The main sources of light at South Philly’s Royal Tavern (937 East Passyunk Avenue, 215-389-6694; royaltavern.com) seem to be the single TV by the bar and a strand of Christmas lights that meanders through the dining room. But the menu — updated and cheaper (with entrées averaging $11) under new chef Mark McKinney — is more substantial and thoughtful than the barroom-meets-dorm-room decor, with house-smoked duck in the towering duck club and a better-than-Mom’s “Meatloaf #3” sandwich. — A.W.
At First Blush
Ignore the lackluster name of Blush (24 North Merion Avenue, Bryn Mawr, 610-527-7700; dineatblush.com), because the lively, if pricey, menu of American food fuses fresh pastas with Latin flavors and a dab of wasabi, and sizeable portions of grouper with poblano-shrimp griddlecakes. The decor — textured red walls, chandeliers, dark wood accents — is left over from predecessor Bianca, and the tiny upstairs porch is pleasant. This is the suburban spot to fill a $17 burger fix; it’s Kobe-style beef stuffed with Gouda cheese, charred and served with fries. — ASHLEY PRIMIS
At the edge of the known culinary world lies Divan Turkish Kitchen (918 South 22nd Street; 215-545-5790). This burgeoning neighborhood near Christian Street doesn’t even have a name, but this inexpensive BYOB could help put it on the map. Divan’s cold meze platter alone is worth a visit, with mild, smooth hummus, fragrant stuffed grape leaves, and eggplant prepared three lusty ways. From the grill come lamb, chicken and döner kabobs served over thin Turkish pitas. — A.W.
We didn’t know what to expect from Casona (563 Haddon Avenue, Collingswood; 856-854-5555), the Nuevo Cuban BYOB that opened in Collingswood recently. Partner Larry Grillo had also helmed Tierra Colombiana (which we love) and Mixto (which we don’t). But one taste of the habana maduro here (fried plantains topped with Swiss cheese and citrus-marinated pork), and we were already talking about coming back to eat on the wraparound porch when the Latin band’s playing. It doesn’t hurt that the waiters look like they just stepped off of romance-novel covers. Yum. — VICKI GLEMBOCKI
For two decades, Restaurant Taquet (139 East Lancaster Avenue, Wayne, 610-687-5005; taquet.com) has been an essential Main Line watering hole. In celebration of the anniversary, the restaurant introduced a dozen new cocktails to the classic bar. The names are silly — try ordering a Ferrari Punch with a straight face — and the garnishes more so. (For the New Zealander, pale passion fruit/Grand Marnier foam is piped like icing across the surface of a milkshake-thick kiwi-rum martini.) The tangerine martini may be tasty, and the caipirinha trendy, but it’s doubtful these cute cocktails will reach classic status in the next 20 years. — A.W.