Like a complex, oaky añejo, Distrito just seems to improve with age. The Mexican fun house is also home to the city’s best freebie: a bowl of roasted peanuts tossed with chile de arbol, ancho, cayenne and chipotle powders, smoked paprika, salt, sugar, lime zest and olive oil.
Distrito, 3945 Chestnut St. 215.222. 1657. distritorestaurant.com
The phrase “Eat Fish, Live Longer” is the first piece of advice you’ll get as you approach this Reading Terminal Market seafood vendor, but it isn’t the last. Friendly advice is as prevalent here as fresh fish. Just look a bit puzzled and someone will explain the difference between dry- and wet-packed scallop. Linger by the pick-up counter and watch them eviscerate your whole rockfish with samurai-like precision. Inevitably the question will come: “How are you going to cook this?” If you aren’t sure, a laundry list of techniques are presented to you along with your filets. This isn’t just about customer service at John Yi’s; they don’t need you blaming their fish.
John Yi Fish Market, 51 N. 12th St. 215.923.0487. readingterminalmarket.org
When reminiscing about the good old days, a trip to this family-owned spot in the Italian Market will provide a little piece of living history. Fiorella’s House of Perfect Pork Tubes (our unofficial name for it) looks much like it did 100 years ago and the sausage defies space and time. Hot Italian sausage complemented with a licorice tinge (thanks to the addition of a good amount of fennel seed folded throughout the coarse-ground spiced pork) has inspired much-deserved praise for more than a century.
Fiorella’s Sausage, 817 Christian St. 215.922.0506
Serotonin reuptake inhibitors and cognitive-behavioral therapy aside, let’s be real: Sometimes stuffing your face into a pizza and not coming up until you’ve ravaged every inch makes you feel better than a Zoloft ever could. I know it, you know it, and Oprah, if she’d just cut the crap, would admit it, too. South Philly Bar & Grill realizes the power of food as well. While its patrons have had their hearts broken by the Phillies, Eagles and 76ers, the bar has been a make-shift shrink, soothing sports fans’ bipolar souls with generous food and drink specials. Executive chef Angel Diaz’s tutelage under Jose Garces is reflected in the menu’s eclectic comfort food offerings crafted scrumptiously from scratch. For the ultimate self-medication, start with the grilled wings, followed by the porkchops, and finally homemade bread pudding for dessert. You’ll finally forgive the Eagles—closure never tasted so good.
South Philly Bar & Grill, 1235 E. Passyunk Ave. 215.334.3300. southphillybar.com
Whenever God rebukes the city for its deviant cheesesteak-eating, slot machine-constructing ways with a blizzard or a SEPTA strike, it’s everyday saag paneer-loving Philadelphians who pay the ultimate price. Inevitably come the hard questions: How will I keep the lights on if I can’t make it to work? How will my diabetic grandmother get her insulin shots if she can’t make it to the hospital? How will I get unlimited fly-infested tikka masala for $7.99 if I don’t make it to the Indian buffet before 3 p.m.? Gluttons with questionable priorities, rejoice: Tiffin delivers high quality, low-cost Indian delicacies to your doorstep. The butter chicken is addiction-forming; you’ll consider selling your soul—and, as the days go by, your body—for the coconut curry shrimp. Before you know it, you’ll be out in the snow, full-blown trickin’ for some Tiffin. But doesn’t it beat taking a cab to that second-rate buffet?
Tiffin, 710 W. Girard Ave. 215.922.1297 and 7105 Emlen St. 215.242.3656. tiffinstore.com
We’ll admit that we really don’t get the Australian thing. Vegemite? TimTams? But thank Dundee for Ants Pants Cafe ’s Violet Crumble milkshake. Besides offering one of the best brunches in the city, Ants Pants’ championing of the popular Aussie candy bar has serious implications for a city surprisingly bereft of good milkshake options. With its sublime combination of chocolate and honeycomb, the Violet Crumble tastes unlike any sweets sold domestically. As a country that very nearly adopted “Waltzing Matilda” as its national anthem, Australia can be a tough place to figure out. Candy, fortunately, they seem to have covered.
Ants Pants Cafe, 2212 South St. 215.872.8002. antspantscafe.com
For a long seven months we’ve been praying that someone would pull a culinary Quentin Tarantino and resurrect the man who stopped everyone from thinking offal was awful. Chef David Ansill closed his eponymous restaurant in July and all but disappeared from Philly’s gastronomic landscape. From trotters to bone marrow to venison tartar, Korean tacos and the best French onion soup we’ve ever had, his food was always near perfection and his restaurant was a rare pearl in a sea of gastronomical mediocrity. He’s resurfaced at Ladder 15, a place known more for its Miller Lite bottles, flat screens and frat-boy clientele than it’s cuisine. Here’s hoping Ansill can revitalize his career and rework this Center City douche bageria.