Dinner in Philly
February 25, 2012 4:57 PM   Subscribe

Philadelphia group dinner restaurant recommendation?

Hi all,

I'm traveling with a group of museum staff to Phila for some professional development, and I'm supposed to find us a place to eat on Saturday night. We will be staying in Center City near-ish to Independence Hall, but are happy to walk anywhere south of Market down to South, or a few blocks beyond for something really good.

Here are the constraints: we'll have a dozen people, ages 30-50. Fun and atmosphere are a high priority, and we want somewhere that serves alcohol or allows BYO, but meat market-type bars are not so welcome.

We don't have too many adventurous eaters, so a place that offers burgers/sandwiches would be great, though it doesn't have to specialize in pub grub. Great pizza could be another option. Some people have expressed interest in finding steaks, but I feel like that places that offer steaks tend to be all steak (or steak and crappy pizza) and don't offer options for people who want something more...non-steak-y.

Price is not that huge an issue but if it could be under $20 average entree price that would suit us all.

I used to live in the city but really don't know what the food scene is like there now, so I come to you for wise recommendations.
posted by Miko to Travel & Transportation around Philadelphia, PA (12 answers total)
Continental has a fantastic menu. It's at 2nd and Market. Their food is tapas style, so portions are smaller (though they have entree-sized as well). It's good for the adventurous and non-adventurous alike. I don't think they have burgers, but they have such variety that I feel like everyone would be able to find something they like. Really, really fun atmosphere, and extremely unique. It's not a place you can forget. Also if anyone likes French onion soup, you have to try the French onion soup dumplings.

I can think of some other places that might be okay, but Continental is my #1 recommendation to anyone coming to the city.
posted by DoubleLune at 5:46 PM on February 25, 2012

My go-to place for this kind of thing is El Vez at 13th and Sansom. It's Mexican in a goofy theatrical way, but the menu is designed to be very crowd-pleasing. It's what Stephen Starr does, ya know? Jones, his Brady-Bunch-esque comfort food place is closer at 7th and Chestnut, but it misses the mark a bit in the fun/atmosphere department.

Do NOT go to Dolce or Paradigm at 4th and Chestnut. I don't care how tantalizingly close they are to your hotel, their food is uniformly forgettable and sometimes downright awful (same mgmt for both places.) Most of the restaurants on Market in that area are forgettable as well, with the exception of Fork at 4th and Market, which is out of your price range, but runs a great prepared-food shop next door for lunches to go.

Those who want cheesesteaks can get a good one at Sonny's at 2nd and Market, with good hoagies next door at Campo's. Gianfranco, just north of Market on 3rd, has great pizza but very little seating. I've heard decent things about National Mechanics on 3rd just south of Market for burgers, but haven't been. Farmacia, across the street, is nice, but not the most exciting place to take a group. Society Hill at 3rd and Chestnut used to be a good place for a burger and a drink, but it's really gone downhill in the last couple of years.
posted by desuetude at 5:51 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could try the fondue place, Melting Pot, right by RTM, on Filbert. Everybody loves fondue, and it's very given to being social in a group. Definitely fun and worth a look.

The hotel that's right across the street (Mariott?) hosts 13.
posted by frmrpreztaft at 5:56 PM on February 25, 2012

Response by poster: I'm looking at pictures of National Mechanics. What did that building used to be? Swear I've been there in a former incarnation. Brewpub?
posted by Miko at 6:59 PM on February 25, 2012

You should absolutely go to Farmicia for dinner, and THEN go to National Mechanics afterward. They are right across the street from each other!

Farmicia is beautiful; I was married there, and they were just so amazing. The food is so, so delicious, and they specialize in great tasting food and beverages crafted from local, organic, and artisanal producers. Not only that, but they have this beautiful loft area that is perfect for larger parties. It's overall very elegant, which is perfect for occasions just like yours. If/when you make a reservation, they may not automatically seat your party in the loft, so I would request it.

In "The Restaurant City", please do not go to the Melting Pot! It's a chain, so the food is the same everywhere you go. There are thousands of better choices here in Philadelphia. El Vez is REALLY expensive and constantly crowded. If I had to pick I night that I WOULDN'T go to El Vez, it'd be Saturday.
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:35 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and National Mechanics was a bunch of things, but I believe you are thinking of Coyote Ugly. Originally it was Mechanics National Bank.
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:37 PM on February 25, 2012

But I should warn you, now that I think about it: You should not go to National Mechanics on a Saturday Night, because it is not the cool place it normally is. It is essentially a club, with loud music and dancing. You SHOULD go to the Khyber Pass Pub, but only after dinner, because they do not take reservations and it would be impossible to get a table for 12 people there. They have a great atmosphere and really excellent drinks, and hanging out in the bar area is fun.
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:49 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I believe you are thinking of Coyote Ugly.

No, no....I lived there 1996-99. I think it was something a lot more staid like a Sam Adams brewpub or something.

Khyber Pass, yesss. Great suggestion for after dinner.
posted by Miko at 7:53 PM on February 25, 2012

Sorry this isn't exactly a dinner answer, but hopefully you will have time to stop by a Capogiro?
posted by mlle valentine at 8:00 PM on February 25, 2012

Khyber Pass DOES have really amazing food, though. If you can get there early enough (like, 5pm?) you might be able to swing getting a table and then just stick around all night. It's probably one of my favorite places right now in Philly.
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:06 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Miko, it's the site of the late, legendary nightclub Revival. (After that, it was about five failed businesses, and yes, I think one of them was a boring faux brewpub.)

To answer the BYO question, they're just typically too small for a dozen people.
posted by desuetude at 11:08 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Some other options are Pietro's on Walnut Street (or South Street), upstairs at Vietnam or Penang. Continental is a really good idea.
posted by jrichards at 9:38 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

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