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Philly for 24 hours- Rittenhouse are recs please

Will be staying in Philly for 1 night arriving around noon 7/26 and departing around noon 7/27 and looking for some suggestions for food/sites. Staying at the Radisson Warwick Plaza Hotel .We are an active couple in our mid 30's, general plan is to explore some historic sites around Independence Hall and enjoy some good food. For lunch hubby would love a good cheesesteak, for dinner looking for a fun gourmet restaurant with good craft cocktails (hubby is a huge bourbon fan) and then a cute cafe or diner for breakfast. As always any advice is appreciated.

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  1. The two best places for bourbon in Philadelphia are Village Whiskey, a Jose Garces restaurant within walking distance from your hotel, and Fette Sau, a BBQ place about 10 minutes away by car from your hotel. I probably wouldnt dine at Village Whiskey but it would be a place to grab a nightcap. The Ranstead Room will be in walking distance from you hotel as well and they make real creative cocktails. The two other great cocktail places in Philadelphia are Hop Sing Laundry in Chinatown, and Franklin Mortgage.

    Breakfast at Parc, right around the corner from your hotel looking onto Rittenhouse Square where you would have the option to dine al fresco or inside would be one choice.

    For lunch I would go to the Reading Terminal Market. You can get a cheesesteak there, or perhaps a DiNics roast pork sandwich with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe that is a far superior sandwich to the pedestrian cheesesteak. You also have options of eating at Amish restaurants like the Dutch Eating place, and a myriad of other places.

    Dinner you have a ton of choices, though your cocktail requirement would exclude some of our best restaurants which are BYOs. Talulah's Garden is down in the Washington Square area and has creative fresh food, and I like the cocktails they have there. If you want to go to a vegetarian restaurant, Vedge is an elegant vegan restaurant that has a very nice cocktail program as well. Zahav, is a modern israeli restaurant in the Old City area, and serves a wonderful lamb shoulder dish as part of a great prix fixe menu. Others I am sure can suggest many other options.

    One other option to consider is Stateside on East Passyunk. They have a great bourbon selection as well, though their chef recently left so I do not know if their food quality has suffered at all.

    1. I would suggest your husband skip the cheesesteak & go for a roast pork sandwich. After checking in, head over to Reading Terminal Market - lots of great choices - DiNics for pork, Beck's for Cajun, Brauhaus Schmidts for German, Hershel's for deli, Bassetts for ice cream..... There is a cheesesteak place if he really needs one, but much better choices are available.
      Near your hotel, there's Vernick Food & Drink, The Oyster House, A.Kitchen, Lacroix, Tinto. For drinks, there's Franklin Mortgage.

      1. If you do end up at Reading Terminal for lunch, which you should, the "Trainwreck" at Beck's Cajun Cuisine is awesome, it's a cheesesteak with andoulle sausage mixed in, and spicy remoulade on the roll. It's a not a traditional Philly cheesesteak, though it is made in the same style as a real Philly steak, on good bread, and way better than the regular cheesesteak place in the Terminal.

        For dinner, I would look into Zahav and Vernick, and make reservations as soon as you can.

        For breakfast I personally think Parc is more kitschy than cute... it's a huge, bustling restaurant but it does have great people watching overlooking the park if you get a sidewalk or window seat. Food is hit or miss.

        If you want a diner and don't need gussied up breakfast food I would go to Little Pete's. Very close to your hotel and one of the few "old Philly" places left in an increasingly sanitized neighborhood. It's a real 24-hour diner that serves a wide cross section of Philly's population. Food is fine for basic breakfast. Another idea is to walk down to Ants Pants on South Street. Very small neighborhood breakfast and lunch place with an Australian bent. Good food, may be a wait. Definitely cute. If they are too busy La Va down the street actually does a good shakshuka.

        1. Excellent choices offered here. I would add that one block from Rittenhouse Square is Tria a busy, fun wine/beer bar with interesting small plates. In the Arts building is the Rittenhouse Tavern, the food and service are good the venue is excellent with a great courtyard nice if the weather allows.

          1. Hi - this is a common issue on philly threads - people ask about (or even just mention) cheesesteaks, and are told to get some other kind of sandwich.

            if your husband wants a cheesesteak, he should get a cheesesteak. tons of places have them - really, i can think of only a handful of places that sell pizza by the slice that don't also sell cheesesteaks.

            11 Replies
            1. re: Bob Loblaw

              Bob, quite right! There is always some well meaning hound answering the question of where to find a great cheesesteak with "forget that and get a whatever". I would think the reader /hound would be best served by suggestions in answer to the question and then perhaps followed by a note that the "whatever" is a great sandwich also.

              When in New England asking for suggestions on where one can find the best lobster roll and being told to forget it and get a fish sandwich instead is not what I would consider helpful.

              1. re: Bacchus101

                It doesn't seem like either of you plan to actually answer the question about where to get a cheesesteak either? Just what we need on this slow board (compared to other big city Chowhound boards), more moderation... Let people give advice how they want. Giving alternatives people may not have though of is always generous advice.

                I second (or is it third?) the advice to get a roast pork with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone from DiNic's instead of a cheesesteak. Even if you like cheesesteaks, that's the real Philly sandwich, which unfortunately gets overshadowed in the national media pigeonholing of Philly (Philly is one of the best food cities in the US, and it has nothing to do with cheesesteaks).

                Not to mention, a visit to Reading Terminal Market is always great advice for visitors too.

                1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                  I would never give a suggestion on cheesesteaks as I have not had one in years. Others here are certainly more qualified. The suggestion is to answer the question which is being asked and then offer additional off subject suggestions. "Let people give advices how they want", sure thing as I did not realize that a suggestion would slow the board with more moderation nor did I understand that answering a question regarding cheesesteaks pigeonholes Philadelphia. I suppose answering the question asked would encumber some people.

                  1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                    Regardless of what we think about cheesesteaks compared to other Philly sandwiches, people who do not live in Philly do want to try them. As previously mentioned, someone who goes to New England wants to try a lobster roll just like someone who visits Chicago wants to have deep dish pizza and someone who visits San Francisco wants to have clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl while sitting on Fisherman's Wharf. It's just what people want to do. Heck, I've done it myself (except for the Fisherman's Wharf thing...now THAT'S just too touristy).

                    Now, to the original poster...Take your husband to Steve's on 16th St between Chestnut and Market Sts for his cheesesteak. It's probably the best one that is closest to your hotel.

                    But if someone wants the full cheesesteak "experience" I wholeheartedly encourage people to go to Pat's on 9th and Passyunk if they can get there conveniently. While there are better cheesesteaks around (and I do think that Steve's is one of them), they are the originator and, to me, that's enough to warrant a visit.

                    1. re: Philly Ray

                      Regardless of whether they want to try them or not, I submit that 99 percent of the cheesesteaks are pure garbage made of steakum like processed beef, soaked in grease, on horrible rolls. Its is a crime to suggest that one eat one of these sandwiches. Offering someone an alternative is what this board is about.. things that people would not have considered. Furthermore here, barryg offered a version that is different than the normal grease soaked roll, which is something that should be commended. While you may be proud of the cheesesteak, I wish it would be abolished. It should not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of food in Philadelphia. I am sick of NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB games always throwing in a picture of some greasy spoon with a pile of meat steaming on the griddle. My dream is that someday people say I am coming to Philly, I am dying to try one of your BYOBs, or what is the newest sandwich, not where should I get a heart attack on a roll.

                      1. re: cwdonald

                        Not trying to be rude, but I've noticed here and elsewhere online that many people tell me "I read it, but I don't post" because some strong personalities tend to dominate any online exchange and scare people off. This is a pretty mild board thanks to strong moderation (although sometimes too strong), but personally I try to avoid criticizing other posters advice as much as possible (just don't criticize my favorite restaurant, or I'll bite your head off!) and focus on my own advice (a rule which I am obviously violating here!). That's my only point.

                        Back to our regularly scheduled broadcast...

                        1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                          So where would you recommend the poster go for a cheesesteak? (Returning us to our regularly scheduled conversation.......)

                          1. re: cwdonald

                            This is one of the reasons I always suggest roast pork sandwiches instead: the only two cheesesteaks I've found that are worth eating are in the Northeast: Steve's and Joe's (formerly Chink's)(I've never had John's). Not a convenient stop for most tourists. But you can get a great roast pork sandwich at Paesano's, Tony Luke's, John's, or DiNics, and those are all much more convenient.

                        2. re: cwdonald

                          Most of Paesano's sandwiches are a "heart attack on a roll" if you eat the whole thing (adding the fried egg will get you halfway there). Should we stop sending people there?

                          1. re: cwdonald

                            Interesting interaction on the "cheesesteak issue". As noted by Ray, like other items in other cities, it is the "thing to get(at least once) when in Philly. Pointing them toward your opinion of the "best" may save them from having the worst. Contrary wise I could not agree more with CW's comment that many cheesesteaks are garbage, as I am not even a fan of the ones noted as good. The hackneyed game day shots of the Philly griddle makes me crazy too. My only suggestion is to answer the question then suggest away with alternatives. Quite a good interaction, thanks.

                  2. Whoa, I never realized sandwiches could cause this much controversy! I do appreciate any and all suggestions. I like the sound of the roast pork sandwich so we'll probably head to DiNic's for lunch. Lot's of good suggestions for dinner too, I'll check with Opentable to see where there is availability as I'm sure Friday nights get packed quick. Thank's for all the suggestions so far.I've noticed Federal Donuts is nearby and we may need to make a stop as we have developed a habit of stopping by gourmet donut bakeries when we travel (Top Pot in Seattle and Donut Plant in NYC are faves).

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: wanderingviolet

                      Federal Donuts is nowhere near as good as Donut Plant, all FD's donuts are exactly the same, just with different toppings.

                      1. re: Buckethead

                        I think Federal Donuts is terrific. Different than Donut Plant, but I don't know if I would say worse. I actually like the fresh, hot donuts better than the Fancies, but both are good.

                        There is also a new-ish donut place in the Reading Terminal Market, run by the Amish bakery. They are churning out some pretty excellent donuts as well.

                        1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                          I should add, I think FedNuts is terrific for donuts. I'm not so crazy about their chicken. Much prefer the real Korean fried chicken that inspired them.

                          1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                            I've gotten donuts from FedNuts 3-4 times. a few were excellent, the others were fine but nothing special.
                            They seem to all be cake donuts; I'm more a yeast donut person. I haven't eaten at any of the donut places mentioned above. I have eaten donuts from vodoo donuts, and I'd say i liked the FedNuts cake donuts as much as the voodoo cake donuts, but less than their yeast donuts. but again, i'm more a yeast donut person.

                      2. re: wanderingviolet

                        Cheesesteaks are good. Roast pork is good. Why do you have to choose?

                        For a tourist visit, one time only, I'd go to the corner with Geno's and Pat's. No, cheesesteak nazis, they aren't the best, but they aren't bad and the visitor gets the whole experience. Go eat where presidential candidates make a stop. Get one of each and compare and contrast.

                        Warning- Don't take it someplace else and eat it 20 minutes later. Cheesesteaks don't travel well.

                        1. re: sal_acid

                          Foodie credentials aside, I do think it is a true Philly experience to go to Pat's and/or Geno's for cheesesteaks. But in our family its an Eagles or Philly tailgating thing. We come over from South Jersey for a game? The family wants Geno's and/or Pat's. We stand in line with everyone else in their team colors, bring 'em to the parking lot, and indulge out of the back of the car (with carefully concealed beverages.)

                          On a cold November or December night there's nothing finer. I can't say the experience translates to other situations, but out of towners who have had the chance all enjoyed it for what it is.

                      3. Nicks Roast beef for lunch. USDA Prime grade beef in a bun.

                        1. If you're set on cheesesteak, try John's Roast Pork (yes, I'm serious). They do a very good cheesesteak, and you'll have the opportunity to try their roast pork as well.

                          1. Tony Luke's is good for cheesesteak and roast pork sandwich.

                            Lots of fun restaurants around Rittenhouse Sq. such as Parc, Dandelion Pub, Tinto, etc. but if you want the best middle eastern food - go to Zahav and have their tasting menu for dinner.

                            Saturday morning - walk thru Reading Terminal and check out all the goodies.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Worldwide Diner

                              A Saturday morning walk through RTM is always fun. Just get there early (they open at 8) because it can get crowded if a convention is in town. Best bets are the pancakes at the Dutch Eating Place and the soft pretzels from Miler's Twist for breakfast but there is a lot of food to choose from there.

                              If you go to Zahav (also highly recommended) make sure to get the Mesibah so you can enjoy their famous lamb shoulder.

                              As far as the dounts at FedNuts, I agree entirely about the comment about the fact that they are all cake based donuts. That being said, they have a banana cream pie one out now that is really good.

                            2. Fun reading all the opposing posts on cheesesteaks and pork etc.
                              Back to gourmet restaurants:
                              Do not overlook the French Bistrot La Minette which looks like you stepped onto a Paris street.
                              Charming ambience, delicious food, good bar, excellent service and a creative chef in the kitchen.
                              What more could one ask for?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: arepo

                                Bistrot La Minette is a very good French restaurant but there's not a single thing about it that is creative.
                                To the contrary, I believe it is intentionally and proudly derivative. Hence the archaic spelling, the interior design and most of all the menu that has never featured a dish that wasn't described by Escoffier 100 years ago.
                                It is also close to Independence Hall and two blocks from excellent cocktails at Southwark.

                              2. I really appreciate the cheesteak comments here. That's pretty much the reason I ask for recommendations on Chowhound when traveling - it helps me to ask questions I wouldn't have known to ask.

                                I've been provided with great toddler-friendly recommendations in response to my thread earlier.

                                As a tourist in your city, I'm still going to eat a cheesesteak, even if it's terrible. I just also know to look for a wide range of great sandwiches and food trucks.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Underdog Rally

                                  Please your questions were answered and you received additional valuable information.

                                2. We had a lovely stay in Philly, thanks for all the recommendations! Traffic coming up to Philly was a little slow so we didn't make it into town in time for lunch, will have to get our roast pork next time. Friday night we had dinner at Tinto since we love Spanish cuisine, we thought this was a nice take. We shared a cheese plate (B+), short rib bocadillo(A-), baby artichokes with pappardelle and meyer lemon sauce(A+), scallops(A+) and the albondigas(B-). A very pleasant meal though it was a little noisy. After dinner we enjoyed some gelato at Capogiro. While certainly tasty, I felt it was average in comparison to my local gelato place here in Virginia Beach.
                                  The next morning we indulged my love of breakfast food with stops at both Federal Donuts and brunch at Park. Loved Federal Donuts! The strawberry ginger donut was divine and was enough to place Federal Donuts in the #2 slot of my own personal "Best American Donut Place" ranking. Top Pot in Seattle remains #1. We took a quick jaunt through the Reading Terminal Market and picked up some biscotti for our friends we were traveling to visit after Philly, looks like a great market with plenty of regional food offerings, will definitely stop in for a roast pork at DiNic's next time we''re in town. At Parc (brunch starts at 10 am) we got a spot with a lovely view of Rittenhouse Square. The ambiance of Parc is very much old Paris. Eggs Benedict and standard 2 eggs with brioche toast were predictable but above average though the coffee was fantastic.
                                  Thanks again for helping me enjoy my time in Philly!

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: wanderingviolet

                                    I am very surprised at your reaction to Capogiro (or perhaps I should say I should plan to go to Virginia Beach for gelati... ) What flavor(s) did you try?

                                    1. re: cwdonald

                                      As a Grom fan in New York and Paris, l am one of the few who are not thrilled by Capogiro as well as the OP

                                      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                        What makes the other better? I am not defending Capogiro just trying to educate myself...

                                        1. re: cwdonald

                                          Not saying anything is better, but that l prefer Grom. The chocolate at Capogiro the last time tasted was way too dense for me, like frozen pudding.
                                          Why l love Grom so much is it is true gelato, the texture is meltingly perfect. The flavors are intense but not too intense. l prefer it to Labratorio de Gelato and Ciao Bella in New York,in Paris Christian Constant as well as Berthillon are wonderful as well.
                                          lt helps that as my fav flavor is liquorice theirs is stellar.

                                      2. re: cwdonald

                                        I guess I am fortunate to have never had bad gelato? Capogiro was good and I'd certainly eat there again. This my second time eating there and for me I (in my limited experience) Capogiro tends to have a more pronounced milk flavor whereas I prefer my gelato to have a more pure "X" (chocolate,pistachio ect....) flavor. I had 2 flavors at Capogiro the Mexican coffee and another flavor I can't quite remember the name of but it contained coconut,cinnamon and rum.

                                        1. re: wanderingviolet

                                          I love some flavors of Capogiro (like bacio) while others not so much. Their chocolate scuro (sp?) is definitely very intense!