Philly is for food lovers
Stephen Starr's Parc Brasserie. (G. Widman/GPTMC)
Just a little more than an hour away on Amtrak, a foodie destination is taking a brotherly bite out of the Big Apple’s restaurant business.
Philadelphia’s culinary star is on the rise thanks to talented chefs such as Jennifer Carroll, a finalist on season six of “Top Chef” and Jose Garces, the newest member of the “Iron Chef” elite.
“The entire time I was in New York, I spent it defending Philly,” said Carroll, who worked in Manhattan at the award-winning Le Bernadin under chef Eric Ripert. “When [my friends and colleagues] finally come to Philly, they realize how great a food destination it is. And they’re shocked they’re having better and cheaper meals than in New York.”
In 2008, Carroll returned to her native city as the chef de cuisine at 10 Arts by Eric Ripert at the Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia. Her signature dishes include trout with hazelnut butter and warm soft pretzels with Dijon mustard, jalapeno jam, and creamy cheddar dipping sauces.
So skip the South Street cheesesteaks next time you’re in Philly. Here are a few taste-bud-tantalizing places to dine on your next weekend getaway to this neighborly, walkable city.
Before he became a TV icon, Jose Garces was already one of Philadelphia’s finest chefs. The Chicago native owns several hot spots including Distrito (3945 Chestnut St., distritorestaurant.com), a lively, nouveau Latin eatery adorned with colorful table settings and Mexican wrestling masks. Order several small plates of delectable huaraches, ceviches, and tacos to share. Carroll’s a fan of the “lengua” or tongue taco. Garces’ newest outpost Chifa (707 Chestnut St., chifarestaurant.com), is a sleek Peruvian-Cantonese hybrid. His other restaurants include the trendy tapas bar Amada (217-219 Chestnut St., amadarestaurant.com), Basque wine bar Tinto (114 South 20th St., tintorestaurant.com) and gastro pub Village Whiskey (118 South 20th St., villagewhiskey.com).
There’s no better spot for brunch than Stephen Starr’s Parc (227 S. 18th St., parcrestaurant.com), overlooking bustling Rittenhouse Square. The French bistro feels authentically Parisian right down to its outdoor seating, fresh-baked baguettes and salty-sweet mussels with Dijon broth. Starr also owns the elaborate Asian eateries Buddakan (325 Chestnut St., buddakan.com) and Morimoto (723 Chestnut St., morimotorestaurant.com), which also have popular outposts here in the Meatpacking District.
Take a stroll down historic row-house-lined cobblestoned streets to the cozy Center City eatery Fish (1708 Lombard St., phillyfish.com), known for flavorful fresh seafood. With only 38 tables, Fish is still larger than chef and owner Mike Stollenwerk’s diminutive, B.Y.O.B. sibling, Little Fish in the city’s Queens Village neighborhood (600 Catharine St., littlefishphilly.com). The menu changes often, but if you’re lucky you’ll get to taste the octopus carpaccio with tangerine and radish and the striped bass with orzo and preserved lemon.
Where to Stay
Sleep off the calories from your foodie tour at Center City’s posh Hotel Palomar (117 South 17th St., hotelpalomar-philadelphia.com). Don’t miss the complimentary wine hour hosted every evening in a pop-art and fireplace-accented lobby.
If a cozy boutique hotel is more your speed, try the Independent (1234 Locust St., theindependenthotel.com), housed in a historic building and centrally located close to shops, bars, and the theater district. Each of the hotel’s charming 24 rooms comes with custom bedding, HDTV, and a microwave and refrigerator.