                    1. re: Bob Loblaw
                      c
                      cwdonald Jul 18, 2013 08:04 AM

                      Comcast Center food court includes, DiBrunos (prepared foods, and sandwiches), Terminis (bakery), Mexican post, a steak place, a seafood place, a juice bar, a deli/salad place, and a sushi place. Packed during the week, dead on weekends. Large area in the middle to eat and it is well air conditioned.

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