Best of Philly 2005: Restaurants & Food

Our cheat sheet on where to eat

Chocolate: Éclat Christopher Curtin spent 14 years refining his craft — in Belgium, Switzerland, France and Germany — before he opened this delectable European-style shop. The mocha-hued packaging is understated, but the flavors are bold: Think milk chocolates with a tickle of fresh ginger and wasabi, or dark chocolates with a pinch of Aleppo pepper (24 South High Street, West Chester; 610-692-5206).

Mussels: Pumpkin
The menu at this bare-bones, 28-seat BYOB in the city’s Graduate Hospital neighborhood changes daily, but mussels are almost always available, and if you’re lucky, chef Ian Moroney will be doing them the way we like best: with vermouth, shallots, and a spoonful of grainy mustard, which transforms a simple broth into something extraordinary (1713 South Street; 215-545-4448).

Hot pastrami: Kibitz Room
Rosy-red, crusty-edged, lightly smoked, lustily seasoned meat bulges from between two slices of firm sourdough rye. Take it home, or dine in for a slice of life that might have been lifted from a Woody Allen film (the Shoppes at Holly Ravine, 100 Springdale Road, Cherry Hill; 856-428-7878).

Rice pudding: Paradiso Restaurant & Wine Bar Rice pudding is suddenly appearing on every dessert lineup, but Lynn Marie Rinaldi has been making this version, with dried sour cherries, cinnamon and vanilla beans, for her family’s Thanksgiving table for years. It’s solidly satisfying home cooking, yet stylish enough to merit a place in Rinaldi’s ­urban-chic dining room (1627 East Passyunk Avenue; 215-271-2066).

Baguette: Baker Street Bread’s poolish baguette
Sure, Le Bus or Metropolitan Bakery might be more convenient than this Chestnut Hill boulangerie, but Baker Street’s poolish baguette blows away the competition with its perfect crust and deliciously chewy crumb. If you’re not heading to Paris anytime soon, get your fix here (8009 Germantown Avenue, Chestnut Hill; 215-248-3296).

Italian sausage: Cappuccio’s Meats
At $4.19 a pound, this 85-year-old butcher shop in the Italian Market has the most expensive hot Italian in South Philly, but it’s also the best. While other sausages suffer from too much fennel or too much heat, this has a perfect balance of both (1019 South 9th Street; 215-922-5792).

Pickles: Overbrook Farms Country Store If you like your pickles spicy, this quirky café just east of the county line will satisfy. Owner David Little has been pickling and jamming for more than 30 years, and his pickles—available by the jar for $5 — are always crisp and lip-puckeringly tart. Perfect on top of a burger or just by themselves (2013 North 63rd Street, Overbrook; 215-871-0443).