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Amis or Barbuzzo?

I'm visiting Philly this weekend (from NYC) and have tentatively planned an itinerary of where to eat over two days. Looking to check out as many restaurants as possible with the boyfriend, but would love any advice on an casual Italian place for early Saturday dinner where we can just graze on some small plates and have some wine. Amis and Barbuzzo seem like solid options to me right now, any suggestions?

I'd also appreciate any feedback on the other places I have lined up for the weekend!

Friday: late dinner at Sbraga

Saturday:
Brunch: The Dandelion
Pre-dinner snack/drinks: Amis or Barbuzzo?
Dinner: Vedge or Zahav? Possibly both?

Sunday:
Brunch: Amada or Percy Street BBQ?
Dinner: Serpico

Thank you in advance!

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  1. Big caveat: If you are visiting this weekend, you are going to have trouble getting in at some of these places.

    Your current list is pretty good. I'd do brunch at Kanella over Amada or Percy St. I'd skip Barbuzzo and Amis and do your pre-dinner snacks/drinks at either Vedge or Zahav, and do dinner at the other one. I like Vedge more but for your purposes I might do Vedge for drinks and snacks, their bar area is much more comfortable than Zahav. Both are way better than Amis or Barbuzzo. If you want to stick to Italian I'd suggest the bar at Osteria, it's a little out of the way though.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Buckethead

      Thanks for the feedback!

      I actually have reservations for all those places that I've listed, so I'm not too worried about getting in this weekend.

      However the only reservation I was able to get at Vedge was for 9:30pm on Saturday, which is why I wanted to find another place for an earlier pre-dinner snack around 5:30-6pm. Do you know if it's difficult to walk into the bar at Vedge at 6pm right when they open (I assume the bar is for walk-ins only), if I just forgo my 9:30 resy and walk in early?

      1. re: zeeEats

        If you're going around 5:30 or 6 I don't think you'll have trouble sitting down at the bar at Vedge, I've been there around that time on a Saturday and there have been seats free. They also have a small lounge area with a couple tables and some other seats.

    2. All your choices are good ones and you will find different opinions here on all. I like Tria for snacks/drinks, crowded with fun small plates. Of Amis or Barbuzzo I would select Amis mainly because Barbuzzo is very loud and crowded at the bar but one might find the same at Amis! As for the dinner choices I would select Zahav unless you are interested in the veg. thing. Vedge does have a very nice bar. I like Amada for their great selection of small plates.

      1. I would also recommend Tria on Sunday, if you are interested in having some drinks and light snacks between brunch and dinner or after dinner. They feature a wine, beer and cheese selection for 1/2 price on Sundays. We have gone twice and loved it!

        1. If it were me I'd move the Dandelion to Sunday (or go to Amada) and hit Reading Terminal Market on Saturday morning for breakfast and browsing.

          Percy Street has not been good lately IMO and if you do go to Zahav, pre-prder the Mesibah so you get to enjoy the lamb.

          17 Replies
          1. re: bluehensfan

            Is the Mesibah a lot of food for 2 people? And exactly how strong/ lamb-y would you say the lamb shoulder is? I do quite like lamb but the bf is generally averse to it unless it's seasoned heavily to mask the gameyness.

            Can you also make any recommendations for what to get at Reading Terminal Market? (Aside from the roast pork sandwiches). Is Reading Terminal Market more busy on Sundays than on Saturdays?

            1. re: zeeEats

              The lamb at Zahav (which interestingly enough comes from Border Springs Farm which has a stall at Reading Terminal Market) is not all gamey. If there are just two of you they will bring you an appropriate amount of meat...don't worry! It can be a lot of food for some people though with all of the other courses but is always the highlight or our meal there (along with the fried haloumi cheese).

              I would hesitate to go to Reading Terminal Market on Sunday. All of the Amish vendors are not there that day and the accounts for about a third of the Market being closed. As far as Reading Terminal, I eat pancakes there weekly at the Dutch Eating Place (do avoid the Down Home Diner). Beiler's has great cinnamon buns and people really like their donuts. I also really like the soft pretzels at Miller's Twist, the chocolate chip cookies from Fourth St., the cannoli at Termini's, ice cream from Bassett's, and chocolate peanut butter covered pretzels from Mueller's. For lunch, of course the roast pork is the way to go but Hershel's deli has decent pastrami and Beck's has good po-boys and other cajun food. The lamb place at the Market (in case you are not lamb-ed out) is pretty good too and Olympic Gyro is decent enough as is the soul food place. I'd avoid the Middle Eastern place in the Market and the Oyster Bar there.

              1. re: bluehensfan

                Ah, thank you for the advice on Reading Terminal Market... It seems like a lot of the specialty foods there are available in NYC (pastrami, middle eastern, pretzels, Italian pastries); will probably just drop by for the experience and save room for the roast pork sammy and maybe the po-boy.

                Looks like I can't miss out on the lamb at Zahav then!

                1. re: zeeEats

                  The Amish pretzels at Miller's are different than pretzels in NYC and better! They make for a good snack.

                2. re: bluehensfan

                  A third of the vendors may not be open on Sunday's, but most of those are not Amish.

              2. re: bluehensfan

                You keep mentioning that Percy St hasn't been good, but when was the last time you went? We were there a few weeks ago mostly for apps & drinks, and it was quite good. Better than most. Erin's overhauled a good part of the menu recently.

                1. re: Boognish

                  Boognish if you were there for apps, what bbq did you have? I think complaints I have heard the most about was the quality of the bbq, while people often praised the sides.

                  1. re: cwdonald

                    Percy Street took a decided downturn when the menu was revamped in February. Dry brisket (over potato bread with onion jam...why?), bad sauces (first there were three sauces now there are two, both of which are not so hot). Seems like they are trying for "frou frou BBQ" thus the exodus to Blue Belly.

                    1. re: bluehensfan

                      bluehen, you'd do well by restaurants in philly and people on this board if you stop talking about restaurants you haven't been to in ages. We were there last night. There were three sauces. one spicy. No onion jam.

                      menus change. things aren't always perfect. a meal costs like $20 there. it's certainly one of the best values in the city.

                      1. re: alex1018

                        How are their ribs? I'm not a huge fan of brisket tbh, but their ribs sounded interesting... Some of the apps and sides definitely sound interesting as well.

                        1. re: zeeEats

                          zee- I don't think i've had their ribs in a while, so i don't want to venture a guess. I usually go with brisket or chicken. That said, why would you come to philly and go to a bbq place?

                          if you want my honest advice, i think you can get spanish tapas anywhere, right? like amada is fine, but it's not going to change your life. toro just opened in nyc, i'm sure it's better.

                          zahav is genuinely unique and excellent. I think serpico has high points and low points, but you can get a meal that really blows you away, and it's a totally interesting meal. (also, if you're in the mood for ribs, he does a lamb rib). amis is really traditional and great, if you want that. osteria/barbuzzo are pretty similar to barbuto. vedge is genuinely unique. (i think bibou is really fantastic as well.) like you have so many great options in new york for virtually everything. I think you want to go to places in philly that are unique or really chef-driven.

                          1. re: zeeEats

                            oh and if you're going to zahav, because it's unique to philly, why would you get a huge lamb shoulder? wouldn't you want to try 15 things instead? like if someone was going to ssam bar for the first time with one other person, would you suggest they get the pork butt? probably not, right?

                            1. re: alex1018

                              alex - good points you made, I would agree that I myself am definitely more interested in food/experiences that are more unique and not like what's ubiquitous in NYC. That's why Zahav, Vedge, and Serpico were on my list. I'm now considering Kanella too, for brunch on Sunday instead of Amada.

                              I have not visited Toro yet, they just opened on Monday. I have a reservation for Toro in 2 weeks, as I wanted to give them a little bit of time to smooth out any possible wrinkles prior to visiting. But you're right, I have pretty decent choices for tapas in the city (Casa Mono being my favorite). Good Italian is not rare either, so I probably won't have Italian in Philly after all.

                          2. re: alex1018

                            l have not been to Percy St since the problem with repeatibility was not addressed, however their menu, listed as September 2013, lists the brisket as served with onion jam and potato bread.

                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                              touche... maybe because i usually get burnt ends it doesn't come with the onion jam? either way, it's not something that you can't get on the side or whatever. it's a silly complaint.

                              1. re: alex1018

                                What complaint ? Just showing you that according to the menu all Bluehensfan said seems still in place.

                            2. re: alex1018

                              Wow...the menu at Percy Street changed again? Looking online I still see the menu that was there the last time I visited. How is the brisket served these days? They still have it on the potato breaad with the onion jam on the menu so I figured why rush back...

                              By the way, the lamb shoulder at Zahav is served as part of a tasting menu so you get to try a lot of stuff in addition to the lamb.

                    2. I think both Vedge and Zahav is overkill. Zahav's dinners are a lot of food.

                      I'd give a slight edge to Amis, but they are equally noisy. Neither restaurant strikes me as exactly casual but that could depend on your definition. They do have smaller plates available. If you want some place genuinely casual, I'd consider Zavino. Or Alla Spina.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: lowereastrittenhouse

                        I agree with the above comment about Zahav and Vedge, though I will say if you are used to a high fat/carb diet you may leave vedge not feeling as fulfilled.

                        Amis may not be as casual as say Zavino, but if you just sit at the bar, and order small plates, it does work, especially if you are there early.

                        That said, Alla Spina and Zavino are great suggestions, though the former is a bit farther afield up broad street.

                        1. re: lowereastrittenhouse

                          Upon doing a little more research, I think you're probably right about Vedge and Zahav being overkill. I'm not a very big eater, and used to be a vegan/vegetarian until 2 years ago - so I am actually dying to try Vedge.

                          I may heed Buckethead's advice and forgo Amis and Barbuzzo altogether, and just go to Vedge for pre-dinner snacks and drinks and then go to Zahav for a late dinner. I live in NYC and eat out at numerous great Italian restaurants weekly, so I definitely do not have to have Italian while in Philly.

                          1. re: zeeEats

                            If you are not a big eater I's skip the Mesibah at Zahav. It's a lot of food.

                            1. re: zeeEats

                              Quite right, there are many small plate options as Zahav, the lamb is overkill even for a big eater. Zahav also has a very good bar with small plates available. Vedge is also a good idea for pre-dinner and drinks, great bar.

                              1. re: Bacchus101

                                Decisions, decisions!

                                Thank you for the feedback, everyone! Looks like I will be going to Vedge for a light pre-dinner snack/drinks on Saturday evening when the restaurant opens, followed by a late dinner at Zahav. Still undecided on the mesibah but I'm sure it will be delightful nonetheless.

                                1. re: zeeEats

                                  that's a good plan. you'll get a sense of vedge and then get to crush it at zahav. both have delicious drinks.

                                  1. re: alex1018

                                    Awesome - totally got me with the drinks!

                                2. re: Bacchus101

                                  VERY noisy bar at Vedge though when it's full.

                                  1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                    I actually don't mind high decibels at all, but good to know! Will probably be in and out of there by 6:30pm anyway...