Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Craig LaBan's Other Favorites

restaurants, philadelphia dining,philadelphia best restaurants, BYOB,BYO

Craig LaBan's Favorites

If you're thinking that all a food critic wants for dinner every night is an eight-course tasting menu at a high-end restaurant, you'd be wrong.

Usually, I'm content exploring the stunning diversity and depth of our dining scene just below those more rarefied experiences. In fact, it is that extraordinary wealth of sophisticated neighborhood spots, BYOBs, internationally inspired kitchens, gastropubs, and New American bistros - constantly fine-tuning to reflect the moment - that is the true measure of Philadelphia's considerable worth as a restaurant town.
 
Here are just the best of my favorites beyond the 13 that already appeared in my recent four-bell quest, most of which were revisited recently. A couple - Fond and Pumpkin - were even upgraded to three bells after showing major improvements. The lists are in six categories, but are not arranged in any order because I've never believed in numerical rankings. They are all favorites. And I could have listed dozens more. So stay tuned, as we plan to continue with more categories of favorites.

Of course, that means I have dinner plans galore, and hopefully, now, so do you.   - Craig LaBan

 
From Sunday: Craig LaBan | The best restaurants in the area

Distinctive Italian
Amis
Washington Square West

Marc Vetri's boisterous industrial space has chef Brad Spence serving rustic Roman fare.

 
Read the review
Le Virtu
South Philadelphia

South Philly’s best Italian restaurant has continued to evolve under chef Joe Cicala.

 
Read the review
Luke Palladino Seasonal Italian Cooking
Northfield, N.J.

Luke Palladino's intimate 30-seat BYOB in a Shore strip mall is one of South Jersey’s most compelling dining draws.

 
Read the review
Melograno
Rittenhouse Square

Roman-born chef-owner Gianluca Demontis has “the touch” for trattoria cooking at his BYOB.

 
Read the review
Zeppoli
Collingswood

Joey Baldino’s authentic Sicilian flavors are informed by the finesse of his pedigree, but the noise!

 
Read the review
New American (Full Service)
a.kitchen
Rittenhouse Square

Clean flavors, smart combinations, homemade English muffins, and stylish small plates define a modern aesthetic of casual sophistication.

 
Read the review
Barbuzzo
Washington Square West

The doyennes of Midtown Village (chef Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran) have a runaway hit with this narrow wine bar.

 
Read the review
Fork
Old City

This trailblazing bistro, now 15 years old, is as good as ever since the arrival of chef Terence Feury.

 
Read the review
JG Domestic
University City

Jose Garces’ lobby restaurant in the Cira Centre is an ode to great American ingredients.

 
Read the review
Supper
South Street

Caterers Mitch and Jennifer Prensky helped lead the way for Philly’s small-plate movement.

 
Read the review
Updated International
Han Dynasty
Old City

Szechuan master Han Chiang’s peppercorn-fired pyrotechnics and opinions are the draw ... or drawback.

 
Read the review
Kanella
Washington Square West

This corner BYOB is a heartfelt homage to the authentic Cypriot-Greek flavors of Konstantinos Pitsillides’ island home.

 
Read the review
Koo Zee Doo
Northern Liberties

David Gilberg and Carla Gonçalves' romantic BYOB elevates rustic Portuguese flavors to a rare sophistication.

 
Read the review
Nectar
Berwyn

This pan-Asian has moved beyond its initial reputation as "the Buddakan of the suburbs."

 
Read the review
Tashan
Avenue of the Arts/South Philadelphia

Tiffin meets Buddakan at this groundbreaking venture that combines talents of Western and Indian chefs.

 
Read the review
Gastropubs
Khyber Pass Pub
Old City

Old City’s classic rock-and-roll beer bar serves some of this town's best New Orleans-inspired cooking.

 
Read the review
Kraftwork
Fishtown

Few spots along Fishtown’s buzzing nightlife avenue are as handsome as this corner bar, whose tool motif is an ode to industrial days past.

 
Read the review
Resurrection Ale House
Southwest Center City/Graduate Hospital

Of all the neighborhood hangs owned by Brendan Hartranft and Leigh Maida, this has the most ambitious kitchen.

 
Read the review
South Philadelphia Tap Room
Southwest Center City/Graduate Hospital

From its double-wide townhouse, SPTR has become the epicenter of South Philly’s beer revolution.

 
Read the review
Standard Tap
Northern Liberties

The gastropub that started it all still captures a certain super-bar magic.

 
Read the review
Great Restaurants Deserving More Buzz
Fuji Authentic Japanese
Haddonfield

The creative kaiseki tastings from chef Matt Ito remain after three decades among our most extraordinary adventures.

 
Read the review
Meme
Rittenhouse Square

Less is more at this airy, open-kitchen corner, which comes alive with David Katz’s vivid bistro-plus flavors.

 
Read the review
Meritage
Southwest Center City/Graduate Hospital

Michele DiPietro and Irene Landy’s wine bar has become a destination under chef Anne Coll.

 
Read the review
Restaurant Alba
Malvern

Sean Weinberg’s wood-fired ode to Italian flavors and local ingredients has matured into one of the suburbs’ best restaurants.

 
Read the review
Southwark
Queen Village

Sheri and Kip Waide’s tavern remains a go-to haunt for the city’s best Manhattan followed by an inventive meal.

 
Read the review
New American BYOBs
Blackfish
Conshohocken

There’s a reason the white rooms of this contemporary storefront are perpetually filled with fine-wine-toting Main Line devotees.

 
Read the review
The Farm & Fisherman
Washington Square West

This BYOB was one of the star debuts of 2011, with Josh Lawler and his wife, Colleen, showing the pretenders how farm-to-table is done.

 
Read the review
Fond
South Philadelphia

Upgraded from 2 bells The cooking couple behind this intimate East Passyunk BYOB has made huge progress.

 
Read the review
Matyson
Rittenhouse Square

The young guns are still having fun at one of Center City’s longstanding BYO hits. And don't miss the world's best coconut cream pie.

 
Read the review
Pumpkin
Southwest Center City/Graduate Hospital

Upgraded from 2 bells.  Always a charmer, this shoebox-sized pioneer of the BYO movement near the old Graduate Hospital has made tremendous strides.

 
Read the review