Looking for philly restaurant recs: good food and accommodate big groups. Byob optional.
Philly is truly a foodie city, there are soooooo many good restaurants to choose from!! I'd pick a neighborhood before you do anything else; Center City is where the "best" restaurants are but fewest BYOs. Continental's Midtown location is really fun and good for groups (ask for seating in the upstairs lounge if possible). Near Independence Mall you've got Red Owl Tavern, which has a casual atmosphere but good food. Across the Mall is Independence Beer Garden, where the food stinks but beer selection and bocce courts win you over - they also have fire pits + DIY s'mores. I haven't gotten to NoLib or Fishtown often but they are super trendy (Philly's answer to hipster Brooklyn) with lots of BYOs, the kind of holes-in-the-wall you've never heard of but that turn out fantastic food. The Navy Yard is also up-and-coming but I haven't gotten there yet. Then there's Chinatown, which has seen a resurgence in the past two years or so, or South Philly for classic "red sauce" Italian. Regardless, make time in your trip for a visit to Reading Terminal (DiNic's roast pork sandwich > any/all cheesesteaks). Hope this helps - I'm very happy to address any follow-ups you might have too. :)
Also, quick note if you do opt for BYO: PA's liquor is state-controlled, so you've gotta go to state stores (with higher prices and limited Sunday hours) for anything but beer. I only mention this after seeing how many out-of-towners go into shock upon not being able to pick up a bottle of wine at every corner store, or realizing their favorite brand isn't carried in PA.
Lived there for 15 year (until this May) and was pretty involved in the food scene so here are my recs for a big group.
There is a really weird but super delicious place in Chinatown called Red Kings 2- they do Szechwan hotpots and with a large group you can get a Karaoke room and fantastic spicy hot deliciousness (and it's BYOB), if you want great Szechwan but less funky atmosphere Han Dynasty in Old City is great too and they have a liquor license .
Le Virtu is probably the best Italian you can find handmade pastas, gorgeous entrees its amazing! Its in South Philly is just lovely without being "fancy".
If you are looking for a more casual red sauce Italian old school kind of place Villa Di Roma, also South Philly will make you feel like you stepped back in time but the food is really surprisingly good...but no pretensions whatsoever. VERY reasonable as well.
Zahav is also out of this world Mike Solomonov's modern Isreali.. they are having optional BYOB and Pomegranate Lamb specials all this month... but its really a very special place the warm hummus with butter will change your life.
Amada or any of the Garces places for Tapas/Latino fusion type food.
If you need to go to a steak house then I say Capital grill over they other its still pricey but you get a better bang for your buck.
Everyone loves The Continental its fine not fabulous but will find something for everyone.
Rouge is great place to have a drink before you meet the group or lunch on your own ...in fact my favorite place in all of Philly to have lunch ( but its tiny not good for groups)
They all have liquor licenses.
Parc is great for a large group at lunch - its not the meal of the century but very decent french brasserie and also good for lunch any Garces restaurant (Amada, Tinto etc) I think they still have great lunch specials- like 3 course for @ $20.
What a great list!
I will add that Zahav is wonderful and the lamb shoulder should definitely not be missed, if you have room after all the great small plates that precede it!
This would not be wonderful for large groups, unless you took over the whole place, but I will mention for others following this thread, that High Street on Market lives up to its recent kudos in Bon Appetit.
I really like Distrito and Amada, too. And an outstanding cocktail bar is the Franklin Bar!
Vetri is great for Italian, and I have Sbraga on my list of must-try's.
Vetri and its less formal sister, Osteria for Italian.
Monks for burgers and mussels.
Steven Starrs Budakkhan, and Barclays Prime for steak.
Alma de Cuba from Douglas Rodriquez, amazing Latin food.
Roast pork sandwich at Tony Lukes.
Sabrinas Cafe for breakfast.
Federal Donuts for donuts and fried chicken.
Termini Bros for a ricotta cannoli.
Sorry, only now noticed the "big group" request....Osteria, Parc, Buddakhan, Alma de Cuba can accomodate large groups, many philly places are on the smaller side...
It depends on what you mean by large group. The Garces and Starr restaurants usually make you choose a fixed menu and sign a contract for parties larger than 12, all great choices though with a fun rooftop space at Continental Midtown. There are some BYOs, mostly Italian that can accommodate large groups without a contract and reasonable price tag, especially since you won't be paying $15 per drink which you will do at other Philly spots, some are better than others. I like the food at Branzino the best of the BYOs that accommodate large parties. They have great homemade pasta. Not the best Italian in Philly but very accommodating for groups. Another accommodating spot with decent food and BYO is La Fontana Della Citta. Also, the crew behind Barbuzzo just opened a private dining space. The food IS amazing and I think you might be able to coordinate food from any of the restaurants in the group, which include Jamonera (tapas), Lolita (modern Mexican) and Little Nonnas (Italian like Grandma used to make). I could be wrong but it's worth checking out. Good luck!
Oh, I forgot to mention among the Starr restaurants, Morimoto has some really pretty private spaces and a great omakase menu if price is not an issue. And Osteria and Vetri both have private spaces. Vetri is one of the best Italian spots in Philly (or of any of the places I've been, IMHO) but quite pricy ($125 mandatory price fix per person without alcohol), but worth every penny. Another expensive but gorgeous option is R2L. It's at the top of one of Philly's taller skyscrapers and has an amazing view of the city with excellent food, my favorite is the lobster mac and cheese. Last one, Han Dynasty in Old City has a large (not so pretty but can fit I'm guessing around 100 people or more) space in the basement and they have a $20, $25 and $30 Szechuan tasting menu for groups larger than 8 with Dan Dan noodles and Ma Po tofu I dream about.