This past weekend, August 10th through 12th I was in Philadelphia for the Reform Party National Convention. While there I had the opportunity to eat at a wonderful place in the oriental district of the city, Sakura Mandarin. It is a local noodle house and restaurant on the corner of Race Street and 11th Street in downtown Philadelphia. Click here to see the location on Google Maps
When ever you are going to be someplace that you are not familiar with or have not visited for a long time the best way to find the best place to eat is to ask. I don’t mean asking the hotel or the information desk of the airport or train station. The very best way is to ask someone that is walking by that looks like they live in the area. When you ask them they will tell you what they think and not what someone was paid to say to recommend. A local, if you ask them nicely, is going to tell you the place they like to eat and might even give you some advice or input about the place. That is what I did when I first got off the train in Philadelphia, I asked a local, and they recommended Sakura.
First some advice about dealing with any local oriental possibly family owned business; You have to be polite and not demanding but not a push over either. Treat them with respect and you will have one of the best dining experiences that you can have. If you are interested in what is there ask politely with interest and they will be more then happy to give you the answer. Go in with a negative attitude and you will likely not have a good experience at all as you will be seen as someone that doesn’t care what is going on in the restaurant. The key to a good meal is attitude and presentation. If you are seen as someone who WANTS to be there then you food will come to you with a bit more specialness to it. The workers and the cooks like to know that they are appreciated for what they are preparing for you.
As to Sakura noodle house itself, I found that it was a clean and inviting place with smiling happy waiters and waitresses. They made sure that you had everything that you needed and if you looked a little lost they would give you advice or recommendations to help you out. As with all oriental eateries the portions were large and the prices were reasonable. They have daily specials as well as regular menu items. And for those that are not in the mood for a large dinner they also have various oriental soups as well as sushi and egg-rolls.
While there I saw mostly Asian customers speaking in several dialects, so you knew that it was a local place. At the same time I saw cab drivers and business people as well eating there so you know that it is someplace anyone can go and feel comfortable. I would recommend this place to everyone that is going to Philadelphia for a great place to eat and unwind.
Chung May Food Market
Just down the street is another great place to go, Chung May Food Market (Map). It is a true Asian food market where you can find many items that you just can not find in your local grocer and the prices are reasonable as well.
I will warn you though that they wont let you use your credit card unless you buy 10 dollars or more in products. The image that you see of the foods in the gallery is $11.14 worth of food, including tax. You can see there is a lot there.
Those that work there were very understanding and patient with me as I tried to find what I was looking for which at first was red bean cakes. They are made with honey sweetened red bean paste between 2 small pancakes. They really are good. They helped me find them as well as the actual beans to make them with. If I lived in the area I would definitely be shopping there on a regular basis.
There you have two great places to visit the next time that you visit Philadelphia.