Best restaurant in Philly
February 26, 2009 1:20 PM   Subscribe

OK. There's only one restaurant in Philadelphia. What is it?

I'm in Philadelphia until tomorrow morning and I have the evening free. I've never been here before and have no plans of coming back any time soon. What is the one "can't-miss" restaurant? (Type of food doesn't matter.)

I've heard names like Geno's, Tony Luke's, and Pat's thrown around as being the best, but I am not necessarily concerned with getting a genuine cheesesteak or capturing the "essence of Philly"... I just want a great dining experience!
posted by relucent to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I was always partial to Alma de Cuba myself. Steven Starr (noisy website with browser window re-sizing) has at least one other good restaurant in Philly. There's always Le Bec Fin, if you're feeling fancy. All these places are higher-end restaurants, the kind of places a city is known for. They may or may not be up your alley.

Cheesesteaks are great, but can go just about anywhere and get a good one, so if you decide to take that route, don't overthink it, just enjoy it.
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 1:36 PM on February 26, 2009

Zagat says Fountain and Little Fish are best, but lists Buddakan, Amada and Le Bec-Fin as most popular.
posted by ubiquity at 1:37 PM on February 26, 2009

Matyson, Friday Saturday Sunday, or Little Fish.

If you're rich, Le Bec Fin.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:37 PM on February 26, 2009

posted by DrDreidel at 1:46 PM on February 26, 2009

I, on the other hand, am not a big Alma de Cuba fan. At all. I've been three times, and each time, I've been disappointed starting by the service and the drinks and the entrees and the dessert -- and that last is saying something, because restaurants run by the Steven Starr empire generally have tasty desserts. If you like American comfort food, though, I recommend Jones is good, in fact, and Buddah-kan is fun for fancy-pants Asian fusion. Some people think Morimoto is overpriced, but if you're going for top-end sushi, there isn't any other game in town.

The atmosphere at all of these places is upscale yuppie, though. That might grate on the nerves a bit.

Outside of the Starr empire, Vetri is supposedly the finest Italian dining in an area known for good Italian food, but some of the most sophisticated Italian diners I know go with Osteria, which was developed by the same people. If you've never been, a Brazilian steakhouse in the way of Fogo de Chao is fun for the meatlovers. I'd recommend skipping the desserts at Fogo, though, and going to Capogiro's for gelato, instead. Amada is also darn good.

My personal favorite, though, is Mercato. It's superbly executed, thoughtful cooking, in a really nice, but not stifling atmosphere.

And if you aren't looking to go quite as expensive as all that, I'm a long-standing fan of Smith's at all times for a casual drink and hanging-out and Devil's Alley for dinner (not brunch, though, oddly enough).
posted by joyceanmachine at 1:50 PM on February 26, 2009

Burritos: La Taqueria Veracruzana (9th and Washington)
Noodles: Hand drawn noodle shop (927 Race)
Sushi: Kisso (205 N 4th)
Ethiopian: Dalak (4708 Baltimore)
Tofu Hoagie: Fu Wah (47th and Baltimore)
Spendy: Le Bec Fin

There's more, but I'm technically done with lunch now.

These are 2 years out of date tho - but i imagine they're just as good as when i left.
posted by oreonax at 1:52 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm going to second Capogiro being a must for dessert. Capogiro's gelato is the best I've ever had, and I've even been to Rome.

I also agree that Morimoto's a good choice for a "once in a lifetime" dining experience.

If I personally were spending a night in Philly, I'm not that into the ultra-fancy restaurants. I'd go to Cuba Libre, get dessert at Capogiro, and then get a late-night slice of pizza at Lorenzo's on South Street. Oh yes.
posted by eschatfische at 2:12 PM on February 26, 2009

Save yourself about $100 and go to Sabrina's or the Standard Tap.
posted by The Straightener at 2:23 PM on February 26, 2009

If you've never been, a Brazilian steakhouse in the way of Fogo de Chao is fun for the meatlovers.

I don't know where you are, relucent, but Fogo de Chao is a chain, so I would skip it.
posted by Airhen at 2:30 PM on February 26, 2009

On the cheaper end: Seconding Sabrina's (for brunch) or Standard Tap. Memphis Taproom is even better, I think, than Standard Tap - better beer, better food. For more American-esque (but interesting) fare coupled with great beer, I would recommend Eulogy or Monk's, although they both can get pretty crowded. Along the same vein are Nodding Head and Good Dog.

For more upscale stuff: I'd go with Tinto over Amada (although they are run by the same chef) for tapas, or Southwark for amazing food and even more amazing 50's cocktails. I'm also an enormous fan of Marigold Kitchen.
posted by timory at 3:02 PM on February 26, 2009

Oh! I forgot the best cheap(ish) + brewery: Dock Street, 50th and Baltimore.
posted by timory at 3:03 PM on February 26, 2009

la viola on 15th is an amazing, and surprisingly inexpensive, little italian restaurant.
posted by yonation at 3:08 PM on February 26, 2009

It's probably too late today and you might not have time tomorrow, but: I also liked Sabrina's (and everytime I went there was at least an hour wait for brunch). Honey's was wonderful too for brunch -- plenty of local and organic food on the menu (similar wait time).
posted by val5a at 3:09 PM on February 26, 2009

Amada's tapas is quite excellent & the Standard Tap's food isn't fancy but it is tasty. But if you've only got one night in Phllly, I'd have to say the hands down choice is Dante & Luigi's.
posted by scalefree at 3:26 PM on February 26, 2009

Chiming in again: Sabrina's is really good, but if you can get down to the one at 910 Christian Street, I'd do that over the one in the Art Museum. In my experience, the original has better short-order cooks.

Though really, how much more additional awesome does Stuffed Caramelized Challah French Toast with Cream Cheese and Bananas topped with Vanilla Bean Maple Syrup -need?
posted by joyceanmachine at 3:29 PM on February 26, 2009

timory's list: Monk's. Definitely. A bit Belgian-ish because of the fries and the beer, if you like that. We absolutely loved it, still talking about it and sometimes ordering funky beer at the store (this is Sweden...) and cooking Monk's-style food here at home for fun.
posted by Namlit at 3:36 PM on February 26, 2009

I'll also add that Sabrina's (on Christian) has a wonderful dinner - plenty of amazing dishes as of a couple weeks ago, including a stuffed meatloaf which was AWESOME.

I, personally, love Vietnam. (Does what it says on the tin.) I live a block away. I am going there for dinner RIGHT NOW. And tomorrow night. That is how much I love it.

Everyone who mentions Capogiro as a must for dessert is absolutely right. Along with the standard flavors of gelato that you would expect anywhere, they may surprise you with exotic flavors including but not limited to olive oil, rosemary, coconut milk, hazlenut, and various fruits. DO NOT MISS the bittersweet chocolate.
posted by greekphilosophy at 3:46 PM on February 26, 2009

I'd eat at Amada, then skip across the street to Eulogy to have beer for dessert.
posted by medeine at 3:50 PM on February 26, 2009

Seconding Monk's. The best sushi in Philly is in Haddonfield, so without a car forget it. Vetri if ou want expensiven fantasti Italian.
posted by fixedgear at 4:20 PM on February 26, 2009

My two favorite restaurants in Philly are Lolita and Salt & Pepper. Both are BYOs.

Salt & Pepper is a more "foodie" place, it's a very small (maybe 10-12 tables) place with a short, frequently changing menu. Delicious food.

Lolita is an upscale-ish but not stuffy Mexican place that we really enjoyed. Good margaritas there, so make sure to bring your own tequila if you want one.
posted by ficke at 6:15 PM on February 26, 2009

My wife and I really had a blast there. It's different, but it's a cool experience. The only tough part is finding the front door. (It's kind of like a speak-easy in that sense.)
posted by Citrus at 8:18 AM on February 27, 2009

I recommend Tinto, (Spanish tapas) which has the same executive chef (Jose Garces) as Amada but I think is a much better restaurant. The tasting menu with coordinating wine pairings is the best meal I've had in years. I also second Vietnam and Buddakan.
posted by jrichards at 8:33 AM on February 27, 2009

Another Steven Starr restaurant is Pod (music, flash alert). It's pan-Asian and a wonderful experience. Getting a table in a "pod" is the best. They don't take reservations for the "pod" tables so come early and wait. The food was great and the experience lots of fun.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 10:53 AM on February 27, 2009

Where'd you end up going?
posted by eschatfische at 1:17 PM on February 27, 2009

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