Best of Philly 2005: Restaurants & Food

Our cheat sheet on where to eat

Hoagie: Skippack Village Italian Market The bread at this suburban deli is crispy and chewy in all the right places, and with more than 200 meats and cheeses to choose from (the imported aged provolone is the standout), you’ll never run out of combos. Or leave hungry (4101 Skippack Pike, Skippack; 610-584-4050).

Coffee Beans: Fonseca Fair Trade Mexican This robust coffee, with hints of orange peel, dried fruit and pepper, is roasted right outside of Norristown by a couple who use the profits to provide medical assistance to impoverished nations. So your $12 a pound goes a lot farther than just an impeccable brew (available at Metropolitan Bakeries, metropolitanbakeries.com, and Ardmore Farmer’s Market, 120 Coulter Avenue, Ardmore, 610-896-7560).

Iced Coffee: Bucks County Coffee Co. Our favorite hot-weather java jolt isn’t even brewed. Coarsely ground beans from two coffee varieties are steeped in cold water to make a syrup, which is then mixed with cold water. The rich drink tastes as good in January as in June (35 locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and D.C.; buckscountycoffee.com).

New Suburban Restaurant: Nectar There’s dazzle aplenty at this $5 million ­Buddakan-style bar-restaurant, which has more than enough substance to back up its glam. Executive chef Patrick Feury plies the full spectrum of Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and Indian flavors, adding compatible ingredients as he sees fit. Meanwhile, the sushi chef turns out spicy big-eye tuna sashimi with cashews and chile sake sauce (pictured). That kind of range, as well as dishes that measure up to their luxe surroundings, makes Nectar special (1091 Lancaster Avenue, Berwyn; 610-725-9000).

Casino Dining: Red square A scene even in Tropicana’s showy Quarter, the restaurant sells luxury — there are mink coats available for ladies who tour the vodka ­cooler — and quirky combinations like Siberian nachos (smoked salmon with wasabi on wonton wrappers), best washed down with a flight of ice-cold vodkas (the Quarter at the Tropicana, 2801 Pacific Avenue, Atlantic City; 609-344-9100).

Restaurant Trend: Non-smoking establishments Who needs City Council? City or suburb, many restaurants and bars that are serious about food and wine have realized that only hickory-smoked meats and cabernet sauvignons should have the scent of tobacco. We got your smoking ban right here, Mayor.

Ice-cream shop: Zebra-Striped Whale Worth a trip to Bucks County no matter where you live. It’s the granite slab and mixing and mashing of the “whirlwinds” — the mix-ins of your choice — that create the perfect creamy, in-between texture, especially tasty when piled into one of the handmade waffle-cone bowls (12 South State Street, Newtown; 215-860-4122).

Place to eat with 10 people (and none of you remembered to make a reservation): Nam Phuong This Washington Avenue Vietnamese spot is constantly busy, but, somehow, there is always room for another party in the immense dining room. Wallet-friendly entrees are sized for sharing, and menu options range from safe to adventurous. Plus, there’s free parking (1100-1120 Washington Avenue; 215-468-0410).