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The Philadelphia Experiment


You can spend a weekend in Philadelphia and eat almost every meal in a different Stephen Starr restaurant. A former concert promoter, Starr is a supercharged urban planner/party planner who frequently describes his properties in terms of movies and television shows. But don't call them theme restaurants; instead, Starr creates complete environments with an artistic, almost cerebral approach.Here, the best places (and times) for an all-Starr sampler.

BRUNCH JONES The retro décor of Jones—swivel chairs, wall-to-wall carpeting, even a fieldstone fireplace—seems a cross between the Mid-Century Modern of Rob and Laura Petrie and the Brady Bunch's seventies split-level ranch. Order the BMW pancakes: caramelized bananas, maple syrup, and walnuts. 700 Chestnut St.; 215/223-5663; brunch for two $35.

LUNCH CONTINENTAL A stainless-steel diner retooled as a martini bar with a global tapas menu. Olive-shaped halogen lamps pierced by huge toothpicks are suspended over the booths; the banquettes are olive green with pimiento-red trim. 138 Market St.; 215/923-6069; lunch for two $35.

DINNER POD If George and Jane Jetson opened an Asian-fusion place of their own, Pod would be it. There's a sushi conveyor belt, molded rubber furniture that lights up when you sit down, and high-gloss white poured-resin walls. 3636 Sansom St.; 215/387-1803; dinner for two $80.

DINNER ALMA DE CUBA A collaboration with nuevo latino master Douglas Rodriguez means signature ceviche (such as Fire and Ice: fluke with preserved lemon and hot garlic oil) and Cuban-inspired dishes like truffled empanadas and sugarcane-skewered tuna. 1623 Walnut St.; 215/988-1799; dinner for two $80.

DINNER BUDDAKAN A 10-foot gold Buddha watches over a long communal table in this former post office. On the menu: ginger martinis, edamame ravioli, and roasted ponzu chicken. 325 Chestnut St.; 215/574-9440; dinner for two $80.

LATE NIGHT TANGERINE You'll walk through a long, come-to-the-Casbah candlelit entranceway before you find the dining room, where votive candles, tucked into dozens of tiny individual niches along one wall, flicker like the twinkling lights of a distant city. 232 Market St.; 215/627-5116; dinner for two $80.

WHENEVER YOU CAN GET A TABLE MORIMOTO Starr joined forces with Masaharu Morimoto (TV's Iron Chef) and designer Karim Rashid to create this stunningly beautiful space. The walls are so rounded and smooth that they're almost liquid, while glass-top tables are framed by opalescent, lit-from-within benches that slowly shift from blue and green to fuchsia. Morimoto's ever-changing omakase ("Put yourself in my hands") is a multicourse tasting menu that may include such delicacies as hot-oil sashimi (live scallops splashed with blended hot oil and sprinkled with ginger and chives) or Kobe beef foie gras with Japanese sweet potato. 723 Chestnut St.; 215/413-9070; omakase for two $160.


Philadelphia is within easy driving distance of its nearest big-city siblings: 109 miles south of New York City and 136 miles north of Washington, D.C. Another option: leave the car behind and come here by train (Amtrak serves the city from several points along the Eastern Seaboard), arriving at the grand 1934 30th Street Station. It's a short walk (or cab ride, if you really miss that car) to Center City.


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