Craig LaBan's favorite restaurant values

Philadelphia’s food scene is turning out great food at every level – not just the high-end destinations.

Here are five of the greatest values in the region, from soul food to hummus, excerpted from Craig LaBan’s Ultimate Dining guide, which was delivered to subscribers last week. (You can order a copy; info is below.)

Bell ratings, where applicable, range from zero to four.

 

DIZENGOFF  

1625 Sansom St., 215-867-8181; dizengoffphilly.com

Take the sublime hummus from Zahav, a skilled kitchen to create farm-inspired daily toppings and fresh baked-to-order pitas, grab a seat next to a stranger at a picnic table, and experience the magic of an Israeli “hummusiya” done right — and maybe the best $10 lunch in town. The shakshuka brunch should also be experienced.

STARGAZY

(not formally rated)

1838 E. Passyunk Ave., 215-309-2761; on Facebook

Get a taste of East London at Sam Jacobson’s irresistible British pie shop, where the classic beef “pie and mash” over potatoes and parsley liquor is the ultimate $9 comfort. Also, try the sweet and savory “Clanger” hybrids (above), or a Banoffee pudding for dessert.

 

HENRI’S HOTTS BARBECUE  

1003 E. Black Horse Pike, Hammonton, 609-270-7268; henrishottsbarbeque.com

Doug Henri’s iron smokers turn out some of the area’s best BBQ. But his weekend buffet, an all-you-can-eat epic display of soul food — amazing fried chicken; garlic mash; jerk chicken; corn pudding; fresh cobbler — for just $15.95 (!) is one of the region’s greatest bargains. (Video here.)

 

DANA MANDI  

4211 Chestnut St., 215-387-5250

It doesn’t get more humble than the community tables at the back of this Indian market in West Philly, but the counter-service kitchen serves vivid Punjabi flavors, from kadhi to radish-stuffed paratha flatbreads and other northern Indian classics prepared simply with a home-cooked touch by the Singh family. Popular with Penn’s international crowd.

 

CHINESE RESTAURANT (a.k.a. TAI JIANG)

(Not formally rated.)

104 N. 10th St., 215-928-0261

Chinatown is full of values. But its tiniest, no-frills nook, a 15-stool counter warmed by wok fire, is its best deal. A rare meal of Fujianese specialties — tiny-wonton soup; peanut-sauce noodles (#9); taro cakes, stir-fried mei fun; dumplings — costs under $10.


"Craig LaBan's Ultimate Dining," a glossy, 52-page, magazine-style book that wraps up the food critic's 25 favorite restaurants, as well as lists such as favorite BYOBs, Chinatown, and Philadelphia classics, is available by mail, through this link, or in person at the newspaper's offices, 801 Market St. (entrance on Eighth Street), from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays ($5.95, cash only).