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quick trip to Philly- thoughts on itinerary?

Hi all,
My husband and I will be in town from NY for a wedding soon. We will be arriving early evening (barring traffic jams) on a Friday and we have until about 3 PM the next day to eat and drink as much as possible near Center City before heading to Northeast Philly for the wedding. So we're looking at one dinner, multiple drink stops Friday night, a stop for dessert (Capogiro is mandatory), a breakfast, and a lunch near Center City. I've gotten some great ideas from perusing this board already.

We love beer, cheese, low key & laid back, farm to table, eclectic menus. Since this is a little mini-vacation for us, I'm looking for a festive dinner place, nothing sedate, and some fun bars for Friday night.

Dinner?
Zahav (my first choice, but only reservations available are at 5 and 10:30. 5 is too early and I'm not necessarily averse to that 10:30 reservation, but do they do bar dining?)
Amada
Any other ideas? No Italian and nothing too formal, max $125-$150 total with a drink each.

Drinks?
Ranstead Room
Franklin Bar
Monk's Cafe
Nodding Head Brewery
Good Dog (I think we've been here before)
Triumph Brewing

Breakfast/brunch?
Dandelion

Lunch?
Is there a good place for grazing? We probably won't need a huge lunch.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. Your dinner choice look great to me. Yes Zahav does have small top two's next to the bar. Not sure if they serve dinner at the bar. Those small tops go early. We always enjoy Amada, love the small plate choices. The Franklin Mortgage and Ranstead Room are great for cocktails. Others here will offer better information great beer places. If you want to push the envelope a bit Hop Sing Laundromat is in Chinatown where you could dine at one of the many Chinese spots and hit the Hop Sing speakeasy if you can find it. Brunch or dinner at Dandelion a fun British Pub. Any Tria for light far and good wine & beer. Barbazzo for a lively lunch, very busy take a look and reserve. You may also enjoy the Parc on Rittenhouse Square for French Bistro and people watching.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Bacchus101

      Thank you so much. I made the 10:30 res for Zahav. Honestly, judging from all the great places you guys are recommending, we may have to add a 4th meal to the day anyway, so the 10:30 dinner may work well to energize us to keep drinking :). The cocktail places look really fun, like Death and Co in NY, but there is so much good beer in Philly that we probably will not make it to cocktails.

    2. Dinner at Vedge would be my choice, it's one of the city's best restaurants, you have nothing like it in NYC, and it's within a few blocks of a bunch of good beer bars. Also great in case you can't get a res at Vedge are:

      Bibou (though if Zahav is booked I can almost guarantee Bibou is too)
      Vernick
      Fork (this may push your price point)
      Noord
      Sbraga (though the chef is opening another spot right now, his attention may be divided)

      Amada is very good but not great enough to recommend if you are just visiting.

      Ranstead Room and Franklin Mortgage are cocktail-only places, you won't find beer at either. Hop Sing Laundromat would be my pick for cocktails, I like the Franklin too but it's a bit more expensive and not quite as good. If you'd rather drink some beers, you have many more choices. My favorite two in the city are the Khyber and South Philly Tap Room (SPTR), but you won't be very close to either of them. If you do go to Vedge, there's a pretty good beer bar near there, Time at 13th and Sansom. Monk's is always way too crowded for me on the weekends, ditto Good Dog. If you are going down to where Triumph is I'd go to Khyber instead, it's around the corner.

      If you go to Noord for dinner, SPTR is a short walk from there.

      Brunch at Kanella, I'd recommend it for dinner too but Kanella is just as good for brunch/lunch as it is for dinner and none of the places above are open for brunch on Saturday (except Amada).

      3 Replies
      1. re: Buckethead

        Thank you. I read on Eater that Bibou is closing? Zahav appeals a bit more to me either way. Sbraga looks really good too. That 4 course menu seems like a pretty good deal. What do you recommend there?

        Crowded or not, my husband is set on Monk's Cafe, so we will brave the crowds at least for a drink. I bookmarked Khyber Pass too.

        1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

          Bibou isn't closing, they are opening a new restaurant in a different neighborhood though, and Bibou's current husband and wife team (chef and front of house, respectively) will be mainly running the new place. Bibou will remain open under its current sous chef. That isn't happening till next month at the earliest though.

          Sbraga is very good but I wouldn't skip Zahav in favor of it. If you do go, get the foie gras soup, other than that just order whatever looks best to you.

          FYI, Zahav, Amada, Fork, and the Khyber are all just a couple blocks from each other.

          1. re: Buckethead

            Charlotte was quoted in today's WSJ about how the government shutdown is affecting her small business loan for Le Cheri:

            http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/S...

      2. That looks pretty good to me. For dinner, since you like cheese so much, you might want to check out the Talula's Garden menu.. (I love Zahav, and they do serve dinner at the bar, but Talula's Garden hits a number of the things you like..as does Fork, I think.)

        For beer, I'd consider Strangelove's.. they have a wide-ranging, eclectic, ever-changing draft list. (And they are super nice people, while monks.....)

        Brunch, Dandelion is great. Cheu Noodle Bar is great. Kanella is great. You can't go wrong.

        To graze........ Reading Terminal, Talula's Daily.

        5 Replies
        1. re: alex1018

          Oh my gosh, Talula's Garden cheese menu looks amazing. Would we be able to go there just for cheese? Do they have bar seating there?

          Strangelove's looks really fun, and cool beer list. They are monks?

          Thanks for the grazing recommendations too!

          1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

            Talula's does have a bar and you can go there and just get cheese. That's what I'd suggest doing, the regular menu is decent (I haven't had it since a chef change a while back) but I wouldn't skip one of the other places mentioned to eat dinner there.

            1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

              Haha... they aren't monks :)

              Yes, totally go and sit at the bar for cheese and pretty good cocktails.

              1. re: alex1018

                I think we'll do cheese first, hit a few of the bars after, and end the night at zahav. Very excited. I made a brunch reservation for dandelion.

                1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                  If you are doing Sunday brunch, consider Lacroix in the Rittenhouse Hotel. It's our best "splurge" brunch.

                  http://www.lacroixrestaurant.com/menu...

          2. Speaking just to the beer part, a Friday night at Monk's will be extraordinarily crowded. The front bar is the most fun spot, but even that will be a challenge to snag a seat. However, it is still one of the best Belgian beer bars in the city, and might be worth it to try. Also, I haven't been, but Alla Spina is supposed to be a great beer-centric Italian pub. This would fit the bill for a lot of what you list above I think. You can skip Triumph - decent, but nothing super special. If you can get to Devil's Den in South Philly for their happy hour on Friday, you'll find a beautifully curated list of draft beers for half price. I also just had a terrific cheese plate at Wedge & Fig in old city. It's a BYO,

            4 Replies
            1. re: BelgianBeerMistress

              An alternative to Monks is Belgian Cafe in fairmount, owned by the same folks as Monks. I have never been wowed by the food there, but the beer is about as good as Monks. Usually much less crowded. I prefer it to the other large Belgian place, Eulogy which is in Old City.

              The one other beer bar that deserves a mention is Khyber Pass. Great selection, especially on tap along with some Cajun themed food.

              For bottles, you would enjoy visiting one of the Foodery Locations, 10th and Pine, 2nd and Poplar or the Corner Foodery at 17th and Sansom.

              1. re: cwdonald

                cw, thank you for this Foodery rec. I was thinking I should ask where we can get bottles to take home since obviously we are not going to be able to get to everything we want to try.

              2. re: BelgianBeerMistress

                Alla Spina has my favorite Russian River sour, Supplication, on their website menu. I hope they actually have it. Maybe I'll call first.

                Wedge and Fig looks adorable! Is there a good wine shop near by for BYOB?

                1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                  Wine is sold only in the state-run stores: http://www.finewineandgoodspirits.com/. There's a location on 2nd street south of Market.

              3. This was a great thread. Hope I am not too late with my reply. Please post after. Would love to read your impressions. I have almost nothing to add. I think the best have been hit upon, except for maybe Garces Trading Company, which might make for an interesting grazing lunch, although, it is a shame they seem to have recently removed their small plate charcuterie offerings from the menu.

                1. How about Tria? I'll Second Triumph and Monk's too. Also Khyber Pass Pub is nice for beer especially.

                  1. From your screen name, I'd say a visit to the Franklin Fountain or the Bassett's ice cream counter at the Reading Terminal Market would be in order. I agree with Philly Ray that brunch at Lacroix would be a highlight of your visit. Reserve now!
                    CP

                    1. I just wanted to post back with an update. Our plans changed and we were not able to stay over an extra night before. I was really disappointed to miss Zahav and the bars, but we will be making a return trip soon with the list of places you all recommended in hand.

                      We did make it to brunch at Dandelion, which we both loved. My husband enjoyed his Yards beer and I had a Pimm's cup. We shared a salad with butter lettuce, pomegranate, apple slices, blue cheese, and a honey vinaigrette, which they graciously split onto two plates for us (I love when restaurants take it upon themselves to split things like this!). I had the eggs royale-- poached eggs with hollandaise atop a mountain of thinly sliced, melt in your mouth smoked salmon and a fluffy English muffin. My husband had the shepherd's pie, which he devoured. We shared a side of what we both are certain was the best bacon we've ever had. I love the funky decor and the interesting building the restaurant is in; the service was great, too.

                      We checked out Joseph Fox bookshop and the Corner Foodery afterwards, where my husband drooled over the fridges of beer for almost a half hour. We walked away with a couple of bottles of Deschutes and Bells (they didn't have the Russian River we wanted). This place is awesome (if expensive, but the selection is ridiculous!). Dessert was at Capogiro, chocolate scuro and Thai coconut for me and Turkish coffee and pumpkin for my husband.

                      We wanted to hit Monk's afterwards but we were headed to a family function requiring sobriety. We had such a great time walking around the area and I am really looking forward to getting our Philly night on the town sometime in the next couple months (probably over Christmas). Thanks again for all the recommendation and rest assured they will not go unused!

                      1. Finally getting our night out in Philly tonight! We have a reservation at Zahav at around 9. we'll probably have time for a drink beforehand and we want to hit a few spots after. No shortage of options from this thread!

                        We'll need a relatively early breakfast tomorrow-- maybe 10? Any ideas?

                        Thanks and I'll report back!

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                          10 is late for breakfast on a weekday. You might go to Famous 4th Street deli. Two location, one near Rittenhouse, one in Old City. Good Jewish deli and breakfast. Large portions.

                          1. re: cwdonald

                            Thanks! I keep forgetting that tomorrow is a weekday. I forgot to write that our hotel is near Rittenhouse square.

                            1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                              Well, you might try Spread Bagels. These are Montreal style bagels which are very different than regular water bagels. Cooked in a wood burning oven. They have full breakfast. Small cafe like environment.

                              Parc, on Rittenhouse serves breakfast/brunch in an atmosphere reminiscent of a french bistro.

                              Honeys Sit n Eat is good. 21st and South. Down home cooking.

                              You might also enjoy walking to Reading Terminal Market where the Dutch Eating place has good breakfasts, especially pancakes.

                              1. re: cwdonald

                                Oh! Reading terminal market sounds perfect. What time do they open ? I'll check the website.

                                    1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                                      Reading Terminal opens at 8. Good pancakes and apple dumplings at the Dutch Eating Place. Avoid the Down Home Diner there.

                                1. re: cwdonald

                                  The other (original) location of Famous 4th Street Deli is in Queen Village, 4th & Bainbridge.

                                2. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                                  If you're anything like us, you won't need a breakfast after a dinner at Zahav. That's a *lot* of food.

                                  1. re: linguafood

                                    Uh oh, we'll have to try to save room for some beer after! Haha

                                3. I just wanted to thank all the hounds on this board who helped out and made recommendations. We had a great night and morning eating and drinking. I'll post more later but we ended up having drinks at Khyber pass pub, dinner at zahav, more drinks at monks, and breakfast at Parc. Between us we had 5 beers, all of which were just amazing. Philly is such a great food and beer town!

                                  1. I wasn't sure where to post a fuller review of Zahav, Khyber Pass Pub, and Parc (our favorite spots, though we also enjoyed the sour ale at Monk's), so I thought I'd tack it on here. We loved them so much that I wanted to make sure I shared our experience with other CHs.

                                    Khyber Pass Pub-- we cabbed here from our hotel. My husband and I LOVED this bar. We both agreed it was one of the best bars we've ever been to. It's laidback and friendly, the beer list is well curated and not too overwhelming, and the guys at the bar were awesome. We only had about 45 minutes before dinner so we made pretty quick work of three outstanding beers-- Two Brothers' Domaine DuPage French Country style ale, Oxbow's Farmhouse Pale Ale, and Lost Abbey's 10 Commandments. Each beer was better than the last. The first two were supremely drinkable (I usually am good with a tasting glass size portion of any one beer, and I couldn't stop drinking either of those!) and the third was so interesting and unique that we are still talking about it. This was a GREAT pre-dinner drinking spot.

                                    Zahav-- I had really high expectations for Zahav, and it lived up to them. I'm currently obsessed with Ottolenghi's Jerusalem cookbook and those sort of flavors so this was a revelation. Totally unique, really fun, and delicious.

                                    *Service- Our server was super nice and personable and really knowledgeable about the menu. He was not too serious and joked around a bit with us, but he was also not at all intrusive. All the other bussers were polite and friendly too. When I made the reservation, I noted it was our anniversary and we got gifted a champagne toast and a mezze from the chef. Really nice touch!

                                    *Atmosphere- I can see the music bothering some people but we were in a celebratory mood and we really enjoyed it. The room is really airy and there is definitely a buzz in the air. Speaking of air, for the first ten minutes there was hot air blowing on me, but then it stopped.

                                    *Drink- Is there any place in Philly with a bad beer list?? We'd never heard of Two Brothers before that night and after the first at Khyber Pass my husband pounced on the Cane and Ebel rye beer at Zahav, which he loved. I had a desert rose cocktail, which was delicious (if a tad too sweet for my palate), and then a glass of Verdicchio.

                                    *Food- did not disappoint. We went with the non-lamb tasting menu. This is a LOT of food! The warm bread and hummus were superb, and we gobbled up all seven of the salatim. My favorites were the tabbouleh and eggplant. I'm a bit fuzzy on which mezze we ended up with-- I think the sable, the soft cooked egg, and the haloumi. At this point we were starting to slow down a tiny bit after devouring everything. We settled on the duck kebab and the lamb, both of which were well flavored and delicious. Juicy, flavorful, and a nice complement to each other. Desserts were the cooling tehina semifreddo and the carrot cake, which were a sweet ending to the meal but with interesting savory components too.

                                    All in all, a spectacular and unique meal. Highly recommend!!

                                    Parc-- After some shopping near Rittenhouse we were starving for breakfast and a quick map check told us it was almost a mile to Reading Market. Knowing I would not likely make it that far, my husband wisely looked up nearby breakfast spots, and when he mentioned Parc, I remembered someone on this thread had recommended it, so off we went. This place must be ADORABLE in the spring. It really looks like a true French bistro on the outside. We sat at a table by the window, the next best thing to a sidewalk cafe (alas, winter!) and enjoyed an excellent, huge breakfast, which incidentally, would have cost at least 50% more for comparable food in NYC. We ate (and loved) the fluffy pancakes, perfect omelette stuffed with gruyere, spinach, and mushrooms, impossibly crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside fried potatoes, crispy bacon (not as good as Dandelion a few months ago, which we still talk about!), plump, juicy pork sausage, and a really delightful yogurt parfait with homemade granola and berries so fresh I wonder where they found them this time of year. My husband's great cafe au lait turned into a bottomless cup of coffee and our fresh juice was refreshing. Service was a bit harried but they were very busy and everyone was friendly. I would love to go back in the spring or summer and sit outside.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. My husband and I had such an amazing night last December that we have booked two nights in Philly-- the 26th and 27th of December. We are staying in the Doubletree in Center City and are already super excited about more eating and drinking in your fine city.

                                      We will have two dinners (Friday and Saturday nights). I have Vernick booked for 9 PM on the Saturday. I was thinking of Sbraga or Serpico for Friday night, but I'm open to other options. I'd like it to be a contrast with Vernick. Ideally, we'd hit a place for a drink before and after our dinners. My husband continues to be obsessed with beer, while I wouldn't mind getting a well made cocktail (thinking of Hop Sing or Franklin Mortgage or Ranstead Room, as recommended on this thread previously). Proximity to our hotel, especially for the later end of the night, would be great.

                                      We will be spending our daylight hours with family, though we may be able to squeeze a brunch in on Sunday, so I'd welcome thoughts for that too. We haven't made it to Reading Terminal Market yet, so I'd love to do that, but are places inside closed on Sundays?

                                      Thanks in advance!

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                                        I love both Serpico and Vernick but they're kinda similar to me, I don't know if I'd recommend both on back-to-back nights. Sbraga was excellent last time I was there but Kevin Sbraga has one new restaurant since then and another opening soon and I've read a middling report from someone who's been to Sbraga recently. I wouldn't necessarily rule it out due to that.

                                        One new place that's opened since you started this thread is Petruce et al., which is also excellent but is another place that is kind of in the same vein as Vernick and Serpico.

                                        The Zahav crew also has a new restaurant now, Abe Fisher, serving their take on (as all the press releases say) "the food of the Jewish diaspora". It's not on Zahav's level but it's very good and definitely much different from Vernick.

                                        Actually, reading your report, it looks like you didn't get to Fork last time. I think I'd put that at the top of your list to go to this time.

                                        1. re: Buckethead

                                          Thank you for your input! Fork was on my radar and the menu looks great, as well as the photos of the food. We may want something a little more casual for our Friday night dinner; have you been to their other place, High Street on Market? I'm intrigued by that too. Petruce also looks great and I hadn't heard of it before, so thanks for that recommendation too.

                                          1. re: i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream

                                            High Street is very good too, if you need something more casual I'd recommend it. I've only been there once though, and that was for lunch.