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Dec 3, 2013 03:31 PM

Gift certificate recommendation for relatives (advice needed for an out-of-towner)


I've posted here before on occasion and I've gotten some great advice. I'm basically asking the same question again. I live in LA, but my brother-in-law and sister-in-law live in Philly. My husband and I like to get them a gift certificate for $150 to a nice restaurant. I don't know any of the restaurants in the area, so I'm looking for guidance. They live in the Washington Square area, but have a car so they are willing to travel. They are in their 30s. She doesn't eat meat, but he does. They both eat fish.

Are there any new restaurants that you would recommend? I do not remember which restaurants I've given them gift certificates for in the past (though Morimoto and Tinto ring a bell). Also, is $150 a good amount or should I split it into two gift certificates? My understanding is that a lot of restaurants are byob so the check may not run so high. Thoughts?

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  1. I would get them a gift certificate for a Steven Starr restaurant.
    The Starr website makes it easy.
    They would have choice of over 20 top quality restaurants.
    There is great variety - all different, from seafood to steak to barbecue to English pub - and they are high quality.
    Your amount sounds fine. If they don't spend it all at once, the remainder can be used another time.
    Friends and family who have received this as a gift thought it was great.

    2 Replies
    1. re: sylviag

      I agree with sylviag. A Starr gift certificate is a great choice as they can pick and choose between a LOT of different restaurants - none of which are BYOB, so I would definitely budget $150-200 for a nice meal out with some drinks/a reasonable bottle of wine included.

      1. re: sockii

        Totally agree about getting a Starr GC.

    2. I agree that a Starr GC is an excellent option. Along similar lines, a Garces Group GC would give options for several excellent local restaurants. In addition, Vetri does a GC that covers Osteria/Amis/Alla Spina. All of these offer some flexibility as to location, atmosphere, and cuisine, and are excellent places offering great dining experiences.

      1. Others have mentioned Steven Starr, and that's fine, he's got good restaurants. But the truth is they are all as much about style as substance, serving lifestyle as much as food. A good chunck of Philly "foodies" see Starr as being more than a little passé.
        I'd go for Fork, because it's close to their home, has a newish chef and has been getting lots of good attention recently. Maybe also Vedge(vegan, in Wash. Sq.), Vernick Food & Drink, Noord (byo). Also, though I see it more as a place for drinks and snacks, I think Tria, with a location in Wash. Sq., would be a good choice (and I just got a email offering 20% off on gift cards - so you might get a good deal).
        My wife and I (also in our 30s) generally spend around $75-$100 on a byob dinner - food at places with liquor licenses is usually in the same price range so if you figure in $10-30 for a before dinner drink and a lot more for a bottle of wine, $150 is enough for a night out but not a huge splurge.

        3 Replies
        1. re: caganer

          I'm not the biggest fan of most Starr restaurants and at their worst, they are as you describe them. But the ones where he has paired with a notable chef (Serpico, Talula's Garden, Morimoto) are worth a visit, I think.

          1. re: Philly Ray

            I agree with you Philly Ray. I would probably add Il Pittore in there as well. Chris Painter is quite a good chef.

            1. re: Philly Ray

              I had forgotten about Serpico and you're right that those places are probably worth a visit but I still think there's more out there that might be interesting for the OP's relatives.

          2. It's all coming back to me. One year I did a Starr GC and the other I did a Garces one. I think my in-laws also got them a Starr certificate last year, so I would like to get something different.

            1. One sidebar. If you end up getting a gift certificate for less than the $150 due to BYOs (lots of great suggestions here. I especially loved Vernick and Il Pittore), you may want to consider using the balance on a gift certificate to either one of our great pizza places (Zavino, Nomad) or out of the box, at the Reading Terminal. They might enjoy picking up some goodies to go.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Misha

                That's a great thought, since Reading Terminal Market has gift cards.

                I also got an email that the women of 13th St. restaurant fame (Lolita, Barbuzzo, Little Nonna's, Jamonera) are having a sale today:

                1. re: Misha

                  On that final note, a gift card to DiBruno Bros might be nice. They carry very high end cheeses, olive oils, charcuterie and other expensive gourmet things, nice place for a splurge.