This weekend, cousins from Delaware will be visiting us. I have decided my kitchen is closed except for a cup of coffee.
People often ask me “What is your favorite restaurant?” Or, “Can you recommend a casual place for Sunday brunch?” and “Are there any happy hour specials you prefer over others?”
Feting the out-of-town family should be fun. It must be stress-free and well-organized. Remember, not all Philadelphians are down the shore during the brutally hot summer.
When the cousins last visited, we enjoyed a splendid dinner at Paradiso Restaurant and Wine Bar, 1627 E. Passyunk Ave. As of this writing, I am not sure where we will have brunch and dinner.
If I took an unscientific poll, I would find that happy hour has become as popular as Sunday brunch. It seems every restaurant in nearly every neighborhood offers specials. Here are some of my top haunts.
The Oyster House, 1516 Sansom St., offers buck-a-shuck oysters and fat juicy cherrystone clams. The dollar special is usually Delaware Bay beauties. Stateside, 1536 E. Passyunk Ave., offers $1 oysters, as does Anastasi Seafood, 1101 S. Ninth St. Cherrystones are also on order.
One can build a meal around appetizers at Le Viet, 1019 S. 11th St. A good-sized list such as spring rolls, summer rolls and the like are half price.
Sunday brunch is booming throughout the city. South Philly is often on my list. My visit to Hawthornes, 738 S. 11th St., last winter proves it is just as fine as it was before a fire shuttered the place for a year. It is hard to believe that Sam’s Morning Glory Diner, 735 S. 10th St., has been in business since 1997. The pancakes are tops here. French omelettes and stone ground grits are my favored dishes at The Sidecar Bar & Grille, 2201 Christian St., along with the bill of fare at Kraftwork, 541 E. Girard Ave., its sister restaurant in Fishtown.
Last week, I wrote of the delightful four-course $40 dinner at Monsu, 901 Christian St., which is cash only and BYOB. If family is in town for an extended stay, Ela, 627 S. Third St., in Queen Village offers a three-course $30 dinner with half-price bottles of wine on Monday nights.
The Reading Terminal, 51 N. 12th St., always brings smiles to those who are visiting for the first time. The roast pork sandwich with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe from DiNic’s or anything on the menu from Sand Kee followed by a cone or cup of Bassetts ice cream with jimmies will fuel someone during the afternoon, especially if the family wants to see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Constitution Center or the National Museum of American Jewish History.
The cupcake revolution was a bust in Philadelphia. It never took off. But we have Federal Donuts, 1219 S. Second St., 1632 Sansom St., and 3428 Sansom St. These sweet treats are the best in the city, and I do not usually like to use the word “best.” The fancies, which remind me of the Mummers, change from month-to-month. Since it is summertime, fruits such as Jersey blueberries may find their way into the batter. And do not forget the fried chicken. It is downright sinful.
I have not been to Zahav, 238 St. James Place, chef Michael Solomonov’s award-winning Israeli restaurant in Old City right next to the Ritz Five movie theater, since I reviewed it a number of years ago upon its opening. I cannot think of a restaurant to match it either here or in New York City. If we plan to see a movie, an early dinner at Zahav could be in order. The assorted appetizers, including hummus, which tastes exactly like the one I was served in Israeli restaurants, followed by roast lamb, might be the answer to dinner, especially since our cousins have never been there.
Finally, if there is only one restaurant in Old City I would take visiting relatives to visit for brunch it would be High Street on Market, 308 Market St. This casual place is owned by Ellen Yin and award-winning chef Eli Kulp. The homemade bagels and bialys with homemade cream cheese and house-cured salmon are about as fine as one can get. The brunch at Fork, 306 Market St., also owned by Yin and Kulp, never disappoints me.
So plan ahead, and be sure to make reservations. As I wrote, not everyone is down the shore.
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