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Phellow hounds in Philly: please phine-tune my trip….

... and I promise to cut it out with the stupid puns.

I'll be visiting your lovely city for a few days in December and so far, the plans are as follows:

Dinner rez at Zahav. Could anyone recommend some pre-dinner drinks/cocktails somewhere between Liberty Bell and Zahav?

We plan on a late lunch at Dim Sum garden, then we got tickets for the Flyers game in the evening.

Any 'late-ish' night eats suggestions? We've often ended up at Tria (staying in Center City and would like to go anywhere within walking distance of Liberty Place, but I wouldn't mind trying a new place.

We also often stop in at Chris' Jazz Cafe, but the line-up for both Thursday and Friday looks rather dull… any other venues for live music and a few bites? Ideally, the place would serve sweetbreads or duck hearts or something tasty and interesting, but I understand that I can't have it all '-(

Looking for a light lunch between Center City and Callowhill. Sansom St. Oyster Bar is one of my go-to places, but it can get pretty busy around lunch and I absolutely cannot be late for a 2:30 PM appointment.

For dinner, I cancelled our rez at Amis after reading about the noise factor, and instead made a rez at LE VIRTU -- menu sounds great, but looks like we'll have to cab it there?

Does Le Virtu have less of a "factory dinner" feel? Maybe it's the generic American dining experience, but I've often felt like just being run through a program at some of the restaurants I've been to -- e.g. Osteria, Amada.

That's not to say I didn't like the food, I just prefer a more low-key place where I feel that I can linger a bit and am not rushed from course to course. This is supposed to be a celebratory meal, so something that feels less corporate would be great.

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  1. If you're staying near Liberty Place, you will have to cab it to Le Virtu (South Philly). You will not be rushed there. Food is good, service is a bit slow. While you're down there, walk along Passyunk Avenue - check out the fountain, have a cocktail at Stateside, grab dessert at Fond. You shouldn't have a problem getting a cab back.

    Downstairs at Time (13th near Sansom) has some decent live music, but you'd have to check their calendar. Plenty of great places nearby to grab a late bite too (Amis, Sampan, Zavino, Barbuzzo, etc.)

    For your light lunch, Federal Donuts is right near the Oyster House. Excellent fried chicken, but not much eat-in space. HipCityVeg is also good for a quick lunch too.

    3 Replies
    1. re: lawgirl3278

      Yeah, I figured we'd have to cab it to Le Virtu. The walking around Passyunk will be weather contingent, of course.

      Tried Federal Donuts last time & wasn't too impressed with the chicken, tho my man was a big fan of the donuts, which he is hoping to score for breakfast on Thursday or Friday.

      1. re: linguafood

        I'd take the subway, at least on the way there. It's a short walk from either the Snyder or Tasker/Morris stations. Also, if you're leaving the Flyers game, Fond is on the way back to CC and currently has duck hearts on the menu (usually sweetbreads too, but not positive right now).

        1. re: SP1

          Ooooh! Must have a look right now! Thanks, SP1.

    2. WED: For pre-Zahav drinks, consider Amada, which has amazing sangria and tapas and is on the way; or if you go a few blocks south, Xochitl, which has a beautiful Mexican tile bar and terrific margaritas. Someone also just posted pics of the new Han Dynasty, and it looks like a gorgeous space to get some drinks. If beer is more your thing, Eulogy is a Belgian beer bar and has the best frites in the city.

      THRS: I haven't been myself, but you might want to look into The Farmer's Cabinet. Known for mood lighting, unusual beers and cocktails and strange meats, this could be the ticket, plus I think they have live music pretty regularly.

      FRI: Le Virtu is right around the corner from where I live and is really great. Not factory at all. A husband-wife team owns it so it has a comfortable feel. I've always been happy with the server's wines/food suggestions.

      10 Replies
      1. re: BelgianBeerMistress

        Thanks, BBM! I just realized I was wrong about the Garces place I'd been to: it was Tinto, not Amada -- which was decent, but again, had that corporate feel to it. Maybe that's just bound to be the case with those 'restaurant groups'.

        So perhaps Amada is the ticket before Zahav.

        I've actually been to Farmer's Cabinet for pre-dinner drinks (before a rez at Koo Zee Doo) and really liked it, so we may well return.

        1. re: linguafood

          The top floor at Tinto is rather intimate.

          1. re: linguafood

            Amada feels pretty much the same as Tinto, so you might want to skip that. A place that seems to fly under the radar in that neighborhood is Ristorante Panorama. It's part of the Penn's View Hotel and has a terrific bar. They have dozens of wines on tap and do flights. You can try lots of different wines since they do a short pour if you prefer. i also like the vibe in there - not loud at all, very relaxed. Hotel bar feel, but way better selections.

            There's also the new Hotel Monaco right near the Bell. Could be kind of swank - haven't been tho.

            1. re: BelgianBeerMistress

              Cool tips, BBM -- thank you so much! I hope I can return the favor some time should you find yourself in Berlin one day :-)

              1. re: BelgianBeerMistress

                The Hotel Monaco has a great bar with a view of Independence Hall. Another favorite of my guests is the bar room at the City Tavern with the peddle harpsichord in a restoration of the Tavern as it was in the 19 century when it hosted the founders of the country both are on the way to Zahav.

                1. re: Bacchus101

                  Save a few drinks for the bar at Zahav. We think some of their house cocktails are great!

            2. re: BelgianBeerMistress

              FYI Joe Cicala and Angela Ranalli don't own Le Virtu. I believe Joe is going to be part-owner of the LV owners' new venture on Passyunk, Brigantessa: http://www.passyunkpost.com/2013/11/2...

              1. re: Buckethead

                I see. I guess I assumed since I know she's always front of the house. It still has a nice feel to it, not a Garces style at all (nothing against Garces, I love his places too!). Excited for the new venture too. Sounds like it might be similar in concept to Birra. But I'm never against more high quality Italian restos in the hood.

                1. re: Buckethead

                  The owners of Le Virtu are husband and wife, I believe, just not the chef and his wife. However, I do find the husband/owner to be an ass.

                  1. re: Philly Ray

                    Right you are! I assumed BBM was talking about Joe and Angela.

              2. As far as Friday lunch is concerned, Sabrina's is at 18th and Callowhill, and while usually busy there is a fast turnaround in my experience.
                I'll also chime in and recommend Le Virtu

                1. We tried to go to Dim Sum Garden this past weekend, but they were closed for renovations, so give them a call to see if they're open.
                  We ended up going around the corner to i-Green, which we thought was just as good and with better service than Dim Sum Garden.

                  For the Friday lunch, I like Bru Craft and Wurst, but I'm a beer-geek, so YMMV. Likewise, near Liberty Place I would suggest Tria, Monk's (can be crowded), Nodding Head, or Jose Pistola's, but I can't vouch for their cocktails.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: RichardMNixon

                    Did you go to the old Dim Sum Garden location (on 11th) or the new on Race, between 11th & 10th?

                    You could go to Pizzeria Vetri for lunch on Friday. They don't take reservations, so there may be a wait. But the pizzas come out very quickly.

                    1. re: RichardMNixon

                      The Dim Sum Garden on 11th is closed, but they opened a new location at 1020 Race Street. I am assuming you went to 11th Street?

                      1. re: Bigley9

                        It was 11th, yes, though the sign on their door didn't mention a new location. Are they up and running again?

                        1. re: RichardMNixon

                          They have been up and running for over two months. 1020 Race, right next door to Nan Zhou's new location (1022 Race). It is a nice location, and has more tables than the previous location on10th street. However my experience has been it has been busier than the old location, especially during lunch. And the clientele feel to be more Asian now (which is perhaps a good sign.) There is a great thread where Chemicalkinetics talks about some of the new dishes on their menus, and there are pictures too. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4835...

                    2. WED
                      I love Eulogy's selection of beer, but Khyber Pass Pub is pretty great and has a much nicer selection of snacks, if you wish. I find Amada rather corporate and the service quite rushed. I would go if you're in a hurry to make it to your Zahav reservation. I haven't been to the Hotel Monaco yet, but it looks quite posh. Lots of well-dressed middle-aged people, too.

                      Dim Sum Garden's new location is open, so be sure to go to its Race Street (between 9th and 10th) location. The food's just as good as it was at its old location. iGreen's service is friendlier, but their food is not better. More rustic, yes, but not better.

                      Farmer's Cabinet is nice for both music and drinks, but I don't think the food is anything special. Time has poor acoustics and a terrible rabbit dish. Milkboy is fun and has both music and late food. Varga Bar is also very enjoyable. If you wouldn't mind going back to Chinatown, Hop Sing has great cocktails and there are any number of late-night eateries. There are hits and misses in all of them (right off the top of my head, I can think of David's Mei Lai Wah, Jade Harbor, Ken's Seafood, Penang, Banana Leaf), but I really like the warm pork kidney appetizer at Red Kings 2 (you should ask for extra spicy and extra numbing, however, since you like Chopstick Express). If you do go there, you will be "entertained" by the loud sounds of KTV from upstairs (consider yourself warned).

                      Where is your appointment? In Center City or closer to Callowhill? Mama's Vegetarian has good falafel and should be pretty fast.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: mookleknuck

                        Callowhill. I'm becoming one of youz people :-)

                        Just to be sure -- I was talking of the Dim Sum Garden next to RTM.... am I not thinking of the right place?

                        1. re: linguafood

                          You are thinking of the right place. About two months ago it moved about a block away on Race street.

                        2. re: mookleknuck

                          Thanks for the lengthy post, mk.

                          Our priority for WED night is pre-dinner drinks, I don't foresee snacking before our meal at Zahav's -- so, any bar in the vicinity that offers good quality cocktails (standards & more creative fare in an *adult* setting) would be ideal.

                          Maybe Hotel Monaco is the ticket. I wouldn't consider ourselves posh, but we clean up nicely '-D

                          As for Thursday late night eats -- not so much interested in any Chinese food, as I have such a good selection at home, and Sichuan food in particular.

                          1. re: linguafood

                            Another pre-dinner drink option might be the new location of Han Dynasty. It's in a beautiful space that was a bank, then a steakhouse. Fairly opulent, murals on the ceiling, etc. It's got a big bar with happy hour specials and a few interesting cocktails. It's on Chestnut, just a block east of Amada.

                            1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                              Coolio. Added to my list. We better start drinking early :-)

                            2. re: linguafood

                              It'd be easiest to just get your pre-dinner cocktails at Zahav - they're quite good and you can oh-so-casually glance at others' orders to whet your appetite. Or just start eating that tasty laffa. Please let us know about Hotel Monaco if you go.

                              I just can't think of a place that has good live music AND good food for your Thursday night, but tastes differ. Could you do good food followed by music with drinks? Then any of the south Philly restaurants such as the aforementioned Fond and those in Center City mentioned by lawgirl could be in play.

                              Might I recommend pizza for your Friday lunch? You could try the Nomad Roman in Center City or go up to Callowhill and try Bufad.

                              1. re: mookleknuck

                                Good pizza is always welcome :-)

                                And yeah, Thursday's still kinda up in the air -- but I've gotten such great feedback from you and the other Philly hounds, I'm confident we'll be eating well. Music or not.

                          2. Well, I just found out my Friday appointment isn't in Callowhill at all, but North Market. So I think we'll just have a little something in Center City (likely DiBruno's) before heading over there.

                            I'll report on our experience @Red Owl Tavern & Zahav on a different thread.

                            Now for tonight after the hockey game -- my man has decided he is not interested in any kind of Asian food, so Chinatown et al is out. Fond is looking a bit pricy to us between Zahav and Le Virtu tomorrow, so can someone direct us to good pub grub either somewhere on the way back from the game or in Center City?

                            We've liked Nodding Head in the past, mostly for the beer, but perhaps there are better burgers or pub grub?

                            Dandelion? Monk's?

                            15 Replies
                              1. re: Bigley9

                                Ah, yes. I was rummaging in my head trying to remember another burger place we went to and liked. I believe this is it.

                                1. re: linguafood

                                  They have good food and a good beer list.

                              2. re: linguafood

                                Old Nick's Roast Beef. I love that gravy! Other low cost options near that part of 76 are Oogie's and Phillip's. The former is pizza that gets soggy quickly, but is still tasty for a quick fix, and the latter is cheesesteaks that I've enjoyed both sober and, er, less so.

                                1. re: linguafood

                                  South Philly Tap Room is definitely the best choice. Better food and cheaper, also extremely easy to get to.

                                  1. re: SP1

                                    +1 South Philly Tap Room, it's a great gastropub. But it will require a stop between the game and back to CC.

                                    If you want to just head back to Center City, Rex 1516 is just off the South St subway station and good for a casual meal. Southern food, good burger but also everything else is good, especially the etoufee pot pie. Good cocktails and beers too.

                                  2. re: linguafood

                                    North Market? Market runs east-west (and technically, divides the North from the South).

                                    1. re: Bob Loblaw

                                      Oops, I meant N. 41st S. off of Market (so in the west).

                                      Judging from the google photo, it looks like my appointment will take place in a cardboard shack :-D

                                      I think we'll grab a slice upstairs at DiBruno's tomorrow for lunch.

                                      Tonight, it's looking a lot like either SPTR, Monk's (the mussels in particular kinda caught my eye), or Nodding Head if we're lazy and want to be close to the hotel.

                                      1. re: linguafood

                                        If you want good beer and good around there I would go to Jose Pistolas over nodding head. Beer and food is much better, though food can be hit or miss.

                                        1. re: barryg

                                          Actually I was at Jose Pistola's a couple weeks ago, they have a new chef now and the food is much better than it used to be. Better than Nodding Head, definitely. And the beer list is very interesting.

                                          SPTR would be my pick though.

                                          1. re: Buckethead

                                            I was there recently, food was better but still had a miss with the Korean tacos.

                                        2. re: linguafood

                                          The pizza upstairs at DiBruno's is kinda meh if you ask me.

                                          1. re: bluehensfan

                                            Maybe we got lucky the one time we had a slice. It had nice toppings and good flavor. In any event, not looking to stuff myself before the interview, nor am I particularly interested in a big meal or such given our Le Virtu rez in the eve and the ridiculous amount of food we ingested at Zahav last night. Still kinda working that off....

                                            1. re: linguafood

                                              Did you get the lamb? That could explain it...

                                    2. Well -- wouldn't ya know it: I get to return back to your wonderful city in just under a week!

                                      Made a rez at Matyson and am very much looking forward to our meal there. I see it gets a lot of love on this board.

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: linguafood

                                        I find Mon-Thurs the best for Matyson, since their tasting menu is always stellar and a true bargain.

                                        Forewarned: It is very noisy, and they don't like people hanging around taking their time (it is the only Philly restaurant where I've ever been asked to hurry up and finish).

                                        1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                          Thanks for the heads up. We have an 8 PM rez and don't plan on doing a lot of bar-hopping after dinner, as I have a crazy early morning appt. So I hope we won't be too rushed through the 5-course menu -- not that the current online à la carte doesn't look bad.

                                          But I would like some time for dinner.....

                                          1. re: linguafood

                                            They don't rush you, the courses are well-paced, but they just don't like it if you want to hang out for more than 10 min over coffee, or if you bring a large amount of wine that you want to spend some time enjoying. Hence, it's not a good place to do a serious wine dinner (I think there is also a limit on table size).

                                            Customer service tends to go downhill when a restaurant is wildly popular and they don't have to care so much about individual customers ever coming back. Same reasoning as airlines overbooking flights.

                                            Actually, when I got kicked out, I was on a first date, which was embarrasing.

                                            I wouldn't go back, except the food is so darn good (sort of like there is no other airline flying from here to there).

                                            1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                              Fingers crossed, then. Maybe Thursday won't be bad :-)

                                              And we drink fast.

                                            2. re: linguafood

                                              I have eaten there many times and never felt rushed. We have always found the service to be pleasant and professional.

                                              1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                                                I agree, they are well paced. But if you are there on a Fri/Sat night and they are packed, and you try to take your time, watch out. They'll pack you out of there! That's all that I'm saying.

                                                I'm not usually into to the "see and be seen" sort of places where this behavior is commonplace (Parc et al). I usually go to places like Fond, Laurel, Bibou, Blackfish, Noord, where this would never ever happen. So I just find it disappointing when it's a restaurant that I really like otherwise that resorts to this.

                                        2. Can anybody chime in about the portion sizes at Matyson? 5 courses is kinda pushing the limit for the both of us (plus I had my heart set on the smoked sweetbreads, which are not part of the tasting menu -- and once again, "the whole table has to participate", eliminating variety).

                                          So, tasting menu or à la carte?

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: linguafood

                                            They truly are tasting size not full entree size. For me four courses is fine. Depending on the dessert i sometimes skip that. I have also in the past been able to add a dish (not sub... ) and still had room to eat it.

                                            1. re: linguafood

                                              You are aware that the tasting menu completely changes each week focusing on a different "theme", right? They usually email out the menu the weekend before (not sure if it gets posted on the website or not, but you can also certainly call about it). Depending on what it is, you may prefer a la carte. Although I've loved every tasting menu I've had there, so I order it automatically no matter what it is.

                                              It will be enough food to fill you up nicely.

                                              1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                                I am aware, and I've seen the tasting menu for this week, which is why I asked. There are no sweetbreads in the tasting menu, and I'm generally annoyed by the rule that both of us would have to get the tasting menu.

                                                Which is why asked about portion size. I don't care much for desserts, so I may instead get a few apps or 2 apps and a main.

                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                  Looking at the photos of this week's tasting menu on Twitter, I'm jealous:


                                                  1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                                    Oh, alright :-)

                                                    We might end up doing the tasting menu after all. It's a pretty amazing deal. And I guess not every restaurant visit *must* include sweetbreads...