Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#1 Post by MitchTallan » January 16th, 2017, 6:51 am

I have been going to Philly on business lately and for years used to visit Philly annually. I have to think that after NYC and SanFran, it is our third best food city. Zahav alone..... One can question Eater's authoritativeness, but please take note of the number of BYOB's among the best spots;

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#2 Post by Sarah Kirschbaum » January 16th, 2017, 7:08 am

No, it isn't. Acknowledging that this is a meaningless question in many ways, Philly still doesn't, in my opinion, come close to Los Angeles or even Portland and probably Chicago, except in the BYO option. I lived in NY for 20 + years and have lived in Philly now for nearly 2, with a lot of visiting in the two before that. I go to San Fran, Chicago, Portland and LA regularly. While Philly has a lot that I like, and I think it is improving all the time, I don't think it's there yet.

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#3 Post by Tom Gibson » January 16th, 2017, 8:22 am

Nah, not even close. Chicago blows it out of the water. Having lived in Boston, Philly, & NYC, and spent time traveling to SF, Chicago, & LA I can say Philly ranks behind NYC/SF/Chiraq.

I'd put Philly in the Boston/DC/Portland rank. LA sort of floats between these groups for me.

BYO is great as a cost saver, but too many Philly restaurants follow the same farm-to-table look-a-like model. A friend of mine once sent me a PDF with 10 menus of the newest and most hyped Philly restaurants (in early 2015) overlaid and the menus shared like 75% in common - it was crazy how similar the menus were!

That said, I always have a nice meal in Philly when I go back home. I just wouldn't consider it a culinary destination for fine dining.

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#4 Post by Brian Lynch » January 17th, 2017, 4:39 am

I think Chicago is third and that Philly is well above DC and above Boston, but my sample size in Boston is not great so if Kevin Foley thinks differently it is best to go by that. Can't speak to Portland in relative terms

Philly's benefit (Byo) reduces the likelihood of two and three star destinations developing over the long term. Demand would be there but there is a supply issue since owners are not willing to take the risk to achieve two and three star status against fierce byo competition. Almost as equally bad is the state store impact on fine wine availability and pricing. That creates a huge impediment to getting and maintaining a star IMO. So the result is that you have a lot of fine restaurants to choose from but not at the level of greatness the big 3 can achieve.

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#5 Post by George Hejna » January 17th, 2017, 7:04 am

Yeah no way. My son goes to school in Philly so I have some experience.
NYC - obviously
SF
Chicago
Vegas
DC
Miami then you have Philly, Atlanta, Boston, LA, Austin. Pick em.

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#6 Post by Tom.Cole » January 17th, 2017, 7:25 am

New Orleans. End of discussion.

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#7 Post by Tom Gibson » January 17th, 2017, 7:42 am

Brian Lynch wrote:I think Chicago is third and that Philly is well above DC and above Boston, but my sample size in Boston is not great so if Kevin Foley thinks differently it is best to go by that. Can't speak to Portland in relative terms

Philly's benefit (Byo) reduces the likelihood of two and three star destinations developing over the long term. Demand would be there but there is a supply issue since owners are not willing to take the risk to achieve two and three star status against fierce byo competition. Almost as equally bad is the state store impact on fine wine availability and pricing. That creates a huge impediment to getting and maintaining a star IMO. So the result is that you have a lot of fine restaurants to choose from but not at the level of greatness the big 3 can achieve.
I've lived in Philly (26 years) and Boston (6 years) and I don't see much difference in the two scenes, BYO the obvious difference. Philly gets more new openings, I guess.

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#8 Post by Joe B » January 17th, 2017, 7:46 am

Nope.
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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#9 Post by MitchTallan » January 17th, 2017, 7:51 am

George Hejna wrote:Yeah no way. My son goes to school in Philly so I have some experience.
NYC - obviously
SF
Chicago
Vegas
DC
Miami then you have Philly, Atlanta, Boston, LA, Austin. Pick em.

George
Wow. Ranking Vegas and DC over Philly really surprises me. All cities have their own unique personalities. My view is skewed-I don't care for any restaurant that has more than one server attending to my table. Even when I am feeling flush and willing to spend (not often), the upper atmosphere of "fine dining" is not my thing. Those on this Board who hold Paris out as the measuring stick are bound to see things differently, and I understand and don't disagree with that view, it is simply not mine. I am going to draw a lot of flack for this, but in my view Portland OR is currently the most overrated city for eating. There are three or four gems and a whole lot of mediocre clumsily immature spots. I would rank Louisville (very underrated btw) as at least equal if not better than Portland.

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#10 Post by Tom Gibson » January 17th, 2017, 8:19 am

MitchTallan wrote:
George Hejna wrote:Yeah no way. My son goes to school in Philly so I have some experience.
NYC - obviously
SF
Chicago
Vegas
DC
Miami then you have Philly, Atlanta, Boston, LA, Austin. Pick em.

George
Wow. Ranking Vegas and DC over Philly really surprises me. All cities have their own unique personalities. My view is skewed-I don't care for any restaurant that has more than one server attending to my table. Even when I am feeling flush and willing to spend (not often), the upper atmosphere of "fine dining" is not my thing. Those on this Board who hold Paris out as the measuring stick are bound to see things differently, and I understand and don't disagree with that view, it is simply not mine. I am going to draw a lot of flack for this, but in my view Portland OR is currently the most overrated city for eating. There are three or four gems and a whole lot of mediocre clumsily immature spots. I would rank Louisville (very underrated btw) as at least equal if not better than Portland.

I think you could say that of Philly, too. ;-)

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#11 Post by George Hejna » January 17th, 2017, 9:19 am

I completely forgot about New Orleans. I would put them above Philly too.

George

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#12 Post by Stuart BeauneHead Niemtzow » January 17th, 2017, 9:38 am

Criteria?

A small detail. rolleyes

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#13 Post by ybarselah » January 17th, 2017, 9:42 am

grew up in philly, visit often. emphatically, no. by any standard. it's actually depressing how little progress has been made compared to other cities. i blame the structure of center city and the ridiculous beverage laws. those two aspects make it exponentially more challenging to open and retain interesting and reference restaurants. a solid bistro where you can bring wine for free? - perhaps the best city on earth. by any other criteria it fails miserably, especially when considering the potential.
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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#14 Post by ybarselah » January 17th, 2017, 9:47 am

hell, you could count brooklyn as its own city and it would beat philly.
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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#15 Post by Sarah Kirschbaum » January 17th, 2017, 10:16 am

I think there's a difference between an objectively great food city, a city that excels at the kind of restaurants you yourself like best, and a city where it can be really fun to eat. I believe New Orleans and Vegas are fun-to-eat-in cities, but not great food cities, for instance.

I have an excerpt from an article I wrote on what makes a great food city at home. I'll dig it up tonight.

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#16 Post by Stuart BeauneHead Niemtzow » January 17th, 2017, 10:38 am

ybarselah wrote:hell, you could count brooklyn as its own city and it would beat philly.

by what criteria? I think of Philadelphia and Brooklyn as comparable in many ways....with the kind of food and restaurants I like best. But, without criteria, what are we even talking about here? I honestly have no clue..though there are lots of "answers" and opinions.

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#17 Post by ybarselah » January 17th, 2017, 10:42 am

Stuart BeauneHead Niemtzow wrote:
ybarselah wrote:hell, you could count brooklyn as its own city and it would beat philly.

by what criteria? I think of Philadelphia and Brooklyn as comparable in many ways....with the kind of food and restaurants I like best. But, without criteria, what are we even talking about here? I honestly have no clue..though there are lots of "answers" and opinions.
how do you choose which words to put in quotes?
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#18 Post by David K o l i n » January 17th, 2017, 10:48 am

But you do get extra credit for Zahav

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#19 Post by Stuart BeauneHead Niemtzow » January 17th, 2017, 10:59 am

I usually put in quote things that seem like something, but really are not....because they're meaningless terms.

So, I look at all answers to the query on this thread as "answers"....and sometimes the author of the "answer" as the kind of person that everyone has one of.

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#20 Post by MBerto » January 17th, 2017, 11:52 am

Authoritative, Definitive Food City Rankings, with brief commentary
1. NYC - Fine Dining that is on par with the best in the world, variety rivaled only by other global mega cities, and a vibrant food and wine culture from the top to bottom
2. (Tie) - Every other city mentioned on this list, plus a few others.
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#21 Post by Sarah Kirschbaum » January 17th, 2017, 11:56 am

OK, since the question of criteria has come up, I will try and summarize the article I have at home. I agree that there’s a degree of meaninglessness to questions like this. That said, we’re endlessly fascinated by them – I know I am – and I think that trying to have the discussion, with as much substance to it as possible, is not only fun and interesting (to me, anyway), but also important as we participate on the consumer side of this food/restaurant world and seek to make it better and ensure a future where our passion is nurtured and celebrated. Tilting at windmills though it may be.

Please read this understanding that I fully recognize these are my opinions. I by no means think this theory, or whatever you want to call it, is comprehensive. It’s also a work-in-progress. But it is based on a lot of thought and discussion. Meaning no horn-tooting, I have a great deal of experience with restaurants around the world, at all levels, in cities and rural areas, in palaces and huts (both of those in the literal sense) in more than 60 countries. I eat pretty much everything, and can be excited about pretty much everything, regardless of fanciness, if it’s a good version of that thing. And I work really hard to keep objective judgments of quality separate from personal preferences, though no one is perfect at that. Anyway, disclaimer over.

I believe that the very best food cities in the world, the truly top-of-the-top, not just places where you have a blast eating over the weekend (don’t get me wrong –that’s really important, too, it’s just a different question), have to have ALL of the following:

1) High-end dining. Doesn’t necessarily mean white tablecloths and tons of waiters, but we all have a general sense of what we’re talking about. Cooking that has seldom equaled technique, soul, excitement, great taste and a certain je ne sais quoi, all offered in a setting where what we see, hear, feel, and taste has been carefully tended to in order to produce an exquisite experience. Not everyone likes this kind of dining, I know. But it’s important. We can talk about why I think so another time.

2) A wide variety of ethnic, for lack of a better word, cuisines readily available and well executed with respect for and awareness of where they came from. Not every single country need be represented, of course.

3) A critical mass of strong 2nd tier restaurants, where the chefs are working hard to produce something truly special, not generic. This category would include, but is not limited to, the places where cooking is at or near the level of those high-end restaurants, in a much more casual setting.

4) A pervasive appreciation, on the part of both chefs and diners, of quality ingredients and the role they play in raising food, both simple and complex, to another level. Local bounty is a plus, for various reasons, but not necessary.

5) A dispersion of good, exciting, above-the-norm restaurants into various areas of the city, geographically speaking. I feel strongly about this one and would be happy to discuss why I think this is important at another time.

6) Chefs who take what they are doing seriously (not stodgily) at all levels. Where there are chefs who think perfecting the burger is just as important as perfecting the souffle.

7) A general sense of food being important and taken seriously in that city. Not every restaurant or every person, but a certain groundswell of feeling that food and quality food at that, is a part of this city’s identity.

8) Some innovation, experimentation and pushing of the boundaries going on; not necessarily as a rule, but present enough that it’s part of that city’s food identity. On the flipside…

9) Good, respected, examples of very traditional cuisines like Italian and French. The ones that manage to pay homage to the past and how those cuisines have been important, without getting stodgy.

I’m sorry – that’s all I can remember right now. I think I had 10 points in my original article.

So, applying these criteria, I believe that, in the US, only New York and San Francisco make it there. And that’s ok! To begin categorizing or ranking those cities that don’t have all of those things, I begin to look at how many of them are missing. The more that are missing, the further down the ladder that city belongs. To the point of the original post, Philadelphia is missing quite a few.

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#22 Post by RyanC » January 17th, 2017, 11:56 am

We just had this thread a few months ago. Philly did not figure prominently in the discussion. By near acclimation, NY was No. 1, followed by LA/Chi/SF in some order, followed by spirited debate over Portland/Houston/Charleston/New Orleans/DC/etc. That said, I'd love to explore Philly dining more - for some reason I never end up on business travel there. Wish that would change.
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#23 Post by Sarah Kirschbaum » January 17th, 2017, 11:59 am

Ryan Caughey wrote:We just had this thread a few months ago. Philly did not figure prominently in the discussion. By near acclimation, NY was No. 1, followed by LA/Chi/SF in some order, followed by spirited debate over Portland/Houston/Charleston/New Orleans/DC/etc. That said, I'd love to explore Philly dining more - for some reason I never end up on business travel there. Wish that would change.

Ryan - if you ever make it here, please let me know. My cellar is open to you.

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#24 Post by David K o l i n » January 17th, 2017, 12:05 pm

Sarah Kirschbaum wrote:OK, since the question of criteria has come up, I will try and summarize the article I have at home. I agree that there’s a degree of meaninglessness to questions like this. That said, we’re endlessly fascinated by them – I know I am – and I think that trying to have the discussion, with as much substance to it as possible, is not only fun and interesting (to me, anyway), but also important as we participate on the consumer side of this food/restaurant world and seek to make it better and ensure a future where our passion is nurtured and celebrated. Tilting at windmills though it may be.

Please read this understanding that I fully recognize these are my opinions. I by no means think this theory, or whatever you want to call it, is comprehensive. It’s also a work-in-progress. But it is based on a lot of thought and discussion. Meaning no horn-tooting, I have a great deal of experience with restaurants around the world, at all levels, in cities and rural areas, in palaces and huts (both of those in the literal sense) in more than 60 countries. I eat pretty much everything, and can be excited about pretty much everything, regardless of fanciness, if it’s a good version of that thing. And I work really hard to keep objective judgments of quality separate from personal preferences, though no one is perfect at that. Anyway, disclaimer over.

I believe that the very best food cities in the world, the truly top-of-the-top, not just places where you have a blast eating over the weekend (don’t get me wrong –that’s really important, too, it’s just a different question), have to have ALL of the following:

1) High-end dining. Doesn’t necessarily mean white tablecloths and tons of waiters, but we all have a general sense of what we’re talking about. Cooking that has seldom equaled technique, soul, excitement, great taste and a certain je ne sais quoi, all offered in a setting where what we see, hear, feel, and taste has been carefully tended to in order to produce an exquisite experience. Not everyone likes this kind of dining, I know. But it’s important. We can talk about why I think so another time.

2) A wide variety of ethnic, for lack of a better word, cuisines readily available and well executed with respect for and awareness of where they came from. Not every single country need be represented, of course.

3) A critical mass of strong 2nd tier restaurants, where the chefs are working hard to produce something truly special, not generic. This category would include, but is not limited to, the places where cooking is at or near the level of those high-end restaurants, in a much more casual setting.

4) A pervasive appreciation, on the part of both chefs and diners, of quality ingredients and the role they play in raising food, both simple and complex, to another level. Local bounty is a plus, for various reasons, but not necessary.

5) A dispersion of good, exciting, above-the-norm restaurants into various areas of the city, geographically speaking. I feel strongly about this one and would be happy to discuss why I think this is important at another time.

6) Chefs who take what they are doing seriously (not stodgily) at all levels. Where there are chefs who think perfecting the burger is just as important as perfecting the souffle.

7) A general sense of food being important and taken seriously in that city. Not every restaurant or every person, but a certain groundswell of feeling that food and quality food at that, is a part of this city’s identity.

8) Some innovation, experimentation and pushing of the boundaries going on; not necessarily as a rule, but present enough that it’s part of that city’s food identity. On the flipside…

9) Good, respected, examples of very traditional cuisines like Italian and French. The ones that manage to pay homage to the past and how those cuisines have been important, without getting stodgy.

I’m sorry – that’s all I can remember right now. I think I had 10 points in my original article.

So, applying these criteria, I believe that, in the US, only New York and San Francisco make it there. And that’s ok! To begin categorizing or ranking those cities that don’t have all of those things, I begin to look at how many of them are missing. The more that are missing, the further down the ladder that city belongs. To the point of the original post, Philadelphia is missing quite a few.
I think your tenth criteria must have been "10) Not Chicago" [snort.gif]

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#25 Post by Stuart BeauneHead Niemtzow » January 17th, 2017, 1:53 pm

I think it was that the pizza is great and not just generic high heat, wood oven stuff. (And, I agree that Philadelphia is missing that one.)

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#26 Post by Tom Gibson » January 17th, 2017, 6:00 pm

Sarah, you're a gem. I love that list.

Philly hits (in my mind and I'd welcome debate): 3, 6, 9. 4 and 5 are partially hit. 7 exists but it's at the very low end (cheesesteaks, Pretzels).

I think it straight misses 1, 2 and 8. And 10, of 10 is pizza.

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#27 Post by ybarselah » January 17th, 2017, 7:06 pm

Tom Gibson wrote:Sarah, you're a gem. I love that list.

Philly hits (in my mind and I'd welcome debate): 3, 6, 9. 4 and 5 are partially hit. 7 exists but it's at the very low end (cheesesteaks, Pretzels).

I think it straight misses 1, 2 and 8. And 10, of 10 is pizza.
there's plenty of new-wave and traditional pizza in philly. as much as any other city outside NY, so not sure it's fair to ding it for that. but i also don't think having pizza does anything for putting a city on the food map.
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#28 Post by Nolan E » January 17th, 2017, 7:55 pm

Tom.Cole wrote:New Orleans. End of discussion.
If you feel so confident about third place I'm curious what you think first and second are.
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#29 Post by RyanC » January 17th, 2017, 7:57 pm

Sarah Kirschbaum wrote:
Ryan Caughey wrote:We just had this thread a few months ago. Philly did not figure prominently in the discussion. By near acclimation, NY was No. 1, followed by LA/Chi/SF in some order, followed by spirited debate over Portland/Houston/Charleston/New Orleans/DC/etc. That said, I'd love to explore Philly dining more - for some reason I never end up on business travel there. Wish that would change.

Ryan - if you ever make it here, please let me know. My cellar is open to you.
What a nice invite - I'll certainly reach out if I head to Philly. Same offer goes for Houston if you're ever down here.
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#30 Post by Nolan E » January 17th, 2017, 7:59 pm

Sarah Kirschbaum wrote:OK, since the question of criteria has come up, I will try and summarize the article I have at home. I agree that there’s a degree of meaninglessness to questions like this. That said, we’re endlessly fascinated by them – I know I am – and I think that trying to have the discussion, with as much substance to it as possible, is not only fun and interesting (to me, anyway), but also important as we participate on the consumer side of this food/restaurant world and seek to make it better and ensure a future where our passion is nurtured and celebrated. Tilting at windmills though it may be.

Please read this understanding that I fully recognize these are my opinions. I by no means think this theory, or whatever you want to call it, is comprehensive. It’s also a work-in-progress. But it is based on a lot of thought and discussion. Meaning no horn-tooting, I have a great deal of experience with restaurants around the world, at all levels, in cities and rural areas, in palaces and huts (both of those in the literal sense) in more than 60 countries. I eat pretty much everything, and can be excited about pretty much everything, regardless of fanciness, if it’s a good version of that thing. And I work really hard to keep objective judgments of quality separate from personal preferences, though no one is perfect at that. Anyway, disclaimer over.

I believe that the very best food cities in the world, the truly top-of-the-top, not just places where you have a blast eating over the weekend (don’t get me wrong –that’s really important, too, it’s just a different question), have to have ALL of the following:

1) High-end dining. Doesn’t necessarily mean white tablecloths and tons of waiters, but we all have a general sense of what we’re talking about. Cooking that has seldom equaled technique, soul, excitement, great taste and a certain je ne sais quoi, all offered in a setting where what we see, hear, feel, and taste has been carefully tended to in order to produce an exquisite experience. Not everyone likes this kind of dining, I know. But it’s important. We can talk about why I think so another time.

2) A wide variety of ethnic, for lack of a better word, cuisines readily available and well executed with respect for and awareness of where they came from. Not every single country need be represented, of course.

3) A critical mass of strong 2nd tier restaurants, where the chefs are working hard to produce something truly special, not generic. This category would include, but is not limited to, the places where cooking is at or near the level of those high-end restaurants, in a much more casual setting.

4) A pervasive appreciation, on the part of both chefs and diners, of quality ingredients and the role they play in raising food, both simple and complex, to another level. Local bounty is a plus, for various reasons, but not necessary.

5) A dispersion of good, exciting, above-the-norm restaurants into various areas of the city, geographically speaking. I feel strongly about this one and would be happy to discuss why I think this is important at another time.

6) Chefs who take what they are doing seriously (not stodgily) at all levels. Where there are chefs who think perfecting the burger is just as important as perfecting the souffle.

7) A general sense of food being important and taken seriously in that city. Not every restaurant or every person, but a certain groundswell of feeling that food and quality food at that, is a part of this city’s identity.

8) Some innovation, experimentation and pushing of the boundaries going on; not necessarily as a rule, but present enough that it’s part of that city’s food identity. On the flipside…

9) Good, respected, examples of very traditional cuisines like Italian and French. The ones that manage to pay homage to the past and how those cuisines have been important, without getting stodgy.

I’m sorry – that’s all I can remember right now. I think I had 10 points in my original article.

So, applying these criteria, I believe that, in the US, only New York and San Francisco make it there. And that’s ok! To begin categorizing or ranking those cities that don’t have all of those things, I begin to look at how many of them are missing. The more that are missing, the further down the ladder that city belongs. To the point of the original post, Philadelphia is missing quite a few.
I've been here less than a year, so I don't have a ton of city pride, but I feel like all your criteria points towards Portland, do you have enough experience with the scene here to say why it doesn't hit your radar?
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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#31 Post by RyanC » January 17th, 2017, 8:07 pm

Sarah Kirschbaum wrote:OK, since the question of criteria has come up, I will try and summarize the article I have at home. I agree that there’s a degree of meaninglessness to questions like this. That said, we’re endlessly fascinated by them – I know I am – and I think that trying to have the discussion, with as much substance to it as possible, is not only fun and interesting (to me, anyway), but also important as we participate on the consumer side of this food/restaurant world and seek to make it better and ensure a future where our passion is nurtured and celebrated. Tilting at windmills though it may be.

Please read this understanding that I fully recognize these are my opinions. I by no means think this theory, or whatever you want to call it, is comprehensive. It’s also a work-in-progress. But it is based on a lot of thought and discussion. Meaning no horn-tooting, I have a great deal of experience with restaurants around the world, at all levels, in cities and rural areas, in palaces and huts (both of those in the literal sense) in more than 60 countries. I eat pretty much everything, and can be excited about pretty much everything, regardless of fanciness, if it’s a good version of that thing. And I work really hard to keep objective judgments of quality separate from personal preferences, though no one is perfect at that. Anyway, disclaimer over.

I believe that the very best food cities in the world, the truly top-of-the-top, not just places where you have a blast eating over the weekend (don’t get me wrong –that’s really important, too, it’s just a different question), have to have ALL of the following:

1) High-end dining. Doesn’t necessarily mean white tablecloths and tons of waiters, but we all have a general sense of what we’re talking about. Cooking that has seldom equaled technique, soul, excitement, great taste and a certain je ne sais quoi, all offered in a setting where what we see, hear, feel, and taste has been carefully tended to in order to produce an exquisite experience. Not everyone likes this kind of dining, I know. But it’s important. We can talk about why I think so another time.

2) A wide variety of ethnic, for lack of a better word, cuisines readily available and well executed with respect for and awareness of where they came from. Not every single country need be represented, of course.

3) A critical mass of strong 2nd tier restaurants, where the chefs are working hard to produce something truly special, not generic. This category would include, but is not limited to, the places where cooking is at or near the level of those high-end restaurants, in a much more casual setting.

4) A pervasive appreciation, on the part of both chefs and diners, of quality ingredients and the role they play in raising food, both simple and complex, to another level. Local bounty is a plus, for various reasons, but not necessary.

5) A dispersion of good, exciting, above-the-norm restaurants into various areas of the city, geographically speaking. I feel strongly about this one and would be happy to discuss why I think this is important at another time.

6) Chefs who take what they are doing seriously (not stodgily) at all levels. Where there are chefs who think perfecting the burger is just as important as perfecting the souffle.

7) A general sense of food being important and taken seriously in that city. Not every restaurant or every person, but a certain groundswell of feeling that food and quality food at that, is a part of this city’s identity.

8) Some innovation, experimentation and pushing of the boundaries going on; not necessarily as a rule, but present enough that it’s part of that city’s food identity. On the flipside…

9) Good, respected, examples of very traditional cuisines like Italian and French. The ones that manage to pay homage to the past and how those cuisines have been important, without getting stodgy.

I’m sorry – that’s all I can remember right now. I think I had 10 points in my original article.

So, applying these criteria, I believe that, in the US, only New York and San Francisco make it there. And that’s ok! To begin categorizing or ranking those cities that don’t have all of those things, I begin to look at how many of them are missing. The more that are missing, the further down the ladder that city belongs. To the point of the original post, Philadelphia is missing quite a few.
Great post. Being generous, Houston has 2, 3, 5, 7, and 9. Sort of kind of has 8 on a good day. Houston is a lot like a weaker version of LA - very strong on any diversity/ethnic/geographically dispersed scale, and strong 2nd tier restaurants -- but almost completely lacking an interesting high-end, important chefs, or any destination type places. (Oxheart being the arguable exception, but it's closing in March.) The biggest issue is that, despite being a big and very wealthy city, there's still very little cultural appetite for paying even $150 per person for a meal, much less the prices charged at the top SF/NY spots.
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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#32 Post by Sarah Kirschbaum » January 18th, 2017, 3:59 am

Nolan E wrote:I've been here less than a year, so I don't have a ton of city pride, but I feel like all your criteria points towards Portland, do you have enough experience with the scene here to say why it doesn't hit your radar?
It does hit my radar. See my initial post on this thread. I think LA, Portland (assuming we're talking about Oregon), and maybe Chicago come closer than Philadelphia to the top of the ladder.
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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#33 Post by Stan Y. » January 18th, 2017, 4:40 am

Sarah that's a really good list. Something I like to see that follows from many of your main points is a very dynamic food scene, where the critical mass of talented chefs a range of great places top to bottom combined with the serious appreciation of quality and ingredients results in a fairly continuous stream of innovation and interesting new places to try. A great food scene constantly spins off and incubates great talent and great food.
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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#34 Post by Clayton Wai-Poi » January 18th, 2017, 5:09 am

David K o l i n wrote:
Sarah Kirschbaum wrote:OK, since the question of criteria has come up, I will try and summarize the article I have at home. I agree that there’s a degree of meaninglessness to questions like this. That said, we’re endlessly fascinated by them – I know I am – and I think that trying to have the discussion, with as much substance to it as possible, is not only fun and interesting (to me, anyway), but also important as we participate on the consumer side of this food/restaurant world and seek to make it better and ensure a future where our passion is nurtured and celebrated. Tilting at windmills though it may be.

Please read this understanding that I fully recognize these are my opinions. I by no means think this theory, or whatever you want to call it, is comprehensive. It’s also a work-in-progress. But it is based on a lot of thought and discussion. Meaning no horn-tooting, I have a great deal of experience with restaurants around the world, at all levels, in cities and rural areas, in palaces and huts (both of those in the literal sense) in more than 60 countries. I eat pretty much everything, and can be excited about pretty much everything, regardless of fanciness, if it’s a good version of that thing. And I work really hard to keep objective judgments of quality separate from personal preferences, though no one is perfect at that. Anyway, disclaimer over.

I believe that the very best food cities in the world, the truly top-of-the-top, not just places where you have a blast eating over the weekend (don’t get me wrong –that’s really important, too, it’s just a different question), have to have ALL of the following:

1) High-end dining. Doesn’t necessarily mean white tablecloths and tons of waiters, but we all have a general sense of what we’re talking about. Cooking that has seldom equaled technique, soul, excitement, great taste and a certain je ne sais quoi, all offered in a setting where what we see, hear, feel, and taste has been carefully tended to in order to produce an exquisite experience. Not everyone likes this kind of dining, I know. But it’s important. We can talk about why I think so another time.

2) A wide variety of ethnic, for lack of a better word, cuisines readily available and well executed with respect for and awareness of where they came from. Not every single country need be represented, of course.

3) A critical mass of strong 2nd tier restaurants, where the chefs are working hard to produce something truly special, not generic. This category would include, but is not limited to, the places where cooking is at or near the level of those high-end restaurants, in a much more casual setting.

4) A pervasive appreciation, on the part of both chefs and diners, of quality ingredients and the role they play in raising food, both simple and complex, to another level. Local bounty is a plus, for various reasons, but not necessary.

5) A dispersion of good, exciting, above-the-norm restaurants into various areas of the city, geographically speaking. I feel strongly about this one and would be happy to discuss why I think this is important at another time.

6) Chefs who take what they are doing seriously (not stodgily) at all levels. Where there are chefs who think perfecting the burger is just as important as perfecting the souffle.

7) A general sense of food being important and taken seriously in that city. Not every restaurant or every person, but a certain groundswell of feeling that food and quality food at that, is a part of this city’s identity.

8) Some innovation, experimentation and pushing of the boundaries going on; not necessarily as a rule, but present enough that it’s part of that city’s food identity. On the flipside…

9) Good, respected, examples of very traditional cuisines like Italian and French. The ones that manage to pay homage to the past and how those cuisines have been important, without getting stodgy.

I’m sorry – that’s all I can remember right now. I think I had 10 points in my original article.

So, applying these criteria, I believe that, in the US, only New York and San Francisco make it there. And that’s ok! To begin categorizing or ranking those cities that don’t have all of those things, I begin to look at how many of them are missing. The more that are missing, the further down the ladder that city belongs. To the point of the original post, Philadelphia is missing quite a few.
I think your tenth criteria must have been "10) Not Chicago" [snort.gif]

Yip... not sure how. Chicago doesn't easily meet all of these criteria (except no. 10).

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#35 Post by Tom Gibson » January 18th, 2017, 5:51 am

ybarselah wrote:
Tom Gibson wrote:Sarah, you're a gem. I love that list.

Philly hits (in my mind and I'd welcome debate): 3, 6, 9. 4 and 5 are partially hit. 7 exists but it's at the very low end (cheesesteaks, Pretzels).

I think it straight misses 1, 2 and 8. And 10, of 10 is pizza.
there's plenty of new-wave and traditional pizza in philly. as much as any other city outside NY, so not sure it's fair to ding it for that. but i also don't think having pizza does anything for putting a city on the food map.
Fair enough, although I always felt Philly was lacking in pizza quality. It definitely misses fine dining and innovation, though. Which is fine - most cities miss those.

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#36 Post by Sarah Kirschbaum » January 18th, 2017, 6:06 am

I think the saddest miss for Philly is my fourth point, an appreciation for quality of ingredients. It's made especially sad by the fact that we have easy access to great local produce and meats. Getting good fish in Philly is even hard, which makes little sense. I think diners here simply aren't willing to pay what better ingredients would cost. The result is that a lot of restaurants that would be solidly 2nd tier if they just invested in better ingredients, fall well below that bar for me now.

I also don't think Philly is there yet in having a critical mass of 2nd tier restaurants, which is why I have enjoyed my meals at many local BYOB places, but can't name one I think is really strong. Vernick and Zahav are the only two restaurants in town I think fit the bill.

It's arguable for me whether Philly has good versions of the classics and I agree with Tom that food as a serious part of the city's identity only really applies to a few local specialties.

I guess I'm largely with Yaacov on Philly overall, both my sense of things and when I apply my own specific criteria. The ability to bring wine for free almost everywhere is the only really great thing. That doesn't mean there aren't places we really enjoy, of course, but I don't consider it a food town.

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#37 Post by P. Willenberg » January 18th, 2017, 6:40 am

Sarah Kirschbaum wrote:No, it isn't. Acknowledging that this is a meaningless question in many ways, Philly still doesn't, in my opinion, come close to Los Angeles or even Portland and probably Chicago, except in the BYO option. I lived in NY for 20 + years and have lived in Philly now for nearly 2, with a lot of visiting in the two before that. I go to San Fran, Chicago, Portland and LA regularly. While Philly has a lot that I like, and I think it is improving all the time, I don't think it's there yet.
I completely agree with this, although as a former resident of SF I cannot support the usage of San Fran.

It's depends on what you like. The best cities list is different if you're into ethnic food or fine dining.
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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#38 Post by Sarah Kirschbaum » January 18th, 2017, 6:47 am

No. That's precisely what I'm trying to work against here - that "it depends on what you like." I don't think the question needs to be dictated by taste, or not unduly so. We should be able to have a discussion that doesn't devolve into "I like this, so that means it's good." There's a difference between being objectively a great food city, and being a city where I personally really love to eat.

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#39 Post by Siun o'Connell » January 18th, 2017, 7:46 am

Love Sarah's list which seems to capture the real food culture needed for a great food city - but I'm another vote wondering how Chicago does not make the grade?

Philly should get at least one extra credit point for Tastycakes however.

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#40 Post by Tom.Cole » January 18th, 2017, 7:58 am

Nolan E wrote:
Tom.Cole wrote:New Orleans. End of discussion.
If you feel so confident about third place I'm curious what you think first and second are.
For me, it is a toss up between NYC, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Ranking would depend on personal preference.

I will say that Sarah has a good list of traits one should look for. I would include one more and for me maybe the most important - history including a long history of food appreciation, innovation, and being a food destination city.

New Orleans includes all of Sarah's traits along with my addition.

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#41 Post by Matt Fleming » January 18th, 2017, 8:03 am

Siun o'Connell wrote:Love Sarah's list which seems to capture the real food culture needed for a great food city - but I'm another vote wondering how Chicago does not make the grade?

Philly should get at least one extra credit point for Tastycakes however.
Leaving Chicago off a list by those criteria invalidates the list. Placing Portland ahead of Chicago by those criteria is a bit loopy. Smaller cities like Portland can support a dynamic environment, but surely not with the diversity indicated.

Also, I'd point out that general travelers can have a good sense of what fine dining is like in a given city but anyone less than a professional dedicated to the U.S. food scene would have difficulty judging the full scale of culinary diversity of a large city. Tea and coffee? Seafood? Game? (for many of the places listed above, Chicago is head and shoulders above them when it comes to game). Retail, casual, fine dining, food trucks? I'd like to think I know Chicago very well, and can't imagine knowing the Bay area at the same level.

As to ethnic food, once again, a non-resident would have some difficulty keeping up with the variety of ethnic food in Chicago, a very small percentage of which is based on anything like fine dining. Just, for one example, the Polish delis (where hardly a word of English is spoken), change the question. To say nothing of upscale Mexican, and on.

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#42 Post by Tom Gibson » January 18th, 2017, 8:05 am

Siun o'Connell wrote:Love Sarah's list which seems to capture the real food culture needed for a great food city - but I'm another vote wondering how Chicago does not make the grade?

Philly should get at least one extra credit point for Tastycakes however.
The best one IMO:

Image

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#43 Post by MitchTallan » January 18th, 2017, 8:26 am

I am here in the awful wasteland of the Midwest. We have fairly large cities like Indianapolis, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland that are pretty bad given the population mass. It is easy to have less respect for your own backyard, as easy as it is to be biased in favor. From my perspective, Chicago is way overrated. It is understandably meat-centric, but also calculated. One Off Hospitality Group is behind three or four of Chicago's so-called best restaurants and they leave me cold. As just one example, how can a city the size of Chicago with it's stockyards-based history not sport a great offal restaurant like Chris Cosentino's former place, Incanto? To a much greater degree than NYC, San Fran, Philly, and LA, Chicago thrives upon tourist traffic. The dull bored denizens of the midwest plains come to Chicago to shop and eat in the "big city" and by and large, Chicago's dining scene caters to these (us) country bumpkins.

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#44 Post by David K o l i n » January 18th, 2017, 8:33 am

Give us a ring next time your in Chicago. We'll get you off of the tourist traps and into offal. This week I've had great tripe, pig face, tendon and grilled heart at four different restaurants

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#45 Post by David K o l i n » January 18th, 2017, 8:34 am

Oh, and pig brain tacos, too, at number 5

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#46 Post by T Klonoski » January 18th, 2017, 9:01 am

Tacos are the way to go for great Chicago offal. Tremendous QPR.
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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#47 Post by Matt Fleming » January 18th, 2017, 9:02 am

MitchTallan wrote:I am here in the awful wasteland of the Midwest. We have fairly large cities like Indianapolis, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland that are pretty bad given the population mass. It is easy to have less respect for your own backyard, as easy as it is to be biased in favor. From my perspective, Chicago is way overrated. It is understandably meat-centric, but also calculated. One Off Hospitality Group is behind three or four of Chicago's so-called best restaurants and they leave me cold. As just one example, how can a city the size of Chicago with it's stockyards-based history not sport a great offal restaurant like Chris Cosentino's former place, Incanto? To a much greater degree than NYC, San Fran, Philly, and LA, Chicago thrives upon tourist traffic. The dull bored denizens of the midwest plains come to Chicago to shop and eat in the "big city" and by and large, Chicago's dining scene caters to these (us) country bumpkins.
An interesting set of opinions. Chicago relies on tourists, to a much greater degree, than San Francisco?

Bumpkin, indeed.

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#48 Post by Stuart BeauneHead Niemtzow » January 18th, 2017, 9:04 am

Funny, I assume that a great abundance of BYO results in a "better" food city, if maybe a lesser "restaurant" city (ie, less "haute). The food is all the owners have to squeeze profits from....and all they have to sell. (Which is probably why, thinking about it, Philadelphia's seafood ingredients might seem less exotic-- and likely aaare. There is no heavily marked up wine list to share the cost of those ingredients. (Though there is also usually a dearth of good value low end wines, priced as they should/could be at places which have liquor licenses. But, I think that observation, re: seafood is apt. Almost never see New England steamer clams; John Dory; Pompano; north atlantic crabs ,etc. in the byobs here, though I know they are widely available, for a price.

Finally, I'd like to inject that when I moved to "Philly" 40 years ago (around the time of Rocky 1), I was told repeatedly (not that I used that term) that "Phillly" was a term used mainly by outsiders and those ignorant of the city and its charms...sort of like "Vegas", "Frisco" , "Beantown", "Chi-town", etc). I still don't use it, though people do. I think when it's used, it does make it less appealing-sounding..than other cities, whose real names are most often used. Just a personal impression, though it seems that it might be historically based and pretty widespread...as a name for the city as opposed to neighborhoods within the city (where "Philly" is the usual.). I see a long discussion on this issue on some board. http://www.philadelphiaspeaks.com/threa ... 777/page-2 FWIW
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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#49 Post by Matt Fleming » January 18th, 2017, 9:06 am

David K o l i n wrote:Oh, and pig brain tacos, too, at number 5
I'm making a list in my mind of places that emphasize snout-to-tail, decided to narrow it down to those in WickerTown BuckPark Logan's Run, for brevity. Oddly, none of them are one offs.

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Is Philly this Country's 3rd best food city?

#50 Post by Stuart BeauneHead Niemtzow » January 18th, 2017, 9:08 am

Are they "offal", though?

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