A Culinary Playground for Princes and Paupers
No longer just a stopping point between Washington, D.C., and New York, Philadelphia has lately resumed its place among America’s great cities, boasting a vibrant restaurant scene that’s begun to draw foodies from all over the East Coast.
Philadelphia’s culinary heights were staked out more than thirty years ago by Georges Perrier, chef-owner of the haute-cuisine classic Le Bee-Fin, since 1970 the East Coast’s (and possibly America’s) finest French restaurant. Its elegant atmosphere, reminiscent of a tum-of-the century Parisian salon, oozes opulence, while its downstairs bistro, the more intimate Le Bar Lyonnais (the “baby Bec”), offers a similarly excellent but less expensive menu that leans toward simplicity and lightness.
A block away is the Brasserie Perrier, accommodating a happy overflow of the chefs devoted groupies.
If you don’t book weeks in advance, you might not find a reservation at any of Monsieur Perrier’s outposts on Walnut Street (thanks to him, now known as Restaurant Row), but that’ll just give you an opportunity to slum it with that other Philadelphia classic, the cheesesteak. A mountain of grilled, shaved beef smothered in greasy onions and topped by gobs of molten Cheez Whiz (the cheese choice is a divisive issue: provolone or American cheese toppings are also acceptable), it’s a guaranteed calorie-monster wherever you find it.
A trinity of venerated places all claim to be the home of Philly’s best: Jim’s Steaks (also known for turning out a mean hoagie, the local version of the submarine sandwich); the venerated Pat’s King of Steaks, where – if you can believe the hype – Pat Olivieri invented the cheesesteak in 1932 (his grandnephew runs the place today); and, just across the street, Pat’s archrival, Geno’s.