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Upscale BYO in suburbs -- need recs

Laura, I hate to say how much trouble we've had scheduling. My dining partner has just been put on a major work project which includes many evenings, and we've had to reschedule twice (we were supposed to go tonight).
It looks like we won't be going until early April at this point. I will try to report back when we finally go. (We will be doing the 8-course tasting menu)

Feb 15, 2013
zmulls in Philadelphia

Upscale BYO in suburbs -- need recs

I should put a flag in the sand now or else the discussion will rage on indefinitely.

You guys had me convinced about Maize and I was very close to going there, but a geographic discussion with my dining partner told me she preferred not to go "20 minutes north of Lansdale" in rush hour, if possible.

But I was definitely sold on a tasting menu and I'm going back to the idea of Majolica. We have a reservation for early February, and I am going for the full-bore 8-course menu. Caution to the wind.

(I get the impression from the discussion that BYOB allows more than just wine? We are only going to drink one bottle of wine, but it's a long dinner....I might bring an after-dinner licqeur if it's allowed).

If people want to keep discussing recs for its own sake, carry on. I've made my 2012 decision, but you can keep talking. (It's going to be some time before I have to think about where to take her in 2013).

Jan 09, 2013
zmulls in Philadelphia

Philly Mag Top 50 Restaurants...

Always fun to read and discuss (and argue about) which is why they do it. I certainly think they are showing a fondness to the "small, chef-concept-driven" places on Passyunk avenue and similar hot streets. In-city places are definitely getting the love more than out-of-city places.

The criteria seem to be "incredible food/service/atmosphere' *and* "setting the tone, conversation and bar for the rest of the city." Restaurants that are doing something new (like Federal Doughnuts) and making people look up and wonder why they didn't think of that, are getting recognized.

For a tried-and-true restaurant to stay on the list, it has to still feel like a hot new place -- in other words, not have dropped off in any way, still striving to be as good or better than they've been (hence Amada and Le Bec Fin and Vetri of course).

It's fun to see the list, and I do let it drive some decision making for special dinners, but I understand it's a flashpoint in time.

ETA: Oh, and if they're going to include a Chinese Restaurant, why doesn't Margaret Kuo get any love?

Jan 09, 2013
zmulls in Philadelphia

Upscale BYO in suburbs -- need recs

She took me to Catherine's a few years ago. It's definitely the sort of place we seek out. But I thought it was just pretty good. I enjoyed the meal but it's not on my list of restaurants I long to go back to.

Jan 04, 2013
zmulls in Philadelphia

Upscale BYO in suburbs -- need recs

Thank you for pointing that out. One thing we have not done in our 15 years of dining is do a tasting menu, and I may suggest that to her. I was looking at Majolica for that (they have a 6- and 8-course). I didn't notice the tasting menu at Maize on first glance.

And we do one bottle of wine...we're not as young as we used to be, nor as foolish. ;-)

Jan 04, 2013
zmulls in Philadelphia

Upscale BYO in suburbs -- need recs

Yes, you're correct that Perkasie is in Bucks county but it's in Western Bucks. I work in Lansdale, so a 20-minute drive up to Perkasie isn't out of the question. Going all the way to Lambertville (and then driving home to Swarthmore, or for her, even further west) isn't practical, I'm afraid.

Maize does look quite exceptional, and I am less worried about the noise factor because of the timeframe we usually eat.

Jan 04, 2013
zmulls in Philadelphia

Upscale BYO in suburbs -- need recs

Trust me, it's very tempting sometimes to violate our rule. I'd happily go back to Vetri, Savona, Sovana Bistro, Alba, Amada, Blackfish, Matyson, Bistro La Minette and several more!

The discovery is part of our fun. Either discovering a place together or introducing each other to favorites. The theory is that if we love a place, we can go back with our spouses or other people in the future.

I'll look at Marley's...is it new?

Jan 04, 2013
zmulls in Philadelphia

Upscale BYO in suburbs -- need recs

Hi, can I ask what night of the week you went?

We usually go midweek (Mon, Tues, Wed) and we go very early, sometimes as early as 5pm. We've had good luck getting quiet tables in small places.

We did Matyson in the city last time around, and it was quiet when we got there, and starting to get noisy when we left.

Jan 04, 2013
zmulls in Philadelphia

Upscale BYO in suburbs -- need recs

I thought I had typed an update last night but I guess the internets ate it.

She took me to Birchrunville in 2003 and it was AMAZING. One of my favorite meals from our 15-year odyssey. I'd love to go again but it violates our no-repeat rule.

I'm encouraged about Majolica and will keep looking at Sycamore. Maize looks very interesting as well. I will take another look at Sola and Stella Sera. (Anything as good as Alba is right up our alley).

We both live to the West so while we are willing to go North of the city (I work in Lansdale, so Perkasie isn't too much of a stretch), the further East we go the more difficult it is. Bucks County may be a little too far out (and Washington's Crossing is definitely too far).

I appreciate all the responses....it's very helpful.

Jan 04, 2013
zmulls in Philadelphia

Upscale BYO in suburbs -- need recs

Thanks for those comments. It's helpful to know that the Sycamore chef has decamped, it makes a difference.

One of our rules in our 15 years of dining is that we do not repeat restaurants -- I took her to Blackfish a few years ago, and she took me to Alba (which was *wonderful*) last time. So those are great suggestions but I need to find a new place.

I'm seriously considering the Majolica tasting menu (we have yet to do a tasting menu). But I want to investigate some more.

I will certainly check out the Blue Pear Bistro.....

Jan 03, 2013
zmulls in Philadelphia

Upscale BYO in suburbs -- need recs

I hate bringing up a topic that has probably been done to death; but I have noted that Chowhoundies are never short of opinions, nor shy about providing them. ;-)

I am trying to stage a long-delayed dinner with my twice-a-year dining companion. (We have been dining twice a year for 15 years, but somehow 2012 became our first bye year. Getting back on track in 2013).

I had a lovely bottle of wine ready for when we were supposed to go out in Sept/Oct but scheduling got away from us, so I'd like to pick a BYO. She has specifically requested a location outside of the city this time, which lets out tons of great ones, I know.

So I am looking for a truly great BYO in Montgomery, Chester, Delaware or New Castle County. I am looking right now at Sycamore, Majolica (both Philly Top 50) and Black Lab Bistro.

Any opinions on them or recs for similar?

Jan 03, 2013
zmulls in Philadelphia

Twice-a-year dinner, need to choose restaurant, have some ideas

Thanks to everyone for all the suggestions and comments.

I'm going with Will. I understand it's new and may have off nights or dishes that don't quite work (and that no matter how good a restaurant, it won't work for some people). Part of our dining experience over the last 15 years has been discovering places that haven't yet landed on the map, like going to Vetri when it was well-reviewed but before it was the place you couldn't get a reservation, or going to Alba in Malvern last year. Will sounds like the perfect place for our 2x-a-year get-together.

I e-mailed the restaurant and they are not yet participating in the valet service; they hope to by around November. I have to think adding the valet service will add to traffic but free up some street parking. It's very smart of them (IMO) to have a couple central drop-off points instead of a space in front of every restaurant in the program.

We always dine early -- our preference is before 6pm, for the quiet and so we can get home at a reasonable time; and we always go in the middle of the week (we often do Monday or Tuesday just to have the best chance of getting reservations where we want). It's Thursday this time though.

And I saw on another thread that Open Table sometimes says there is nothing available but a call to the restaurant may give a different result. So I'm sorry I didn't take the chance at calling Bibou, but I'll know next time.

At the end of the month, I'll report back on the Will BYO thread.

Sep 10, 2012
zmulls in Philadelphia

MediaSwarthmore vic restaurant?

Media is a really good restaurant town these days. There's a decent Indian restaurant (Shere-e-Punjab) at the end of State Street, and there's Nooddi Thai House.

In Springfield, we find Heng's Thai (on Baltimore Pike) very reliable. And Bertucci's, while a chain, is above average (I love the lemon rosemary wings at Bertucci's).

Sep 07, 2012
zmulls in Philadelphia

Special occassion/dress up restaurant in Center City Philadelphia

If you're interested in the steakhouse experience, Union Trust won't disappoint. My twice-a-year dinner date and I went there once (my choice), and it was really good. Very expensive, pricey of course, but par for the course for this kind of experience.

Sep 07, 2012
zmulls in Philadelphia

Special occassion/dress up restaurant in Center City Philadelphia

Well, there's a world of difference between "very special dressup place" and "great foodie place" and "terrific 'nice' place to eat with great food!" I like all of the above, at different times.

So you need the food to be great, and want to fuss a bit. There are plenty of nice places to go, where you may be able to get in even though its a Saturday.

A little further down the scale would be Bar Ferdinand in Northern Liberties -- it's always been one of my favorite spots, upscale for the neighborhood, raffish by Center City standards. But news is that David Ansill has just taken over and revamped the whole menu. I expect it's worth a visit.

My parents offered to take us out for my birthday in July, and I had them take me to Tinto, Jose Garces second restaurant. That was a lovely meal. I have not been to his Chifa yet, but have always been intrigued by the idea of Peruvian/Cantonese cuisine.

Amada is bound to be booked -- my wife and I went there once without a reservation, and were happy to settle for seats at the the "bar" near the cooking station. If you are into that, you can sit and watch them assemble the dishes (we also so the expediter send a few things back for not being up to standard).

A longtime favorite is Tequila's. It's an old standby but the food -- truly authentic Mexican cuisine -- has always been wonderful. (Killer margarita's, too).

Matyson, a BYOB, is fantastic. Again, if you can get a Saturday table.

Sep 07, 2012
zmulls in Philadelphia

Twice-a-year dinner, need to choose restaurant, have some ideas

That's an excellent suggestion....I would think that Will would have joined the program -- they're not listed on that link as participating, but I understand they have just opened. I'll check with them.

Sep 07, 2012
zmulls in Philadelphia

Twice-a-year dinner, need to choose restaurant, have some ideas

That's perfect. Last year I had her meet me at the Magic Gardens before heading down to Bistro La Minette -- she had never been there. Neither of us has been to the Singing Fountain.

Again, thanks.

Sep 07, 2012
zmulls in Philadelphia

Twice-a-year dinner, need to choose restaurant, have some ideas

xxxxxxxx Never mind that.....no availability at Will. xxxxxxxx

Actually, there was no availability at 5;30am, but I could find a table at 5:30pm. *g*

I'm all set now.

Sep 07, 2012
zmulls in Philadelphia

Twice-a-year dinner, need to choose restaurant, have some ideas

Anyone who has been to Will, what would be a good meeting place within two blocks of there? And how is parking?

Either we meet elsewhere in the city and I drive us there and park, or I tell her to "meet me at the record store at xxxx E. .Passyunk" and then I walk her there.

If parking is easy, I'll meet her in Center City; if not, I need a spot.

Sep 07, 2012
zmulls in Philadelphia

Twice-a-year dinner, need to choose restaurant, have some ideas

Thanks. It's a Thursday this year so we could have done the BF tasting menu, but I know that means we eat what they tell us to. I do enjoy that on occasion, but the menu perusal is part of our fun. (And we share just about everything).

I did look at Koo Zee Doo -- there was something about "family style serving" that I wasn't sure about. I did think it was a type of cuisine we haven't tried yet.

But Will sounds just perfect and I'm going to go see if they have a table on our night. I can spring for a special bottle of wine, and it will be fun to go to a place that is new but highly recommended. So thanks for that.

Sep 07, 2012
zmulls in Philadelphia

Twice-a-year dinner, need to choose restaurant, have some ideas

Thank you all so far, great comments. What I mean by "red wine food" is not just meats and game (lamb, beef, duck) but roasted and fall flavors, rich dark flavors -- and even though she will *always* order scallops as an appetizer if they have them, we habitually drink a rich, deep red wine with whatever we eat. Bistros and inns. So, a place that specializes in seafood, chicken, etc. is probably not a best bet. We're open to a lot of things, but I know our preferences.

Bibou was my choice but I dithered too long and it's not available this year (we have had trouble setting a date, so we're stuck on the day we picked).

I'm very intrigued by the Bar Ferdinand tasting menu. I love BF, but it has felt like a restaurant not quite on the tier we choose for our dinners. I know that David Ansill is the new chef and the kitchen has had a makeover. My only hesitation about ordering a tasting menu in advance is it takes away any choice she might have (whoever picks the restaurant doesn't tell the other person where they are going until they actually arrive).

I'm also intrigued by Will -- obviously it's brand new and I hadn't heard of it yet. If it's That Good, it might be the perfect place to discover together. Has anyone been there yet?

Sep 07, 2012
zmulls in Philadelphia

Twice-a-year dinner, need to choose restaurant, have some ideas

I have a twice-a-year dinner date with a friend. We have been eating together for 15 years. It's my turn to pick the restaurant, and was thinking of Bibou, but they are booked (naturally) when we had set a date.

Here are the "rules":

1) We never go to the same place twice
2) Atmosphere should be "romantic" (though we are not a romantic couple)
3) BYOB is OK, but we don't have a preference pro/con
4) Doesn't not have to be a "dressup" place but we shouldn't feel out of place dressed up
5) We want to hear ourselves talk
6) Food must be excellent
7) Location can be anywhere in the city or surrounding area (though we rarely go East to New Jersey, we can pretty much get to North, East and South to Delaware though).

Our last two picks were Bistro La Minette and Matyson. Years ago we went to Vetri before it became Philly's flagship. We've done the obvious ones like Amada, and made discoveries like Alba in Malvern.

So I was looking at Cochon and Farm and the Fisherman. I saw that Mica and Ela were related to Blackfish (where we've been, and I understand Ela has a different chef than the other two). Heirloom has been recommended on these boards.

I understand Zahav is sensational, though we tend to prefer "red wine food" if that makes any sense.

Any comments on the above (like, obvious favorites, or ones that aren't necessarily as good as the others); or very special places that are like the above?

I'd appreciate input. I need to pick a place and make the reservation.

Thanks!

Sep 07, 2012
zmulls in Philadelphia