Chef Esther McManus may call Philadelphia home these days, but she’s had quite the international upbringing — born in Marrakesh and on the move from Morocco to Israel. In the '90s, she became the consulting chef at Philadelphia’s Le Bus and transformed the small restaurant into the artisan bread empire it is today. When famed chef Julia Child set out to write “Baking with Julia Child,” it's not shocking that she called on McManus for her insight, even featuring her on the TV version of the book where the pair baked croissants. McManus offers her expertise once again on where to dine in Philly, whether you’re on a date or alone.
Best late night meal?
In my home. Preferably with friends. There is nothing like sharing a meal and having wonderful conversations with old friends and new. And a nice Calva to have sweet dreams!
Best meal under $10?
On a beautiful day, in the most beautiful dining room is on a bench in Rittenhouse Square with a freshly made sandwich from Danny Braverman's Le Bus (129 S. 18th St). It's still the best in town, and fresh air and people watching stirs the appetite!
Best place to dine alone?
In Philadelphia, the best place to dine alone is the lovely, newly and enchantingly decorated dining room at the The Great Chefs Restaurant at The Restaurant School (4207 Walnut St). The menu is always changing and it’s a delight.
Go-to date spot?
I thought very hard about a date night, but of all I know the most honest one and a real landmark as of late is Zahav (237 St. James Pl). Michael Solomonov is the most engaged restauranteur in the city. He also wrote a lovely book.
Best place to take or recommend for out-of-towners?
The Saloon (750 S. 7th St). Real food for real people. It's easy to forget about the old places, with all the wonderful new restaurants that Philadelphia is famous for, but there's something about The Saloon that draws me back each time.
Best place to catch up with friends?
The Rittenhouse Hotel's elegant dining room (210 W. Rittenhouse Sq). Their cocktails and the ambiance reminds me of Old World style, but it is still fresh and new.
Most Instagrammable restaurant?
Back again to the Great Chefs Restaurant at The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College (4207 Walnut St). It is a show stopper of design and elegance! If you have been there you'll know it immediately, and if you haven't, you'll wonder where in the world this could be.
McManus will be honored on Sept. 25 by Les Dames d' Escoffier Philadelphia at the "Outstanding in Her Field" Farm Dinner.