What's new in the old city

All of 222 years after the Declaration of Independence, our nation's birthplace is as irrepressible as ever: New restaurants in Center City are getting noticed, nightclubs are moving in next to Old City art galleries, and construction is under way on the Philadelphia Orchestra's Regional Performing Arts Center. Oprah fell in love with the city last summer while filming Beloved on historic Third Street (the movie hits theaters next month). And right now Philadelphia is shining under a bright spotlight— the blockbuster exhibition "Delacroix: The Late Work" is coming from Paris to the Philadelphia Museum of Art this month. We thought it was high time to revisit.

philly's best
CHEESE STEAK: Geno's Steaks (1219 S. Ninth St. at Passayunk Ave.; no phone). Hundreds of autographed photos (Donna Summer, Bill Clinton). Our vote for Philly's finest beef on a roll.
COFFEE: Torreo (130 S. 17th St.; 215/988-0061). A family-run café with its own strong brew— and you can order the beans by mail.
ICE CREAM: Alaska (123 S. 18th St. at Sansom St.; 215/563-4424). You can't miss it; there's a giant moose painted on the side of the building.
WALK: Fairmont Park's Schuylkill Trail, along Kelly Drive. Part of an eight-mile loop for bikers, bladers, joggers, and those who like to watch college crew teams rowing on the river.
RADIO STATION: WXPN (88.5 FM). U. Penn's public radio station, with the hottest blues show in town on Saturday nights, starring DJ Jonny Meister.

Where to Stay
DELACROIX DEALS: Ten hotels, including the Crowne Plaza (800/227-6963) and the Four Seasons Hotel (800/332-3442), are offering packages; $129 to $333 buys one night's lodging, breakfast, two VIP tickets to the Delacroix exhibition (you get to skip the line!), and more. For more information, contact the Philadelphia Visitors Center (800/752-8206). From September 15 to January 3, US Airways (800/334-8644) will discount flights to Philadelphia by 5 to 10 percent; mention Gold File 44140385.
Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia 17th St. and Chestnut St.; 215/563-1600; doubles from $269. Luxury incarnate, plus shopping central (the 290-room hotel adjoins the 70-store Shops at Liberty Place).
Thomas Bond House 129 S. Second St.; 215/923-8523; doubles from $95. This 1769 Georgian brick inn's 12 guest rooms are packed with oriental rugs and Chippendale period furniture. It's a wine-and-cheese-in-front-of-the-parlor-fire kind of place.

dining out
Beau Monde 624 S. Sixth St.; 215/592-0656; dinner for two $40. This new crêperie in the heart of Philly's rising antiques district packs giant buckwheat crêpes with boeuf bourguignon or roasted chicken with leeks. The standout: hazelnut-filled crêpes with caramel sauce.
Brasserie Perrier 1619 Walnut St.; 215/568-3000; dinner for two $110. The James Beard Foundation voted Le Bec-Fin's Georges Perrier the Best Chef of the Mid-Atlantic for 1998, and this is his latest showcase. Don't let the zoomy design— cracked glass, Cubist murals— distract you from entrées such as peppercorn-crusted tuna with white-bean purée and lemongrass.
Fork 306 Market St.; 215/625-9425; dinner for two $55. Celebrating its first anniversary next month, Fork is still the place to be seen. Chef Anne-Marie Lasher's menu makes use of local organic produce; go for the pan-seared duck with cider-thyme glaze, but be prepared for a reprimand from your waitress if you don't finish your vegetables. (They are perfect, after all.)
Rouge 205 S. 18th St.; 215/732-6622; dinner for two $70. Opened in April, this is the latest from Striped Bass proprietor Neil Stein. Picture a Louise Brooks soirée— blush-colored fabric on the walls, bronze sconces illuminating brown velvet sofas, and a cool crowd milling about the scallop-edged marble bar. Indulge in a leek-and-Maytag-blue-cheese tart or the fabulous pommes frites.
FALL'S HOT TICKET: Venus and the Cowboy 1700 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy. At press time, former Striped Bass chef Alison Barshak was set to open this 160-seat restaurant.

Thursdays after 10, head to the Five Spot (5 S. Bank St.; 215/574-0070) for steamy salsa with Caesar and the Latin Playboys. On Fridays, go to the Continental Restaurant & Martini Bar (138 Market St.; 215/923-6069), a restored stainless-steel diner that has vinyl booths lit with olive-and-toothpick hanging lamps. The second-floor lounge of the French-Vietnamese restaurant Le Colonial (1623 Walnut St.; 215/851-1623) is cool for Saturdays: low-slung green chairs, bamboo cocktail tables, slow-turning ceiling fans, and swaying palms. Il Bar in the Panorama Ristorante (914 N. Front St.; 215/922-7800) has 120 wines by the glass. And for a dose of live blues every night (except Monday): Warmdaddy's (4 S. Front St.; 215/627-2500).

LOVE IN MANAYUNK (Philly's reborn warehouse district)
FIRST DATE: Sushi at Hikaru (4348 Main St.; 215/487-3500).
MARRIAGE PROPOSAL: Filet mignon at Kansas City Prime (4417 Main St.; 215/482-3700).

haute culture
Philadelphia Museum of Art Benjamin Franklin Pkwy. at 26th St.; 215/763-8100. The Delacroix show, inspired by the bicentennial of the painter's birth, encompasses some 110 works produced in his last 15 years (September 15-January 3, 1999; call 215/235-7469). But don't miss the rest of the museum, especially the American wing, full of elaborate Pennsylvania furniture and minimalist Shaker crafts, and the 20th-century galleries, with some of Marcel Duchamp's and Jasper Johns's landmark work. The Asian wing— including a Japanese teahouse and a lacquer-walled bedchamber from a Chinese palace— is glorious.
Rodin Museum Benjamin Franklin Pkwy. at 22nd St.; 215/763-8100. More than 120 of the sculptor's works are in this honey-colored Neoclassical building. It is an extraordinary gathering— The Thinker is out front, and awaiting indoors are The Burghers of Calais, Claude Lorrain with his palette, and busts of Victor Hugo and Gustav Mahler.
Rosenbach Museum & Library 2010 DeLancey Place; 215/732-1600. The former home of America's preeminent rare-book dealers, the brothers Rosenbach, now shelters James Joyce's manuscript for Ulysses, Herman Melville's desk, illustrations by Maurice Sendak, and (strange but true) poet Marianne Moore's Greenwich Village living room.

philadelphia shopping
OFF RITTENHOUSE SQUARE: Last winter, interior designer Monique Messin (1742 Sansom St.; 215/557-1060) opened this haven for French niceties; Valdrôme tablecloths, Pierre Frey breakfast sets, and reproduction vintage French travel posters are staples. At the AIA Bookstore & Design Center's downstairs showroom (117 S. 17th St.; 215/569-3188) are sleek Italian leather chairs and Noguchi lamps— you're liable to walk away with a monograph on your new Aino Aalto glassware.
NEAR BAINBRIDGE STREET, BETWEEN FOURTH AND NINTH: Pine Street has long been known as the city's antiques district, but the new, more modern enclave is this gritty South Philly neighborhood. The South Street Antiques Market (615 S. Sixth St.; 215/592-0256)— 25 dealers under one roof— is for those looking to unearth 1940's stamps and 1960's Lilly Pulitzer sundresses. Antique meets kitsch at Bainbridge Collectables (514 Bainbridge St.; 215/922-7761), with fifties and sixties designs both high (white Knoll tables) and low (lunar lamps).

cheese steak personality quiz
The cheese steak is Philly's culinary masterpiece. How you take yours speaks volumes: Provolone or Cheez Whiz with that?Hot or sweet peppers?Ketchup?A dollop of marinara sauce?