Best of Philly 2005: Restaurants & Food

Our cheat sheet on where to eat

New BYOB: Marigold Kitchen
Philly is America’s BYOB capital, and no newcomer is better than this one in West Philly’s Spruce Hill. Chef-owner Steven Cook cooks a trend-tracking repertoire, like this dessert: basil and melon salad with orange flower/lime sorbet (501 South 45th Street; 215-222-3699).

New Restaurant (Overall): Barclay Prime Eating big beef, creamed spinach, and whipped potatoes with black truffle butter feels positively groovy at Stephen Starr’s mod steakhouse on Rittenhouse Square. There’s a hint of Frank Lloyd Wright in the backlit walnut bookcases and boxy lime-green leather seating, while the 20-ounce dry-aged, Plugra-gilded rib eye is a respectful nod to Peter Luger, the iconic meat lovers’ mecca in Brooklyn. Though modest BYOBs dominated the dining landscape this year—and BP’s wine markups are admittedly high—we love the heady experience delivered by this dining room (237 South 18th Street; 215-732-7560).

Ridiculously Overpriced Apple Pie: Petit 4 Pastry Studio “Eighteen bucks for an apple pie?” We can hear our mothers complaining already. But stick one forkful of Petit 4’s beautifully baked pie in Mom’s mouth, and she’ll shut up right quick (160 North 3rd Street; 215-627-8440).

Place to See What Life Was Like When Ike Was President: Weber’s Famous Root Beer This Pennsauken drive-in serves the same menu, in the same style, that it did in the ’50s, with food delivered right to your car by cutie waitresses (thankfully, not the same ones from the ’50s) (6019 Lexington Avenue, Pennsauken; 856-662-6632).

Meal Under $10: Falafel Cart, northeast corner of 20th and Market streets Grilled grapes, beet-stained hummus, whole radishes—you never know what will accompany the crisp-­tender falafel and grilled chicken at this beautifully decorated food truck. Beware: This isn’t fast food. A wait in the usual 10-person line will eat up most of your lunch break.

Place to go when you are very hungry: Sweet Lucy’s
For $66.95, you (and the football team you should invite) get one and a half racks of ribs, two pounds of any meat, an entire rotisserie chicken, and three pints of sides at this Northeast BBQ spot (7500 State Road; 215-331-3112).

Place to go when you aren’t hungry: Tria Cool music mixes set the scene for young professionals and urbane Rittenhouse Square retirees who gather here nightly for sophisticated nibbles, intriguing wines by the glass, and a connoisseur’s list of draft and bottle beers from Europe and North America. The small-plate menu of snacks, bruschettas, salads, sandwiches and fine cheeses makes it possible
to eat lightly or heartily
(123 South 18th Street; 215-972-8742).