Here is an excerpt from Craig LaBan's online chat of March 10, 2015:
Reader: As an Indian immigrant and expert on all things Indian (sarcasm), my friends ask me for the best Indian restaurant in Philly. What is the best in your eyes?
Craig LaBan: You need to head to Philly's western burbs - a.k.a. the "Dosa Belt" - where you'll find really authentic, fully spiced food out in Exton, Downingtown and Trooper. Much has a South Indian accent, which is hard to find in the city. Faves include Devi, Bangles, Indian Hut, and Dosa Hut isn't bad, either. (Great Hydrebadi biryani!) In town, Ekta, Indeblue, and Tiffin.
Reader: Good pizza in Fishtown area has gone away. Tac's is OK, but overrated, and Pizza Brain, Beddia are schtick places.
C.L.: I disagree - especially on Beddia, which is really great, crispy-crust pie. Pizza Brain is pretty good, but heavy on schtick. (Though what a schtick it is! Seen their "closing time" dances on Instagram?) Not sure what long-gone pizza classic you're yearning for in that hood. Tacconelli's is Port Richmond. Also, don't sleep on Bufad, in Eraserhood/Loft District on Spring Garden, not too far.
Reader: I hope you can tell me where there are real Spanish restos that are not fancy Garces places in Philly. Since the one on 100 block of South left 10 years ago, I can't find one. Where does Philly population from Spain eat?
C.L.: Most of what we have here these days are modern interpretations by non-Spanish chefs - Bar Ferdinand, Jamonera, Amada/Tinto . . . and those I really enjoy. A number of traditional Portuguese spots still in NE Philly (like Tio Pepe, El Balconcito, which also does Peruvian) that I've not been to that might be what you're looking for. We just don't have a large enough Spanish national crowd to support what you're looking for. I find many of the restaurants mentioned above, though, to be very good.
Reader: Please go try/review the new Thai place in Graduate Hospital, Thai Square Philly. They are a small BYOB. Their red curry, Thai fried rice, and Thai iced tea took me back to the streets of Chiang Mai/Bangkok.
C.L.: Just drove by this little storefront off Grays Ferry the other day. . . . Curious, so I will report back.
Reader: Any recommendations for authentic Irish food for St. Patty's Day?
C.L.: Good question. I've not been to Ireland, so I'm not sure I'm the best authority here, but have always enjoyed the fare at the Bards on Walnut Street. Good live Celtic music often, as well.
Reader: Chestnut St. Philly Bagel is definitely a welcome addition to Center City West. I had one of their bagels last weekend. Pretty sure they have the best N.Y.-style bagel on the west side of Center City.
C.L.: Very tricky about that qualification . . . Spread is Montreal-style, and all the other decent bagels (Knead, Philly Style, Hot Bagels, High St.) are on the east side of Broad. This is the western outpost for hot bagels from South Street, so they are a known good-bagel quantity. I popped in and was intrigued by these flattened out "flagels." Does the pretzel have some serious new competition? Who's got Flagel Fever!