Eating Philadelphia: Day One

I’m sure there will be more about the sights and sounds and experiences of Philly later (in brief, the “city center” is pretty cool), but besides the conference, mostly what we’ve done so far has involved food.

Yesterday, Annette and I spent the morning doing a little shopping and then we got a pizza at Lombardi’s Coal Oven Pizza. At first, I thought this was a “local” delicacy, but apparently, it’s a New York City import. In any event, the point of the “coal fired” oven is that it gets super-duper hot, which gets you a pizza with excellent crust: quite crisp, even a bit charred in yummy ways. We had the “original,” which was a simple fresh tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil. Good stuff and actually a pretty light lunch, all things considered.

But the big meal was last night at Marrakesh, a place that bills itself as the “East Coast’s Premier Moroccan Restaurant.” Since I have not eaten in a Moroccan restaurant before this, I have no point of comparison. At the same time, I have no reason to disagree with this self-praise.

Annette and I went with our friend Annette S. and some friends of hers. Getting there was the first adventure; the cab dumped us off at the address, and what we came across was a sign and an elaborate door we had to knock on to get in. The inside pretty much looks like the picture on the restaurant’s web site: dark, pillows and couches around low tables, colorful draperies, Arabic writing on the walls, etc. Very, well, Moroccan.

We had some “issues” with the seating arrangements that irritated our waiter, who continued to be pissed at us for the rest of the evening for complaining a bit. Whatever.

The wine choices were limited and kind of bad, but the food was indeed excellent. They started by washing our hands and then giving us a large towel, an important item since all but one of the seven courses were consumed with our own hands. That towel was half dirty mess/half impromptu plate by the end of the evening. Nothing prissy about this meal. There was an assortment of salad items, followed by something called B’Stella, which was a sort of filo encrusted chicken pie with sugar and cinnamon on top– I know that sounds weird, and it kind of was, but it was very good. Then there were many more courses, dessert, and some wonderful mint tea.

I think my favorite moment of the night was during the first main course (there were three “main” courses), which was an excellent chicken dish of some sort– interesting spices, olives, etc. I couldn’t figure out what was in this stuff, so I asked the surly waiter “So, what is the seasoning here?”

“Oh, the ordinary spices,” he said and scurried off.

Anyway, great food and a fun evening. And frankly, if we had had a better table and a more polite waiter, I doubt it would have been as memorable.


Well, it turns out that this place was kind of like actually going to Morocco and being ripped off by third-world con men.

Our friend Annette S. and one of her friends (and they were the two who were in charge of the bill) thought that we ended up paying too much money, but they couldn’t really tell for sure. For one thing, Marrakesh is cash only, which is of course a recipe for fraud. For another, theyd didn’t bring us an itemized bill– just a total. But hey, we had all had some wine, we enjoyed the food and atmosphere, and it didn’t seem that expensive.

Well, Annette S. called back the next day. I’ll spare the details, but it turns out:

* We were charged $27 apiece instead of the listed price of $22;

* Tip was supposed to be included in that amount; and

* We paid twice as much as wine we were supposed to.

Annette S.’s friend was going to go down there and get a refund, but I don’t know if she ever did. Anyway, just a tip to anyone who comes across this site because of a google search for Marrakesh in Philadelphia: good food, but pay attention, or you will be ripped off.

2 thoughts on “Eating Philadelphia: Day One”

  1. Just wanted to add to your story. I have had the same situation one time when I went there…the payment thing seems kinds shady, and one time the bill was way more than another, but for the same thing and the same amount of people. They include the tip, so don’t pay anything over what they put on the bill…and just know the price going in. Also, on weekends, I think they only serve at 6pm and 9pm. You might want to check about that. But the experience is great and the food is excellent.

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