Due in part to its eponymous cheesesteak, Philadelphia hasn?t always been known for healthy foods or organic ingredients. But chef Rocco Cima knows the demand is there, and his menu of 100% organic ingredients meets it. Every item, except for the sandwich bread, contains 500 calories or less.
Yet, as Haute Living points out, Cima ?understands that eating right shouldn?t feel like punishment.? Instead, taste buds can party around deconstructed guacamole salads with fresh avocado and citrus jalape?o dressing or the thai chicken or tofu panini with fresh basil and spicy peanut sauce.
The festive atmosphere is furthered by TVs playing dance music videos and lounge-style furniture that moved Philly.com to call the atmosphere ?a cross between a club and a gym.? But instead of cocktails or protein shakes, diners savor fresh smoothies and espresso from the juice and coffee bar.
Voted top five in the Best Indian category of the 2011, 2012, and 2013 CityVoter awards, Laxmi's Indian Grille serves a range of dishes?from spicy meats to subtle vegetable stews?designed to please all palates. A perfume of fresh ginger, rose water, and house-made cottage cheese drifts from the bustling kitchen out into the dining room of the Main Street location, where vibrant paintings provide an elegant contrast to walls of rustic exposed stone. At both Main Street and the newly minted Tilden Street eatery, a clay tandoor oven is kept aflame throughout the day, enabling chefs to bake breads, meats, and underripe bananas to a golden patina.
Since its humble south Philadelphia beginnings in the 1990s, PrimoHoagies has quickly expanded throughout the region and garnered several awards on the strength of its cold-cut sandwiches, made with Thumann's brand of gourmet meats and cheeses. The shop's robust menu features dozens of specialty hoagies, many of which were created in-house rather than underwater, as is the industry norm. Sharp Italian hoagies teem with prosciutto and genoa salami, and pork Diablo hoagies marry Thumann's homestyle roasted pork with a blend of piquant spices.
Founded in 1994 as a recording studio, the MilkBoy brand has since burgeoned into two bustling cafes and an all-ages venue for live music and artistic events. MilkBoy Coffee's multifarious menu brims with snacks and drinks for vegetarians, vegans, and carnivores alike. Morning munchers kick-start the day with a big breakfast burrito, packed with scrambled eggs, black beans, sausage, sour cream, cheddar, and yawn-eradicating salsa ($5.95). For lunch, hands can happily encircle the bruschetta-chicken wrap, with a savory sleeping bag of shredded chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta ($6.25), and teeth can burrow into the herbivorous depths of the veggie burger, served with a vegan thousand-island dressing, named for the number of islands ruled by Oprah ($5.25). MilkBoy’s PB&J sandwich whisks customers back to a simpler time when blanket capes were de rigeur ($3.95). To drink, sip on a steamy café au lait ($2 for a small) or a frosty mint-chocolate-chip milkshake ($4.95).
Established by a trio of burger-loving buddies, the BRGR Joint tantalizes taste buds with a menu touting fresh patties, fries cut daily, and local veggies. The Lil Cheese BRGR's ($4.19) single disc bursts with classic flavors boosted by your chosen blend of free fixings, including grilled mushrooms, jalapeño peppers, and house-made dressings. The OMG BRGR (up to $28 depending on the number of patties) towers over the table, its up-to-11 patties forming an edible high-rise that explodes in a shower of neckties and typewriters when eaten. Saccharine aromas of doubled-cooked sweet-potato fries ($1.69 small, $2.79/regular) float across the aftershock as griddles sizzle under hearty grilled-cheese sandwiches ($2.59).
There are only 16 tables inside Sola, but the intimate dining room is an echo chamber for camaraderie. Guests ferry their own libations to dinner under a BYOB policy, which encourages relaxed, familial meals lined with conversation. The menu refrains from overwhelming guests with too many choices or tablecloth-size pages—instead, it details a concise array of meat and seafood entrees. From the brown-butter skate wing to the roasted duck, these French-influenced dishes arrive stylishly poised on white tableware, framed against a backdrop of drizzled sauces and artfully arranged sides. Frozen white-chocolate hazelnut mousse and pumpkin cheesecake, flanked by a pear-cinnamon sorbet, draw evenings to a close.
Executive Chef Stephan Stryjewski composes these seasonally shifting spreads with help from local farms. He also receives organic ingredients, such as goat cheese and honey, from neighborhood producers, and orders his resulting creations into special prix fixe courses. Sola invests in the community through charities as well; every Sunday, it contributes 5% of its earnings to an organization of the month. Examples of past beneficiaries include The Wounded Warrior Fund and Melmark.