I’m struggling to believe that it’s been nearly three weeks since we went to Philadelphia over Thanksgiving weekend. I feel like I’m still not back to normal sleeping and I’ve definitely not given up the American food portion sizes. During our few days in Philadelphia we ate at some really good places. I wasn’t disappointed with any of them, which is a perk of my sister living there – she tried and tested and only took us to the best. Here’s my (or her) pick of the Philadelphia food spots you shouldn’t miss.
Breakfast and Brunch food spots in Philadelphia
Marathon – 16th & Sansom
Our first morning I was obviously awake at about 4am, so by the time we went for breakfast at the reasonable local time of about 9:30am I was completely starving. Marathon was a cool looking cafe from the outside, in the centre of the city. While we were waiting to be seated I took a look at the extensive smoothie menu behind the bar area, and the fresh bagels and pastries in the cabinet.
We were sat in a booth with views out the big glass windows on the streets outside. I love people watching especially in new places so it was perfect for that. Being absolutely ravenous and fully prepared for a good American breakfast, it took a while to decide what to have. The menu was typical of an American diner type place, with everything you could think of listed out before you.
Between us we all tried a variety of things, I had the blueberry pancakes with syrup, there was a fruit parfait on the table for someone I can’t remember who, a salmon and cream cheese bagel and a fruit parfait with granola. My pancakes were pretty special. There were three of them stacked up and the syrup drizzled through.
We all had a coffee and an orange juice to water it all down with. The service was excellent, and the food even better. Despite being so hungry initially I didn’t manage to eat all three pancakes, I think I got through two full ones.
The atmosphere was good, with a total mix of people in there from couples, to families with kids, groups of friends and even some people on their own. It was relaxed and definitely got me in the swing of American portions and all set for exploring the city.
Parc Brasserie – Rittenhouse Square
Parc is a French cafe, bistro, brasserie and restaurant on the corner of Rittenhouse Square. We went here for dinner on Thanksgiving night which was really nice, but I loved it when we went for brunch on the Saturday morning. Before I get on to brunch though I will just mention the French onion soup I had – in-cre-di-ble.
It completely embraces the French chic cafe culture, with the tiny tables and chairs outside, perfect if you have a fabulous French bulldog which so many people did! Sadly we were without the adorable canines but inside it was fabulous. The holiday decorations (FYI – they don’t call them Christmas decorations in the US, and everything is ‘Happy Holidays’ rather than Christmas) made the whole place so festive.
It was like a real French brasserie, a bit like Cafe de la Paix in Paris if you’ve ever been, so they got the styling and atmosphere pretty spot on. There were so many staff, some only handed out bread baskets, another the water, another for your drinks and so on. It was a pretty well oiled machine and it had to be considering how big and busy it was.
You could sit and enjoy a bellini or a coffee at the bar, which was always packed, or if you had reserved a table or didn’t mind waiting you would be sat in the main restaurant. We went at 11am, so naturally I ordered a Bloody Mary, as well as a coffee.
For food again we had a total mix between us, but I went for the ‘Eggs Norwegian’, which is poached eggs on a muffin, with smoked salmon and hollandaise sauce. My sister had eggs benedict which is the same but with ham instead of salmon. The weirdest thing about American breakfasts is that they all come with potatoes. I’m not sure why, but I polished them all off and it didn’t seem weird at the time – only now looking back at photos.
I really loved this restaurant. It was sophisticated and more upscale, without being too posh or over the top. Service, as it is everywhere in America was fabulous, and I really enjoyed both meals we had here.
Grab some lunch in Philadelphia
Gran Caffe l’Aquila
We went to Gran Caffe l’Aquila at about 4pm after a full day exploring the city. My feet were aching and I thought I was going to pass out from all the walking, but I’m really glad Caroline marched us back through the city to get there.
It was one of those busy bustling cafes that’s actually really cool. It was modern and smelled like a mix of garlic and fresh italian coffee, but with a hint of strong wine and people enjoying a longer alcohol fuelled lunch.
We were sat at a high table at the back, next to a full seafood display that you could see through into the kitchen.
The menu was pretty big, and covered mains such as pasta dishes, fish and meat, or some smaller lighter bites, seafood platters and tapas. We went for a selection of the tapas, including the arancini in tomato sauce, calamari and jumbo prawns.
The food was like the rest of our experiences in Philly, really good. Especially the arancini rice balls they were incredible. The place is also known for its traditional Italian gelato, so once our tapas had settled I got a two scoop sundae as well. Heavenly, and it brought back memories of our last family trip to Florence.
As we left I noticed a lot of couples sat sharing a bottle of wine, and I bet it’s the type of place you could easily pass hours in sharing elaborate stories over bottle after bottle.
Evening Restaurants in Philadelphia
Rose Tattoo Cafe
My sister warned us on the way to this place that the inside is nothing like how it appears on the outside. For starters the name ‘Rose Tattoo Cafe‘ had me thinking it was some biker dive, and from the outside it did look a bit strange. It seemed like it was boarded up, with a bright red front and painted on name, but it is absolutely not to be judged by its appearance.
Inside it was a completely different story. The place is stunning. It’s a beautiful restaurant in an old Victorian row house, with white washed walls and intimate seating around the central bar. It was dimly lit, which made it completely romantic.
We were taken upstairs which again was a real shock compared to first impressions. We were on a balcony that ran around the edge of the room, with a black wrought iron fencing which overlooked the top of the bar. The whole place was fully decorated with plants, and ivy, a bit like a really beautiful greenhouse. Mixed with the atmospheric lighting it was really beautiful, and completely different to what you would have thought from outside.
We had cocktails, which came with a sense of humour – The Brexit for example, a gin based cocktail with earl grey syrup. I had the Rose Tattoo signature, which was grey goose, elderflower liqueur and champagne, how fabulous.
The food didn’t disappoint either, I had the jambalaya and it was packed with fresh meat and seafood. It had a real kick to it as well.
The quality of the food was just as impressive as the restaurant was pretty, and in the old 100 year old building it had so much character. If you ever visit Philadelphia this is one place you really have to try.
My only food regret from Philly was that I didn’t get to try a Philly cheese steak. Caroline informed me they’re more hangover type food, and to be honest I stuffed my face at breakfast every morning that I never felt like a snack or a quick bite, breakfast kept me going until dinner each day.
It was a huge bonus having Caroline plan and take us to the places that she did as part of our visit, we really benefited from having her local style knowledge as it meant we made no mistakes and weren’t ever disappointed. Every meal was amazing both in terms of the places themselves and the food, and each one was totally different. I would honestly go back to all of them, and would recommend them all if you ever go to Philadelphia.
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