Beer Brined Pork Loin at Prohibition Taproom
501 N. 13th St. 215.238.1818. theprohibitiontaproom.com
Why it’s great : If there was a zombie aporkalypse—we know, the thought of a post-bacon world is just too much to bear—you’d better damn well try to find this sammich before it’s too late. The combination of the serrano chili spread (yes, it’s spicy, go with it), caramelized onions, aged cheddar and a side of jus makes this, in our opinion, the best, most creative and most filling sandwich in town. ($11)
What to have with it : One of the many interesting and delicious beers on Prohibition’s ever-rotating tap.
Red wine braised short rib at R2L
50 S. 16th St. 215.564.5337. r2lrestaurant.com
Why it’s great : Chef Daniel Stern’s smart twists on classic dishes result in some of the most lusty, delicious meat courses in town. This one is as rib-sticking and soul-satisfying as any of them. ($32)
What to have with it : A glass of rich red wine, preferably at sunset—the restaurant, on the 37th floor of Two Liberty Place, offers some of the most stunning views in Philadelphia.
Any platter at Little Delicious
4821 Woodland Ave. 215.729.4911
Why it’s great : ’Cause, dammit, any time you can get this much sure-to-satisfy Jamaican food, you eat, not ask questions. The chicken—either jerk, curry or stew—is fall-off-the-bone tender, the goat and oxtail so succulent, you’ll cry; all of it with sauce for days, enough to nicely coat your rice and peas and spicily flavor whatever other sides you were wise enough to choose. A large platter ($10 to $12) will feed two people, unless one of you’s extra greedy.
What to have with it : Ice-cold ginger beer, of course, or one of their specialty punches, like peanut, pineapple or sorrel.
Shrimp pil pil at Dmitri’s
795 S. Third St. / 2227 Pine St. / 944 N. Second St. dmitrisrestaurant.com
Why it’s great : I transform into that crazy old man at the corner diner when I enter Dmitri’s, ordering the same exact dishes every time, taking note if anything has changed. Sauteed crisp with just enough spice to cool down with a chunk of feta or pita, the shrimp pil pil means warm cozy homey-ness on a chilly night in Philly. ($12)
What to have with it : Greek salad with greens ($8.50), octopus ($12), hummus ($7.50).
Foie gras at Le Bec Fin
1523 Walnut St. 215.567.1000. lebecfin.com
Why it’s great : The preparation changes, but the kitchen’s aptitude with this most maligned ingredient is second to none. I recently enjoyed it seared, and its tightrope walk between sweet and earthy, between snappy and unctuous, was worthy of the Cirque du Soleil. Amazing, really. (Part of the prix fixe menu)
What to have with it : Wine, preferably sweet, preferably French. And if you have the chance to enjoy it with a Sauternes, jump at it.
Bonchon Korean fried chicken at Cafe SoHo
468 W. Cheltenham Ave. 215.224.6800.
Why it’s great : Few things in life justify a long car ride with more payoff than great fried chicken. Cafe SoHo is no different. It’s about a 20-minute ride from Old City and 25 from Center City, and worth every gallon of gas it takes. The skin is a marvel of delicacy, and the garlic soy version will rock your world like Axl Rose did back in 1992.
What to have with it : More chicken. I’m reluctant to recommend eating anything else here, because it’ll take up valuable chicken room in your stomach. And that would be a crime.
Spicy rub tuna at Verdad
818 West Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr. 610.520.9100. verdadrestaurant.com
Why it’s great : Forty-nine of the items on this list are from within Philadelphia’s city limits. We’re cheating this one because, Bryn Mawr or not, Verdad’s tapas are just that good. The spicy tuna rub is a perfect example, with avocado, tomato and red onion lending not just flavor but aesthetic beauty.
What to have with it : Kobe beef tacos, featuring ground wagyu, queso, figs, jalapeño and pico, are out of this world ($10).
Fried rice with king crab meat at Chabaa Thai
4371 Main St. 215.483.1979. chabaathai.com
Why it’s great : Jasmine rice, fresh cucumbers and cilantro bring a sparkling lightness to one of Chef Moon Krapugthong’s signature seafood dishes. Manayunk might be more popularly known as a weekend beer-drinking ‘hood, but Chabaa Thai’s elegant dining room is a quiet treasure. ($18)
What to have with it : Go classic: crispy vegetable spring rolls ($5) and a Thai iced tea.
Cheesesteak at Philip’s Steaks
2234 West Passyunk Ave. 215.755.4820
Why it’s great : Any tourists reading? OK, so here’s what you ought to know: We don’t go to Pat’s or Geno’s. Not regularly, anyway—those are the designated out-of-towner magnets. There are lots of great local cheesesteak joints, and frankly, the $5 offerings by the street cart vendors are among the most reliable—but if we’re to pick a steakmonger with real South Philly cred, it’s Philip’s: soft Italian roll, foot-long, terrific sliced ribeye.
What to have with it : A root beer and this week’s new Spider-Man comics. Or maybe that’s just us.
Spicy crispy cucumber at Han Dynasty
108 Chestnut St. 215.922.1888. handynasty.net
Why it’s great : After all the (literal) fireworks of the spice heat from so much of the rest of the menu, these red-glistening cucumbers find the perfect balance between hot and soothing. They serve as respite and focal point in equal measure—not bad for $6.95.
What to have with it : My personal go-to is the dry pepper chicken ($13.95)—crispy, crunchy, and studded with ginger and garlic—but the pickled vegetable and pork soup ($6.95) also works beautifully. Mainly, though, have it with a beer—crisp, bright and not too high in alcohol.
Malai Kofta at Tiffin
710 W. Girard Ave. 215.922.1297. tiffin.com
Why it’s great : Not every Indian menu features these sweet dumplings, made from vegetable dough, nuts and raisins. Tiffin serves them in a heavenly, creamy cashew sauce, abundant enough that you can also dip your naan aplenty while wondering if you’re eating dinner or dessert. ($12.)
What to have with it : If you’re eating the malai kofta as your main course, pair it with a less-rich appetizer, such as the onion bhaji (onions/potato/spinach fritters, $3.50). Or, if you need some meat in your meal, share the malai kofta as a side dish to your mirchi tikka (spicy BBQ chicken cubes with green chilies, $14).
Toasts at Vernick Food & Drink
2031 Walnut St. 267.639.6644. vernickphilly.com
Why they’re great : What seem so simple on paper become little tours de forces of flavor and technical accomplishment. There are half a dozen options to choose from, but the veg-friendly ones, like fromage blanc with pickled cherries, or charred spinach and leeks, are just remarkable. ($6–$14)
What to have with them : Use these as starter courses while you’re perusing the rest of the fantastically appealing menu. From sea to land, this is a restaurant whose already delicious-sounding menu is actually even more impressive once you start eating.
Vegetarian cheesesteak wrap at Soy Café
630 N. 2nd St. 215-922-1003
Why it’s great : You know what the worst part about being a vegetarian is? All the fake meat. Everyone says their meat tastes like authentic cheesesteak, and they’re. All. LIARS. Except the Soy Café. They’ve got a meat-free cheesesteak wrap—on your choice of wheat, veggie or sun-dried tomato flavor wrap, packed with veggies and a tangy, spicy soy-based mayonnaise—which drips with grease and tastes like it’s really bad for you. ($7.50)
What to have with it : Vitamin Water. Both make you feel like you’re doing something healthy when you’re not.
The cheese plates at Talula’s Garden
210 W. Washington Sq. 215.592.7787. talulasgarden.com
What makes it great : Aimee Olexy is justifiably renowned for her knowledge of and passion for cheese. At her Washington Square restaurant, an ever-changing rotation of cheese plates includes selections both familiar and exotic. ($5 each or $16–$20 for plates)
What to have with it : The cheesemongers at the Garden are some of the best in town, and their selection of house-crafted accompaniments—candied nuts, jams and chutneys—accomplish the impossible: making great cheese taste even better than it already does. (Accompaniments included.)
Indian Red Lopez guacamole at El Vez
121 S. 13th St. 215.928.9800. elvezrestaurant.com
Why it’s great : Do you think the chefs at El Vez look at avocados and say, “Man, the things I’d do to you …”? Because, seriously, this place clearly respects and loves guacamole. For one, it offers seven different preparations. The traditional El Vez ($13) easily impresses, but the Red Lopez takes guac lovers to places they’ve never been. First of all, and actually second of all, it’s got spicy crab in it. Fresh pieces of lump crab. OMG. ($17.)
What to have with it : Either the Macho Nachos (with steak, $11.5) or the Nacho Mamma (no meat, $9). Wash it all down with a frozen blood orange margarita. Yeah, yeah, winter’s coming, but watch how fast this thing warms you up. ($9 for a glass; $36 for a pitcher.)
Aloo aur papri chat at Ekta
250 E. Girard Ave. 215.426.2277. ektaindianrestaurant.com
What it’s great : I don’t know how they do it, but even a delivery aloo aur papri chat from Ekta keeps its composure: The lentil wafers stay crunchy, the tamarind and yogurt fail to soggify everything else, and the potato cubes and chickpeas remain cool and toothsome. ($4.99.) As for the flavor, it’s a tangy-sweet-and-sour wonder, a perfect app for two, and a great partner to an IPA.
What to have with it : Follow up this chaat with an order of creamy, dusk-colored butter chicken ($13.99) or an unexpectedly spicy version of saag aur paneer ($11.99).
Baked beans at Blue Belly BBQ
600 Catherine St. 215.238.0615. bluebellybbq.com
Why it’s great : Unlike the one-note sweetness of the beans at so many BBQ joints, these are complicated by an ethereal swirl of smoke and studded with fennel seeds for perfume. ($4)
What to have with it : The St. Louis-style ribs ($16), their dry rub charred at the edges from the flame of the grill. Or any of the sandwiches on the menu. Also a side of red slaw. Followed by Maalox and a nap ... just like all great BBQ requires.
Pickles at Stateside
1536 E. Passyunk Ave. 215.551.2500. statesidephilly.com
Why they’re great : Philly is a city that’s really embraced with whole artisanal pickle thing, and few restaurants have done so with more vinegary gusto than Stateside, whose selection ranges from beets to carrots and beyond. Each is a perfect little example of creatively spiced snack heaven. ($4)
What to have with them : The foie gras terrine ($15) wraps its richness around the pickles’ high-toned vinegar like a Snuggie, but the Amish chicken breast ($21) is also a nice option, a great example of the heights that comfort food can achieve.
Black bean tacos at Cantina Dos Segundos
931 N. 2nd St. 215-629-0500. cantinadossegundos.com
Why it’s great : Dos Segundos’ daily menu features 11 options for tacos, burritos or chimichangas, three of which—black bean, vegan beef and vegetable—are great for vegetarians. The black beans slipped between the small double-stacked corn tortillas have only a slight Mexican flavor, if any. But the toppings take it home: cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, jalepenos, sour cream, guacamole and whatever hot sauce the wait staff stuck on your table. ($8 plus toppings)
What to have with it : A Kenzinger. Tacos and beer go pretty well together. Might as well make it a good one.
PW has compiled a list of the 50 best things to eat and drink in Philly rightthisverymoment. We’ve included—in no particular order—some entrenched favorites (Osteria pizza, Cape May Salts) but mostly illuminated the new and newly discovered: everything from offbeat beers (Alehoof Grut) to cheeses with stories to tell (Mancuso ricotta). They might just become your next favorites. They’re already ours.
PW's Taste of Philly 2014