Where We’re Eating: December 2009

39223_article European Republic
Old City
Homemade soups like sweet potato/ginger and wraps filled with falafel and tahini make European Republic feel more Beirut than Berlin. But with fries this good, who cares? The new, jewel-box-sized Old City storefront does the fried potato best, filling a paper cone with fresh-out-of-the-fryer, salty treats that, thanks to a thick cut, have a strong potato taste and fluffy texture. Your hardest decision may be picking one of the 20-plus dipping sauce options. We highly recommend the vinegar-and-mayo European Sauce (très authentique).
Insider tip: Adding to the pizza-and-steak late-night options in Old City, this fry emporium stays open till 2 a.m. on weekends.

213 Chestnut Street, 215-627-5500.

The big, curvaceous bar at this new downtown Ambler restaurant makes for a perfect casual date night: Catch the game, share a gourmet pizza (think prosciutto, spinach and pine nuts), and choose one of the 30 wines by the glass. Despite a fireplace and wine display, the upstairs room feels a bit country-club-ish, but the expansive space makes dining with larger groups easy. Here, you’ll still find those pizzas (and attentive servers) and can choose from a large menu featuring more formal items like delicate edamame dumplings, perfectly roasted beets with ricotta salata, and an enormous bowl of spaghetti with gussied-up Kobe meatballs.
Insider tip: The outdoor space and large second floor are ideal for parties.

129 East Butler Avenue, Ambler, 215-643-0111.

West Philly
The restaurants that put Dan Stern on our culinary map – Gayle and Rae – may now be closed, but this new pub in West Philly keeps his vision alive: The wide-ranging menu (with snacks and starters, shellfish, specials, sandwiches and mixed grills) is reminiscent of Rae, while the cheeky menu items (like the “pig wings” – deep-fried pork shoulder chunks tossed in a tangy sauce) are pure Gayle. Some dishes are a bit heavy on salt and sauce – which, of course, is just what you want when the beer is flowing.
Insider tip: Get a group of 10 to 14 friends together for one of Stern’s communal dinners, to feast on suckling pig ($900) or a decadent lobster spread ($1,100).

midatlanticrestaurant.com, 3711 Market Street, 215-386-3711

39220_articleKoo Zee Doo
Northern Liberties
This new BYOB from David Gilberg and Carla Goncalves – the husband-wife/chef-pastry chef duo who won raves while cooking at the Ugly American – focuses on rustic Portuguese dishes like moélas, a surprisingly tender pile of braised chicken gizzards, and saucy pork-and-clam stew with potatoes. Design elements remain from Copper, the spot’s old inhabitant, like the open kitchen and exposed brick wall, but the cooking is chock-full of original flavors. Goncalves’s pastries are inspired, especially her coconut tart topped with a dried mission fig stuffed with sweetened chestnut paste and dipped in dark chocolate.
Insider tip: A bottle of pinot noir will match up well with the hearty fare.

koozeedoo.com, 614 North 2nd Street, 215-923-8080

Where We’re Eating contributors: Joy Manning and Ashley Primis. Photography by Stuart Goldenberg