25 Must-Try Center City Restaurant Week Dishes

By Danya Henninger  |  September 17, 2013
Credit: Danya Henninger

Center City District Restaurant Week is underway, and the 10th-anniversary edition of the 100-plus restaurant promotion looks better than ever. We looked through all the offerings and found the best of what’s available on the $35 prix fixe menus featuring three (or more!) courses. Check out this video of three don’t-miss restaurants, and then click through the slide show to see 25 dishes you’ll definitely want to seek out. If you’re already hungry right now... we apologize in advance.


  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Hamachi Sashimi at Buddakan

    The miniature cubes of fresh coconut swimming in the citrus dressing are just as silky as the ultrafresh fish in this app at Stephen Starr’s modern Asian in Old City. Pineapple and chile pepper add just enough tangy bite to the sweet seafood slices.

    325 Chestnut St.; 215-574-9400

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    Country Pâté at Vintage

    Some kitchens seem to get pâté confused with rillettes and serve a fatty, gooey square. Not this Midtown Village wine bar, where the classic French country version is pleasantly dry and nutty, but still extremely meaty (it is wrapped in bacon, after all). Wet it with grainy dijon mustard and vinegary capers and cornichons for a great contrasting combo.

    129 S. 13th St.; 215-922-3095

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    Fried Beets at

    New favorite way to eat beets: deep-fried. If you’re a fan of the purple root vegetable, you’ll swoon over the plate chef Val Stryjewski is offering at this Rittenhouse Euro-bistro. Beets actually come four ways: as a purée, shaved in raw slices (the candy-cane circles), salt-roasted and fried in a golden tempura batter. Swirl through the yogurt sauce and enjoy.

    135 S. 18th St.; 215-825-7030

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    Empanadas at Xochitl

    General manager Adam Solomon offers a key tip to anyone smart enough to opt for the empanadas at this Headhouse Square Mexican: cut the crispy shell in half and, as you scoop the oozing cheese back into its pocket, tuck the corn and salsa verde in with it for a perfect hand-held bite.

    408 S. Second St.; 215-238-7280

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    Hanger Steak Frites at Zinc

    Olivier Desaintmartin is part of an elite worldwide group with the designation “Master Chef of France,” so you know his version of the traditional Gallic steak frites will be a good one. The huge pat of herbed butter melts on the seared meat, which contrasts nicely with both the fries (in texture) and the side salad (your arteries will thank you).

    246 S. 11th St.; 215-351-9901

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    Korean BBQ Beef at Sampan

    Michael Schulson must have some secret method of preparing the choice bits of beef that get skewered and BBQ’d at his sleek Midtown Village Pan-Asian, because we’ve never tasted anything quite like them. Vinegary kimchi on top adds spice and crunch to the sweet umami meat.

    124 S. 13th St.; 215-732-3501

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    Heirloom Tomato Salad at Time

    Restaurant Week just happens to fall during prime tomato season, and chef Sean Magee gets new heirlooms delivered daily to this Midtown Village whiskey bar from quite a few different local farms. He keeps the tomatoes at room temp - refrigeration would ruin the flavor - and serves them in a lightly dressed salad with vinaigrette and just a few crumbles of goat cheese.

    1315 Sansom St.; 215-985-4800

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    Tandoori Chicken at The Dandelion

    It takes nearly three days and two sets of 24-hour brines to prepare the Indian-style chicken at this British pub in Rittenhouse, but it only takes one bite to know it’s worth the effort. The tandoori spices infused through the chicken are tamed by the cool yogurt dressing and the bed of subtly sweet coconut rice.

    124 S. 18th St.; 215-558-2500

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    Salmon Volcano Roll at Raw

    Sushi doesn’t always fill you up, but with this entree at Tony Rim’s swanky Midtown Village lounge, you won’t leave hungry. Spicy tuna and crab are wrapped inside the rice and nori, which is then topped with salmon, avocado, tempura and red tobiko (roe). A swirl of spicy sauce is the finishing touch.

    1225 Sansom St.; 215-238-1903

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    Foie Gras Ravioli at Meritage

    It’s hard to throw more pungent elements into one miniature copper pan than foie gras ravioli, roasted maitake mushroom and black-truffle butter, but chef Anne Coll somehow brings all the elements together into an uplifting symphony of piquancy. You won’t be sorry.

    500 S. 20th St.; 215-985-1922

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    Honeycrisp Apple Salad at 10 Arts

    After tasting this fall salad from chef Nathan Volz, we immediately begged for the recipe for the mustard-cider dressing off him, though the perfectly spiced roasted apple cubes that stud the greens will be harder to reproduce. Shaved Honeycrisps and toasted walnuts complete the satisfyingly fresh start to your meal in the Ritz-Carlton dining room.

    10 S. Broad St.; 215-523-8273

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    Korean Fried Chicken Wings at The Corner

    Chef John Taus does a double-fry on these plump chicken wings before dousing them in a bright gochujang sauce and black and white sesame seeds. We don’t often call things “addictive,” but this is one dish you won’t be able to stop eating, despite the growing burn on your tongue.

    102 S. 13th St.; 215-735-7500

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    Mar Y Tierra at Tequilas

    Get your surf ‘n’ turf Mexican style at David Suro-Pinera’s high-end Mexican in Rittenhouse. A grilled jumbo prawn is paired with serrano-pepper-sauced filet mignon, all matched with traditional south-of-the-border sides like spicy rice, guacamole and refried beans. Come hungry.

    1602 Locust St.; 215-546-0181

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    Gnocchi Parisienne at Pennsylvania 6

    Instead of potato or semolina flour, this style of gnocchi is made from pâte à choux (aka pastry dough), which makes for very light mouthfuls. As tasty as the pine-nut-surrounded pasta and roasted squash are, our favorite part of this dish at the Midtown Village American bistro is the crunchy fried sage leaves scattered across the top.

    114 S. 12th St.; 267-639-5606

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    Bittersweet Chocolate Budino at Russet

    Kristin Wood is in charge of the sweet side of things at the Spruce Street BYO she runs with husband Andrew, and black and dense as her mound of chocolate pudding appears, it’s actually light as air. Crème fraîche made with ultra-high-end black peppercorns is just as light, while rich house-preserved plums add heft.

    1521 Spruce St.; 215-546-1521

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    Guacamole at El Vez

    Stephen Starr’s multihued modern Mexican in Midtown Village is famous for its bowls of guac, and with good reason. Mixed fresh to order, the avocado-cilantro-jalapeño mix is equal parts chunky and cream, and the side of chips will do a great job of delivering it to your mouth.

    121 S. 13th St.; 215-928-9800

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    Wild Boar Sliders at Smokin’ Betty’s

    Chef Art Ward does the name of this Wash West joint proud with the succulent, smoky wild boar in this slider duo. Brilliant heirloom tomatoes and microgreens from Blue Moon Acres do the pork justice, and the garlic aïoli on the plate is almost the best part.

    116 S. 11th St.; 215-922-6500

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    Olives at Amada

    If you’ve been thinking of olives as mundane, you haven’t had the house-marinated assortment at Jose Garces’ Old City original. Flecked with Spanish spice and swimming in excellent olive oil, there are more sizes and types of olives in this starter than you probably knew existed.

    217 Chestnut St.; 215-625-2450

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    Dessert Trio at Cuba Libre

    Choice is overrated when your other option is “all of the above.” The chef sends out his three favorite desserts at this Old City Cuban, which means you get a dollop of citrus-dressed flan, a bell-shaped dulce de leche sponge cake and a chocolate torte with blueberry compote to finish your meal.

    10 S. Second St.; 215-627-0666

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    Caesar Salad at Capital Grille

    Sure, you’ve had a Caesar salad before, but the version at this Broad Street steakhouse is a classic rendition - and it’s a perfect pregame for your meat. Crunchy as the romaine lettuce stays beneath a not-too-garlicky dressing, the extra crackle from Grana Padano croutons is welcome.

    1346 Chestnut St.; 215-545-9588

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    Cheesesteak Egg Roll at The Continental

    Don’t tell anyone, but we almost like this incarnation of Philly’s signature sandwich better than the original version. Ok, maybe not, but there’s no chance of stale bread here - egg roll shells are always crisp and perfect. Plus, the “wit” - here as fried onion strings on top - is worth the order alone.

    138 Market St.; 215-923-6069

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    Octopodi at Estia

    Step into this vast dining room just off Broad across from the Academy of Music and you’ll feel transported to Greece. That feeling only strengthens when you take a bite of the char-grilled octopus, full-flavored and tender. Sharp capers and a lemony vinaigrette are a culturally appropriate - and delicious - accompaniment.

    1405 Locust St.; 215-735-7700

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    Crawfish Mac n’ Cheese at The Twisted Tail

    Chef Leo Forneas tucks hefty hunks of crawfish inside the pan of creamy mac ’n’ cheese that arrives steaming at your table at this Headhouse Square blues joint. Considering that it’s only one of four courses, you might want to make plans to enjoy it for a leftovers lunch the next day.

    509 S. Second St.; 215-558-2471

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Albondigas at Tinto

    The spiced meatballs at Jose Garces’ Rittenhouse wine bar epitomize Basque pintxos, though the portion is larger than most of that culture’s tiny bites. The meat only gains richness when you drag it through the quivering egg yolk, then scoop up the juice and peppers on the side with a piece of crusty grilled bread.

    114 S. 20th St.; 215-665-9150

  • Fried Chicken at Route 6

    Get your seafood fix with your appetizer at Stephen Starr’s North Broad fish house, because you’re going to want to choose the fried chicken for your entree. The buttermilk-brined boneless strips are quick-fried for extra-juicy meat - you don’t really need the bacon gravy on the side, but why not?

    600 N. Broad St.; 215-391-4600