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Last week Marie wrote about her favorite Philly food haunts. Marie calls herself a common Joe (or Marie). I’ll be honest—I’m a food snob. When I go out, I want food I can’t make at home (OK, food my husband can’t make at home). I’m also a casual gal. I want to be comfortable and not concerned that my raucous laugh might startle the other customers. So I don’t seek out restaurants that are highfalutin. Instead, I look for those that produce extremely well-executed and memorable food. Oh, and not a chain. I don’t do chains.

If you’re a snob like me, lucky you! Philly’s become quite the foodie mecca. Here’s my rundown of places to visit while you’re here.

Garces Trading Company: With casual seating, a menu that spans paella to pizza—all done well—and an on-site wine store, Garces Trading Company is fast becoming my favorite of Jose Garces’ restaurant empire. Truthfully, you can’t go wrong with any.

John’s Roast Pork: A tiny hut by railroad tracks, with hours that are indecipherable to most, John’s is still worth the effort. How many sandwich joints do you know that’ve been recognized by the James Beard Foundation?

Vietnam Restaurant: Similar to people’s heated arguments over which outfit turns out the better cheesesteak, Pat’s or Geno’s, Philadelphians love to argue over which Vietnamese restaurant straddling 11th Street ranks supreme. My vote goes to Vietnam, which has the best darned nem nuong (grilled meatballs), bun (vermicelli noodle bowl), and … forget it, everything!

Mama Palma’s: It’s a tough call which pizza spot my family likes best. It always boils down to either Slice or Mama Palma’s, with Mama Palma’s usually winning out because the owner always treats our girls to free dessert. Their pizza options include unusual concoctions like mascarpone and pistachios, veal sausage and brie, and so on. Trust me, you’ll love ’em. If you’re less daring, their polenta bread appetizer, salads, and traditional pies will more than do the trick.

Parc Brasserie: A traditional French bistro on one our loveliest squares, you just can’t go wrong with Parc. Luckily, you can go anytime, as they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner― each fabulous. If you go, try for a seat outside or beside the flung-open windows. And keep your eyes open for celebrities. I greeted Kathleen Turner during my last visit. I’m sure she was thrilled.  😉

Tiffin: I kid you not, this is the best Indian eatery in Philadelphia, low-brow décor notwithstanding (Zagat gives its food a hefty 26 and its décor a respectable 13). It’s on a rough-and-tumble Philly street—transitional, if you prefer—so if that’s not your thing, use their takeout service. You won’t be disappointed.

There are so many other spots I adore, from Lolita, a bring-your-own-tequila Mexican restaurant, to Maoz, a fresh falafel fast–food vegetarian restaurant, to a great coffeehouse near the Four Seasons called La Colombe. Please don’t be afraid to hit me up for more ideas now or at the conference.

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marie gehret and i love food. i mean, we really love food. happily, philly has a lot of it. we’re going to break things down for you with a little “she said, she said” action, starting first with marie’s favorites. look for mine next week.

Admittedly, I have the epicurean tastes of a 5-year-old. I don’t eat haute cuisine. Don’t like fancy sauces or dishes whose names I can’t pronounce or translate. Hold the hummus and arugula, please. I like traditional American comfort foods.

As a Jersey girl born on the South Jersey side of the Betsy Ross Bridge right outside of Philadelphia (please, no Snookie jokes!) and a decade-long Philly resident, I can tell you that I’ve visited many of the city’s finest restaurants (although I can’t really say that I’ve tasted the food at all of them – alas, the harsh reality of a picky eater). In the end, I still prefer the lesser-known around-the-way spots that define the uniqueness of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods and provide hearty, down-home cooking.

Here are my personal Philly fare faves:

Beef & Beer: The Ten Stone (2063 South Street, just south of Center City) has an amazing, melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon cheesesteak plus draughts for any beer enthusiast. The New Deck Tavern (3408 Sansom St./University City) has juicy burgers and chicken fingers (mom says fish & chips platter is excellent as well). Also, the Dark Horse Pub (421 South 2nd St./Society Hill) and Thomas Restaurant (4201 Main St./Manayunk) have delicious charbroiled burgers and fries.

Pizza & cheesesteaks: Both Wolf Street Pizza (2135 Wolf St./South Philly) and Celebre Pizzeria (1536 Packer Ave./South Philly) offer delicious and perfectly greasy and flavorful pie, and the cheesesteaks at Wolf Street are better than any cliché, touristy place in the city. Tip: Everything tastes better with extra cheese!

Steak: If you prefer to eat in downtown Philadelphia, try the Capital Grille (1338 Chestnut St./Center City) for consistently flavorful steaks. Now, if you’re adventurous enough to cross into New Jersey, I highly recommend The Pub, located in Pennsauken, NJ just minutes outside of Philly, which offers steaks more delectable than Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris combined. The Porterhouse is my personal favorite.

Pasta: La Stanza (2001 W. Oregon Ave./South Philly) has a chicken parm to die for, plus a great South Philly vibe.

Best diner: Penrose Diner (2016 Penrose Ave./South Philly near sports stadiums) is a Philly landmark and all-around great American diner serving a tasty hot open-face roast beef sandwich.

Overall romantic ambiance: Love the Rose Tattoo Café! Located at 19th & Callowhill streets – not far from the Art Museum steps and Four Seasons.

Dessert: White Dog Café (3420 Sansom Street/University City) has a sweet lineup of tarts, cheesecake and pies, plus a charming atmosphere.

So, there you have it – from the woman with simple tastes. If you’re looking five-star restaurants, please be sure to Google Steven Starr, Georges Perrier or Marc Vetri or consult Philadelphia Magazine.

— Submitted by Marie Gehret Williams, CCM Board member

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