Friday, May 8, 2009

My Top 10 Favorite Philly Restaurants

May’s Philadelphia magazine fails to accurately rank the top 50 restaurants in Philadelphia. What I suspect this list more accurately reflects is the top 50 restaurants in Philadelphia to invest in promotions and advertising with Philadelphia magazine.

Zahav at number 1? While offering a distinct menu of Israeli cuisine, there is nothing unique about the dishes or special about the preparation that would lead you to think of Chef Michael Solomonov as an artist in the kitchen. The hummus, chopped liver, sausage and roast lamb that Zahav makes are just as good at Whole Foods (missing from the ranking). When I go out for a meal, I want to eat something I can’t prep in my own kitchen.

To counter Philly mags list, I’ve outlined below my top 10 favorite places to eat in Philly. I used a simple methodology: Where would I want to eat if I was asked out on a date where I was not expected to pay?

  1. Tinto – My number one favorite (not just because my sweetie works behind the bar)! The prix fixe brunch and lunch specials are completely inspired and both under $20. Jose Garces is a food genius and I can’t get enough of his very special cuisine.

  2. Vetri – The menu changes nightly, so there is always something new to try. It’s the only place in the city where I can find true Italian pasta the way it is meant to be prepared and served. Too bad eating here with a guest costs the same as my rent.

  3. Amada – The complete package of ambiance, service and great food. I’m partial to the grilled tapas. Cilantro, garlic, and EVOO make a simple marinade for the city’s highest quality meats and seafood grilled to perfection. Iron Chef winner Garces knows that if you start with quality ingredients, the rest is simple.

  4. Fork, etc. – Every Wednesday night at 8:00 PM, the Chef at Fork previews new menu items at a chef tasting available for $40, first come-first serve. It’s one big table and one very special experience.

  5. Distrito – I have finally succumbed to Elizabeth’s assertion that Distrito makes the most original Mexican food in the city. Unfortunately, it is also the most expensive.

  6. David Mae Lae Wah – The salt & pepper shrimp is prepared with jalapenos and the dumplings are served with shaved ginger. Service and ambiance is pretty horrendous, but the food is a hidden Philly treasure. Sang Kee can not compare. Open 24 hours, take-out available, no delivery.

  7. Lolita – This modern Mexican BYOB is totally sexy. Tucked into the gayborhood, darkly lit tables are surrounded by soft glowing orange walls, excellent service, and good food. They would be higher up on my list if they took reservations and didn’t make guests wait up to two hours for a table on a Friday night.

  8. Lacroix – When my “ex-turned-current-boyfriend” took me here to ask me back into his life, he made a smart choice. A gorgeous buffet of little spoonfuls of gourmet delicacies is only a tease for the full offering of breakfast foods laid out in the kitchen. You are invited back into the Chef's domocile for personal souffles cups, house-stuffed sausage and a chocolate fountain that make all-you-can-eat a classy affair. At $100 a head, this is not the right place to tell your date you don’t think it’s going to work out.

  9. Honey's Sit 'N' Eat – If I had mom that cooked, then this place would feel like home. Comfort food made with quality ingredients make this a favorite brunch spot. Think OJ served in jam jars and fresh strawberry preserves on biscuits still hot from the oven.

  10. Bar Ferdinand – Oh God, the fried manchego foam simply explodes in your mouth causing a mini food orgasm. I recommend two orders.

  11. **Bonus ** Vietnam - Sometimes I dream about the crispy spring roll. I like it so much that I don’t even remember anything else on the menu.
Other places I might want to go on a date, but need to try a few more times before I can say they are a favorite are Pumpkin, Supper, Melograno, Raw and Audrey Claire.

What did you think of Philly mags top 50? If your date phoned to ask where you wanted to go to dinner, what would you say?


  1. You had me at fried manchego foam...

  2. Great review. I know many of these restaurants and love them too (Vetri, all José Garces restaurants and Lacroix).
    It looks like I've been missing out on Bar Ferdinand! When are we going?

  3. I can't believe you mentioned David's and my 2 favorites on the menu. Shhhhh it's a hidden gem and almost nothing is better than those dumplings. Have you ever added the vinegar to the ginger sauce- divine.

    Bar Ferdinand is another fav. I couldn't help but snap photos when I was there a week or so ago- they're on my blog if you want to make yourself hungry!


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