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Aug 27, 2014 08:53 AM

Short stay in midtown

Greetings! There are two of us staying in your beautiful city next week. One short day and night, first timers. We are west coasters and would love some suggestions that are uniquely Philly. We will be flying out the next morning for Italy (long plane trip) so maybe some suggestions on picking up a few items at Reading Terminal Market to avoid plane food, would be welcomed.

More info:

Looking for good "street food".

Is Steve's prince of cheesesteak a decent "representation" of a good Philly cheesesteak? I think there is one close to our hotel. Whiz is fine, onions preferred....basic but quality is what I am looking for.

Would a pork/ rabe sandwich be good to take on the plane? Get one at the market? Are they sloppy?

We prefer west coast Chinese and pizza unless there is something that would really change our minds about that ....that we " gotta try" :) We get our fill of "Trendy" eating in Vegas, Seattle, Vancouver, Portland and CA cities.

We will be looking for a sit down dinner, not BYOB probably (too much hassle), casual, unique to Philly either due to location/ view/atmosphere- or the food. I like classic east coast Italian -American food ( just not the pizza) and it can be hard to come by where I am, same with Jewish deli. We like gastropub style places. Not much we don't like.

We are thinking of unwinding at Hop Sings Laundromat or another specialty cocktail lounge (Franklin Mortgage? Is it quiet?) before going back to the hotel for the night, any feedback on that? Are cabs easy to use where we are? Looking for a quiet place to sip and put finishing touches on our travel plans...where we can hear each other talk!

Thanks so much!

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  1. Osteria, Vernick, Amis.

    Franklin Mortgage is my favorite bar in town. It's pretty quiet, caters to an adult clientele, and makes a mean cocktail.

    14 Replies
    1. re: linguafood

      Hey lingua, I was looking at those restaurants, and I am sure I would like the food- but they didn't look particularly "uniquely Philly"...as in, if you didn't know what city you were in, would you know it by looking a the menu or the atmosphere? Is that true and am I just not getting it from the website?

      1. re: sedimental

        That's a good point. I think I'll leave it to the 'delphians to direct you to "uniquely Philly" joints (no, not *that* kind).

        That said, BYOB is - to me - a very Philly thing, but it's not something you wanted to do......

        1. re: linguafood

          ....to direct you to "uniquely Philly" joints (no, not *that* kind)....

          good thing you qualified that....I AM from Washington state, ya know ;)

        2. re: sedimental

          I'm not sure what constitutes uniquely Philly to your desires. Osteria and Amis are two Italian restaurants by one of our city's top Italian chefs, Marc Vetri. Personally I am the oddball that doesn't like Osteria all that much but I do enjoy Amis. However, if you're headed to Italy I would kind of skip it. Amis is good but not even close to what you're going to get in the boot. :)

          If you want Italian-AMERICAN, just head down to South Philly for the experience and the food at one of the longtime favorites there - which isn't what you'll get in Italy itself, that's for sure.

          I wouldn't try to take a pork/broccoli rabe sandwich on the plane - way too messy and not something I can see eating cold. I'd get an Italian hoagie from Salumeria instead.

          1. re: sedimental

            I think you're right, those places aren't "uniquely Philly", although that is a subjective call. Vernick is great though. Two places that might fit that criteria a little better for your sit-down dinner are Zahav and Vedge. I don't think anyone in the country is doing the food those two places do at the level they're doing it.

            We do have many Italian-American places but none of them are something I'd recommend to a visitor, especially one who's on their way to Italy.

            Steve's is one of the two cheesesteaks that I think are worth eating but I've never had one at their center city location, only the original Northeast location. If you do go, get it with provolone and American cheese, not Whiz. I wouldn't take a roast pork sandwich on a plane, way too messy. If I were you (or anyone else) I'd skip the cheesesteak entirely and go to Paesano's in the Italian Market instead, the roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone is the city's real signature sandwich, and they make my favorite version at Paesano's, as well as many other great sandwiches. You could also get some dry goodies for the plane around the market, biscotti or hard cheese, or cured meats, or quite a few other things.

            For drinks, my favorite place is Hop Sing by a mile, especially if you want it quiet. At the Franklin, you're almost as clos to the person sitting at the next table as you are to the person across the table.

            1. re: Buckethead

              NO WHIZ???

              But, but....I have been practicing saying "Whiz and Wit" please ;)

                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                  Thank God you told me...saved me from looking like a total Left Coast Faux Yankee Doodle Hippie.


                  1. re: sedimental

                    Like when John Kerry requested "swiss" on a campaign stop at Pat's.

                    Probably cost him the election.

              1. re: Buckethead

                hop sings was fun, nice, quiet.... 4 cocktails later( 2each) ate pulled noodles across the street afterwards at nan zhou. very fun, good ox tail soup ,fried dumplings, peanut noodles.

                  1. re: sedimental

                    Those noodles are faboski! Perfect hangover (or drunk) food :-)

                    1. re: linguafood

                      yeah, we call it drunky mcdrunkster food :)
                      lotsa fun.

            2. The Dandelion might be an option if you like gastropubs. Oh, and sorry I didn't see you're en route to Bella Italia. No Eye-talian food needed then, presumably.

              If you can, check out AB's The Layover/Philly episode (including the "extra miles" edition) - you may just find something there.

              How's Zahav sound?

              18 Replies
              1. re: linguafood

                Good idea on the layover episode suggestion!

                1. re: linguafood

                  I checked out Zahav online but it doesn't sound like anything we don't have plenty of in Seattle and upscale vegan or vegetarian places abound..some are the best in the country.

                  Here is the deal-I am really looking for something that is unique to Philly for my sit down dinner (and it might be just a great view). Example: Seattle (or anywhere in the PNW)for spot prawns, Dungeness crab, salmon with views of the Pacific ocean, the Seattle waterfront, the Space Needle, or outside the city for Buffalo,local wines, morel mushrooms,farm to table, mountain views, lake or woodland vistas- Vancouver: Chinatown/Gastown, seafood,waterfront,rustic,ethnic food variety, amazing Indian food - Portland: trendy/city/Hipster/small plates/woodsy industrial/artistic, etc.

                  I am looking for something in that vein. Somewhere you would *know* it was Philly just by being there and looking at the menu/hearing the chatter. I hate the word but "gives off the Philly vibe" :) Maybe it doesn't exist? I have one day!!!

                  View of the Liberty Bell a plus, LOL.

                  1. re: sedimental

                    Something on South St., then. PA has a huge German population (hey, we're *everywhere*), so you could check out Brauhaus Schmitz. The food isn't amazing, but the beer list is pretty unbeatable.

                    Also, their pig tail appetizer. Pork wings. Really, really REALLY good beer food.

                    1. re: linguafood

                      Yes! Happy Hour, if nothing else. Are there Brick streets and a bunch of Federalists running around??

                      1. re: sedimental

                        Oh, they're EVERYWHERE. Hold on to your panties!!!!

                        1. re: sedimental

                          Independence Beer Garden might be good for a drink, it's right next the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.

                          1. re: barryg

                            I was just there. a nice place to get refreshed! yard beer isn't half bad :)

                          2. re: sedimental

                            There are cute little streets all around Center City, all still inhabited, many too small for cars... Elfreth's Alley is the famous one with really old houses, but Center City is a strict grid so you can take different routes to get around. Just look for the smaller streets instead of the big ones, it's fun.

                            1. re: barryg

                              I am very excited to see your city! I am sure I will come back when I have more time.

                          3. re: linguafood

                            I would say avoid South Street unless you are 14 years old and want a tattoo.
                            Barry's comments about what is unique in Philly - small chef-owned restaurants with excellent food - are right on target. We had friends visiting from Las Vegas recently, former Philadelphians, and this is what they miss in Vegas.
                            Our favorites are on Passyunk Ave - a short cab ride. We love Fond, Townsend, and LeVirtu. All have terrific chefs.

                            1. re: sylviag

                              For (maybe) restaurants and some meandering. I'm not 14 and *always* stop by a pretty damn fine vintage store when I'm in town.

                          4. re: sedimental

                            I would say getting a "Philly vibe" place is a much better idea at lunch, a place like Paesano's in the Italian Market or Sarcone's both feel like traditional Philly sandwich shops (though both are a little gussied up with a less blue collar clientele).

                            That said, some ideas:

                            1) Small, chef driven small restaurant -- these are mostly BYOBs but not all. Maybe this is not exclusive to Philly but it's definitely part of the restaurant culture. To boot you will often end up in a more neighborhoody part of town. Non BYOB restaurants in this style: Fitler Dining Room, Townsend on East Passyunk (cab ride)

                            2) Neighborhood Gastropub -- not that unique to Philly anymore and the food can be hit or miss, but Philly was the first American city with this concept I still think we do it better than most other cities, with better food and better beer lists (and more genuinely too, with prices and atmosphere actually befitting of a neighborhood watering hole). The best places are outside of Center City though, I'd suggest Royal Tavern or Standard Tap.

                            3) City Tavern -- Supposed Colonial food in a colonial setting.

                            4) Restaurants with a view -- Waterworks, Mosholu, Chart House, Hibachi on Delaware Ave. Don't say we didn't warn you though.

                            1. re: barryg

                              Okay. Well, if I can't have both good regional food and a sit down dinner with a Philly vibe, then I would choose good food with a generic vibe :)

                              All these suggestions are helpful though. I might have to change my mind on the BYOB.... maybe find a nice wine shop somewhere.

                              1. re: sedimental

                                We really liked Matyson - it's very centrally located, and there is a fairly large Wine & Spirits store nearby as well.

                                They offer a weekly changing tasting menu Mon-Thur, but you can obviously order à la carte.


                                1. re: sedimental

                                  The wine stores are all state operated and leave things to be desired... there are people on the board who will say "don't bother" with the stores but they aren't *that* bad. The store on Chestnut near to your hotel, the one at 21st & Market and the one near 10th & South are all more than fine.

                                  If you're looking BYOB check out Farm & Fisherman (farm to table, focus on locally sourced), Bibou, Kanella, Cochon, Modo Mio. Also for some reason we have a ton of Italian BYOBs serving similar menus, it's a Philly thing for some reason, though the food is not that interesting. Melograno is maybe the best of these in Center City.

                                  Oh, and Midtown *Village* is a neighborhood in Center City. Actually, it was invented by realtors and businesses as a more family friendly name than The Gayborhood which is what most locals still call it. But it is a place. "Midtown" is not (despite a couple restaurants using it in their name).

                                  1. re: barryg

                                    Wow. I come from a state where there are wine shops (with a tasting bar inside) on every corner, shelves of hard liquor in the supermarket and marijuana stores. I shall have to wrap my mind around these rules.

                                    How do you order a G&T at a restaurant? If I see a happy hour, does it sometimes mean ...only if you BYOB? Do they clearly state it somewhere or could I wander into a cute restaurant at 4pm to expect happy hour and find they don't have...what would make me happy?

                                    ...and... Nothing is ever cash only where I am from, seriously, I don't ever carry any-so I really appreciate the heads up from everyone about that! Thank you all :)

                                    1. re: sedimental

                                      A BYOB restaurant wouldn't offer happy hour, I don't think you'll be too confused. A few places offer mixers if you bring your own alcohol but that isn't typical. You can bring hard liquor to a BYOB but in general that is a faux pas, bring wine or beer. You will find that casual lunch and quick service type places will not usually have liquor licenses, you can bring alcohol to these places but don't expect them to have stemware, ice buckets or even wine openers. The number of BYOBs in Center City is actually declining as rents go up. Cash only places are decreasing too but still are pretty prevalent in South Philly.

                                      1. re: sedimental

                                        Restaurants with liquor licenses, which is most of them, have a normal bar and wine list.

                                        BYOBs are small joints that can't afford or don't want the expense of a license, which isn't cheap. Food can be great though. Last year's Top Chef winner has a BYOB here.

                            2. What day of the week will you be here?

                              If you're looking for good "street food" perhaps check out the food trucks? Here's the schedule for Love Park and City Hall.


                              I really like Cow and the Curd, Pitruco, Chewy's.

                              If you're looking for Jewish Deli, there's Hershel's (sp?) at the reading terminal. It's not your typical overstuffed sandwiches, but I like their corned beef and pastrami. I don't recommend getting a roast pork/rabe sandwich for the plane, the bread can get pretty soggy.

                              For other plane food, if you're there when the Amish are at RTM, I would get a couple of donuts from them, perhaps roast chicken.

                              as for Pizza, I highly recommend Pizzeria Beddia in Fishtown. Right off the El but not close to center city. Tiny little store, with room for eight people to stand and eat, cash only. Only open in the evening and i want to say only 4 days a week. No phone. The BA foodist loved it. Very crisp crust and only a few pies to choose from.

                              I don't think it's uniquely Philly, but Tallulah's Garden is lovely in the summertime, especially if you can get a table in their courtyard.

                              I also recommend High Street on Market for either dinner or breakfast.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: bumble


                                I think it is a Wednesday (not where I can look right now).
                                Mmmm...donuts....Is Federal Donuts worth the effort to track down? I suppose the Amish can make a mean donut :)

                                I am not really interested in Italian food but wouldn't turn down good American Italian, just because there is not much of that around the West coast, might be fun.

                                1. re: sedimental

                                  Federal Donuts is easy to find and worth it for both the donuts and the chicken (FYI I love the hot fresh donuts, and find the "fancies" to be just ok).

                                  Steve's is definitely a good steak, though I've never been to the Center City location either. I happen to like Whiz. I'm a transplant to Philly and feel like everyone should try it once, keeping in mind it's greasy, drunk food and not a gourmet experience.

                                  I second Vedge or Zahav for unique food you can't get in other cities.

                              2. In philly it isn't 'midtown' it's Center City.

                                The full cheesesteak experience is Pats or Genos. Right next to each other. Good neon and decent enough steaks. I prefer Whiz with and a little ketchup.

                                Old school east coast Italian is found at Ristorante LaBuca. Fresh fish cart and all. Or LaFamiglia (which is way overpriced)

                                Johns or Dinic's for roast pork.

                                The good philly restaurants aren't particularly 'local' but I like Vetri, Zinc, Amada at the moment.

                                The places on the river are mediocre but not terrible. View > food.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: sal_acid

                                  Oh, okay. The hotel said it is in "midtown village", between old city and center city. Old school east coast Italian sounds very charming.

                                  1. re: sedimental

                                    Old school east coast Italian American is what Little Nonna's offers. The opinions on this board are diverse. Nonna's is Traditional Italian dishes delivered in a homey trattoria setting with an open kitchen & a garden. - Google
                                    "The gnocchi was so good that I ordered a second portion!" "Amazing meal, exceptional desserts and delightful atmosphere.

                                    We find Nonna's charming with great variations on traditional dishes.

                                    1. re: Bacchus101

                                      Little Nonna's is sort of a nouveau take on old school Italian American. It opened less than a year ago and it operated by a trendy restaurant group. I haven't been there, I'm sure it's charming and the food is good (their other restaurants are very good). For a more authentic take, though, I would check out Villa di Roma or Dante & Luigis (more upscale) in South Philly. I think both may be cash only.

                                    2. re: sedimental

                                      Midtown Village is nouveau Realtorspeak. Real people don't use it LOL. Gaybourhood or "down near Jefferson" would be colloquial.

                                      1. re: sedimental

                                        In midtown village, Mercato is a very good Italian byob.

                                        1. re: JanR

                                          I just checked them out online. That might be just right, the building it is in looks fabulous too :)

                                    3. If you want something "Philly", go to Fork, get the Terroir tasting menu. It's totally excellent, it's one of the best two or three restaurants in the city, and it is a modern interpretation of the traditional food of the region. The menu is up to the chef, but the main course is always a porkchop with provalone and broccoli rabe, a play on the classic philly roast pork. it is a unique menu.

                                      Plus then you are in old city, can walk by independence hall at night (or in the afternoon before), if you still have room after dinner (which would be remarkable), you could go to Franklin Fountain for ice cream for dessert, which is a Philly classic.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: alex1018

                                        Alex ... I love Fork... the chef is from NY, the food is french. It is a great restaurant, but to me it doesn't scream Philly. With the demise of bookbinders, I find there are very few iconic restaurants tha represent Philly. Perhaps the revised Oyster House, harkening back to the old days of Samson street Oyster house and serving snapper soup. Ralphs, Dante Luigis or some of the old school South Philadelphia food. Taconelli's for old school pizza. Syrenka's for Polish food. But everything else feels commercial, and really could be in any city. Or maybe I just have not had enough coffee yet this morning.

                                        1. re: cwdonald

                                          Have you had the Terroir menu? The food is hardly french. That's ridiculous.

                                          1. re: alex1018

                                            I had the Terroir menu recently and it was outrageously good. The food is certainly locally sourced, and conjures regional cuisine at a much higher level, but I agree that the "feel" of the food and restaurant, while delightful, aren't really uniquely Philly.

                                            1. re: alex1018

                                              I have not had the Terroir menu. Sounds fantastic. Thank you for the heads up.