Here's my updated list of restaurant picks for visitors coming to Philadelphia for an event at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. For my day job, I am director of gardening programs at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS). I work with our community gardens and City Harvest projects. It is very gratifying to be able to work with Philadelphians to make their neighborhoods and community spaces cleaner, greener, safer, healthier and more vibrant. One way that PHS raises the necessary funds to carry on this important work is to present the Philadelphia International Flower Show every March. For the staff of PHS, it’s an all-hands-on-deck week-long affair at the Pennsylvania Convention Center to ensure that visitors have the best experience possible. The show opens to the public the first Saturday in March, and we expect that more than quarter of a million people will walk through the doors that week.
Statistically speaking, that means more than 3,000 people with celiac and many, many others with gluten sensitivity and allergies will be in attendance as well. Food services at the convention center are handled by Aramark. I usually pack my lunch. I’ve found that trying to buy my lunch there is unsatisfactory from a cost, time, vegetarian and gluten-free perspective. However, if you are planning on visiting the show and have the time to take a little walk, get your hand stamped and check out one of these four really good, inexpensive places you can get an interesting GF lunch or dinner.
Mumbai Bistro at 10th and Locust. I ate there last week, and though they seem to have changed how they mark the GF options on the printed menu, the food on the buffet is clearly marked regarding its gf status. I had a plate of interesting Indian food and a bottle of water for about $6. Can’t beat that! CLOSED ON MONDAYS! That’s gotten me a couple of times.
Fuel at 1221 Walnut Street. I haven’t reviewed it for my blog, but I should! They have an interesting menu, carry GF bread for their sandwiches, and the waiter I had was very well-versed in the steps that they take to avoid gluten cross-contamination. Probably a $10 lunch experience.
Philadelphia Chutney Company at 1628 Sansom: A little further away, but good and interesting and cheap. Also a $10 lunch experience.
Mi Lah Vegetarian on 16th between Locust and Walnut. It’s a little more – probably a $15 – but really amazing and interesting food and they clearly mark what they can make GF. Jenn and I ate there last night and I can’t speak highly enough of the place. Check ‘em out for dinner if you have the inclination. We had a shared appetizer, entrees and a dessert apiece and paid $68 including tax and tip. A splurge for us for sure, but SO GOOD!
Georgio on Pine at 1328 Pine Street is a real treat -- a more grown-up experience, so leave more time to bask in the warmth and upscale elegance of the place. Tell them you are gluten-free and they'll bring you actual delicious locally baked gf bread right to your table. You'll be able to choose pasta or pizza (with Still Riding crust) and more.
There are other higher end places that are worth a look, but I haven’t eaten at them, so I can’t make personal recommendations. I also have write-ups of more than a dozen other Center City restaurants on my Restaurants page if you are up for a walk or checking out other sites while you are in town. Or get in touch and I can tell you about the restaurants that I've heard great things about but haven't tried yet, like Alma de Cuba. If you have suggestions, leave a comment!
Come look for me at PHS's exhibit at the Show, where I'll be much of the week. And Bon Appétit!