Roast chicken at James — Nobody makes a roast chicken like this. It’s fat, juicy and tender, and has a whole bunch of stuff you never knew you wanted in a chicken: skin that tastes a little like the pan; a delicate juice that’s been “apple-infused”; meat that’s savory and then vaguely sweet, but before you determine which part is your favorite, you need another bite.
824 South 8th Street, 215-629-4980.
Sweetbreads at Majolica — When it comes to Everyman appeal, sweetbreads ain’t exactly the Big Mac. (Also: neither sweet, nor bread. Discuss.) But chef Andrew Deery democratizes the delicacy with finger-licking preparations, like his clever version bathed in tangy Buffalo sauce and served with wedges of blue cheese and celery.
258 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-917-0962.
Herb-roasted chicken at Rouge — The way Rouge’s kitchen layers this classic comfort dish — wine-bathed breast atop a garlicky pond of spinach atop a puréed potato cloud that billows out as you cut into the meat and hitches a ride on your fork with an easy side-swipe — provides the city’s best excuse for sophisticates to play with their food.
205 South 18th Street, 215-732-6622.
Chilled no-rice sushi roll at Nectar — Tuna + salmon + bass + avocado + cucumber – rice = the single best sushi roll in Philadelphia. (Maybe the U.S.)
1091 Lancaster Avenue, Berwyn, 610-725-9000.
Gustaio sandwich at Paesano’s Philly Style — As if the patties of hand-formed lamb sausage, the sweet/spicy sauce, the gorgonzola and the fennel weren’t good enough, they all get rolled up inside a crispy, buttery wrap.
152 West Girard Avenue, 267-886-9556.
Boston bibb and herb salad at Supper — Great big cupfuls of crisp lettuce and delicate herbs, sweet-tart apple slices, a hint of bacon and browned rounds of cornbread, all exquisitely tossed in a house-made buttermilk dressing — this is, perhaps, the perfect prelude to a meal.
926 South Street, 215-592-8180.
Dover sole at Savona — Your first bite can yield but one thought: This fish was meant to swim in its sauce, not in the sea.
100 Old Gulph Road, Gulph Mills, 610-520-1200.
Penne Arrabiata at Café Lombardi’s — Sometimes it’s hot, and sometimes it’s really hot — but it’s always loaded with kalamata olives, capers and garlic, and finished with a quick drizzle of olive oil.
294 Horsham Road, Horsham, 215-443-2500.
Fried calamari at Novita Bistro — In a just world, calamari would always be cooked as delicately as it is at this tiny Mediterranean BYO.
1608 South Street, 215-545-4665.
Miso soup at Izumi — Beware of the many uninspired bowls of soup masquerading as miso. For the real deal — fragrant, almost smoky broth; creamy bits of tofu; salty strands of seaweed — go straight to Izumi.
1601 East Passyunk Avenue, 215-271-1222.