For years now, Center City District has been revving up the restaurant world with their bi-annual Restaurant Weeks. The concept is simple and used in numerous cities: participating restaurants offer three-courses for a set price. Some food fanatics have started turning on the event, originally created to promote the city’s talent and rev up some economic stimulus, siting too-crowded dining rooms and limited menus. I, on the other hand, still think it’s a great practice. It allows me to try a restaurant I might not otherwise without plunking down much cash. It gives me a look into what dishes the chefs are trying to promote. And it’s an excuse for me to have three courses and not feel overindulgent. I mean, everyone’s doing it.
This winter it’s a two weeker, running today, January 16, to January 20, then again January 23 to 27, and featuring more than 100 restaurants and a dinner price tag of just $35. Not too shabby of pickings there. But, of course, we wasted enjoyed three hours of our day reading every menu on offer in order to offer you some spot-on suggestions. We are not responsible for any drool that ends up on your keyboard.
128 South 19th St., 215.568.1027, www.zamarestaurant.com
One of our favorite spots for sushi no matter what the occasion, for the specials we’d start off with the edamame (see if you can get the amazing yuzu salt on yours), then some crispy pork dumplings. While their cooked platters are delish, we can’t pass up the raw bar, so for our third course it’s all about the maki/nigiri combo. Zama is offering four courses for the deal, so we’d end the evening with a sweet bite of sake-soaked pear upside down cake.
Butcher & Singer
1500 Walnut St., 215.732.4444, www.butcherandsigner.com
If it’s classic steakhouse fare we are craving, off to Butcher & Singer’s swanky leather banquettes we will go. A fruity beet salad topped with Maytag dressing, a medium raw 8 oz. filet, a side of indulgent creamy spinach and a towering slice of carrot cake … we won’t know when to say when. Wash it all down with a dirty martini if you really want to work the role.
1216 Spruce St., 215.985.2962, www.mercatobyob.com
We have loved this BYOB for years for its fresh local produce and innovative takes on time-honored ingredients. This time around, we’d order the puff pastry loaded with roasted portabellas and arugula, topped with pine nuts and thyme citronette, then dig into a warmin’ bowl of pumpkin fettuccine with butternut squash, leeks, pancetta and sage brown butter. For dessert, affogato, a delicious blend of steamy espresso and cool vanilla gelato that solves every post-dinner desire.
Need more? Check out www.centercityphila.org for a list of all participating restaurants and menus.