Little Black Book: Philadelphia Concierge Favorites


You know how hard it is to score a prime time reservation at one of Philly’s hot dining spots. Now try doing it for a living — such is the ongoing challenge for our city’s concierge community. Each day, my 50 or so colleagues from around town are asked to secure scores of tables for their hungry (and hopeful) guests.

Recently, I polled several of these industry friends, finding out their most popular restaurant requests while also learning one or two personal favorites. The responses I found were intriguing: Several Stephen Starr and Jose Garces restaurants are continual, if not expected, top draws; location plays a big part in where they’re sending potential customers; and, it seems, word has not fully spread about the demise of one formerly renowned Philly seafood institution.

Richard Hoffman, The Westin Philadelphia
“Most requests are for Starr restaurants — without a doubt, Buddakan and Barclay Prime. But Amada and Tinto are also some of my top-requested places. My personal favorite is Devon Seafood Grill. In this market, most guests look for good food within walking distance to the hotel, and something that’s not so hard on the wallet. D’Angelo’s is another name I offer quite often.”

James Portner, The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia
“My top requested restaurants are Amada and 10 Arts, especially since Jennifer Carroll was featured on Top Chef. My two favorites are 10 Arts and Buddakan. I also really love Distrito. It’s a tough call!”

Jamie Cooperstein, The Residences at Two Liberty Place
Parc and Amada were the most popular requests for me this past year. As for my personal favorites, I would go with Zahav and Tria, but there are so many great ones out there!”

Dennis Maiorano, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown
“My most frequent requests, and it is due to proximity, are Maggiano’s Little Italy and McCormick & Schmick’s. After these, it’s Buddakan and The Capital Grille. I like Estia and La Famiglia each for a great dining experience, and, a taste of Philadelphia’s ethnic offerings.”

Dan Gray, Sheraton City Centre
“Number one is easy: Buddakan. Number two is more difficult since we get asked about so many different places. Some guests inquire about Ralph’s in South Philly, and believe it or not, I still get asked very often to make reservations at Old Original Bookbinder’s, and then I have to pass on the bad news. My personal favorite is Portofino at 1227 Walnut Street. I just love everything about it; it’s fairly casual and not horribly expensive. I have never had a bad meal there. Then, I would have to say Barclay Prime, as I am a sucker for a great steak. The service is always professional and the food is amazing.”

Albert Lee, Independence Visitor Center
“The number one spot for requests is actually City Tavern, because most of my guests are looking for history with their meal. The other is a toss-up between Pat’s and Geno’s, with the former coming in a close second. McGillin’s Old Ale House is also a popular place to send them. My two favorites: Alma de Cuba and David’s Mai Lai Wah.”

Mark Edwards, The Rittenhouse Hotel
“Guests favor Barclay Prime, and it’s my personal favorite too.”

Brian Mottolo, 10 Rittenhouse
Barclay Prime, Pod and Devon Seafood Grill are my three most-requested restaurants. For years, I have been in love with Effie’s, the Mediterranean on Pine Street. I enjoy the open kitchen, I really like the service — from the moment someone answers the phone to the great goodbye offered when I leave. I love their mussels, the baklava and the cardamom infused Greek coffee is a terrific ending to a meal. I like the atmosphere, especially the carriage house facing the courtyard. I have always had a great experience there and so have my guests.”

Marcy Hetelson, Sofitel Philadelphia
“The most requested restaurants are in two categories: High end: Alma de Cuba and Tinto; and casual: Devon Seafood Grille and Parc. My two personal favorites for high end: Vetri and Estia; for casual: Meritage and Friday Saturday Sunday.”

Ken Alan, BPG Properties, Ltd.
From its opening in 1998, Buddakan was far and away my most-requested restaurant. Then, in 2006 or so, Amada became a close second, until the following year, where it supplanted the competition. Now they run neck and neck. The Capital Grille has been a constant third choice. Today, I find my clientele becoming increasingly diversified. My biggest weekly request is, usually, whatever the It Restaurant of the Moment may be. This week, Mark Vetri’s Amis is getting the most play, and I anticipate it will for the next couple months. As for me, I’m an equal-opportunity diner: Whether it’s the Sunday jazz brunch at Caribou Café, a burger and beer at Good Dog Bar, or, savoring from soup to nuts at The Fountain — it’s all good.

Ken Alan is Vice President of Concierge Services for BPG Properties, and he is a founding member of the Philadelphia Concierge Association. His motto is “Nothing is impossible — impossible simply takes a few more phone calls.”