Best for a Big Night
In a city bursting with great Italian bistros, jewel-box Vetri, 1312 Spruce St. (tel. 215/732-3478), has long stood out for its timeless approach and sophisticated but cozy setting. Get the spinach gnocchi with ricotta and brown butter, prosciutto, and mushroom-stuffed guinea hen breast, chocolate polenta soufflé -- or, if it's Saturday, whatever Chef Marc Vetri has whipped up for his tasting menu.
Best for Breakfast
At Sam's Morning Glory Diner, 10th and Fitzwater streets (tel. 215/413-3999), the coffee comes in big, steely mugs; doughy biscuits are cut square; and the "glory" pancakes are the best flapjacks you'll eat, anywhere, ever. But if you want to do a comparison, oodles of Philadelphians swear by and line up for seriously big breakfasts at both locations of Sabrina's, 910 Christian Street (tel. 215/574-1599), and 1802 Callowhill Street (tel. 215/636-9061).
Best for Lunch
A mere $15 buys a delicious two-course "Catalan Express" lunch of savory Spanish soup or salad, along with a pernil (pork shoulder) or skirt steak sandwich at sunny Amada, Chestnut Street, 2nd and 3rd streets (tel. 215/625-2450).
Best for Kids
Just a block from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, hip, booth-filled, reservations-not-required Jones at 7th and Chestnut streets (tel. 215/223-5663) prides itself on its informal decor, family-friendly service, and fresh, crowd-pleasing comfort food, including beef brisket, turkey burgers, chicken Parm, big salads, french fries, and nachos.
Late-night crowds line up for a cheesesteak fix at famed rivals Pat's and Geno's in South Philly -- but our cheesesteak critic gives the crown to Cosmi's Deli just a few blocks southeast. Get there early; this family-owned business closes at 9pm (7pm on Sun).
Using seeded Italian bread made a couple doors down, Sarcone's Deli, 9th and Fitzwater streets (tel. 215/922-1717), comes up with the best Italian sandwiches in the city. (A bold statement, I know.) Choose from classic cold cuts, undressed tuna, and specialty sandwiches that combine roasted red peppers, sharp provolone, long hots (hot peppers), and whole cloves of garlic.
Best for Couples
Tucked into bustling Old City is gently artful, effortlessly elegant, surprisingly serene Fork, 306 Market St. (tel. 215/625-9425), a nouveau-American bistro with a just-gourmet-enough menu that's a far-and-away favorite for stylish, delicious celebrations for two.
Best Ice Cream
Although Franklin Fountain, 116 Market St. (tel. 215/627-1899), is a relatively new addition to Old City, it feels as though it's been here for decades. Come here for sloppy sundaes, classic egg creams, ice-cream sodas, and other back-in-the-day chilly treats.
Now with four locations, divine Capogiro, in Midtown Village at 119 S. 13th St. (tel. 215/351-0900), Rittenhouse at 117 S. 20th St. (tel. 215/636-9250), South Philly at 1625 E. Passyunk Ave. (tel. 215/462-3790), and University City at 3935 Walnut St. (tel. 215/222-0252) serves up the best gelato and sorbetto this side of Firenze. My favorites are the out-there flavors like grapefruit and Campari, strawberry and basil, or heirloom apple.
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