For our end-of-year tradition, Eater Philly asked a group of food writers to weigh in on the local restaurant scene over the last year. They looked back on their favorite new restaurants, the tried-and-true standbys they return to again and again, the best dining neighborhoods, the biggest complaints, and more.
Now it’s time to learn what the experts would like to see less of in 2020. The question: What was your biggest dining grievance of 2019?
Regan Stephens, food and travel writer for Food & Wine, Fortune, and Lonely Planet: An over-the-top expensive dinner without the hospitality to match. You can’t charge Eleven Madison Park prices and not offer some extras — an amuse-bouche, a little pour of amaro, a tour of the kitchen, whatever. Or you can, but diners will leave feeling stiffed.
Alex Tewfik, food editor at Philadelphia magazine: When a restaurant offers complimentary sparkling water but doesn’t tell me that it’s complimentary up front, putting me in the position to have to ask if it’s free. Yuck. Also… the amount of Italian restaurant openings.
Kae Lani Palmisano, Host of WHYY-TV’s Check, Please! Philly (airs January 9) and contributing food & travel editor for USA Today 10Best: I am heartbroken over Hoa Binh Plaza’s impending closure. Nam Son Bakery, which already closed, made a legendary banh mi (though I am happy to hear that chef Tri Tan recently opened Hello Vietnam in Northern Liberties). The casual restaurant, Huong Tram, has excellent Vietnamese food. Their pho is one of my go-to comfort foods. The Big 8 Supermarket is integral to the local community, providing fresh produce and groceries. It’s places like this that have contributed greatly to the growth of our city, providing jobs, a reliable source of food to the neighborhood, and a community for our Southeast Asian neighbors. Our neighbors who rely on Hoa Binh don’t deserve to be displaced and this is truly a shame.
Sarah Maiellano, food and travel writer for Eater, the Philadelphia Inquirer, James Beard Foundation, Edible Philly, and USA Today: That Amis closed. It was one of my predictions and it was in my neighborhood. (Seriously, chefs should consider opening places on 13th Street near Pine and around Broad and South. There’s commercial real estate open all around there.) I’m also concerned about how many restaurants are moving to or choosing to open in Center City over other neighborhoods. Center City crowds are less adventurous and that makes for less interesting menus.
Allison Steele, reporter and former food writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer: I’m going to sound like a jerk: Overly solicitous service. I mean checking on a table too frequently, asking for feedback when food just arrived, hovering. I know that striking the right balance is a delicate art, and so many wonderful professionals in the industry seem to get this just right, more and more these days it seems. But given the choice, I’d rather be ignored than given constant attention.
Adam Erace, national food and travel writer and cookbook author: Last year I griped about the commodification of South Philly culture via Giuseppe & Sons, and now that the Termini family is out of that project, the restaurant’s ambitions are laid pretty bare. For suburbanites who are scared to park their cars below Washington Ave, G&S will continue to be a great option in 2020.