Ask April June 2006


Q: I’m turning 21 and want to celebrate someplace where we can dance. There’ll be 10 to 15 of us, and I was looking for something nicer than a loud, college-type hangout. Please help! — Tricia

April says: Choosing the Rittenhouse Square area will keep your soiree a little more grown-up. Denim (1712 Walnut Street; 215-735-6700) has a chic party atmosphere with a playlist that changes nightly; expect anything from big band and swing to hip-hop and the ’80’s. Denim also offers a close location to the great restaurants of that area. Loie (128 South 19th Street; 215-568-0808) has a DJ after 10 p.m., when the back of that French brasserie turns into a dance floor. (It serves French cuisine like steak frites before.) D’Angelo’s (256 South 20th Street; 215-546-3935) has traditional Italian food and features a nightly DJ downstairs to burn off those carbs. You can also head west to World Cafe Live (3025 Walnut Street; 215-222-1400), which has live music on two floors and a casual menu on both. Food is mostly bar-style appetizers, soups, sandwiches and pasta, with a few higher-priced entrées.

This Month's Previous Questions

Q: I’m planning a combined 30th birthday party for three guys and am looking for a casual restaurant or bar appropriate for both friends and family. City or suburban options are fine. — Megan

April says: Depending on the cuisine and atmosphere you’re after, many restaurants are perfect for celebrating a birthday. For a family-friendly bar scene, try The Smoked Joint (1420 Locust Street, 215-732-7500; smokedjoint.com), featuring a menu of delicious smoked meats in an upbeat “Rock ’n’ Roll Barbecue” atmosphere. All area locations of Iron Hill Brewery (various locations; ironhillbrewery.com) have top-notch brews like Anvil Ale, and pub fare with an upscale twist: buttermilk fried calamari, cheesesteak spring rolls. Looking for more restaurant than bar? Try Los Catrines & Tequila’s Restaurant (1602 Locust Street, 215-546-0181; tequilasphilly.com), a city favorite for upscale Mexican cuisine such as chicken mole to mate with margaritas.

On the Main Line, Al Dar (281 Montgomery Avenue, Bala Cynwyd, 610-667-1245; aldarbistro.com) is known for a huge menu of Mediterranean favorites: hummus, baba ganoush, fried calamari, spanakopita. For a more urban upscale scene, head to Washington Square (210 West Washington Square, 215-592-7787; washingtonsquarerestaurant.com) for tasty cocktails and a newly renovated menu with fresh seafood and lots of small plates for sharing. Twenty Manning (261 South 20th Street, 215-731-0900; twentymanning.com) is a Center City hot spot with an Asian-inspired menu and a colorful martini list. The food ranges from glazed prawns to bison burgers with pepper jack and fries.

Q: My birthday is next week, and my friends and I were planning to celebrate with a nice lunch. Where would you suggest? —Lauryn

April says: Spend the day in Center City and treat yourself to a world-class culinary experience at Lacroix (210 West Rittenhouse Square, 215-790-2533; lacroixrestaurant.com), which has gorgeous views of Rittenhouse Square to complement the modern French cuisine. If Italian is more your style, Old City’s La Famiglia (8 South Front Street, 215-922-2803; lafamiglia.com) serves traditional Italian cuisine in an elegant setting—hand-cut pastas, outstanding risotto. On the contemporary side, head to Bliss (220-224 South Broad Street, 215-731-1100; bliss-restaurant.com) for the bright and funky decor and a French, Italian and pan-Asian-inspired menu specializing in fresh fish and seafood. Matyson (37 South 19th Street, 215-564-2925; matyson.com) is a small BYOB that caters to any whim with steamed mussels, creative sandwiches and warm oyster salad.

In the suburbs, Restaurant Tacquet (139 East Lancaster Avenue, Wayne, 610-687-5005; taquet.com), located in the Wayne Hotel, features an international menu from one of the area’s top chefs and a $20 prix-fixe menu. Want a swanky spot? Try Nectar (1091 Lancaster Avenue, Berwyn, 610-725-9000; tastenectar.com), the Buddakan of the burbs. The Asian-inspired menu in a dramatic high-style setting ranges from sushi and sashimi to whole fish and osso buco.

Q: I’m with a group of 13 women going to see a show at the Academy of Music on a Sunday afternoon. We’d like to have dinner right after the show. Could you recommend a restaurant nearby that’s not too expensive? —Maria

April says: The Avenue of the Arts is chock-full of great restaurants for groups, including a few that open up a little earlier on Sundays, as the matinee shows end. For larger parties, it’s always a good idea to call ahead. And don’t forget: Many places charge an automatic 18 percent gratuity for groups of six or more.

The newest of the steakhouse chains lining the Avenue is Ted Turner’s Ted’s Montana Grill (260 South Broad Street, 215-772-1230; tedsmontanagrill.com) where the standard steakhouse fare gets a twist from lean, tasty bison meat as a menu option. Expect reasonable prices and a broad selection of salads, burgers and chicken dishes —plus hand-cut french fries. Nearby Sansom Street Oyster House (1516 Sansom Street, 215-567-7683; sansomoysters.com) has been around since 1947 and has the feel of a brasserie from that era, with a menu of classic fresh seafood and a marvelous oyster bar.

For a quieter more intimate setting try Valanni (1229 Spruce Street, 215-790-9494; valanni.com), with its trendy Mediterranean-influenced cuisine and fun cocktails, or Ernesto’s 1521 Café (1521 Spruce Street, 215-546-1521), an often-overlooked classic Italian gem.