Macaroni and cheese at Rouge — The toothy fusilli, the rich fontina sauce tanged with local goat cheese, the generous sprinkle of herbed breadcrumbs — that’s craft, not Kraft.
205 South 18th Street, 215-732-6622.
Asian eggplant at Thai Basil — We never knew eggplant — eggplant! — could taste this meltingly tender and flavor-packed. Pick your own protein to go with the dish.
653 Haddon Avenue, Collingswood, 856-833-0098.
Lemon tart at Mr. Martino’s — This homemade wedge of buttery pastry filled with the perfect lemon curd is guaranteed to make you pucker up. It’s for true lemon lovers only.
1646 East Passyunk Avenue, 215-755-0663.
Matzo ball soup at Famous 4th Street Delicatessen — Fact: We spend more on this soup each month than we do on our 401K. Partly because a bowl of Famous’s matzo is $6.50. But mostly because the return on our soup investment is much more consistent — and consistently delightful: a light, well–seasoned broth; big bites of sweet cooked carrots; loads of noodles; tender hunks of white-meat chicken.
700 South 4th Street, 215-922-3274, and 38 South 19th Street, 215-568-3271.
Chickpea fries at Noble American Cookery — These direct descendants of polenta fries come to the table resting atop a tomato preserve, in a twee little cast-iron bowl. And the first bite confirms what you thought from the menu description — deep-fried hummus is delish.
2025 Sansom Street, 215-568-7000.
Mussels in red sauce at Bomb Bomb BBQ Grill — The signature dish is all about the sauce, a garlicky, brothy marinara with a little red-pepper heat. Order an extra bowl of this sauce on the side — trust us, you’ll want it.
1026 Wolf Street, 215-463-1311.
Snapper soup at the Blue Ox –Bistro — This longtime (1683!) German staple in Fox Chase is famous for its beer selection. It should be famous for its tart, generously portioned, loaded-to-the-gills snapper soup, the best since Bookbinder’s heyday. (Call to make sure it’s one of the soups of the day.)
7980 Oxford Avenue, 215-728-9440.
Chocolate chip cheesecake at the Fitzwater Café — For the real taste of South Philly, try a slice of this cheesecake while sitting at the counter.
728 South 7th Street, 215-629-0428.
Jamaican BBQ seitan at Horizons — Sticky-sweet, barely charred and definitely meaty, the must-have item at this all-vegan eatery tastes like it came from a beach-top bonfire.
611 South 7th Street, 215-923-6117.
Yad sai mak-keur at Café Du Laos — Like a savory-strudel — one wherein velvety layers of eggplant stand in for pastry, a tangle of mild catfish and glass noodles (trust us) subs for filling, and instead of syrup there’s coconut-milk-touched red curry.
1117 South 11th Street, 215-467-1546.
Blackened green beans at Grace Tavern — These beans may be blackened, but they aren’t overcooked. Smoky Cajun spices give them their dark exterior; the beans themselves are sweet and bright and snappy.
2229 Grays Ferry Avenue, 215-893-9580.