7.8/10.0

99 Stanton Street (LES)

OpenTable (or 212.995.0099)

$$$

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Chances are, if you are a girl and visited your friends (especially if you’re one of those camp obsessed people) in NYC for the weekend, they took you to dinner at one of two places: Beauty and Essex or The Stanton Social. Have you been to both and noticed the similar vibes and food? That’s probably because chef Chris Santos owns both of them. Clearly, he has a handle on how to please young twenty-somethings who enjoy eating or, at least, #eatingfortheinsta.

I would love to tell you all about how the japs/wasps/sorority people of NYC are wasting their money on shitty food, but in this case, they’re really not. The Stanton Social is an excellent place to get drinks, see-and-be-seen, and, most importantly, eat.

If you go between Wednesday and Saturday, you are absolutely going to have to wait before being seated. Don’t get upset, just get drinking. The basil-lime gimlet is one of my favorite cocktails of all time, but for something a little sweeter try the Strawberry Fields, complete with strawberries, lemon and a little wine. The Blood Orange-Jalapeno Margarita is a killer, as is Amiguita’s Blue Old Fashioned if your palette is a little manlier than mine.

Like Beauty & Essex, plates are meant for sharing, so you get to try a bunch of things on the extensive menu. I could describe all of the best plates for you, but you’d get bored and not read all the way through so I’ll just list them off for you:

-French Onion Soup Dumplings (they are famous for this one, pictured above)

-Potato and Goat Cheese Pierogies

-Nori Spiced Tuna Poke Wanton

-Old School Meatballs

-Red Snapper Tacos

-Hand Pulled Chicken Arepas

-Kobe Beef Slider or Mini Lobster Slider (order per slider)

-Warm Doughnuts

-S’mores Creme Brulee (pictured above)

And there you have it. So next time you’re in need of a fun place to drink and eat before going off, keep The Stanton Social on your shortlist.

 

Stanton Social on Urbanspoon

*2nd and 3rd images from The Stanton Social

8.2/10.0

707 Chestnut Street

215-925-5555

$$

 

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How is it possible that Rosa Blanca and Jones, my two favorite comfort food spots, are situated across the street from each other? It’s not fair because if I eat at/order in from one, I feel like I’m cheating on the other. That being said, while Jones is great it is definitely better delivered, so if you find yourself hungry on 7th and Chestnut, step right into Rosa Blanca.

Walking in, Rosa Blanca is your average retro diner with a little Spanish flair. Walk into the dining room, though and the whole place gets spruced up, including waiters sporting bow ties. Try to grab a booth, and get comfortable.

Rather than a traditional bread basket, Rosa Blanca starts you off right with cheese bread that tastes like a sweet cheese biscuit, which tastes great alone and pairs perfectly with the chipotle dipping sauce (spice haters, rejoice – it’s pretty mild). The service is pretty quick, so it won’t be long before you have a big fat empanada and a bowl of fresh, light guacamole sitting in front of you (order the guac and an empanada).

Because it’s a “diner” (ok, I don’t think Garces can pull off a true grimy diner because of his commitment to culinary excellence, but go with me here), there’s breakfast all day, which may cause some anxiety when you’re sitting at a dinner table at 8pm wondering whether you should go for it or be a normal human and get a sandwich. Luckily for you, both are great options. In terms of sandys, go for the cubano (pork alert for the kosher kids) or the pan con bistec, a shredded beef sandwich full of juicy goodness. Of course, if you opt for breakfast, you can’t go wrong with eggs your way and a choice of sides (I chose arepas as mine, and it was fantastic). The sanduches and desayunos are where Rosa Blanca succeeds, so don’t waste your money on the less exciting and more expensive entrées.

Rosa Blanca kills the dinner game, but the dessert isn’t so sweet (get it?). We got excited about the milkshake section of the menu, and every single one disappointed. The consistency is a little watery, and the flavors don’t taste at all like how you’re imagining them. It was a disappointing end to the meal, but not bad enough to change my opinion that Rosa Blanca is a phenomenal way to change up your usual meal rotation.

Rosa Blanca on Urbanspoon

6.2/10.0

2601 Pennsylvania Avenue (Art Museum/Fairmont)

215-475-8088

$$-$$$

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Don Memo’s closed, and Lolita and Tres Jalapenos got liquor licenses, and all of Philly was confused as to where we could fiesta with some comida mexicano. Isabel is our answer.

Like Lolita, Isabel will give you fresh margarita mix to go with your tequila (why would you bring anything else?). You pour the mix into really cute jars, and the flavors, like pomegranate and fresh lime, are fantastic.

Similar to any solid Mexican joint, Isabel does great things with it’s guac. They give a bunch of different flavor options, but we opted for the original and it was fresh and delicious. The chips were a little burnt and tasted like fritos, but once you dunked them in salsa or the guac, it didn’t matter. If you’re looking to take it up a notch, order some nachos. Smothered in beans, cheese and sour cream, these babies don’t disappoint.

There are an abundance of typical options for mains, from tacos/burritos to quesadillas to enchiladas and salads. The carne asada tacos were filling and perfectly fine, as were the variety of quesadillas my table ordered. It’s all edible and enough food for your money, but won’t rock your world. Wash it down with an extra pitcher.

One warning: the space is all open, from the full-panel windows to the open kitchen, so people will be watching and probably laughing at your debauchery. Once you have enough margaritas you probably won’t care, though, so hit up Isabel and live la vida loca.

Isabel BYOB on Urbanspoon
(Margarita photo from Isabel website)

9.0/10.0

2101 South Street

215-732-5130 (no reservations, though :( )

$$

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My relationship with Honey’s is a beautiful one. She’s there for me on a beautiful Sunday when I want to take a short walk over the South Street Bridge, or on a Friday after formal when I’m, well… in need of hangover food. Somehow, walking into that industrial-turned-“home sweet home” space is always comforting – maybe it’s the constant smell of bacon and biscuits wafting through the air, or the fact that they serve breakfast all day, every day.

Forget the lunch side of the menu – you’re here for eggs and pancakes. None of the food is going to change your life, but it will take you right back to Sundays on your couch when you were 6, and that’s an excellent feeling. Every table comes with 6 types of hot sauce and ketchup so you can have your favorite sauce with your meal. O.

On your first visit, pick a dish with a ”*” next to it. My favorites are the biscuit egg sandwich, the LEO (lox eggs onion, come ON), and three-egg omelette (you get to choose any three toppings with it, and they give some interesting options like veggie sausage, brisket, and jalapenos). The star gives you the power to choose two of six accompaniments to your meal, and you’re going to pick the onion and cheese latkes and a biscuit. The Jewish-meets-South menu is startling, but Honey’s makes it work.

If you’re starving, opt for the ever-gluttonous breakfast bomb or honey cristo. The breakfast bomb consists of scrambled eggs tucked nicely into a giant, folded pancake (and it has a * !), and the honey cristo is a monster French toast stuffed with ham and swiss, then topped off with two sunny eggs. These will put you in a happy, happy coma for the day.

Don’t forget about the specials board. Similar to the theme of the restaurant, the specials are always slightly eccentric, yet surprisingly tasty. I once had pancakes mixed with truffle oil, French fries and bacon. It was awesome. Occasionally they have fried pickles, and those are BOMB – don’t miss ‘em if you see ‘em.

The last great thing about this magical joint is that it’s BYOB. Bring some champagne and order a pitcher of fresh squeezed orange juice, and you’re on your way to the best brunch ever.

Honey's Sit 'n Eat on Urbanspoon

(images from Urban Spoon and Eat Drink and Run Philly).

8.2/10.0

142 West Houston Street

(646) 559-9192

$$

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Don’t try to tell me you know what a neighborhood gem is until you’ve visited Da Marcella. First of all, it’s tucked away in plain sight on Houston Street. Second, their entrées are all under $20. Third, I went there after spending two weeks in Italy and still thought it was awesome. Great for a casual dinner with the parents or a random Tuesday date, this is your new go-to consistently satisfying dining spot.

After walking down into the restaurant, you will immediately notice how small it is. You’re going be close to the guests next to you and it’s certainly going be loud, but you’re going to love every minute of it. The service is consistently slow, though, so even though you probably didn’t have to wait for a table, be prepared for a long meal.

Their pasta is all freshly made, and I recommend anything with “meatball,” “bolognese,” or “ragu” in the title. Lasagna? Fire. Tagliatelle alla Bolognese? A must order. Pork and veal meatballs? Don’t even get me started. I could eat those tomato sauce-drenched babies every day for the next 50 years and still crave them in year 51. Every bite is the best thing I ever tasted. I know, you looooove the 1lb meatball at Lavo or Prime Italian. I promise this one is better, and it’s a third of the price.

You can’t go wrong with any meat entrée you order. I love the braised short rib and Cornish hen – they taste just like your grandma made it, maybe even a little better. Skip the fish dishes – they’re fine, but kind of blah and not quite as comforting as the heavier plates.

Make sure you save room for dessert. Like the rest of the ingredients they use, everything is fresh. The ricotta cheesecake is out of this world. It’s an enormous piece of fluffy, creamy goodness that melts in your mouth.

I know Bar Pitti is around the corner and waiting an hour for a table there to dine with celebrities at a place that won’t cost $200 is tempting at all, but Da Marcella is hands down the most severely underrated Italian food in the city, and I feel it’s my civic duty to push you to try it.

What’s your favorite place to go for Italian? Stop keeping it to yourself, lemme know in the comments below so I can try too!

Da Marcella on Urbanspoon

(tagliatelle image taken from http://www.urbanspoon.com/rph/3/1791225/2656810/new-york-da-marcella-da-marcella-photo)

8.4/10.0

1939 Callowhill Street (Arts Museum/Fairmount)

215-600-2629

$$

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Take one look at the Pizzeria Vetri Instagram (@pizzeriavetri) and you’ll be dying to visit just as much as I was. I’ve always been a huge fan of Marc Vetri – Amis, Alla Spina, and, of course, Vetri are some of my all-time favorite restaurants in Philly ever. That being said, I had pretty high expectations of his new pizza joint before walking in. Needless to say, from the moment I sat at the counter and watched chefs make customers’ pizza from scratch, those expectations were happily met.

Before I get to the food, I have to say that this place deserves major credit for how unpretentious is. Vetri is a highly regarded brand, and he could easily charge double the price on everything, but he doesn’t. This isn’t fancy, trendy pizza. This is great pizza done right in a comfortable environment, as it should be.

Start off your meal with the rotolo, which is basically garlic bread with mortadella and ricotta wrapped inside. The pistachio pesto that glazes the top takes the bread to another level. Two people could probably share one, but trust me, you want your own.

You can’t go wrong with any of the pizzas, which are perfect for 2 people to share. The Melanzana, topped with crushed marzano, eggplant, stracciatella, and oregano, was absolutely delicious, and the crudo (with prosciutto, mozz, and parmesan) is pretty damn good as well. The crust is maintains a perfect balance of doughy and crunchy, and watching the chefs melt the cheese on top after taking it out of the wood fire oven will seriously make your mouth water. My only complaint was that the ends of the slices were a little soggy, and we all know no one likes soggy bread (or maybe you do? I don’t know, that’s kind of weird). I haven’t tried it yet, but the calzone looks unbelievable, too.

Last, but certainly not least, you must save room for the nutella pizza. If you’re too full, eat it anyway. I’ll warn you that it is an overwhelmingly sweet dessert, but it’s still so damn good. The cook slices cooked pizza dough in half, fills the inside with nutella and giant marshmallows, and wood fires it. You thought your s’mores at camp were good? Well this is version 2.0, and it’s going to rock your world. Words of wisdom: Share.

This no-reservations, no-hassle pizza joint is perfect for tons of occasions. Next time you’re about to order Allegro’s on a Sunday night, get off your ass and take a quick cab ride over to Pizzeria Vetri. With awesome pizza and relaxing vibes, you’ll shake away the stress of OCR and what you’re going to do when you see Saturday’s DFMO on Locust. Yeah, I’ll leave it at that.

Pizzeria Vetri on Urbanspoon

8.0/10.0

2101 Sansom Street (Rittenhouse)

215-564-5540

$$

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There is an overabundance of great brunch spots in Philadelphia, but somehow every weekend, like clockwork, my Instagram feed fills up with red velvet pancakes from Green Eggs Café or the challah stuffed French toast from Sabrina’s. I know, I know – those places are “ahhhh-mazing,” but there are definitely other options worth exploring. It’s not hot, new, or unheard of, but Day by Day is a Philly must-visit brunch spot.

The full brunch menu is only available on weekends, but they include brunch favorites on their weekday menu as well. Helloooo pancakes and eggs on a Friday.

The smoked salmon and onion omelette seems typical, but it’s actually one of the best I’ve ever had (and this is Joodie, so I’m essentially a salmon-and-eggs expert). Somehow the salmon flavor is infused into every bite of egg, and the dill sour cream smeared on top really does the dish justice. The eggs (your way) over chorizo and sweet potato hash is a more creative egg option. The chorizo is perfectly cooked and tastes like a breakfast meatball, and its heat is nicely balanced by the sweet potato. I like to order my eggs over easy so I can mix the yolk into the hash, but I bet it would taste great scrambled as well.

To satisfy a sweet tooth, look to the banana chocolate chip pancakes (shout out to Joj) or the special French toast (flavor posted on the giant chalkboard daily). Last time I went, the special was banana bread stuffed French toast. Fire.

No restaurant is perfect, so let us briefly mention the drawbacks. Day by Day doesn’t take reservations and gets exceptionally crowded on weekends, so you’re always going to have to wait. However, they do two great things to offset this tragedy – A) Free tasters of their fresh baked breads, muffins, and cakes and B) They take your phone number so you can go explore Rittenhouse until they text you that your table is ready.

Next time you’re deciding where to brunch, include Day by Day on your short list.

Day By Day on Urbanspoon

6.8/10.0
3925 Walnut Street
215-662-0105
$$

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Our first Philly review had to be a Penn-relevant spot. Want to go out to eat but don’t want to cab anywhere? Want to go out but not get wasted? Need a place to take your parents? Want to play quizzo? You can do any and all of these things at Tap House. Convenience is awesome.

As you may have noted from the name, Tap House has a great beer list. Each option posts a quick description as well as the alcohol content, but the bartender and waiters know their shit, so feel free to ask for recs! The alcohol selection at the bar is pretty extensive, so even if you’re not feeling beer, you’ll still have plenty of options (yes, you can get a vodka soda).

The food at Tap is fine. A good rule of thumb: if it’s priced above $15, you’re wasting your money.

I always tend to lean towards the burgers, especially the turkey burger with avocado, brie, and a curry aioli. Apparently it won an award for best burger a couple years ago. I sort of see why – it’s flavorful, juicy, and thick enough that it isn’t overwhelmed by its enormous bun — but it didn’t rock my world. You can’t go wrong with the lamb and classic burgers, either, but I’d avoid the veggie burger. It’s kind of dry and sad. The burgers won’t change your life, but they’re satisfying, well-priced, and unique enough. Without question, always substitute for sweet potato fries.

For some bar snacks or bites for the table, I pick the pulled pork nachos, tartufo pizza (fyi it’s a white pizza), and bbq pork flatbread. The nachos are loaded with cheese and jalapeños and all that good stuff, and if one of your friends orders it you’ll need to grab some because there is no way the smell won’t make your mouth water. The tartufo pizza isn’t too heavy and the egg in the middle provides and interesting touch, and the bbq pork flatbread is just a staple, simple as that. Skip the wings, they’re not very flavorful and certainly underwhelming.

Oh, and I almost forgot: when the weather’s not sub-zero (I don’t even remember what warm feels like), they have a giant terrace you can chill on, and if it’s chilly they have fire pits to warm up by. Ideal in October or March, but maybe forget about this fact for now.

I apologize for the food photography. I’m working on it.

City Tap House on Urbanspoon

7.8/10.0

217 Eldridge Street (LES)

212-253-9199

$$-$$$

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Yeah, the time I took my parents there we were fortunate enough to witness a drug deal six feet from the entrance, but the creepy street Ápizz sits on definitely shouldn’t deter you from wandering in. From the moment you do, you’ll be immersed in pure comfort – one room, one bar, dim lighting and wooden surfaces that make you feel like you’re sitting at home in the country.

What I love about Ápizz is that nothing is pretentious and everything is done to perfection. The food, reasonably priced for what you’re getting, is delicious and filling with ingredients and preparation that are noteworthy without getting too fancy. Oh, and their bread basket comes with marinara and ricotta.

The funghi con polenta was dank. It’s mushrooms done two ways, and while the roasted mushrooms are good, the polenta cakes definitely…took the cake. If your guests are willing, definitely go for one of the brick-oven pizzas. They’re too big to be eaten alone if you’re getting an entrée, but sharing them is a great move. I’m a personal fan of the Rocket pizza with prosciutto,  parmesan, mozz,  and plum tomatoes, but you really can’t go wrong.

You have a number of sick options for your main. Ápizz kills it with the short rib gnocchi, wild boar lasagna, and my personal favorite, the Polpette e Pomodori. Two larger-than-fist sized veal-pork-beef meatballs sit in a dish, bathing in a creamy, fresh tomato sauce and injected with fresh ricotta cheese that seeps out as you bite in.

I’m always full when I walk out, but somehow sitting in the dim lighting for a couple hours and hearing the white noise of neighboring tables’ quiet chatter under my own always calms me. Good for dates, the parents, a chill dinner with friends, Ápizz should not be overlooked.

(image from examiner.com)

Apizz on Urbanspoon

 

8.2/10.0

131 Sullivan Street (SoHo)

212-677-6200

$$$

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Sullivan Street is a haven for the New York food scene – between The Dutch, Raouls, and Blue Ribbon Sushi, it showcases the restaurants that are consistently awesome in the city. Today we’ll talk about The Dutch, the trendy drink + dine spot by Andrew Carmellini and team.

Whisky drinkers, rejoice. The Dutch has a long list of whiskies, scotches, and ryes, along with a couple manly cocktails that should be right up your alley. Non whisky drinkers (myself included), you’re all good too – the Exile in Paris is an awesome, unique and not-too-sweet cocktail. If you’re into sweet drinks, though, you may be out of luck – stick with wine.

Get some pate (whatever violet mustard is, we like it) and the warm cheese salad to start. The warm cheese is a deconstructed salad made up of a gooey wheel of brie, bread, apples, and some honey (which was a little funky and kind of tasted like dirty carpet).

The corkscrew pasta with trout was fire. Not only was it spicy (hehe, now you get my pun), but it also included bacon bits that made the arrabiata-style pasta that much tastier. We also loved the red chicken and tamal that came with it, but three days later I’m still questioning how it fits into the menu. Like, that is definitely not American food.

The Dutch is fucking great. The waiters are friendly and informative, the crowd casual yet youthful enough to be fun, and the food delicious. Did I mention the star chef and secret concept (Fresh Eggs). One small thing that irks me though (yes, irks): what kind of food are they serving?

Yelp and OpenTable call it new American, but we had chicken with mole poblano. They have an impressive seafood list next to a menu full of pork roast, rabbit, and cheese puffs. If The Dutch can cultivate its menu futher, it will be an all-time great. For now, let’s just leave it as a fab meal and good time.

The Dutch on Urbanspoon

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