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Best ethnic cuisine in Philly?

Considering a move to Philadelphia from L.A. and will be visiting this weekend. Never ever been to Pennsylvania. Staying in downtown (Center City West, according to Google maps) and won't have a car. I want to know which ethnic (non-Western European) cuisine Philly does best, and then try the best example of that particular cuisine in the cheap to middle price range.

This is not really about trying just whatever ethnic food is good. I live in the San Gabriel Valley and if someone were to ask me what ethnic food they MUST try here, I'd say the endless number of tasty hole-in-the-wall Chinese places.
I've read many recs on the board. This is not really about trying just whatever ethnic food is good, it's more about learning what Philly's really about in terms of diversity. I've already done research on the best local American and western European in the downtown area. Now I'm just wondering where to focus my search for ethnic cuisine.

At which ethnic cuisine(s) does Philly really excel? Is it Chinese? Cuban? Mexican? Indian?
(Though I may not do Chinese since I have it so much here, but I'd like to know just the same)

Hope you can help and that my question makes sense. And don't forget we won't have a car, so recs should be right in the tourist center. Thanks in advance for your help!

Mar 18, 2009
CookieEater in Pennsylvania

Manila trip report

My mom brought home three HUGE bags of bangus. We pretended not to know her on the airplane.

Mar 12, 2009
CookieEater in China & Southeast Asia

Manila trip report

What distinguishes old-style ensaimada?

Feb 20, 2009
CookieEater in China & Southeast Asia

Does Elite (MPk) use peanut oil?

Okay, I am glad to report back on this thread after a recent family dinner at Elite (about which my nephew was understandably nervous, but it's ok all went well). I know it's not the dim sum, but I think I may have solved the mystery.
At dinner they put a plate of PEANUTS on EVERY SINGLE TABLE! And not only that but they are adamant and kept trying to put the peanuts on our table like 3 or 4 times and we had to keep frantically waving them away.

We had a variety of foods and my nephews did not have a problem. So it probably was cross-contamination. Though the prevalence of peanuts in their restaurant might be something to watch out for, if you happen to be allergic. Just bring your epi-pen or whatever. The food was excellent!

Feb 18, 2009
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

Spicy Surf n Turf Newport Tan Cang San Gabriel

A couple days later I went to Elite in Monterey Park for Chinese seafood and it was probably pricier but it confirmed what I felt about Newport. I liked my meal at Elite so much better. They did a similar lobster preparation and although it was different because it wasn't spicy, it also wasn't salty like Newport's.
I also had a similar fish maw soup but Elite's version was more flavorful.

Feb 18, 2009
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

Manila trip report

If you find the right mall, I was really surprised by the quality of the food courts. There are some that only have junk food like here in the US, but Greenbelt had more than decent food.

Feb 18, 2009
CookieEater in China & Southeast Asia

Manila trip report

Someone gave me the impression that Aristocrats was expensive, I don't remember where I read that.

Anyway, I was pleased to find that a great place for food was right across the street from our hotel in the Greenbelt shopping center. With a group our size, it was best to have someplace close at hand whenever the kids got hungry. There were a variety of restaurants in all the Greenbelt buildings, but I would stick with the Filipino food. We went to some Italian place once and though still cheap, had an unpleasantly heavy hand with the fatty sauces.

There's a second-floor area, I think in Greenbelt 3, that had a row of cheap restaurants that I found mentioned on the Market Manila website. I liked Recipes and Bola. Filipino casual cafe-type places in a modern, hip setting and most dishes were $3-5. At Bola, I was in the mood for comfort food and had corned beef and egg over garlic rice.

At Recipes, they had something weird called Adobo Flakes. I had no idea what it was, so I ordered it of course. Bits of pork and chicken adobo chopped up into tiny pieces, then somehow breaded in panko and deep-fried. It was pretty salty and the crumbs all break apart in your mouth. Kind of unpleasant, until you wise up and mix it with the over-easy egg and garlic rice (I sure ate a lot of garlic rice in Philippines). Total comfort food. I wish I could find it in the US!
The crispy tilapia at Recipes was also good. My brother did not like the Korean shortribs. Again, it's best to stick to Filipino food since that's what they do best. Servings were not US-size, but a normal serving size.

In Greenbelt (4?) we also went to Masas. The food was a bit more expensive. Good, but nothing out of this world. I was also disappointed because I wanted to try their halo-halo because it had the most impressive-sounding list of ingredients, but apparently they were out.

*****************

In Intramuros, we all really enjoyed the meal at Ilustrado's Cafe (not the restaurant). A great air-conditioned place to relax after tromping around on a tour of the Intramuros sights all morning. I don't know an address, but it's next to the souvenir store Silahis.
Pretty generous servings of sandwiches, pasta, pancit, rice dishes, soup, etc. My family members were all really happy with what they ordered and they even accommodated my nephews' special pasta orders. Ilustrado is also the place that serves the famous sampaguita ice cream (jasmine). My family liked it, though I don't care for flower-flavored foods. Again, everything was about $4 each. The coffee was also really good and they give you one of those big trays with cream and all the different kinds of sugars. I'm a sucker for that stuff.

Feb 18, 2009
CookieEater in China & Southeast Asia

Manila trip report

I am planning to post about a few of the good things I ate in Manila, since I had tried to find such info on Chowhound earlier and there really wasn't a lot. I hope this info can help someone out in the future.

I didn't go any place really pricey, with a sprawling group of 11, it was just easier to stick to smaller places. Plus who wants to spend $35+ for a meal when you can get something tasty for $3-4? I'm sure Aristocrats, Lolo Dads, all those places are good, but I want to provide info for the less-wealthy readers like me. We stayed at the Renaissance Hotel in Makati (got an unbelievable deal), so we ate mainly in that area.

Salcedo Market - First of all, people recommended the Saturday morning Salcedo Market and wow, was that a great find! We had to ask around a lot before finding someone who knew where it was. But the search was worth it. It's like a small farmers market but with all-Filipino food. I wish I hadn't been stuffed from breakfast because there was a big hot-food section selling all kinds of freshly-grilled meats and seafood. My nephew bought lychee sorbet for like 50 cents from this woman making it fresh in a metal canister set in ice in a big wooden bucket, and he said it was awesome. There are all kinds of fun fruits and grilled whole cow/pig to look at. I bought tasty butter cake from Vargas Bakery to bring home and my family loved browsing.

I'll add more later... !

Feb 13, 2009
CookieEater in China & Southeast Asia

Saturday Indonesian Food Fair at the Duarte Inn IS BACK ON (Jan. 17th)!

Not being familiar with the cuisine, I wouldn't have known if I saw it.
Hopefully someone with more knowledge can answer your question?

Feb 13, 2009
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

Spicy Surf n Turf Newport Tan Cang San Gabriel

This place wasn't quite what I expected. I really liked the lobster, it was excellent. But I found the other dishes to be either bland (like you mentioned above) or too salty. I mean I still ate it... sometimes salty tastes good. But I didn't expect things like the beef or pork chops to be SO salty. I needed to drown things in rice. The beef had great flavor and was really tender, but dialed down a few tablespoons on the salt and it would have been perfect.
A lot of the sauces and soups were heavily thickened with something, couldn't figure out which type of starch. Not a good combination with the saltiness, as it tended to coat and stick to your tongue.
Then again, so many people seem to like this place. Maybe I missed something good.

Feb 13, 2009
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

Saturday Indonesian Food Fair at the Duarte Inn IS BACK ON (Jan. 17th)!

I just went last Saturday for the first time. A lot of the stalls serve the same thing so ideally, I'd love to go back several times and compare/contrast. I tried to see if any one stall was more crowded, but I couldn't see a difference.
I had beef rendang (a classic dish), bbq skewers (sate), and kale that was cooked in a peanut sauce. All were really good. You should definitely get some fried items, but most of the ones I saw were just sitting out getting cold. Not the ideal way to eat fried stuff. If you spot any stall that is making them fresh, you have to get it.

Actually, a couple other items were still cold or at least not that hot (probably made the night before and heated in the chafing dishes) so you may want to do what many Indonesian families were doing, which is taking things to go.

Jan 27, 2009
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

Los Angeles Cheap Eats Comfort Food Joints

I personally think of Chinese, Vietnamese, or Filipino food as comfort food, particularly when you consider dumplings or soups. Ok really, anything with rice works for me. That's a huge category for me to breach, but just off the top of my head Luscious Dumpling and Golden Deli are pretty cheap.

I also put in another vote for Jongewaard's Bake n Broil. Food is definitely comfort food, though it can be hit and miss. But the baked goods are CHEAP for what you get, and always excellent.

Jan 27, 2009
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

R.I.P. -- Aun Deli and Siena (both in Pasadena)

wow that was fast, never even got to try those places yet.

Jan 27, 2009
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

Great BBQ in Long Beach???

I tried a variety of things at Lucille's, sorry, I just didn't see the same magic you did.

Jan 26, 2009
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

Great BBQ in Long Beach???

I'm kind of surprised you said Lucille's, I have had plenty of bbq in the South and I did not like Lucille's at all. JayBee's, on the other hand (mentioned below), I thought was excellent. I speak particularly of the pork ribs, just the right consistency as opposed to Lucille's, which I found too tough. JayBee's mac and cheese is also excellent, real Southern-style. (Lucille's tasted just like KFC and El Pollo Loco's)

I also have heard great things about Porky's, but have not been yet.
One thing I can say is that JayBee's and Porky's only have some outdoor tables, whereas Lucille's is a sit-down restaurant. So if it's rainy like it is now, you'd have to do takeout.

Jan 23, 2009
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

Saturday Indonesian Food Fair at the Duarte Inn IS BACK ON (Jan. 17th)!

So did anyone go last week in Duarte? How many vendors are there? Where do you park?

Jan 22, 2009
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

BBQ Joint in LA County with Best Cornbread & Atmosphere

I know, seriously? Even our best bbq place would be lacking compared with Texas' fare. But that said, listen to all these people but DON'T go to Robin's in Pas or Gus's in South Pas. Average at best, and if they're gonna come all this way (!) for bbq it shouldn't be mediocre.

Dec 03, 2008
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

Dessert for company holiday party

I think the strawberry whipped cream cake from a Chinese bakery is good, but would look a little too out-of-place for a company holiday party in Marina del Rey, with the red gel writing and almond slices on the side.
You'll probably want to balance looks and taste. Susina Bakery has been recommended many times over, their goods are attractive, and always tasty. But it is not cheap.
Porto's cakes and fruit tart look great, they're tasty (maybe not as refined as Susina) and also a great price.
You could go cupcakes (do a board search) but that gets pricey, hard for one person to pick up 75 on their own, and having a selection of large cakes looks classier as opposed to a huge table of trendy cupcakes.

I'm not familiar with the Westside, you can easily do a search. Here's a sample:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/479037

Dec 03, 2008
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

PLEASE POST YOUR VOTES HERE: Ultimate Los Angeles Restaurants 2008

Funny how all 3 of your total posts mention Robin's... hmm... After having the real stuff in the South, I could barely eat Robin's and gave most of it to my dog.

Over $25:
Osteria Mozza

Under $25:
Sea Harbour (dim sum)
Golden Deli
Porto's (ideal destination for pork followed by desserts)
Barrio Fiesta (another ideal destination for pork)
Din Tai Fung

Actually, pretty much all of those are ideal destinations for pork. :)

Dec 03, 2008
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

Best Happy Hour in Pasadena?

If you just stick to beer and chips (fries) you're ok.

My favorite happy hour is a tie between Magnolia and Yard House, but I'm really more of an eater than a drinker. Yard House happy hour ends pretty early though.

Nov 24, 2008
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

lil' parlor pizzeria in south pas. open

I went by for takeout. I ordered two pizzas: rucola (wild arugula, prosciutto and asiago - spelled "assiago" on their menu. ha!) and finocchiona (fennel sausage, pepperoncini, tomato sauce, mozzarella). Both good, not Mozza-good, but decent. They were about $14 each.
I'm no pizza expert but I liked that they didn't burn the crusts on the bottom, I find that distracting. But this also gave the thin crusts a flour-tortilla-like flavor and consistency towards the middle. I wasn't wowed by the tomato sauce, I found it to be a little sweet but I want to return to verify.

The waitstaff is still getting familiar with the menu of course, so if you ask questions they may have to hunt down an answer. But they were very kind. I would go back, I'm curious to try the baked riccota appetizer.

They serve Mexican coke. yay!

Nov 21, 2008
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

750mL: closed or not?

Read on Eater LA that it's Lil' Parlor Pizzeria.
Oh but they didn't change the sign on the awning. And the pizzeria is open.

Nov 20, 2008
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

Gus's BBQ, South Pasadena

hm, a one-time poster. Figures.

Nov 20, 2008
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

Does Elite (MPk) use peanut oil?

My nephews (both allergic to peanuts, one severe) have eaten at many Chinese restaurants, both dim sum and not. In fact, many of them do not use peanut oil. Including: Din Tai Fung, Triumphal Palace, Mandarin Noodle Deli, Full House, Dumpling House, 888, Sea Harbour, ...
we're Asian, we eat Chinese a lot. The trick is figuring out which places are safe. I'm hoping other Hounders can help me in that search.

Nov 20, 2008
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

Does Elite (MPk) use peanut oil?

And also just in case, does anyone know of any dim sum restaurants or Chinese restaurants that use peanut oil? I like to share my food finds with my family but I definitely don't want to take the chance this might happen again...

Nov 20, 2008
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

Does Elite (MPk) use peanut oil?

Came here for dim sum last Saturday and I was so excited since I've heard such great things about Elite here.
But my 9-year-old nephew barely got a bite of the pork bun when his throat started closing up. This only happens with peanuts, he has a very serious allergy (any peanut product, peanut oil, etc). The manager angrily insisted "no peanut oil! only corn oil!" but meanwhile, we had to run out to the car to hurriedly get my poor little nephew some Benadryl before his LUNGS started to close up. He doesn't get this immediate reaction unless he's actually ingested peanuts. If it's merely contact (say, if a cook touched peanuts then touched the pork bun) it wouldn't have been so bad. Needless to say, we told them we were leaving.

Still the manager remained insensitive and charged us for the two dishes we had ordered, "No! We never use peanut oil!" Luckily it was only $4.60.

I would like to know if anyone else allergic to peanuts has been here, and if they experienced a reaction.
Could it have been only the pork buns? Do they put peanuts or peanut oil in the meat or the dough?

Nov 20, 2008
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

Best Cheap/Ethnic Meal in Pasadena

For cheap, I liked the fried chicken at Louisiana Famous Fried Chicken & Donuts, up on Lake north of the 210. Nothing refined, and not something you could eat everyday, but it was spicy and tasty.
I work in Pas and often take the quick drive through San Marino for some Vietnamese or Chinese takeout in San Gabriel on Las Tunas. Not sure if that's feasible from your location.
Is a quick drive into Eagle Rock do-able for you?

Nov 18, 2008
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

Cakes??

Porto's - Glendale or Burbank (wonderful prices)
Jongewaard's Bake and Broil - Long Beach (I'm crazy about their old-fashioned chocolate layer cake)
Heirloom Bakery - South Pasadena (I had their red velvet cake at a restaurant, one of the best I've ever had. But I've never seen it in the bakery case, you may have to order in advance)

Nov 18, 2008
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

Old-Fashioned Milk Shake

maybe that person was thinking of TGIFridays?

I just had a milkshake at Fosselman's the other day, and they emptied out the whole metal canister into my plastic cup, it fit the whole thing. Not sure if that means they use larger plastic cups or smaller metal canisters than the kind served in restaurants. But I watched, they used between 3-4 scoops of ice cream. So I assume it was the full size.
So you don't get a metal canister, but you're not getting cheated out of any of your shake either.

Nov 12, 2008
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area

Old-Fashioned Milk Shake

Last time I went to Johnny Rockets, I sat at the counter and watched them make everything. No matter what flavor you order, their milkshakes are ALL made with vanilla ice cream. They just pump in some kind of gross syrup to change the flavor. Coffee, strawberry, malt, whatever.
I don't know about you, but if I order a chocolate milkshake I want it made with chocolate ice cream. Is that so hard?

Nov 10, 2008
CookieEater in Los Angeles Area