Best of Philly 2005: Restaurants & Food

Our cheat sheet on where to eat

Food at 30th Street Station: Bridgewater’s Pub Okay, so it’s the only place in the station that isn’t fast food, but it just so happens to be unexpectedly delicious. Our favorites here include the Wagyu burger, the spaghetti pie, smoked trout salad, crabcakes, and the weekly specials (215-387-4787).

Service:The Orchard At a time when graciousness is in short supply, this very proper BYOB hideaway will remind you how much you miss it. The detail-oriented staff makes every customer in the crisp, white-walled dining room feel like a VIP, replacing and replenishing before you need to ask for anything. James Howard, a veteran of Le Bec-Fin and Buddakan, cooks French-­influenced New American cuisine, with the occasional nod to his Basque roots (503 Orchard Avenue, Kennett Square; 610-388-1100).

Gimmick: Cereality A homage to the best of the sugar-coated breakfast staple, Cereality is cashing in on University City’s Cocoa Puff nostalgia with its design-your-own-cereal concept. Malt balls and chocolate milk on Lucky Charms, anyone? (3631 Walnut Street; 215-222-1162)

Food Blog: Minor Gourmandry Blogger Andy Meehan of Penn Valley may only be 18, but his appreciation of food is as mature as a 1977 Dow’s port. His extensive blog chronicles his experiences with cooking and dining (he recently chose dinner at Lacroix with his folks over a graduation party), and includes an impressive photo gallery, since he carries his pocket digital everywhere he goes (minorgourmandry.com).

Way to take advantage of the “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” craze without driving all the way to Lancaster: Fair Food Farm Stand From mizuna and tatsoi to lamb chops and porterhouses, this Reading Terminal stand has most of what you need for a successful dinner party, all grown by local farmers. Open Thursday through Saturday (12th and Arch streets; 215-386-5211, x 101).

Barbecue: De Breaux’s Good things come to those who wait (and wait, and wait — this is down-home slow cooking) for Frances De Breaux’s South Carolina-style BBQ. Her beefy short ribs can kick a filet mignon’s butt, and the subtly smoky spare ribs are big and succulent (Overbrook SEPTA station, 2135 North 63rd Street, Overbrook; 215-877-4559).

Date Restaurant: Catherine’s Dozens—or is it hundreds?—of flickering candles lend a romantic feel to this Chester County BYOB, which occupies a rustic former general store. On the eclectic menu: wontons filled with chili-rubbed pork, and blackened tuna steak with raspberry-jalapeño coulis. A little flashlight arrives with the bill (1701 West Doe Run Road, Unionville; 610-347-2227).

Chef: Christopher Lee Now fully in charge at Striped Bass, this rising star — who came to Philly from Manhattan — recently won a James Beard Award as the nation’s best chef under age 30. Who doesn’t love a guy so inspired by his adopted city that he invented a “cheese skate” dish, playfully combining braised short ribs and lightly breaded skate wing with caramelized onions, exotic mushrooms, and a schmear of parmesan cream sauce? (1500 Walnut Street; 215-732-4444)