Philly's 50 Must-Eats

Tongue tacos, Italian milkshakes, candy-coated flapjacks and 47 other delicious foods and drinks you should be tasting right now. 

By Adam Erace, Tim McGinnis and Brian McManus

Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 18 | Posted Aug. 4, 2009

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Smoked Turkey

Marshall Green, Café Estelle’s chef and owner, once said: “If you have the knowledge and ability to make things in-house, then why not?” Word to your mother. Or grandmother in this case, as Green named the cafe for his. Under hipster-chef accessories—Moses beard, worn Phillies cap, glasses you could only describe as spectacles—is a 28-year-old dude with skills exceeding chefs twice his age. As a sidecar to any of the ethereal egg dishes or sandwiched between sliced ciabatta licked with cranberry mustard, the house-smoked turkey is particularly noteworthy. Green brines the bone-in breasts overnight in a brown sugar-and-saltwater solution infused with three kinds of chilies (ancho, chipotle, jalapeño) and aromatics like allspice, coriander and star anise before dropping them on the hickory smoker outside under the building’s fire escape. Finished in the oven and sliced to order, Green’s extraordinarily flavorful turkey is so delicious and unlike what’s sliced at Thanksgiving and the deli counter, calling them by the same name seems almost insulting. Café Estelle, 444 N. Fourth St. 215.925.5080.

Classic Chocolate Tart

Though all Kanella’s desserts dazzle, the “classic chocolate tart” that’s neither classic nor tart is one of the most deep, delicious enigmas we’ve eaten. Tucked into a shallow oval ramekin, the dessert is a highlight reel of all the best qualities of all the best chocolate desserts: the coveted, papery crust of a brownie; the warmth of lava cake; the silkiness of pudding; the lightness of mousse. Currently capped with a scoop of kirsch ice cream, it’s the kind of dessert you sink into, like a dark German cocoa quicksand to which you’ll be happy to succumb. Kanella, 1001 Spruce St. 215.922.1773.

Chicken Korma

Korma has roots in India’s royal court, and nowhere does this golden curry fulfill its regal pedigree more than in the fluorescent-lit holding cell of Ekta’s dining room. Enriched with cream and cashew paste, the curry is hardly light, but the cooks’ spicy sorcery (in this case, green cardamom and mace, among other exotics) keeps every bite nuanced. Ekta, 250 E. Girard Ave. 215.426.2277.

Honey-Whisky Wings

Size doesn’t matter in the case of wunderkind chef Johnny Mac’s wings. “Petite” is a generous word, but the 15 wings and drums (pastured and organic from Eberly Farms in Lancaster) are so flavorful you’ll barely notice. Their coating—three parts clover honey and one part whatever whisky is on hand (usually Jim Beam)—is as drippy and sticky as butterscotch, sweet with an unmistakably boozy finish. Before serving, Mac dusts them with “wing topping”—a mix of coarse salt, Turbinado sugar, lime zest and dried pasilla negra chilies. Pub & Kitchen, 1946 
Lombard St. 215.545.0350.

Seven-Course Tasting Menu

In a city overstocked with French bistros, Bibou manages to make you forget the rest. The ultimate way to experience ex-Le Bec skipper Pierre Calmel’s crisp, clairvoyant cooking is the seven-course, $70 tasting menu. Recent dishes include chilled cantaloupe soup, tarragon-laced snails and fava beans, smoked Scottish salmon with beet carpaccio, silky quail mousse and some of the best foie gras in Philly: accented with citrusy, clove-perfumed plum chutney and moist, house-made pumpkin French toast. Bibou, 1009 S. Eighth St. 215.965.8290.

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Comments 1 - 18 of 18
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1. Rob Pugliese said... on Aug 4, 2009 at 11:29PM

“This list is fantastic...If food is your life, it's good to be alive in Philly. I have had the pleasure of serendipitously sampling some of the goods on this list in the past however this list will be my guide for where I'll be eating for the next few months. First stop is Zahav. I have been meaning to go there for some time and now I know what to order. And I may just have to reserve some of that lamb to enjoy it in the fashion of the Chef Solomonov (in the unlikely scenario that there is some left over). Cheers PW.”

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2. tsarstruck said... on Aug 5, 2009 at 08:45AM

“I don't know if they serve bisuits or not, but Golosa is on 6th street, not 8th. Good list, though.”

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3. Erica said... on Aug 5, 2009 at 09:19AM


You're right! We've changed it in the online document. Thanks for catching it.”

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4. cereal said... on Aug 5, 2009 at 10:49AM

“"Few things are as satisfying as a freshly made Vietnamese hoagie known as Banh Mi—that sexy mix of Vietnamese culinary know-how on warm Italian bread."

Maybe in Philly all they can get are squishy Italian rolls, but Banh Mi are normally made with French bread, i.e. small baguettes. Since it was the French, not the Italians, that colonized Viet Nam, you see.”

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5. Jonathan said... on Aug 5, 2009 at 11:27AM

“Your site's Print functionality is messed up for multipage articles. When you go to the Print link, you get a printer-friendly version of just the current page - one of 10. Is the whole site like this?

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6. Dan said... on Aug 5, 2009 at 12:32PM

“Great list. The Bahn Mi at Royal Tavern should be required eating.”

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7. Jackie said... on Aug 5, 2009 at 01:33PM

“one of the best top 50 lists I've seen in a while.... awesome job!”

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8. Luke said... on Aug 5, 2009 at 01:54PM

“Very lame that you cannot view or print this article as a single page and instead need to wade through ten different pages.”

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9. kcbill13 said... on Aug 5, 2009 at 09:37PM

“Hey, print freak demands, BUY the damn paper if you want a printed list, ya cheap bastards...”

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10. Art said... on Aug 6, 2009 at 07:46AM

“Buy the paper? It's free!”

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11. kiwijen said... on Aug 6, 2009 at 12:56PM

“Great list. It'll be a pleasure to work my way through it. Shame the photos online aren't labelled or next to the item they go with. It would be nice to know where to find the item whose photo I'm drooling over.”

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12. Anonymous said... on Aug 6, 2009 at 07:10PM

“Excellent list. The fact that Chickie's Italian Deli was included totally legitimized the list for me. Their tuna hoagies are a phenom. Ask for long hots on it for an extra jolt!”

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13. Wayne Penglase said... on Aug 7, 2009 at 10:40AM

“In quest for a great place to eat, you neglected to mention a great place on Grant Avenue known as Theda Kauffman's. Their food is fresh and fantastic, the staff is second to none. Mike and Nate Kauffman has a diamond of a place down at 1710 Grant Avenue and I feel you shopuld check them out.”

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14. rachel said... on Aug 7, 2009 at 02:48PM

“BItars falafel is so much better!”

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15. Gene De Lisa said... on Aug 11, 2009 at 07:20AM

“No mention of the best sandwich in the city: Roast Pork Italian from either TL or John's?

No mention of the best dessert in the city: Capogiro?

Also as has been pointed out: Epic fail on your "print view" displaying only the current page. Poor website programming.”

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16. capecodphillyfan said... on Aug 14, 2009 at 10:15AM

“BTW, none of the links work.”

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17. Hungry Vandal said... on Aug 17, 2009 at 02:25PM

“TACO LOCO, is amazing. An authentic taco stand (albeit a tripped-out RVEE) that sells killer tacos at dirt cheap prices. It is between 4th and 5th on Washington Avenue, in South Phila. The burritos are ginormous and amazing too.!

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18. cecilia said... on Sep 11, 2013 at 08:46AM

“Philadelphia BEST SPOTS TO EAT...”


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