Philadelphia Restaurants Guide
No one could have predicted the hottest trend in Philadelphia's restaurants: the BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) eatery. It's a new custom, developed out of necessity: The city's acclaimed chefs are known for mentoring their proteges, who naturally wanted to open their own restaurants, but only a limited number of liquor licenses are available in each neighborhood. And when a license is available, it can cost $300,000 or more, far beyond the budget of a young entrepreneur. So, young chefs have been opening BYOBs for the past several years, and they've built loyal, enthusiastic clientele.
Some BYOB restaurants with reputations for quality are Django (526 S 4th St), which recreates a casual, subtle elegance of a European bistro; La Boheme (246 S 11th St), which serves Mediterranean fare; Pumpkin (1713 South St), which features a mostly seafood menu in a cozy dining room; and Lolita (106 S 13th St), which serves Mexican food and also encourages customers to Bring Your Own Tequila.
The old favorites still shine, most notably Mobil Five-Star Le Bec-Fin (1523 Walnut St), which underwent major interior renovations in the last few years and is known for its elegance and 19th-century Parisian-style dining salon. You should try chef George Perrier's signature crab cakes or roasted chicken breast and leg wrapped in bacon.
Mobil's Four-Star Lacroix At The Rittenhouse (210 W Rittenhouse Square) is known for its gourmet warmth, subdued elegance, and diverse wine selections. Diners select three, four, or five dishes from the menu divided into four courses to be served in any order. A must-try dish is the beef tenderloin or lamb served with potato gnocchi. You can also enjoy a lovely treetop view of the square.
Some newcomers, though, have redefined the restaurant scene. The contemporary Japenese cuisine and ambience at Mobil's Three-Star Morimoto (723 Chestnut St), whose "Iron Chef" namesake opened to rave reviews, are dazzling. Its sushi bar, with a selection of live fish, is delightful.
Mobil Two-Star Fork (306 Market St) was one of the first hot spots in Old City and is still going strong -- but good eats in Philadelphia don't always mean a big tab. The New American bistro serves a seasonal menu that reflects international influences.
Every visitor should be required to try a famous Philly Cheesesteak, and two of the best are made in South Philly: Pat's King of the Steaks (1237 E Passyunk Ave) and Mobil One-Star Geno's Steaks (1219 S 9th St). Both are 24-hour joints, neither takes credit cards -- and don't forget the Cheez Wiz.
When the shopping gets tough, shoppers eat at Mobil's Three-Star Jake's Restaurant (4365 Main St, Manayunk), a lively, eclectic destination that has anchored the shopping corridor for the last decade. In season, sauteed soft-shell crabs are wonderful here, served with jalapeño goat cheese flan.
If you relate to Bette Midler or George Clooney, or if you'd like to, you might see them in the Astral Plane (1708 Lombard St), munching on a seafood strudel topped with a sweet onion.
For one of the city's biggest selection of spirits, try Meritage (500 S 20th St). They serve a wonderful Coq au Vin-braised Cornish hen with chanterelle and crimini mushrooms.
If you're in South Philly but not in a pizza-pasta mood, eat at the new, quietly elegant Paradiso Restaurant & Wine Bar (1627 E Passyunk Ave). But it's still South Philly, so expect to eat hearty; try the pork chop stuffed with cheeses and shallots, served with a sweet potato mash.
Tipping in Philadelphia generally is expected to be 18 percent of the pre-tax tab. For exceptional service, many diners tip 20 percent.
On the next page, check out our suggested itineraries for visiting Philadelphia. These can help you map out your visit, ensuring that you'll hit on all the highlights.