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Bring big appetite for Philadelphia fare.

SEAT A Philadelphia Inquirer food writer at the same table with a Philadelphia Daily News restaurant critic and what do you get?

A smorgasbord of great suggestions for places to eat while attending the NCEW conference in September, that's what.

"What a great opportunity this is," says Maria Gallagher of the Daily News, joined by the Inquirer's Elaine Tait. "I've always wanted to tell some editors where to go."

As Gallagher cautions from the start, many may be under the misimpression that Philadelphia has but one restaurant, and its name is Bookbinders. In reality, the city has more than 400. Two are Old Original Bookbinders and Bookbinder's Seafood House, and only one is run by the Bookbinder family. Both are expensive and, she notes, have been joined by many more exciting places over the past two decades.

Gallagher's recommendations, then, for tasting Philadelphia:

* The classic cheesesteak. Pat's King of Steaks at 9th and Passyunk in South Philadelphia is the most atmospheric spot. You saw it in Rocky. Open 24 hours a day. Not the best cheesesteak in town, but the one everyone talks about. The blue collar worker's Bookbinder's.

* Chinatown. This area bounded by Vine Street, Arch Street, 11th Street, and 8th Street includes Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Thai restaurants. Some are fancy, some not. None expensive. Favorites: Harmony Vegetarian Restaurant at 135 North 9th (215/627-4520), Thai Garden East at 101 North 11th (215/629-9939), Van's Garden at 121 North 11th (215/923-2438), and Tsui Hang Chun at 911 Race Street (215/925-8901).

* Exotic. The eight-course Moroccan feast runs about $20 at Fez, located at 620 South 2nd Street (215/925-5367). Belly dancing on weekends.

* Best in town. Nationally known Le Bec-Fin at 1523 Walnut (215/567-1000) is one of the most expensive tabs in town, but you can visit without spending a fortune. Its elegant downstairs bar serves entrees for $14 and under, but beware of the $7.50 wine by the glass. Or you can simply share a dessert sampler and coffee for two for less than $12. You'll get the same sweets that the big cigars upstairs are having.

* Unique favorites. Casual places with eclectic food and great personality include Judy's at 3rd and Bainbridge (215/928-1968), Knave of Hearts at 230 South Street (215/922-3956), Alex on South at 636 South (215/925-7800), and L'Osteria dell'Artista at 114 North 3rd (215/922-5595). The last has no liquor license; bring your own wine.

* Rittenhouse Square. Fancy Rittenhouse Square types flock to Carolina's at 261 South 20th Street (215/545-1000) for yuppie comfort food like meat loaf with garlic mashed potatoes and the most extraordinary crab cakes.

* Outdoor cafe. The most popular one in town is at Marabella's, 1700 Benjamin Franklin Parkway (215/981-5555). Drinks and dining.

* Wines by the glass. Ristorante Panorama in the Penn's View Inn, 14 North Front Street at Market, offers 120 varieties, along with live jazz piano.

* Something for everyone. The Reading Terminal Market at 12th and Arch Streets -- right in the middle of the city's new Convention Center -- is where all Philadelphia eats lunch, buys take-out dinner, and shops for groceries. It's open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. More than 100 merchants. Sample soul food, fried oysters, sushi, Chinese stir-fry, steamed lobsters, pasta salads, veggie burgers, Mexican food, locally made ice cream, fresh hot pretzels. The city's best hoagie is here at the Salumeria stand.

Feasts for sore feet

Elaine Tait, bless her, considered your sore feet in making her recommendations. All are within walking distance of Sheraton Society Hill, and she includes a rating on cost.

* Dmitri's. Located at 795 South 3rd Street at Catherine (215/625-0556). Philadelphia's smallest seafood restaurant serves super-fresh fish in a no-frills simple setting. Inexpensive.

* Dickens Inn. Located at 421 South 2nd Street between Pine and Lombard (215/928-9307). This cozy bit of old England owned by a Dickens descendant offers decent food and drinks. Moderate prices.

* Downey's. Located at 526 South Front Street (215/625-9500). The city's most successful Irish pub has a wide following that includes local sports figures. Moderate prices.

* Eli's Pier 34. Located at 735 South Delaware Avenue near Fitzwater Street (215/923-2500). Delaware River pier-turned-restaurant serves hearty seafood and barbecue specialties. Moderate prices.

* Cafe Nola. Located at 328 South Street between 3rd and 4th (215/627-2590). A good-times place with an interesting Cajun-Creole-Italian menu. Moderate prices.

* Monte Carlo Living Room. Located at 150 2nd Street at South Street (215/925-2220). Upscale Italian fare in an appropriately swell setting. Expensive prices.

So there you have it, the critics' choice. Whenever possible, call for reservations. And enjoy.
COPYRIGHT 1993 National Conference of Editorial Writers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Convention '93; National Conference of Editorial Writers convention
Publication:The Masthead
Date:Sep 22, 1993
Previous Article:Hear Reno, other experts in Philadelphia.
Next Article:Spouses can explore special spots.

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