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Chufi

Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia

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I'm planning another trip to the US for September, and we're debating wether to fly to Washington and go South from there, or to fly to Philadelphia and go south from there. In the last scenario, we could add Philadelphia and Baltimore to the trip, although I'm not sure if we will have time for all three (we'll want to spend a considerable amount of time in the Smoky Mountains)

So I guess my question is.. if you had to choose between the 3 cities, which would you say is the most interesting to visit foodwise.. and why? Thanks.. as always, I'm looking forward to lots of great eG advice :smile:

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I'm sure Rich or Katie will butt in with some pro-Philly propaganda, but I'm a staunch believer in Washington as a city that punches above its weight when it comes to upscale dining, while the City of Brotherly love is a bit of an underachiever. I'm sure a lot depends on what you're in the mood for and, given a limited stay, I'm sure there is plenty to keep you busy in either city. In DC I like Salvadoran, Sould Food, Ethipian and less regionally specific fine dining -- CityZen, Minibar (Adria-inspired and well-executed) and Komi, which is pretty unique anywhere, I'd say.

Baltimore is not a great restaurant town, but has a few highlights.

If you're heading to the Great Smokies by car, allow me to point you here and, especially, here.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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PS Report back from the Smokies...I'll be passing through in early August and looking for fine dining and cheap barbecue (and will post whatever wisdome I glean if I precede you).


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Klary!!

Come visit us in Philly. I'll show you around personally. There's a LOT to see and eat and drink here. World class Museum of Art as well as the largest collection of Rodin outside of France, Academy of Natural Sciences with cool Butterfly and Gecko exhibits, all of the Historical Usual Suspects like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. And you only need peruse the PA Forum for all of our favorite places to eat. We'll be happy to show you some PhilleGullet hospitality. Just let us know when to expect you. :smile:

Some call it propaganda. We call it pride.


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Katie M. Loeb
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Klary - I couldn't ever say pick one over the other - I was born and raised in Washington, and have spent some time in Baltimore and very little in Philly. I want so much to spend more in Philly - the things that I've read here at eG and other places have really interested me. One thing to consider (which may or may not be a real consideration for you) is that lots and lots of the sights and museums in DC are FREE. That said, what ever city you end up in, you MUST come to Richmond :wink: !

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Just tell me you will be in Philly on a Saturday or Sunday.... : )

tracey


The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

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I've never lived in any of those 3 cities, but I've lived near them most of my life. They all have great things to offer.

I'd give Philadelphia a slight edge over DC, but they're really different. Philadelphia has the best markets and street food (Reading Terminal, Italian market, cheesesteaks, Chinatown) and a really happening BYOB restaurant scene. DC has a great variety of restaurants recognizing the international nature of the city. So, I'd go low brow in Philly and high brow in DC.

Baltimore is fun, but can't compete with the other two. Again, I like the markets (Lexington, Cross Street) and no other city I know is as completely wedded to one food as Baltimore is to crabs. They are essential eating to Baltimoreans of all colors and income levels.

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I've put my Philly recs for the trip on the Philly forum already, but for DC I have to echo Busboy's praise of Komi, and also recommend Central Michel Richard, Palena, and Ray's the Classics. Also one of the Ethiopian restaurants, though I don't know which is doing best right now.

If you can get into minibar, absolutely do, but it can be a challenge, especially since you're arranging from outside the US.


Cooking and writing and writing about cooking at the SIMMER blog

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I'd give Philadelphia a slight edge over DC, but they're really different.  Philadelphia has the best markets and street food (Reading Terminal, Italian market, cheesesteaks, Chinatown) and a really happening BYOB restaurant scene. 

I've been seen this BYOB thing mentioned a lot.

How does it work? For instance, I'm planning dinner at Matyson which is also BYO I understand. Is there a liquor store nearby? Do people bring several bottles, because they won't know in adance what they will be eating and what wine will go with it? Do you then take the half full bottles home with you?

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Pennsylvania has an archaic system where, except at wineries or retail locations operated by Pennsylvania wineries, wine is sold only in state operated stores. Liquor is sold nowhere else by the bottle. Don't even ask about beer. Fortunately for your Matyson dinner, there is a state store around the corner from the restaurant, on Chestnut Street.

Deciding on a wine to take is problematic, as you suggest, because it is difficult to know what you will select from the menu ahead of time unless you have seen the menu on line or posted outside the door and are able to decide in advance. Even then, you may not know about the nightly specials until you are seated at your table. Sometimes I take both red and white wine and open only one, depending on what my wife and I decide to order(we add up or entrees--my scallops, her primavera-- and appetizers--my beef carpaccio, her goat cheese salad, divide by two and then decide whether a red or wine matches. Usually orange works best but we can't seem to find an orange wine). On other occasions, I take a red or a white and order something from the menu that matches what I have brought. My wife typically orders what she wants to eat irrespective of the wine we have brought and never gives the matter another thought, but she is more flexible that I am.

As for taking unfinished bottles with them when they leave, yes, people do so.

I can only imagine how frustrating the system can be for strangers to Pennsylvania who find themselves in a restaurant with no liquor license and are told the nearest state store is several miles away and, not only that, closed and hour ago. If there is a convenient nearby liquor store and it happens to be open, its selection of chilled white wines is liable to be limited. In fact, stores outside of urban or affluent suburban areas are likely to have a limited selection of wine in general.

On top of everything else, the state has no budget right now and state employees are not being paid. If that continues into September, and right now the parties are quite far apart, I can envision state store clerks walking off the job and stores being run by managers and being open for limited hours only. That probably won't happen, but I wouldn't rule it out.

Good luck or good planning. You'll need one of them in our beguiling but misguided state.

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I don´t think we´ll be frustrated.. we tend to take things as they come when we´re on vacation. Intrigued is probably a better word! But I can see it would be more frustrating if it´s something you deal with all the time!

But, there are restaurants who sell liquor, right? so you just have to know in advance what the deal is?

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I'd give Philadelphia a slight edge over DC, but they're really different.  Philadelphia has the best markets and street food (Reading Terminal, Italian market, cheesesteaks, Chinatown) and a really happening BYOB restaurant scene. 

I've been seen this BYOB thing mentioned a lot.

How does it work? For instance, I'm planning dinner at Matyson which is also BYO I understand. Is there a liquor store nearby? Do people bring several bottles, because they won't know in adance what they will be eating and what wine will go with it? Do you then take the half full bottles home with you?

The state liquor store is just around the corner from matyson. It is true that it is difficult to pick wine in advance. We will choose something that drinks well with most things and is something we like as opposed to worrying about an exact match. For the serious wine drinker this is more of an issue than it is for those of us who are more casual about wine and food pairing. And you certainly can take home with you what ever you may have left

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I don´t think we´ll be frustrated.. we tend to take things as they come when we´re on vacation. Intrigued is probably a better word! But I can see it would be more frustrating if it´s something you deal with all the time!

But, there are restaurants who sell liquor, right? so you just have to know in advance what the deal is?

In some ways, it may be less frustrating for those of us who live here because we know what to expect and are generally aware of which restaurants have licenses and which are BYOBs. In addition, we may have our favorite BYOBs and pretty much know what we will find on the menuwhen we get there. That helps us to guess about an appropriate wine to bring. Also, we can be spontaneous. If we suddenly decide to go out to the local BYOB at 7 p.m., we aren't put out by the fact that the state store has closed because we can go into our basement and grab something we've been wanting to drink since we bought it 14 months ago.

The cost benefits of BYOBs don't hurt either, because there are no restaurant markups and few BYOBs, in my experience, have a corkage fee.

Most restaurants seem to have websites and you will be able to find out online whether a particular restaurant sells wine. It is only when you go into a restaurant blind that you may find yourselves alcohol-free during your meal.

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I don't know your previous experiences in America, but when I travel to other countries, I like to eat as natively as possible. In other words, eating as the locals do.

Maybe you're the type who likes to eat at the high-end establishments, if so, there are plenty of options to choose from that many here will guide you towards.

But for my money, a visit to Maryland and Baltimore should be taken. Admittedly, Baltimore doesn't have the refinement and stature of the other two cities that boast many fancy restaurants with big name celebrity chefs, but Baltimore has it's own beauty worthy of discovering.

While I almost never go there, people still rave about Lexington Market and their many vendors. Berger Cookies are an institution here that is so a part of Baltimore that it's a must in care packages sent worldwide. Baltimore people love fried stuff, whether it's the perennial Chicken Box or Lake Trout (which is neither trout nor from a lake). Lightly battered chicken or fish, deep fried till crisp and served with french fries. It can be delightful.

Crabs are a must and while many will direct you to Baltimore City, I prefer a nice drive out to the river docks of the Magothy Crab Deck. There you'll tear open freshly steamed crabs by the dozen on an open-air picnic table with sides of fries, hush puppies and pitchers of beer.

If you're feeling a bit adventurous, you'll cross the Bay Bridge on the weekend and search the parking lots and churches for the familiar white smoke of chicken on the grill. It's a tradition in these parts to sell bbq chicken as a fundraiser and the chicken is always moist, delicious and never makes it further than three miles.

If you let us know more about your preferences, I think it will make it easier to offer recommendations.

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I don't know your previous experiences in America, but when I travel to other countries, I like to eat as natively as possible. In other words, eating as the locals do.

Maybe you're the type who likes to eat at the high-end establishments, if so, there are plenty of options to choose from that many here will guide you towards.

But for my money, a visit to Maryland and Baltimore should be taken. Admittedly, Baltimore doesn't have the refinement and stature of the other two cities that boast many fancy restaurants with big name celebrity chefs, but Baltimore has it's own beauty worthy of discovering.

While I almost never go there, people still rave about Lexington Market and their many vendors. Berger Cookies are an institution here that is so a part of Baltimore that it's a must in care packages sent worldwide. Baltimore people love fried stuff, whether it's the perennial Chicken Box or Lake Trout (which is neither trout nor from a lake). Lightly battered chicken or fish, deep fried till crisp and served with french fries. It can be delightful.

Crabs are a must and while many will direct you to Baltimore City, I prefer a nice drive out to the river docks of the Magothy Crab Deck. There you'll tear open freshly steamed crabs by the dozen on an open-air picnic table with sides of fries, hush puppies and pitchers of beer.

If you're feeling a bit adventurous, you'll cross the Bay Bridge on the weekend and search the parking lots and churches for the familiar white smoke of chicken on the grill. It's a tradition in these parts to sell bbq chicken as a fundraiser and the chicken is always moist, delicious and never makes it further than three miles.

If you let us know more about your preferences, I think it will make it easier to offer recommendations.

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I've lived in both Philly and DC.

I must say I much prefer DC.

Philly has some good reasonably priced places. As noted RTM is fun. And it's great for red sauce Italian. I haven't tried much high-end stuff although I heard that Morimoto is great.

DC has great ethnic food, including Japanese, Thai, Korean, Ethopian. It's not superb for pizza or Chinese, IMO. There are a few exceptions, Joe's Noodle House in Rockville for Szechuan and 2Amys or Pardiso for pizza but you have to know where to go.

On the high end, DC rocks and is only exclipsed by cities like NYC and Vegas. As Busboy noted, Komi is superb and very interesting and we have CitiZen, Restaurant Eve, and the minibar.

I don't know much about Balto. We live in striking distance but never go so that must tell you something.

Have a great visit!

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I'm going to cast another vote for DC. I've visited Philly before, and while I do enjoy the cheaper (in general) prices, you just can't beat the upper-end dining of DC, especially given all the corporate clients and politicos that DC has to serve. With so much money floating around, you get a lot of high-quality steakhouses and fine dining, with generally very good (and very formal) service even at reasonably priced places, and grandiose ambience. At the same time, I do think it's typically overpriced.

On the lower end, though, I would definitely give the thumbs up to Philly. I don't think anybody in DC's ever eaten a real pizza or an amazing sandwich (except maybe the foodies at Ray's Hell Burger, one of my favorites).


Edmund Mokhtarian

Food and Wine Blogger

http://www.thefoodbuster.com

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Baltimore= Newspapers for tablecloths, hammers for utensils and prodigious amounts of alcohol. I know where I'd rather go. :biggrin:

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