Best Things to Do
When hunger strikes, you won't be at loss for dining options in Philadelphia. For lunch, try a local eatery such as Fork or its sibling High Street on Market, both outstanding chef-driven establishments with signature baked goods. While Fork focuses on fine dining, High Street proffers casual fare with market-fresh salads, sandwiches and breakfast delights. Another option for those with a sweet tooth is to forgo lunch for the fine ice creams, sodas and shakes at old-timey parlor Franklin Fountain.
Alternatively, take a more modern tack at Zahav, an Israeli restaurant in Society Hill, where chef Michael Solomonov mines the Jewish cuisines of Morocco, Turkey, Yemen, Lebanon, Egypt and the Baltics. Choose from a casual mezze-centered menu or indulge in a chef's tasting. Zahav is an excellent choice if your family includes vegetarians and carnivores. Or check out Garces Trading Company, another winner from chef/owner Jose Garces with a pan-European menu spanning pizza and pasta to charcuterie and Breton stew.
At Fourth Street in the Society Hill neighborhood you will likely see a line of locals and tourists extending outside Jim's Steaks. Here's your chance to get a taste of a Philly cheesesteak dripping with grease, but be sure you know the proper way to order or risk the wrath of the employees. If you say, "a cheesesteak wit'", that means with fried onions; "wit' Whiz" means onions and a generous swab of processed cheese goo.
If you're seeking a splashier cheesesteak experience, walk about 10 minutes (or take a cab or bus) down to the heart of South Philly. At the intersection of Passyunk, Ninth and Wharton Streets, you'll find the mini-Times Square hullabaloo of Pat's King of Steaks and its across-the-street competitor Geno's Steaks. Both are open 24/7. Each claims to be the originator of the cheesesteak and boasts its share of addicts. Do a taste test if you're feeling especially hungry and have no preexisting heart condition. But just know that Philadelphians have strong opinions about the cheesesteak and the debate about the best rages on. Some will even tell you that the best version is further south, at John's Roast Pork. If you're not a meat eater, there are plenty of establishments on South Street for lunch with Greek, Middle Eastern and other vegetarian options.
For dinner, head to Vedge, for a taste of phenomenally creative vegan fare that will have even meat eaters questioning their lifestyle choices. Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby's nationally recognized eatery puts vegetables at the center of the plate with a daily "dirt list" and dishes like rutabaga fondue with soft pretzel, roasted maitake mushroom with smoked leek remoulade and dairy-free meyer lemon cheesecake with chocolate-bergamot dust.
Check out Talula's Garden for exacting farm-to-table cooking and exceptional cheeses. Or go Mexican for great margaritas and guacamole at El Vez, or across the street at the modern-Mex boite Lolita. For outstandingly original Mediterranean fare, try vegetarian-friendly Barbuzzo from the same owners, also on the 13th Street restaurant corridor.
If you're around Center City and north to Chinatown, you'll find many Asian restaurants located in this area beyond the ornate Chinese gate at 10th and Arch Streets. We recommend Sang Kee Peking Duck House for Peking duck, Penang for Malaysian food or try healthful Taiwanese at Ray's Café & Tea House.
You might also consider returning to the The Rittenhouse hotel for dinner at Lacroix at The Rittenhouse, a magnificent experience of French-influenced global cuisine. There's always a crowd at Vernick Food & Drink where the deceptively simple fare is matched by an invitingly casual atmosphere.
On the corner of 18th and Locust, Parc, with almost 300 seats, replicates a French brasserie, with wrap around outside seating and a menu of specialties such as salade lyonnaise with warm bacon vinaigrette and poached egg, escargots served in their shells with hazelnut butter and a crispy duck confit with frisée salad and pickled chanterelles.
Continental Mid-Town packs them in with imaginative cocktails and tapas-style offerings. Oyster House on Sansom Street is the spot for pristine seafood in a friendly, lively atmosphere. Consider dropping in for a drink and delicious tapas at Tria, where there are many imported beers and wines by the glass and fantastic cheese plates. Or try Pub & Kitchen for exceptional chef-driven bar fare including a standout burger.