Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
I often go into Philly on Friday afternoons to catch matinÃ©e concerts of the Philadelphia Orchestra and take the opportunity to go out to eat in Center City. Going out to lunch is a wonderful option for college students on a budget because you can sample the best of Philly’s fancy and expensive restaurants for much more reasonable prices than at dinnertime. So, plan on catching that matinee performance in the city or take a nice long study break in the middle of the day and experience the best that Philadelphia’s restaurants have to offer. Here are three places to start out.
Bliss $-$$ (all prices for this article are based on lunch, not dinner menus)
Bliss is especially convenient if you are planning on going to a show as it’s located on Broad St. It attempts to live up to its name by decorating its serving room with soothing blues and giant seascape prints. The food is contemporary American food with some Asian influences and was very good. Lunch fare is rather light and is focused around burgers and a wide variety of especially good salads, both vegetarian and with seafood or other meat. The dining room is small, but not intimate since it is rather crowded with tables and a bar, but provides excellent people watching. In warm weather they set up several tables outside on the sidewalk of Broad St. I recommend reservations for lunch as I was turned away one of the two times I tried to go there and it always looks full when I walk past.
220 S. Broad St, Philadelphia, PA
Located just off Broad St. in the theater district, Estia is the perfect place for anyone who loves Greek and Mediterranean cuisine or seafood. Their menu is full with a very wide selection of fresh seafood from burgers (try a nice Tuna Burger) to more fancy seafood presentations. Unfortunately for the strict vegetarians out there there isn’t much in the way of non-meat options. The decor of the space is nice with tasteful but not over the top mediterranian decorating. The space is big and certainly lacks the intimate appeal of some other middle eastern places such as Ariana. The restaurant is in the same room as an upscale supermarket featuring fresh fruit and hole fish which added to the otherwise somewhat sterile atmosphere. Overall this was my least favorite of the three restaurants reviewed here but is certainly a good place to go if you have a craving for fish. Reservations in most instances shouldn’t be necessary.
1405 Locust St, Philadelphia, PA
Brasserie Perrier $$-$$$
Brasserie Perrier is by far my favorite place reviewed here, but it is on the pricey end, even for lunch. It is located on Walnut St. in Philadelphia in the theater district as well as right along several blocks of upscale shopping. The cuisine is contemporary French and is among the best European food I’ve had in Philadelphia. Unfortunately for vegetarians this isn’t a good option as French food is unavoidably connected with meat or fish. They have a tempting price fixe menu for lunch which is what I tried, but I’d avoid it as the salad and creme brulee wasn’t especially exciting, but the tuna that I ate, served medium rare, with baby bok choy and a bed of very well seasoned rice with a sauce was absolutely delicious. All the other main dishes that I watched being brought to other tables looked suitably wonderful. The restaurant also has a nice and extensive wine list, both by the glass and bottle. I’d therefore stick to wine and a main dish but skip the appetizers and desserts The interior is very classy and upscale without being comical or over-the-top like Tangerine. The wait staff is also very large, friendly, and experienced. When I informed them that I needed to be at a show in an hour my waiter made sure that all of my food arrived quickly and brought my check early so I could rush out the door. I received some of the best service I’ve had in Philadelphia at Brasserie Perrier.
1619 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA