Monday, May 4, 2015

Craig LaBan

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I joined the Inquirer as its restaurant critic in 1998, after a stint covering the food beat for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans. Having eaten about 500 restaurant meals a year here ever since, I never cease to be amazed by the diversity and sophistication of Philadelphia's kitchens. To travel from its many authentic ethnic neighborhoods to the gastronomic temples of Walnut Street to its beery gastropubs, cozy BYOBs and multitude of greasy-but-great steak joints, is to know this town delivers satisfaction at every level of the food chain. Including online dish.

Live chat: Join Craig at 2 p.m. on Tuesdays in the chatroom.

Book: The Philadelphia Inquirer Restaurant Guide is available through our online store.

4 Bells: According to Craig, the best restaurants in the Philadelphia area.

I'd walked by Chinese Restaurant a hundred times and never knew it existed. It could have been the generic English name. Or the fact that this storefront is so small it looks like an annex wedged behind Empress Garden next door. But sure enough, a rocket-fired wok and steamer inside were busy serving its own packed house - a dozen Fujianese customers still in winter coats (for good reason), huddled over the heat of their dumplings and soups.
Gallery: Craig LaBan's guide to Chinatown
How to speak like a 'neighbor' in Chinatown
The best duck in town
Chinatown's flying fish It's a bird! It's a butterfly! No, that winged beauty is actually a striped bass that's been artfully sliced before its flight into the deep-fryer at the Banana Leaf in Chinatown. The "Thai sauce" inspired by this Malaysi

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