Here is an excerpt from Craig LaBan's online chat:
Craig LaBan: This is cookbook-test season, and I got a chance to cook from the Joe Beef cookbook. (JB's chef and author, Fred Morin, was in town for a book dinner at Osteria.) Judging from the meal I made, porchetta with gingery Babylon plum jam and potato rolls, this book is a keeper. Almost as good as the Montreal landmark itself.
C.L.: I don't ever go to events, so it's not something I can talk about from experience. But you're right, those are really expensive. But if they sell out their events then they've found an audience. They're running a business, not a charity (though the Vetri family does run a charity.) I will say that you should expect to spend about $125 to $150 at Joe Beef next time you're in Montreal, so this doesn't actually sound like a bad deal.
Reader: Looking for a family restaurant after a Walnut Street Theatre show. I have an 8- and 6-year-old, but they can behave. Any suggestions?
C.L.: I've been suggesting Zinc as my go-to for the Walnut. Good food and warm environment. Depending on your kids, it may be a little too cozy in there with all the "theater ladies," but mine did just fine. Very good, solid bistro food in a nook that looks like a genuine Parisian boite.
Reader: A place to bring kids pre-theater: Palace at the Ben has some decent Indian. The place is really so nice inside and it's within steps of the Walnut Street Theatre. Otherwise, Jones is not far and has the comfort food they probably would enjoy.
C.L.: Those are not bad suggestions. But if you're willing to go to the 700 block of Chestnut, I'd also suggest Aqua, the Malay/Thai place, with a diverse menu and enough flavors to please anyone. Don't miss the roti and the crispy taro rolls. Then again, you're close to 13th and Sansom, with lots of choices, but a nightlife district that is less suited to little ones.
Reader: I'm kinda glad you gave Zeppoli two bells, because now I can get in whenever I want, and the food is phenomenal.
C.L: I never had any complaints about the food, which was definitely three-bell level. Truly personal, artisan takes on a cuisine, authentic Sicilian, that's still a fresh revelation for Philadelphians. Just bring your earplugs, or your iPhones, so you can text/ with your guests.
Reader: What's the best hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the city? I'm thinking Cafe Diem, Hardena, etc.
C.L.: Well, you named a couple good ones. I'm a fan of Ting Wong (for HK-style) noodle soups in Chinatown; Shining Star (for Puerto Rican mofongo al pilon) on North 5th Street; and Pho 75 (Washington Avenue) for pho.
Reader: Have you ever tried the Bun Bo Hue (spicy Vietnamese noodles with pork shoulder and sliced beef) noodle soup at Cafe Diem off of 8th and Washington? I discovered this little hole in the wall and absolutely loved it.
C.L.: Yes, I have, and what a powerful bowl of spicy pig knuckles it is! This dish should definitely be on the radar of all adventure-eaters in the city. I'd been to Cafe Diem many years ago, but was reminded of it a few months ago. Good stuff for curing a cold, especially if you don't mind picking through a brothy bowl of some gristle (where all the flavor is . . .)
Reader: Holes in the wall: Jong Ka Jib and Fuel on Passyunk.
C.L.: Good suggestions, especially with Jong Ka Jib, though this soft tofu casserole restaurant is probably a little too nice to be referred to as a "hole in the wall."
Reader: Had a fantastic meal off Triumph Brewery's new locally sourced menu, seared ahi tuna with a cranberry relish and butternut squash hash. I was impressed with the quality of the menu, with many options. The food at the Old City brewery has come a long way, the beers selection is a nice added bonus.
C.L.: Thanks for the update. The last time I ate there, they were serving turkey wings and the like.