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.