Here’s the problem with having an increasingly rich food scene like ours: It’s hard to know what to order. That’s why we ate (and ate and ate) to uncover the best meals that area restaurants have to offer. We polled in-the-know eaters, asked our readers (you’ll see the vetted picks from our online Restaurant Club (RC) members), reached out to chefs and bloggers, and even left some room for dining à la food truck. These aren’t seasonal tastes or trends; these are the tried-and-true dishes that our chefs wouldn’t dare take off their menus. (Some have tried — it wasn’t pretty.) So, did your favorite make the list? P.S.: Look for our recession-friendly dishes ($), which cost $10 or less.
Cobb salad at Union Trust — Good salads in this city are few and far between. Enter UT’s lunchtime Cobb, where rows of fresh tomato, crumbled bacon, snappy greens, herbs and a light dressing are just as tasty as the charred petite filet, which is cooked to your liking.
717 Chestnut Street, 215-925-6000.
Tomato soup and grilled cheese at Jones — It’s a Philly Mag tradition: On that first bone-chilling day of winter, the boss bulk-orders this decadent tomato soup and a pile of grilled white-cheddar sandwiches. Work stops, and we gather round a table to eat, like a big, happy, dysfunctional family.
700 Chestnut Street, 215-223-5663.
Meatloaf at Silk City — It’s wrapped in bacon. Do you really need to know more? 435 Spring Garden Street, 215-592-8838.
Baguette provençal at Parc — It’s heavily dressed with creamy Camembert, moistened with mustard, and layered with good coarse salami, but because it’s Parc, it’s somehow rather elegant, bien sûr.
227 South 18th Street, 215-545-2262.
Roast chicken at Fork — No gimmicks. Just chicken. Honest-to-goodness (emphasis on the goodness) chicken.
306 Market Street.
Mushroom soup at Friday Saturday Sunday — Iconic dishes can diminish with time. But more than three decades on, this cream of mushroom soup hasn’t lost one jot of its butter-laden, cognac-kissed suavity. “Soup” is too prosaic a term for the pungent, earthy silkiness in every bowlful. Fungi beg for the honor of giving their lives this way.
261 South 21st Street, 215-546-4232.
Trofie con funghi e patate at L’Oca — The little twists and turns of this al dente pasta create the perfect hiding spots for the barely-there but flavor-packed sauce, which gets its body from olive oil, potatoes, mushrooms, arugula and toma cheese.
2025 Fairmount Avenue, 215-769-0316.
Sopa de castaño at Tinto — If you could somehow squish a few acres of serene, mossy wilderness through a sieve, puree it to velvet and then heat it, you’d have this chestnut soup.
114 South 20th Street, 215-665-9150.
Cochinita pibil at Las Bugambilias — Shreds of pork so tender and deeply spiced that you don’t even need to wrap them in the warm corn tortillas they come with.
148 South Street, 215-922-3190.