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Need Help Please!


sadistick
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Ok, I know there are a few threads with this regard, but nothing covered what I am about to ask:

Coming from Toronto, I am fortunate to have access to some really nice restaraunts.

I am going to be going with my mom and gradmother to Philly in early May, and would like a few suggestions.

1, Your favourite (upscale) dinner restaraunts...we will be there for 4 nights, so top 3 suggestions would be appreciated...price is not that much of an issue, but REALLY good food is!

2, My grandmother is obsessed with Fried/baked clam sandwiches, I dont know if thats something available in Philly, but if so, can someone please stear me in the right direction.

3, I know this is off topic, but we will be going to the Dali Exhibit while we are there, and I was wondering from a touristy prespective, what other places MUST we visit while in the city of brotherly love?

-Last but not least, Obviously lunch at least one day will be cheese steaks, I have been doing a bit of reading, and have come down to these choices (we will be at a hotel downtown FYI):

-Jim's Steaks

-Tony Lukes

-Steve's Prince of steaks

Any help is GREATLY appreciated folks,

Thank you in advance.

-Justin

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I'll let better-informed people talk about the fine dining. For cheese steaks the other candidate I'd add--especially if it's warm--is John's Roast Pork, a truly classic stand by the river (with no indoor seating) that has wonderful steaks.

For touristy stuff, some cheap/free things that are cool are the elevator to the top of City Hall, which is neat not just for the view but also for the interior view of the tower as you go up. The Masonic temple across the street from City Hall is strange and kind of wonderful and only three bucks. Most days at noon, the old Wannamaker's across from City Hall (now a Lord & Taylors and perhaps on route to becoming a Macy's?) has concerts on their organ, which is one of the largest pipe organs in the world. And the space itself is fascinating.

The Barnes is a must, if you're into art. It's the most interesting "house" art museum I've ever seen--better than the ones in New York because it's equally fantastic in terms of quality but much more idiosyncratic and even crazy in terms of the layout. Unlike those it relfects someone with personal taste that ranged from brilliant to bizarre. There is, I believe, no place in the world of any size that can match up to its Matisse. You need to make reservations today--they fill up like 2 months in advance--and getting in is as weird and complex as everything about the place, but it's an amazing place for art, and one that won't last long (they're moving it to the Franklin Parkway near the Art Museum over the next several years, where it will be much more accessible but also less unique.) http://www.barnesfoundation.org

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for your cheesesteak, if you've narrowed it down to those three places i would go to tony luke's. then one of you can get a very good cheesesteak there, and the other can get the roast pork sandwich with cheese and greens, and you can split them both and get a more complete impression of the good stuff available here.

plus it's got some indoor seating, which might be good if it rains or is cold, which it often is in early may.

i'm not sure about the clam sandwiches--for fried seafood in general i head to pearl's in the terminal...

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'm not sure about the clam sandwiches--for fried seafood in general i head to pearl's in the terminal...

**ahem** <cough>

If you're seeking fried seafood I suggest popping in to visit me at Sansom Street Oyster House. Although we don't have them all the time (supply is hard to get), we sometimes have fried Ipswitch Belly clams. They're Holly's favorite and come highly recommended. There's also an Oyster 'Po Boy sandwich, a Shrimp 'Po Boy sandwich and sometimes a 'Po Boy special sandwich. Lately it's been a Popcorn Shrimp 'Po Boy. All good stuff.

Menu can be viewed from the link in my signature line.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Hey All,

Thank you very much for the replies thus far...

Greg, great suggestion...the main reason we are coming to Philly then is for the Dali exhibit, which is North Americas biggest ever exhibit of his work, with over 200 paintings, and other items, Im totally pumped!

Katie, I would love to come to your place, any way we can arrange in advance to make sure you have some of those clams for my grams?

Still looking for some upscale restaraunt suggestions please...I have read about Django, Studio Kitchen (Is it still open? Will we be able to go if theres only 3 of us?) and Lacroix...need some input here please!

Much appreciated.

-Justin

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django is an excellent choice. you'll need to call exactly a month in advance if you're planning on going on the weekend--they don't take reservations for longer out than that, and it fills up quickly.

lacroix is great--especially good and overwhelming at sunday brunch. see the thread 'brunch at lacroix' for more info on it.

studiokitchen is for 8 people only, so you'd have to recruit people to go with you if you could schedule it.

katie, i thought about you guys and your fried clams, but i figured you and holly would chime in there (plus i'm embarrassed to say i've never had a full meal at SSOH, but only boatloads of oysters during happy hours)...

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Hey Mr Big,

Thats great, thanks...

Do you have any other suggestions?

I have heard that one of Gotham Bar and Grills past chefs has a restaraunt there...Stripped Bass is it called?

Need.... more ......suggestions!

Also, if possible, do you have a phone # for Django?

Thanks again.

-J

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I have heard that one of Gotham Bar and Grills past chefs has a restaraunt there...Stripped Bass is it called?

Striped Bass has Alfred Portale from Gotham as Exec chef, or consulting chef, or some such moniker, he's not around on a daily basis, but revamped the menu, and still comes by to guide things, they say. In any case, I had an excellent meal there in January, so I'd recommend a stop. It's fancy and pricey.

Striped Bass

1500 Walnut St.

Philadelphia

215-732-444

Lacroix provided one of my best meals in memory too, again, upscale and pricey but worth it.

Lacroix

Rittenhouse Hotel

210 West Rittenhouse

Philadelphia, PA 19103

215-546-9000

There's a lot of debate about whether Django is worthy of all the fuss. I think it is, and the general impression seems to be pretty good from the folks here on eGullet. This is a tiny little fairly casual restaurant, to which you bring your own wine. The food is more straightforward and unfussy than at some of the flashier places, but I found it very well-executed and satisfying.

Django

526 South 4th Street

215-922-715

There's another similar BYOB place out in West Philly called Marigold Kitchen which is putting out food at almost that same quality. It has gotten very good reviews from pretty much all the media here in Philly, so it might have become a tough reservation, but it's worth a shot.

Marigold Kitchen

501 S. 45th Street

(45th and Larchwood)

215.222.3699

While you're in Philly it's probably worth hitting one of the signature "theme-park" restaurants owned by Steven Starr. He has a small empire of places that have dramatic decor and high-concept food, and although there's endless debate about the culinary merits of these kitchens, I have gotten many fine meals at them. Buddakan is Asian-fusion with a huge buddha and an under-lit communal table dominating the tall space. Pod is of a similar food style, but with a fun futuristic decor. Tangerine is Moroccan-Mediterranean, and a lovely immersive environment. Morimoto is Masaharu Morimoto's modern Japanese restaurant, with color-shifting lucite booths and creative Japanese food. Whether it's worth the prices has been the subject of a couple of arguments here! There are others: Cuban, Mexcian, Martini bar, Steakhouse, 1960s comfort food, Italian, more... most of them moderately expensive, some very expensive, but all of them seem like an event. I've enjoyed my meals at all of those I highlighted.

I think we get a little jaded about them living here, but any time i take someone from out of town, they usually really like it, and remember it as a unique experience. Toronto has plenty of exciting restaurants, so it's not like you've never seen dramatic decor, but these places make you feel like you've been somewhere!

As for cheesesteaks, Jim's is really easy to get to, in a neighborhood you might already be wandering, and they're a good "starter steak, " they're pretty reliable and good quality, I still eat them when I'm in that area. But when you're around them every day, you start getting picky, hence the recommendations for John's and Tony Lukes, etc. which are in locations you are unlikely to be in other than going there on purpose.

I wouldn't stress to hard about it, Jim's is fine if that's easiest, and Pats and Geno's give the quintessential Philly experience, even if the steaks are inconsistent. Just don't get one anywhere that doesn't specialize in them. You can get one at the corner diner or in the hotel bar, but it's not the same thing!

If you read around this forum, you'll find that many of us are on a campaign to change the official Philly food to the Italian Roast Pork sandwich, with sharp provelone and broccoli rabe. It's a WAY better sandwich, best executed at DiNic's, Tony Lukes and John's Roast Pork. Try one if you can.

There's endless blather and links to the restaurant sites for most of these places on My Website if you'll pardon the shameless self-promotion...

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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There is wonderful beer and pub food to be had in Philadelphia. These places take no reservations but are worth a visit:

Monk's Cafe (16th & Spruce)

Ludwig's Garten (13th & Sansom)

Standard Tap (2nd & Poplar)

Royal Tavern (7th & Carpenter)

Johnny Brenda's (Frankford & Girard)

The first two are downtown -- Monk's has a legendary beer selection and delicious Belgian-inspired food. Mussels are a must. Ludwig's has 20-some German beers on tap and German food that's decent. Standard Tap is a short drive or cab ride from Center City and has the best atmosphere and food of any pub in the city and great local microbrews. Royal Tavern is just off the Italian Market and is approaching Standard Tap in atmosphere and food. Johnny Brenda's is an old-school dive bar reopened by the Standard Tap folks and featuring lighter fare and great local beer.

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studiokitchen is for 8 people only, so you'd have to recruit people to go with you if you could schedule it.

I doubt that'll be a problem.

I'd just make the reservation on whatever day you can, and post here with 5 openings.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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Is there some reason nobody is mentioning

le bec fin

I left it off because I figured classic French was likely to be covered pretty well in Toronto.

And, more importantly, for some reason, I've never eaten there. It's a boatload of money, but I've occasionally gotten in that ballpark with rare splurges at other places, and I've always been curious, but I've never taken the leap. So personally, I'm reluctant to tell anybody else to spend probably over $200 per person by the time all is added-up, without being able to say I thought it was worth it.

Would anybody here recommend it?

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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By the way, I had to check the Barnes for other reasons, and they mentioned they're already filled up for the first Friday in May but still have openings for the Saturday and Sunday. Those days will fill up fast, so if you're interested I'd jump right in. It's an amazing place, if you're into art, as you all are.

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studiokitchen is for 8 people only, so you'd have to recruit people to go with you if you could schedule it.

I doubt that'll be a problem.

I'd just make the reservation on whatever day you can, and post here with 5 openings.

Herb is right; you'll have no trouble getting a group. But you'll want to hurry on reserving a date: the SK calendar fills up really quickly, especially on weekends.

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(Le Bec-Fin)

Would anybody here recommend it?

I've eaten there once. It was an exquisite experience- food, service, setting- that I'll treasure for years to come. It was also well over $500 for two people, including a bottle of what I vaguely remember as their best, second-cheapest wine. Now, this was a very special occasion (four of us celebrating our 30th birthdays) which we wanted to do up in a grand style. The Bec-Fin was absolutely perfect for that, and was worth every penny. But I wouldn't go again, at least not until I have something equally important to celebrate. Maybe not my 60th birthday; let's say, getting tenure.

The food at Lacroix is equally good, certainly at least as inventive, and it's somewhat less expensive (though I confess that I didn't pay when I ate there). The service isn't as over-the-top, but in some ways that's preferable.

It all depends on what exactly you want, and how much you're comfortable spending. I don't tend to think of LBF (or Vetri, or Lacroix, or Morimoto), because I don't often feel happy spending that much on dinner. But I don't know how much Justin wants to spend.

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(Le Bec-Fin)

Would anybody here recommend it?

I've eaten there once.

i've only ever eaten at lbf once also, at the bar about a month ago. i had the best lyonnaise salad i ever had, and my host spent nearly $1200 on wine. therefore, i just plain don't have enough experience with the place to recommend it, except on reputation, and i'm sure enough other people here have more info than i do for that sort of thing.

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Katie, I would love to come to your place, any way we can arrange in advance to make sure you have some of those clams for my grams?

Justin:

There's no way for me to guarantee it, but I'll certainly ask the chef/owner if they're available closer to then if you PM me a reminder. I know they're hard to get but I don't know if Ipswitch clams are only available in certain months or not. I'll ask. But I'm certain we can find some other wonderful seafood for your Gram whilst you're in Philly. Just let me know.

The shad and shad roe just came in, and I think we'll have that through about Mother's Day, which is the short season for it. We're serving the fish and the roe broiled, either one alone or together as a combo. Good stuff from what I understand. I haven't tried it yet but I'll probably have it for lunch one day next week.

I invented a new dish I'm begging to have put on the menu as a special. The "Katie Salad" is mixed field greens, cubed tomatoes, a bit of chopped hard boiled egg and fried calamari. I had it with the mustard vinaigrette we serve with a different salad, but I think it needs a less sweet/more tart dressing. I'm thinking a citrus vinaigrette of some sort like Blood Orange vinaigrette or something similar. As soon as we get the dressing nailed down I'm going to insist we put it on the menu. It was delicious!

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Another old standby in the deluxe category that no one's mentioned yet: Susanna Foo (1518 Walnut).

The chef whose name the restaurant bears prepares Chinese cuisine as a master French chef would, which makes sense, as she is Cordon Bleu-trained herself. It's almost directly across Walnut from, and a good $300-$400 cheaper for two than, Le Bec-Fin. Newer arrivals, including the revived Striped Bass under Stephen Starr management, have somewhat eclipsed this establishment, but it remains one of the best elegant dining experiences in town.

On the other-places-to-visit list, here's one that doesn't often make the list of the usual tourist suspects, but you will be richly rewarded for seeking it out: the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, at 33rd and South/Spruce streets. This is one of the finest archaeological museums in North America, with excellent collections of Greek, Roman and Egyptian artifacts along with material from Asia and the Americas. Getting around the place may be a bit harder than usual because of a major construction project that will finally air-condition the building, but all the exhibit spaces are open.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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I finally had the Broiled Shad and Shad Roe Combo for dinner tonight. Having never tried either and having customers ask me about it, I thought I ought to know what I was talking about. The shad itself was delicious. Like trout, but sweeter and a little richer. Only a couple of tiny hair sized bones in it. Really loved it and would highly recommend it. It was great with just a squeeze of lemon.

The Shad roe maybe just isn't my cup of tea. I found it sort of bland - kind of like a piece of gritty chicken with a slight fishiness. Didn't really thrill me. It wasn't awful, and I can understand why some folks love it. I like caviar in small doses as well, so perhaps I'm just not a fish egg kinda girl. I dunno.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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The Shad roe maybe just isn't my cup of tea.  I found it sort of bland - kind of like a piece of gritty chicken with a slight fishiness.  Didn't really thrill me.  It wasn't awful, and I can understand why some folks love it.  I like caviar in small doses as well, so perhaps I'm just not a fish egg kinda girl. I dunno.

thanks for this, katie. it's good to hear someone else's impression of these things. i'm still going to come over for it sometime in the next month or so, because every spring the shad roe shows up and i feel like, being from southeastern PA i should have some sense of whether i like shad roe or not, but i don't. and i can't just buy it and cook it, because since i have no baseline i wouldn't know if i were screwing it up or not.

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The Shad roe maybe just isn't my cup of tea.  I found it sort of bland - kind of like a piece of gritty chicken with a slight fishiness.  Didn't really thrill me.  It wasn't awful, and I can understand why some folks love it.  I like caviar in small doses as well, so perhaps I'm just not a fish egg kinda girl. I dunno.

thanks for this, katie. it's good to hear someone else's impression of these things. i'm still going to come over for it sometime in the next month or so, because every spring the shad roe shows up and i feel like, being from southeastern PA i should have some sense of whether i like shad roe or not, but i don't. and i can't just buy it and cook it, because since i have no baseline i wouldn't know if i were screwing it up or not.

Please don't let me dissuade anyone from trying this delicacy. I really think it's just me with the low taste/ high texture thing. I'm not really fond of kiwi fruit for the same reason. I find them fairly tasteless with just a mushy texture. I never really understood why everyone liked them so much. 1435.gif

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Hey All,

Thank you so much for all the recommendations and whatnot, I cant tell you how much I appreciate it.

We are going to be in Philly for 4 nights, so I figured 2 nights we will go to some fancy shmancy place, and 2 nights something a little more casual.

I am thinking Stripped bass for one of the nights, but am still undecided on the second...

Morimoto? Le Bec Fin? hmmm...what would you choose?

I want to try out Django, and either Pod/Pasion! for another evenings...

I plan on going to Katie's Sansom St Oyster house for lunch one day...maybe The SMoked Joint for lunch another date...

If I am missing out on anything you would suggest as a place I MUST try, I'm all ears.

Thanks again,

-Justin

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It might help if you try to describe places that you like or that you think mom/gm would like- eg Morimoto is a trendy black pants modern kind of styling vs LBF is more old school fancy we're undoming all your plates at the same time atmosphere. I'm pretty sure that there are pix of pod & morimoto & LBF up on the web for an idea of what to expect, but it's hard to know what people will like more if you don't know any preferences.

If you go through Andrew's post planning what he's going to eat before he leaves PHL in a few months here it gives you an idea of the range. So if you can make it clearer what kinds of food experiences you're looking for it will help ppl here make better suggestions for you. Despite that, I suggest Sabrina's Cafe for breakfast/brunch any day. They had a raspberry lime white chocolate stuffed french toast w/ berries+frangelica sauce this weekend.

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For touristy stuff, I still love walking South Street after all these years, especially on a nice day.

For upscale food, you can try La Croix, Striped Bass, or Morimoto. All are well reviewed.

I'm not too pretentious when it comes to cheesesteaks, so I usually just get a "mushroom cheese with" and a can of budweiser from Jim's.

My out of town guests have always enjoyed Belgian beers and pails of mussels of Monk's. The place gets extremely crowded on Thursdays and weekends, so watch out.

Edited by stephenc (log)
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