Hospitality Picks: Top Five Philly Restaurants You've Never Heard Of

Zinc restaurant

Looking for someplace new to eat? Every month, in “Hospitality Picks,” DrexelNow will bring you five dining suggestions from Drexel’s hospitality, culinary and food science students, faculty and staff. In the first edition: contributors’ favorite under-the-radar spots.


Edward Bottone
Edward Bottone

Recommended by: Edward Bottone, assistant teaching professor and chef, Center for Hospitality and Sport Management.

What you’ll find: This enchanting little restaurant tucked away on south 11th Street is truly a treasure. Being the second restaurant of Olivier Desaintmartin (owner of Caribou Café), Zinc is exceptional. You can expect nothing less than exceptional, authentic French cuisine. It will charm you with its intimate setting, friendly service and excellent wine selection. Experience a little corner of France in Philadelphia.

Atmosphere: Small, intimate and romantic.

Favorite dish: Mussels or the goat cheese wrapped in “brick” (like phyllo) followed by Tuna Niçoise or (if it is snowing) cassoulet.

246 S. 11th St.,


Gabriel Aaron Mandel
Gabriel Aaron Mandel

Recommended by: Gabriel Aaron Mandel, a culinary arts student.

What you’ll find: No, he’s not talking about the country. This cozy little restaurant in Northeast Philly serves authentic and incredible Uzbekistani food. For those of you unfamiliar with this Central Asian cuisine, it is unique. “The country is right in the middle of the Middle East, Russia, India and China, and the cuisine is influenced by all of them,” Mandel said. “They have borscht, but they also use Indian spices. It’s the weirdest food you’ll ever eat. It’s fantastic!”

Atmosphere: Cozy and friendly. Mandel describes it as “Bring your own Grey Goose.”

Favorite dish: Manti (lamb and cumin dumplings with fried shallots and sour cream).

12012 Bustleton Ave., on Urban Spoon


Erica Friedman
Erica Friedman

Recommended by: Erica Friedman, program manager, Center for Hospitality and Sport Management.

What you’ll find: A neighborhood favorite, Marra’s is truly the definition of an old-school Italian red-gravy restaurant. With everything from pasta pomodoro to veal Francese, there is something for everyone, which makes this ristorante perfect for a family outing. The family who owns the restaurant has been in business for more than 80 years, serving their specialties to big names such as Frank Sinatra and John Travolta. “It’s a neighborhood restaurant,” Friedman said when asked to describe the experience. “It’s not fancy in any way. That’s what makes it so comfortable.”

Atmosphere: Italian neighborhood restaurant with benches and a little bit of authentic South Philly attitude.

Favorite Dish:
Pepperoni pizza. Can’t beat a classic!

1734 E. Passyunk Ave.,


Lynn Hoffman
Lynn Hoffman

Recommended by: Lynn Hoffman, food writer and adjunct faculty, Center for Hospitality and Food Management.

What you’ll find: Hoffman explains: “The Chestnut Grill has an old-fashioned, dark-wood bar just off Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill. The bar itself would be reason enough to go — it's voluptuous and inviting in a 19th-century way. What makes me a regular is the precise and delicious cooking of a wide-ranging menu. I can't believe that I'm lucky enough to get jumbo goat cheese ravioli with garlic brown butter and roasted pepper or grilled fish tacos that are so freshly luscious and so cheap.

“It doesn't hurt that they have a decent selection of bottled beer and that Chimay is always on tap. Service is uncannily great. Hospitality professionals could all spend an hour or two picking up service hints. And in warm weather, when the townies are strolling the boulevard in their madras shorts with golden labs and Kerry blues, the people watching is superb.”

Atmosphere: A Philly-style mix: people of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds.

Favorite Dish: The ravioli. Is there anything better than garlic brown butter?

8229 Germantown Ave.,


Meghan de Haan
Meghan de Haan

Recommended by: Meghan de Haan, a hospitality management student.

What you’ll find: Conveniently located a few blocks from Rittenhouse Square, Bellini is the quintessential hole-in-the-wall restaurant for all your Italian cuisine needs. Their homemade pasta — available in regular, whole-wheat and gluten-free varieties — is a specialty that is sure not to disappoint, whether in the form of simple capellini al pomodoro fresco, or a more complicated fusilli all’amatriciana. The service is friendly and welcoming with a sense of humor. While this charming Italian gem is BYOB, it does offer a fine selection of wines. Whether you’re celebrating an important occasion or just having a weeknight dinner, Bellini will be sure to fit your fancy.

Atmosphere: Old-school Italian, complete with murals on the walls.

Favorite Dish: Anything and everything pasta.

220 S. 16th St.,