Inexpensive Restaurants: The 2009 Philly Mag 50

Bar Ferdinand
Northern Liberties | Spanish | Entrées: Less than $12
Ranking: 49 • Last Year’s Ranking: 45
This hip restaurant doesn’t try to play the look-at-me, I’m-so-cool game, and for that, it’s effortlessly attention-getting and organically cool. Yet the vibe would be nothing without the good drinks and affordable, traditional tapas that are simple, but never ­boring (although sometimes slightly greasy), like the empanadas filled with cream cheese, dates and bacon, and croquettes made of salt-cured cod. If only all trendy ­restaurants could be this understated. Order: The addictive patatas bravas. 1030 North 2nd Street, 215-923-1313. See User Reviews, Hours, & Other Details

University City | Mexican | Entrée: Under $12
Ranking: 7 • Last Year’s Ranking: New to the List
The mango margaritas flow, the neon-pink walls glow, and the roaming mariachi sings his heart out at Jose Garces’s whimsical homage to Mexico City. You might find the sensory overload overwhelming, but this manic space feels just right in University City, where diners include compulsively texting Penn students, hard-drinking docs, and young West Philly families. The focus is on the flash here, but Garces’s gourmet versions of Mexican street food—tacos, tamales, guacamole—are shockingly elegant, not to mention some of the best eats we’ve had anywhere all year. This culinary carnival is not only pure fun, but a shining example of how Garces manages to brilliantly achieve diversity while never straying too far from what he does best. Order: Skirt steak nachos. 3945 Chestnut Street, 215-222-1657. See User Reviews, Hours, & Other DetailsSee MenuMake a Reservation

Honey’s Sit ‘N’ Eat
Northern Liberties | Southern | Entrées: Less than $12
Ranking: 48 • Last Year’s Ranking: 41
This restaurant with feel-good food sits at the unlikely intersection of Jersey diner (breakfast all day), Southern cuisine (­chicken-fried steak), Jewish deli (pastrami) and Northern Liberties boho chic (tofu scramble). But thanks to quality ingredients and a straightforward, stick-to-basics approach, the culinary mash-up is a recipe for success. Pre-dinner foods are still the strong suit here, and the long weekend waits and nonchalant service don’t make it the perfect fit for every occasion—though your stomach will tell you otherwise. Order: The turkey Reuben and one of the house-made sides. 800 North 4th Street, 215-925-1150. See User Reviews, Hours, & Other Details

Wynnewood/Main Line | Chinese | Entrées: Less than $13
Ranking: 35 • Last Year’s Ranking: New to the List
All the deliciousness of its Chinatown ­sibling—the note-­perfect Peking duck, the salt-baked shrimp (tails on), those amazing egg-on-top Hong Kong noodles—with less of the bustle, more parking, and much, much more comfortably suburban style. But it’s not boring; the loud room has an air of authenticity and a spot-on price point, which is what keeps this place packed and keeps us coming back. Order: Shrimp dumpling soup with pea shoots. 339 East Lancaster Avenue, Wynnewood, 610-658-0618. See User Reviews, Hours, & Other DetailsSee Menu

Northern Liberties | Indian | Entrées: Less than $12
Ranking: 50 • Last Year’s Ranking: 30
Without Tiffin, this city might not be enjoying its current love affair with all things Indian. What started as a little delivery business back in 2007 is now a full-blown phenomenon with two locations, a legion of devoted fans, and a crop of Tiffin wannabes nipping at its heels. As the business has grown, so has our devotion to it, especially now that the Girard Avenue location offers a spacious, comfortable upstairs dining room for eating in. And after all those visits, we still can’t get enough ­garlic-studded naan, yogurt-y chaat, lamb kebabs, samosas and vindaloos. Order: Malai kofta. 710 West Girard Avenue, 215-922-1297. See User Reviews, Hours, & Other Details

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