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Good Everyday Eateries


MarketStEl
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This may be something that's just my own personal issue, and if you all think it is, I'm sure you will let me know, but after lunch with Dean Nick Hadgis over in our School of Hospitality Management dining room today, I realized that I'd been bugged by this enough to ask whether anyone else shares my puzzlement.

I had said to Nick, as I had said to several other people over the course of the past few weeks, that one of the things I liked about Manhattan was that just about anywhere you went in the city, you could find blocks (or zones) chock full of restaurants that served good, solid, inexpensive fare--the kind of places you could eat at every day if you so chose.

Nick agreed and went on to describe a recent visit to New York where he and his son went to an Italian restaurant near where his son lived. As Nick explained it, the restaurant was packed to bursting, and you could tell both from the conversation and from the interaction between the patrons and the staff that just about everyone there was a regular.

My impression is that such places are far less common in Philadelphia. This may sound odd when one considers that I could identify three such places within a block of me--More Than Just Ice Cream, Moriarty's and the Midtown II diner--and that the recently reopened Doc Watson's Pub may even qualify, though I think that it may not in the same way the Irish Pub across from Moriarty's doesn't. (I think the Caribou Cafe is just a little bit on the expensive side to make the cut, though it certainly has the same vibe as that Italian place Nick Hadgis and his son went to.) But it seems to me that this is the case nonetheless.

I have some theories as to why this is so. One is that the abundance of such places in New York is because so many Manhattan apartments have kitchens no bigger than the pantries of many Center City apartment kitchens (and apartments no bigger than the kitchens themselves). This forces their inhabitants to "live in the street," as an acquaintance put it when I floated this notion past him, and turns restaurants into extensions of one's dwelling, much like Paris cafes are reputed to be.

Another has to do with the amount of money New Yorkers shell out for those apartments. After you've handed your first born over to your landlord each month, that doesn't leave a whole lot of money for dining out, and since you have no kitchen worthy of the name, you're going to have to eat cheap. The Big Apple obliges by providing so many cheap real restaurants (I use the word "real" here to distinguish these places from bars-with-menus like the Irish Pub or fast-food joints).

Sure, Philly's BYOs are affordable by fine-dining standards. But I still wouldn't consider most of them affordable in the you-can-eat-there-every-night sense. Maybe the hoagie shops and pizza-and-steak joints have usurped the territory that might otherwise be occupied by restaurants of the type I have in mind. Or maybe there are more of them than I think there are, and I'm just overlooking the "acres of diamonds in my own back yard."

Convince me that I'm mistaken. Or agree with me if you think I'm not. But don't be shy about expressing your opinion.

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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How about Kibitz in the City, featured on hollyeats.com

Looks like it belongs in this category, judging from the photos and Holly's review.

Pity it's a place where you can only eat lunch every day. Maybe as Center City's conversion to bedroom suburb continues apace, the deli will keep longer hours to cater to nearby residents.

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 agree that Philadelphia's not a city that generally eats out every night... so maybe our "everyday" places can be slightly more expensive then New Yorks. I also feel like it's tough to find that "everyday" place with service good enough to make me a regular, or make being a regular worth it.

But, I certainly find that we hit the same few places on nights that we don't want to cook. And, hit the same places for weekend breakfast/brunch.

Square on Square... not in my neighborhood anymore, but they remember us everytime we dine there. And, we order a loooooot of delivery from these folks, so we know that they're consistently good.

Royal Tavern... I can fill up on inexpensive sides and a beer, plus yummy brunch.

Shinju... Stop at the Foodery, pick up some beers, walk two blocks for a totally decent and well-priced meal.

10th Street Pour House.... Cheap, good breakfast. Over easy, done right, every time.

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Rather than Kibbitz, I nominate the Famous. Under new ownership the food is better, the menu more wide-ranging. Open breakfast, lunch, dinner. (Try the kishke with gravy.) And they cure/smoke their own corned beef and pastrami now.

Down Home Diner at the RTM. They stay open until 7 p.m. Mon-Sat.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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I had breakfast this morning at the Amish breakfast counter in Reading Terminal.

Excellent sausage, egg and swiss sandwich on rye bread. Lots of sausage and egg, very filling.

$3.59. Okay, I left a buck tip. $4.59.

Now that's a good bargain, and tasty as well.

Philly Francophiles

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yes, Philly is not New York. but there's plenty of cheap every day places:

- Tiffin

- Famous 4th Street

- Std Tap, N. 3rd, Good Dog, Monks, Nodding Head, Grace, Ten Stone, Abbaye, etc etc etc.

- Maoz (I know several of you have objections to the salad bar, but I still like their falafel and frites, damn the germs)

- Taquerias, banh mi places, other Vietnamese places, Korean places, Chinese places, Laotian places -- I mean, entire swaths of South Philly, North Philly and basically all of Chinatown is affordable enough for every day eating.

- Sarcone's, Tony Luke's, etc. -- hoagie and cheesesteak joints

- FOOD CARTS.

And I know this breaks the under-$10 barrier, but I just had dinner in the bar at Brasserie Perrier and was pleasantly reminded that everything is under $20 there. The frisee salad ($12) was pretty tasty (although, unfortunately, it paled in comparison to the post-steakathon version).

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I still recommend the :

Melrose Diner

Shank & Evelyn's

Grace Tavern

Monk's Cafe

McGillin's Old Ale House (very very good food)

McMenamin's Tavern

The Grey Lodge

Chickie & Pete's

Tony's Place

Philly Felafel

Rich Pawlak

 

Reporter, The Trentonian

Feature Writer, INSIDE Magazine
Food Writer At Large

MY BLOG: THE OMNIVORE

"In Cerveza et Pizza Veritas"

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And I know this breaks the under-$10 barrier, but I just had dinner in the bar at Brasserie Perrier and was pleasantly reminded that everything is under $20 there. The frisee salad ($12) was pretty tasty (although, unfortunately, it paled in comparison to the post-steakathon version).

That counts as 'affordable fine dining' in my book.

I still recommend the :

[...all good suggestions...]

McGillin's Old Ale House (very very good food)

Agreed. See my second foodblog. I'd say that this place probably qualifies as an overlooked gem, despite its historical significance and its location.

Actually, now that you mention it, even though their burgers are a bit pricey (but very much worth the price), Good Dog would belong on this list.

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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Two people can eat a nice dinner at Alyan's for $15-$20. Ditto at many south philly tacquerias. From the crowds that frequent those places when I'm there, I'd guess a large number of Mexican immigrants do use the tacquerias as everyday places. I would too, if I could handle the spice..

Edited by Buckethead (log)
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I live way out in Bucks County these days, so I can't comment on CC's current crop of eateries for everyday, cheap sustenance. But when I did live in CC, I don't think I would have done Monk's Cafe (just a short walk from where I lived) for everyday dining -- too expensive and too fattening for 5-6 days/week.

In Manhattan, it was possible to have sushi, salad and miso soup every day, if I wanted, for right around $10 for lunch. Can't do that in PHL. Chinese, in NYC Chinatown, easily, under $10. Katz's Deli (or even Carnegie Deli, on 55th, near home) -- $1-2 more, but enough for a full dinner. Just don't think about it for every night, unless you want to end up looking like a delivery truck!

So, could I eat out every night in NYC -- yes. In PHL -- no. Not enough variety, not enough nutrition, not enough finances.

JasonZ

Philadelphia, PA, USA and Sandwich, Kent, UK

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I live way out in Bucks County these days, so I can't comment on CC's current crop of eateries for everyday, cheap sustenance. But when I did live in CC, I don't think I would have done Monk's Cafe (just a short walk from where I lived) for everyday dining -- too expensive and too fattening for 5-6 days/week.

In Manhattan, it was possible to have sushi, salad and miso soup every day, if I wanted, for right around $10 for lunch. Can't do that in PHL. Chinese, in NYC Chinatown, easily, under $10. Katz's Deli (or even Carnegie Deli, on 55th, near home) -- $1-2 more, but enough for a full dinner. Just don't think about it for every night, unless you want to end up looking like a delivery truck!

So, could I eat out every night in NYC -- yes. In PHL -- no. Not enough variety, not enough nutrition, not enough finances.

I disagree. Many of the Chinatown restaurants have an all inclusive lunch for around $6.95-8.95 that includes soup an entree and fried rice. You can do a less than $10 lunch at David's Mai Lai Wah every day, or a big honking bathtub sized bowl of Pho at Pho Xe Lua for $5! Totally do-able.

There are a couple of Japanese bento box joints on Chestnut that will do a box with miso, salad, sushi/dumplings and an entree for around $10. My favorite was between 15th-16th. When I worked at Striped Bass around the corner I'd have the Salmon Teriyaki several times per week.

Koch's Deli in West Philly will do up a big assed sandwich for less than ten bucks that'll last you two meals just like a Katz's sandwich. I suspect you can get a similarly large deli sandwich at Kibitz in the City or Famous Deli, although I can't swear to that since I don't frequent those areas at lunch time.

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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Well, I eat out about 5-6 times a week. Usually once a week at Taqueria Veracruzana, Royal Tavern and either Cafe De Laos or Vietnam.

Then once a week or so, I eat at "the new place," James, M, Snack Bar, Xochitl, Fogo De Chao. I still have not been to Rae or Osteria and I am looking forward to them. Also, when is Tinto (the new one from Jose Garces) opening?

I go to a BYOB about once a week, Marigold, Chloe, Matysan, August, Django, RX, Pumpkin, etc.

I used to go to Sabrina's or Morning Glory for brunch once a week, but lately I've been going to Cantina Los Caballitos. For a Mexican place, they have the best French Toast that I have ever eaten and I like the basil infused vodka Bloody Marys.

Not including "the new place," which can be expensive, my girlfriend and I eat out each week for about $100 - $125 apiece including our wine and drinks.

I think it's pretty reasonable (obviously!) and I enjoy it. I'm not sure I could get the same quality for that price in NY. I know I could step down a notch in quality in NY and probably eat for half the price, but I doubt that I would enjoy that as much. Either way, I think Philly has plenty of good, everyday places.

-- Alec

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Can I just go on the record as saying that I want to live like Alec?

I mean, I do pretty well, but that sounds like a great routine!

You DO live like him! We have the photographic evidence to prove it.

Alec -- according to Foobooz/Michael Klein, Tinto's new estimated opening date is March 2.

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Well, I eat out about 5-6 times a week. Usually once a week at Taqueria Veracruzana, Royal Tavern and either Cafe De Laos or Vietnam.

Then once a week or so, I eat at "the new place," James, M, Snack Bar, Xochitl, Fogo De Chao. I still have not been to Rae or Osteria and I am looking forward to them. Also, when is Tinto (the new one from Jose Garces) opening?

I go to a BYOB about once a week, Marigold, Chloe, Matysan, August, Django, RX, Pumpkin, etc.

I used to go to Sabrina's or Morning Glory for brunch once a week, but lately I've been going to Cantina Los Caballitos. For a Mexican place, they have the best French Toast that I have ever eaten and I like the basil infused vodka Bloody Marys.

Not including "the new place," which can be expensive, my girlfriend and I eat out each week for about $100 - $125 apiece including our wine and drinks.

I think it's pretty reasonable (obviously!) and I enjoy it. I'm not sure I could get the same quality for that price in NY. I know I could step down a notch in quality in NY and probably eat for half the price, but I doubt that I would enjoy that as much. Either way, I think Philly has plenty of good, everyday places.

-- Alec

(emphasis added)

That doesn't strike me as too bad at all. For point of reference, I spend roughly $70-$90 per week from the household budget, depending on what I am buying that week, to keep a three-person and two-cat household supplied with enough groceries, health & beauty aids and cleaning products for the week. On top of that, I probably spend about $10-20 personally on food eaten out each week.

But how much does "the new place" run you two?

I gotta second philadining, though -- nice work if you can get it!

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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yah I don't miss New York food very much. My folks live on the upper west side and I didn't exactly find that to be a mecca of delicious cheap fine dining. Buncha yuppie fusion crap. And La Caridad blech deep fried omelets. $2 bagels at H&H. But we don't have Fairway and Zabar's. Fresh and delicious baguettes for $1, vs. tasteless ones from DiBruno's or Metropolitan for $3. My brother lives in Astoria and eats like a king. In new york you hop on a subway and you're in a different world with lots more cheap food... philly is just so much smaller and less ethnically diverse and less connected by public transportation (we don't even have a bus map!). But in our neighborhood C'Avo just opened (10th and Irving) with decent quiche ($6) and some miscellaneous "gourmet" sandwiches and pizza (It replaced Urartu which replaced Luna. Urartu closed the day I had a sudden craving for baklava). There's Pastoral, Aqua, Aoi... and that's just in a few block radius. I love being walking distance from Chinatown... in New York I'd have to get on the subway and stare at ads for laser skin treatment and correspondence college for a half hour and be coughed on by people with t.b. if I wanted real chinese. Tiffin delivers! Life is good here.

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Can I just go on the record as saying that I want to live like Alec?

I mean, I do pretty well, but that sounds like a great routine!

Dude, I'd be happy to eat like either one of you.

Hell, I'd be happy to have A QUARTER of the culinary schedule that either of you has!

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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I wish they had street vendors in Philly (or better yet Chester County) selling falafel, chicken shashlik, gyros, etc. That's what I miss the most from when I used to work in NYC. That and a good pastrami sandwich.

I'll agree with all of that, and throw in cubanos.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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I'll agree with all of that, and throw in cubanos.

You'd have to travel to North Philly and Tierra Colombiana for that. Best Cubanos I've had north of Miami.

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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In new york you hop on a subway and you're in a different world with lots more cheap food... philly is just so much smaller and less ethnically diverse and less connected by public transportation (we don't even have a bus map!).

oops....

No city anywhere except London, Paris and maybe Tokyo has the kind of subway service and connections New York does. Here in the US, Washington is a distant second. But SEPTA actually does a pretty good job of tying the city up in a web of bus routes.

BTW, SEPTA's transit maps double as comprehensive street maps--one for the city, one for the 'burbs. That's why they cost $9 and are available only at SEPTA sales offices. It would be nice if SEPTA put out a less costly folding map, say on thinner stock, with less street detail but still showing the bus and rapid transit routes.

We're working on the ethnic diversity part. Which reminds me--where is New York's African enclave? (I assume it's in Brooklyn. The nucleus of ours is 47th and Baltimore (34 trolley from Juniper station), and come to think of it, all of the African restaurants I am aware of are reasonably priced.)

Back to the subject at hand....

But in our neighborhood C'Avo just opened (10th and Irving) with decent quiche ($6) and some miscellaneous "gourmet" sandwiches and pizza (It replaced Urartu which replaced Luna.  Urartu closed the day I had a sudden craving for baklava).  There's Pastoral, Aqua, Aoi... and that's just in a few block radius.  I love being walking distance from Chinatown... in New York I'd have to get on the subway and stare at ads for laser skin treatment and correspondence college for a half hour and be coughed on by people with t.b. if I wanted real chinese.  Tiffin delivers!  Life is good here.

Your neighborhood sounds like my neighborhood -- in fact, it is my neighborhood. There's also Logan's, which isn't open past the early evening unless they've expanded their hours, and Sauce, which must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Shinju -- the sushi place--is right around the corner on Locust.

Maybe I need to rethink my original position.

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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Your neighborhood sounds like my neighborhood -- in fact, it is my neighborhood.  There's also Logan's, which isn't open past the early evening unless they've expanded their hours, and Sauce, which must have seemed like a good idea at the time.  Shinju -- the sushi place--is right around the corner on Locust.

Maybe I need to rethink my original position.

Sauce has like 10 bottles of wine which are all Merlot or Chardonnay. Their pizza isn't exactly worth going out of your way for. Tried for upscale now theyre trying for dive. And Shinju is forgettable. But cheap eateries, yes they are. Also NYPD and the Burrito place and the Turkish place with all the health inspection failures. Then there's Jeweler's row... Spruce Rana (aka SpruceORama) also has sushi, as yet untasted. I see people sitting there eating and their faces are level with mine by the window and we both look surprised and uncomfortable to suddenly be looking directly at a stranger.

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