Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Philadelphia >
Dec 8, 2013 09:32 AM

Philadelphia Bucket List

My husband and I just moved back to the Philadelphia area. We lived here for several years through the 90's. I've kept up (somewhat) with the restaurant scene and I know that Philadelphia has become a destination for great restaurants, but I only know what I've read in magazines. Now it's time to experience it for real and I can't wait. So far the only new place we've tried is Kanela and it was great, if a little noisy.

I would like to compile a list of must-try places - and that means the dives and burger joints (we love a good burger!) as well as upscale places. I know it's an arduous task but if everyone pitches in with a place or two it shouldn't be that bad.

Thanks in advance!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Top o' the line for me: Bistro La Minette.
    It's got a savvy and creative chef in that kitchen.
    Don't miss it!

    1 Reply
    1. re: arepo

      Thanks, you've sold me on that one. And I'm liking the weekend lunch menu. The Œufs Brouillé et l’Os à Moelle is calling to me, but once I get there I know I will have a hard time choosing!

      Philadelphia has gone all semi-hoity-toity. I love it that the menu items here are all in French; but unlike some places in NY they do have the descriptions in English.

    2. OK, I'll let the "downtowners" tell you about S. Philly, the Italian Mkt and Reading Terminal, but when you are ready for a ride in the country, perhaps to see the Lights at Longwood, there's a few out this way you might like:

      Hank's, Chadds Ford......the ultimate Breakfast place that also has great lunches and early dinners. A longtime favorite of Andy Wyeth who lived just up the road

      Jimmy John's hot dogs...Rte 202N just north of Rte 1...not to be confused with the chain of the same name. Antique toy trains, great dogs, and a lot of memberobilia.especially of Roy Rogers, an old friend the original owner.

      Hood's BBQ...Unionville PA ( across from the URA ballfield)..........Outside looks like nothing!.Inside a world of delights, especially on weekends for their BBQ.about 8 mins from Longwood

      Longwood Gardens rest.....surprisingly good! Fancy sit down side or simple cafeteria style with a lot of homemade stuff, beer&wine. Under the new timed entry for LG, it makes sense to get there and have a late lunch/early dinner while the sun sets (after seeing the Conservatory), and then go out to visit the lights

      19 Replies
      1. re: FriedClamFanatic

        Second Hanks. Had a great hot roast turkey at the counter here. I liked the restaurant at LG too.

        Also love Birchrunville Store Cafe in Chester Springs.

        1. re: JanR

          I echo JanR's rec but have heard a rumor that Birchrunville Cafe will no longer be at that location. After all these years, did they lose their lease or what?

          1. re: arepo

            Oh no! I hope that's not true.

        2. re: FriedClamFanatic

          Thanks, FCF! Those are all killer menus. We will definitely be making treks to that part of PA. We even looked for houses out there but came up empty, so we landed in Wyncote. I know exactly where Hank's is but I've never eaten there.

          Always on the lookout for good hot dogs!! BTW - there's a Levis' up where we live. Do you know anything about them?

          Wasn't expecting good bbq but I like the looks of Hood's - and their sauce. I like the thick, sweet stuff, not the vinegary NC style. But it looks like they have a little bit of everything! Burritos?! Well, we'll see about that. I've never had a good East Coast burrito :)

          Thanks for recommending LG. I've been there during the holidays but my husband hasn't and I have been trying to think of a way to get there for the lights this year. Your idea sounds like a good plan. I'll have to look into that "new timed entry" thing.

          Several months ago I read about a drive-thru breakfast (and maybe lunch) place out in your area that serves food from their farm (or maybe other local farms). Can't remember the name of it but I seem to remember it's somewhere around the area of Hank's. Have you been and what are your thoughts? Is it worth a drive?

          Thanks for your contribution to my bucket list!

          1. re: JunieB

            Don't know of a drive-thru, but also out in Unionville is Northbrook Orchards.that has GREAT Apple Cider donuts and a nice deli type menu. They are off rte 842

            1. re: FriedClamFanatic

              Yum, apple cider donuts!!! We had great ones in Western Mass.!

              Wow, maybe I can return the favor and show you something - here's the link for the drive-thru place. I've been curious about it for a long time. Looks like they're more than a breakfast place. I like the concept.


              1. re: JunieB

                OMG.that is less than a mile from me...and I didn't know about it1.........Thanks!

                1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                  Now you have to let us know how it is. I just love the idea of what they're doing and it's a really cute place.

                  1. re: JunieB

                    Junie.I have been my enthusiasm for all this, I completely forgot to mention Sovanna Bistro at the jtn of 926 and 82. If you head to longwood and want something "nicer" but not over the top "upscale" this is it. Forget "THE TABLE" in Kennett..other than for some lunchtime takeout......way overrated

                    1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                      Thanks! I do like the looks of this place, and the menu is interesting enough. I made a reservation at the restaurant at LG for mid afternoon. Maybe we should see the lights and then go here instead. What do you think? I'm usually not too fond of institution/park dining but I know it can be quite good sometimes. Where would we get the best overall 'good' experience - good food, good service, good ambience?

                      1. re: JunieB

                        I've never been to Sovanna, so I can't compare. But I've always been very happy with the dining room at Longwood: nice atmosphere, good food, decent wine selection. The mushroom soup was a real stand out; I haven't been there this year, but usually go once or twice a year and know regardless of what I ordered, it was always good.

                        1. re: JunieB

                          Well, Longwood is good, but Sovanno, by comparison is GREAT. The problem with Longwood, even in the dining room will be at that time of year, 2 of your criteria...service and ambience. Service is usually good, but you gotta remember that right now there are a TON of ppl going for the lights. The cafeteria side, since you have to be indoors at this time of year can be a bit of a pain finding table space unless your eat really early, well before dark. Quite Frankly, after jostling the crowds in places like the conservatory and some other spots, a nice relaxing dinner at Sovanno may be a much better bet.

                          1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                            Thanks. Our reservation is at 1906 so I assume seating won't be a problem. What's the atmosphere like there?

                            1. re: JunieB

                              I have been to Longwood and dined at the restaurant during the holidays. As you say, dining is by reservation, so it is not overcrowded and service is not effected. Also, the gardens have changed their system to timed tickets to alleviate the crowding problems so I think it will be fine.

                              I also prefer dining there because it allows you to tour the gardens/conservatory, dine & get warm, and then go back outside for the light show, etc.

                              I hope you have a lovely time. Welcome back to the neighborhood.

                              1. re: gaffk

                                Thanks! I feel the love!

                                We decided to stay with the 1906 reservation for the very reason you stated - we can walk around, eat, and then walk around some more. We'll go back in the spring and visit the gardens and then have dinner at Sovanno.

                        2. re: FriedClamFanatic

                          Do you think Sovana Bistro is going downhill. And since we are mentioning Kennett, Byrsa Bistro (a BYO) has fabulous branzino and paella.

                          1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                            I can't believe we are talking about Sovanna and Talula's Table in the same thread. To each his own, I guess.

                2. re: FriedClamFanatic

                  Just took my 3yo to Jimmy John's this weekend (we pass it all the time on the way home from Costco) - great hot dogs!!

                3. Fun, unique evening in Society Hill -- Zahav

                  Fancy sushi -- Morimoto on Chestnut Street

                  Big, steak experience (awesome raw bar) -- Butcher & Singer

                  French bistro -- Bistrot La Minette

                  French BYOB -- Bibou

                  Brunch -- Parc

                  Unique, healthy -- Vedge

                  Splurge -- Vetri

                  Fun with group -- Amada (tapas)

                  Feeling hipster -- GoCityVeg

                  East Passyunk -- Noord (Dutch)

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: dndicicco

                    Thanks, dndicicco (I guess you wanted to make sure no one could give you a nickname!) This is going to be fun!!!

                    We've been living in farm country up in Western Mass. for the past 12 years where the restaurant pickins were slim. Lots of bookstores though!

                    1. re: JunieB

                      I always enjoyed the Boston restaurant scene. L'Espalier was my favorite.

                      1. re: dndicicco

                        Yeah, Boston was great! Unfortunately, it was a couple of hours drive (because of the Quabbin Reservoir) which made it hard to slip over for dinner. Never made it to L'Espalier but always meant to. Also never made it to Craigie On Main. Some of our favorites were Hungry Mother, Bondir, Myers + Chang, Lala Rokh, Oleana. We also liked Mr. Bartley's burgers and my husband loved the fish sandwich at the All Star Sandwich Bar.

                        1. re: JunieB

                          You have good taste in restaurants, Junie! L'Espalier is worth the trip, or at least was a few years ago. Did you ever try Ten Tables in JP? Still my favorite restaurant in Boston - now with a branch in Cambridge - for the quality-to-price ratio.

                          1. re: AlCracka

                            We didn't explore the Jamaica Plains area in our trips to Boston but I wish I had known about Ten Tables. It looks great! I wonder why Arctic Char is so popular. It seems to be on everyone's menu of late.

                            Thinking of Cambridge made me think of Formaggio Kitchen. I need to find out where all the good cheese is sold in Philadelphia (besides Reading Terminal)!

                            1. re: JunieB

                              At least in my experience, Di Bruno's has the best cheese counter in the city.

                              1. re: lowereastrittenhouse

                                Thanks. I've never been there. I shouldn't admit this but I never went to the Italian Market when I lived here before. This place looks amazing!

                                1. re: JunieB

                                  Don't miss Claudio either. The mozzarella -- plain, marinated, braided, burrata, all of it -- is to die for. I have completely converted my boyfriend . . . He doesn't buy cheese from the supermarket anymore -proud-

                    2. re: dndicicco

                      If I had to choose only one place for brunch in Philadelphia, it would be Lacroix. I know it is one of the most expensive, but that would be on my bucket list.

                      1. re: Philly Ray

                        I think that would make a great special occasion weekend! Overnight at the Rittenhouse and brunch at Lacroix. The wheels are turning......

                    3. Pizzeria Beddia and Pizzaria Vetri are considered best in the city.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Chinon00

                        Slim pickins for good pizza in Western Mass. too! Food images for both places on Google look great. What about Osteria? I've been hearing about it for years. Is it old hat now?

                        1. re: JunieB

                          I love Osteria. It's definitely worth a visit.

                          Other great pizza places: Nomad, Pizza Brain, Zavino

                          Other places we really like: Vedge, Zahav, Vernick, Barbuzzo, Jamonera, Cheu Noodle Bar, Han Dynasty (we usually go to Manayunk b/c it's easiest from here, but the Old City location now has a bar), Bibou, Fond, Will.

                          1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                            Hi, Hungry! Glad to hear Osteria isn't out of vogue. I love Pizza Brain's website! If it weren't snowing I would have to head to one of these places because I'm getting so hungry just reading the menus!

                      2. I'd spend an afternoon at the Reading Terminal Market myself....and Taconnelli's Pizzeria is on my list of places to try.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: fourunder

                          Thanks! I've only been to RTM once or twice since the renovations. We tried Carmen's for a cheese steak. Not sure it was my very favorite but I thought it was very good and it had its own unique taste.

                          I like that Taconnelli's is a "one-man, one-oven" operation. I'll have to look on a map to find Somerset St..