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New places to try since 2009?

jerseytomato Nov 25, 2013 05:56 AM

My husband and I will be in Philly over Thanksgiving weekend and are interested in checking out some new places. We left Philly in 2009 for Seattle for 4 years and are now in Baltimore. Our absolute favorite restaurant when we left Philly was Zahav, we even had our rehearsal dinner there 1.5 years ago. Our guests still talk about the lamb! Since we're left, the only new place we've tried is Federal Donuts, which was fun. We love casual food and craft beers (some regular haunts included Bridgid's, Local 44, Pub & Kitchen). Not so interested in fancy meals this time around and prefer to stay within the city. Many thanks!

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    Buckethead RE: jerseytomato Nov 25, 2013 07:46 AM

    How many meals are you planning on? What's "fancy"? Zahav?

    I believe the Khyber's makeover happened since you left, it's one of the city's best gastropubs now along with SPTR, which is still around and is better than ever. Also since 2009, East Passyunk Ave. has become the city's new restaurant row, there are quite a few great places there between Dickinson and Broad: Noord and Will (both BYOB) are both new and great, I'd recommend either. Fond has moved into a new space and now has a liquor license. Fond's menu is pretty much the same though.

    Some of my other favorite places which are new since then:

    Bibou (opened mid-2009)
    Vedge (probably meets your definition of fancy, it's the new version of Horizons)
    Vernick (also probably fancy)
    Fitler Dining Room (slightly upscale from a former Pub and Kitchen chef)
    Sbraga (Top Chef Kevin Sbraga's place)

    Some other places that are new but not quite as good as the ones above: Jamonera, Dandelion

    If you'll have a car and don't mind a quick drive over the Walt Whitman, Zeppoli in Collingswood is at least as good as any Italian in Philly. It's BYO.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Buckethead
      j
      JanR RE: Buckethead Nov 25, 2013 07:52 AM

      Good list. Also Will BYOB and Le Cheri (fancy surroundings but diners dressed business casual - cheaper than FDR). The former a short cab ride from center city. The latter on Rittenhouse Square.

      1. re: Buckethead
        j
        JanR RE: Buckethead Nov 25, 2013 07:54 AM

        Oops. Just saw your Will recommendation. A big second for Zeppoli.

        1. re: Buckethead
          jerseytomato RE: Buckethead Nov 25, 2013 09:38 AM

          Thanks for all of the recommendations.

          We'll be in Philly for lunch and dinner on Friday and dinner on Saturday. Staying at the Sheraton @ 17th and Race. We'll have a car, but prefer not to use it. Maybe will save Zeppoli for another visit.

          It sounds like we should spend some time around East Passyunk when we are there (we have been to SPTR in the past). You are correct that fancy is a relative term and even as I am trying to define it for myself, it is still relative! I think it is a combination of price point (ideally <$30 pp before drinks, which I think is doable at most places) and portion size/dish construction (ie: small, precious dishes that are delicious, but not filling, are "fancy" to me). Anywhere we'd have to dress up (seriously- we never went to Canlis in Seattle because men have to wear jackets).

          We love to bar hop and I suspect one of those nights we'll end up at Bob and Barbara's (where we had our first date and my husband's favorite bar), but obviously no food is to be had unless we order in pizza (which we have done in the past).

          1. re: jerseytomato
            b
            Buckethead RE: jerseytomato Nov 25, 2013 10:03 AM

            In light of your portion size/dish construction comment, you might want to strike Will BYOB from the list. The food is very good but the plating is bit over the top fussy, lots of leaves and flower petals and things: http://willbyob.com/Gallery.php.

            South Street around Bob's and Bab's has gotten quite a few new places recently too, I haven't been to most of them though.

            You won't need to wear a jacket at any of the places I mentioned. Or, I suspect, any place that anyone else might mention. I believe that now that Le Bec-Fin is closed, the only place in town that requires a jacket is the Fountain.

        2. c
          cwdonald RE: jerseytomato Nov 25, 2013 08:46 AM

          I would add to that Amis, Alla Spina (right up there with the Khyber, and SPTR).

          Nomad and Bufad for new pizza, and Fette Sau for BBQ

          On the low end Lukes Lobster Rolls and the two hot dog joints Hot Diggity and Underdogs.

          3 Replies
          1. re: cwdonald
            Delucacheesemonger RE: cwdonald Nov 27, 2013 11:40 AM

            Bufad, really ?

            1. re: Delucacheesemonger
              c
              cwdonald RE: Delucacheesemonger Nov 27, 2013 08:16 PM

              Part of the new pizza trend... one of the places that came to mind on the low end of things. I like it better than Pizza brain, and didnt think they wanted to up to try Pizzaria Bedia. Nomad would be a better destination ...

              1. re: cwdonald
                b
                Bob Loblaw RE: cwdonald Nov 28, 2013 05:05 AM

                I liked bufad quite a bit the one time i went there. it does feel more like a neighborhood place than a destination place, and i'm not a huge fan of that part of the city (it seems like it's getting hip at the same time that i'm getting old). but the pizza was excellent. i haven't been to nomad, but i'd put bufad up there w/ zavino's or earth, and significantly better than pitruco. pizza brain's pizza didn't impress me at all.

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            barryg RE: jerseytomato Nov 25, 2013 10:22 AM

            Eater's Heat Map and Top 38 are updated regularly, good starting points for current well regarded restaurants.

            Heatmap:
            http://philly.eater.com/archives/2013...

            Top 38:
            http://philly.eater.com/archives/2013...

            Even on the Top 38 most places are probably post-2009

            1. jerseytomato RE: jerseytomato Nov 25, 2013 01:48 PM

              Thanks for all the great suggestions! There are way too many great looking places, certainly more than 1 (or 5) weekends' worth.

              Thoughts so far:

              Lunch Friday: Paesano's (I know it's technically been open prior to 2009, but I never made it there and it looks awesome)

              Dinner Friday: Khyber

              Dinner Saturday: Alla Spina (made a reservation for this one)

              Of course, these kind of plans are subject to change, so I will post after about where we actually ended up!

              1. jerseytomato RE: jerseytomato Dec 4, 2013 09:14 AM

                Here is a report from our trip last weekend:

                Friday:
                Paesano’s (lunch): We shared the brisket sandwich and roasted potatoes. Surprisingly, the potatoes were mediocre, just not a ton going on with them flavor-wise. The brisket sandwich was delicious. Honestly, I mostly attribute it to the bread (the filling was great, but I think the bread is what took it to superlative heights). The horseradish sauce didn’t come through very well. The meatloaf and lasagna sandwiches on the menu were intriguing, but we didn’t have enough stomach space to try them...another time.
                Khyber Pass (dinner): Fun experience. Good beer menu. Husband had the surf and turf po- boy, which was good based on the 3 bites he let me have. I would have preferred it just with shrimp only- I didn’t think the roast beef added much to the sandwich. The side of mac and cheese was delicious. I had the crawfish etouffee special. This is one of the better versions I’ve had (although should mention I’ve never had it in Louisiana). Rich, buttery and spicy with a good amount of crawfish (and I got the small plate). The rice was a bit crisp in some parts, but I actually enjoyed this.

                Saturday
                The Mildred (dinner): Our plans on Saturday kept changing and so by the time we had a time and neighborhood for dinner, some of the places we were interested in didn’t have a table available (we were looking at Bibou and Fond). We received a generous monetary gift for Hannukah, so decided to go for the tasting menu at The Mildred. When I lived here, this restaurant was James, and I would dine there fairly regularly. Aesthetically, I do not think the remodel was an upgrade- the interior of James was beautiful and The Mildred seemed like an odd ski lodge. I’m glad they kept the fireplace and the bar stools look comfy (we opted for a table for our meal). Foodwise, the restaurant lived up to expectations based on what I had read on this board and others . There were some standout dishes – the chestnut soup, the chicken oysters, the buccatini and the apple pie (husband had a brief stint as a pie maker and gave this his approval). Other dishes had elements of greatness in them (confit potatoes were awesome, but I just wasn’t a fan of the pigs feet texture; lamb loin was also delicious, the braised ribs were just ok). The spaetzle was a little heavy for a tasting menu that already had a pasta dish in it- we did not come close to finishing this dish. Service was attentive and kept the meal flowing smoothly. If I lived in the neighborhood, I would come back and sit at the bar and try their other pasta dishes.

                Thank you all for your help, I now have a running list of places for us to try on future visits back to Philly!

                1 Reply
                1. re: jerseytomato
                  b
                  Buckethead RE: jerseytomato Dec 4, 2013 09:29 AM

                  Thanks for reporting back! I totally agree RE: the Mildred's interior, I wasn't a big fan of the food at James but the place was really pretty and comfortable inside, I don't know why they messed with it other than change for its own sake.

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