Center City District Restaurant Week, so soon?
Usually held in September, the semiannual promotion plays out this time from Aug. 2-7 and Aug. 9-14, as the sponsors step around the Jewish high holy days and the papal visit.
The deal, as usual, is for 3- and 4-course dinner at participating Center City restaurants for $35, plus tax, tip, and alcohol; some restaurants will also offer $20 3-course lunches.
But trying to narrow down where to go, with more than 120 restaurants, can be a challenge.
We've done the hard work for you, culling the list to come up with dinner options for those looking to get the best bang for their buck. And where you can actually score a table. Many popular restaurants - such as Zahav - are fully booked. Others have openings only at 5 or 9 p.m.
Keep in mind that this list excludes steakhouses - all of which are, by their very nature, a value when priced at $35. They are listed separately here.
In no particular order:
Loews Hotel, 12th and Market Streets
On the ground floor of the Loews Hotel at 12th and Market Streets, this upscale American has hefty portions and an enviable bourbon selection. Chef Tom Harkins also fills his Restaurant Week menu with many options from his usual menu. The "taste of ham" is a must for an appetizer, and the flat iron steak is available as a main course.
Rated 2 bells by The Inquirer's Craig LaBan.
aka Rittenhouse Square, 18th and Walnut Streets
The Rittenhouse Square address does not suggest "value," but Ellen Yin and Eli Kulp's stylish American bistro easily delivers $60 worth of food from its normal menu. There's a wide selection of small plates as starters, including beef tartare and smoked trout on toast. (Rated 3 bells from The Inquirer's Craig LaBan.)
1111 Locust St.
Chef Jose Garces' charming Washington Square West bistro offers a wide selection of its European fare - and at the 35 bucks, it is much cheaper than the tasting menu. Start with a selection of cheeses and the tarte flambée (a flatbread with smoked bacon, onion confit, and gruyere). (Rated 3 bells from The Inquirer's Craig LaBan.)
1234 Locust St.
Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran's kitschy Italian spot is a sweet departure from the duo behind the more polished Barbuzzo, Jamonera, and Lolita nearby. Don't miss the fontina-filled b+v+p meatballs, which were a standout for Craig LaBan in his 2-bell review. (Rated 2 bells from The Inquirer's Craig LaBan.)
217 Chestnut St.
Jose Garces' first restaurant, a roomy Old City Spaniard, is a perennial 3-bell review winner from Craig LaBan, and the tapas menu allows you to choose two small plates for both the first and second courses. It's like a tasting menu at 40 percent off. Some specialities included are the cured meats (serrano ham, chorizo pamplona) and variety of cheeses.
128 S. 19th St.
Bearing the nickname of a former chef at Pod, this Japanese bistro just steps from Rittenhouse Square has a lot to offer, in addition to sushi. The choices for the third course includes pan-seared salmon, roasted chicken, and two sushi combinations to choose from. We'd go for the maki combo, which includes a spicy tuna roll, yellowtail jalapeno mango roll, and salmon avocado roll. (The 3-bell review is here.
509 S. Second St.
Equal parts juke joint, neighborhood lounge and grill, this spot across from Headhouse Square executes spot-on Southern and barbecue fare. And it's owned by an Englishman. The crawfish mac & cheese is sublime.
777 S. Broad St.
There's plenty of food and more than a dozen options at this high-style Indian-inspired dining destination on the southern end of the Avenue of the Arts. Specialties include tandoori shrimp and xacutti pork. (The 3-bell review is here.)
1407 Locust St.
Philly's most sumptuous Greek seafood restaurant, convenient to the Avenue of the Arts, delivers at least $10 under its usual menu price. Start with one of its specialties, the saganaki (pan-fried cheese with lemon and ouzo) and go for the lavraki (sea bass) or swordfish souvlaki for the second course. (The 2-bell review is here.)
Michael Schulson's vibrant 13th Street Asian fusion restaurant offers its chef's tasting menu during restaurant week - but it's $10 less. And it's simple: Choose 7 plates (small and big) plus dessert. Don't miss the chicken or pork bao buns, and General Tso's soup dumplings to start. The dandan noodles and Peking duck are also favorites. (The 2-bell review is here.)
1901 Chestnut St.
This is the first "fall" restaurant week for George and Jennifer Sabatino's intimate second-floor American near Rittenhouse Square. Start with either the wax bean salad (ricotta cheese, apricot and bread crumbs) or spicy poached mussels (tomato sauce, baby fennel and purple basil). The three choices for the second course are potato gnocchi, seared sea trout. and pork sausage. (The 2-bell review is here.)
Stephen Starr's Cuban vacation near Rittenhouse Square does not disappoint. Start with the peach gazpacho or shrimp ceviche. Three options are offered for the second course - including the short-rib ropa vieja and chicken imperial. (The 2-bell review is here.)
106 S. 13th St.
This lively Washington Square West Mexican focuses on small plates for sharing. You'll get 3 plates plus dessert - starting off with charred corn tostaditas. Go for the pork carnitas, and treat yourself to a margarita. (The 2-bell review is here.)
623 S. Sixth St.
Peter Woolsey's Queen Village bistro doesn't go to extremes for restaurant week; it simply serves its menu, by and large. And BLM also offers the RW special on Saturday, Aug. 8. Try the oeuf du pêcheur (fisherman's style poached egg, toast, mussels, tarragon cream) as an appetizer, and then move on to the mustard-braised rabbit with tagliatelle. (The 2-bell review is here.)
The stylish American corner bistro at 22nd and Spruce Streets, from the owners of Pub & Kitchen, is a neighborhood place. But Fitler Square/Rittenhouse's being what it is, the everyday prices can be a bit steep. Restaurant week helps the wallet. Go for the gnocchi or short rib for the second course. (The 3-bell review is here.)
1121 Walnut St.
The wood oven in the kitchen provides deep flavors in the dishes at this rustic Walnut Street storefront. There's something for everyone - from summer squash to lasagna and striped bass. End your meal with a soft-serve sundae. (The 3-bell review is here.)