Although Carolyn Nguyen was born and raised in southern Louisiana, she now calls Philly home after moving here in 2004 to start her career in cooking. For more than a decade, she’s worked at various Philly staples like Fork, Russet, Nectar and Susanna Foo, gaining experience in a range of culinary styles. In August 2012, she opened up her first food truck, Street Food Philly, with business partner Michael Sultan and soon after hit the streets with a second — Taco Mondo. In January, she opened Revolution Taco in Rittenhouse, her first brick-and-mortar venture. While Nguyen’s plate is certainly full, there’s always room for a strong cup of coffee, hand-rolled pasta and, of course, dessert.
Best late night meal?
When it comes to late night food, it can be a hit-or-miss. More often than not, it’s a miss, but Ken’s Seafood (1004 Race St.) in Chinatown offers fresh seafood that is consistently good. Try the sauteed clams with minced pork.
Best meal under $10?
Tela’s Market (1833 Fairmount Ave.) is a great neighborhood place for made-from-scratch breakfast and lunch or even as an early dinner spot. You can also pick up some groceries here after your meal. The ultimate one-stop shopping experience!
Best hidden foodie gem?
Russet (1521 Spruce St.) is sort of a hidden gem in the literal sense. There’s an unassuming sign hanging in the front of the restaurant and a stoop leading into it. Chef and owner Andrew Wood is a good friend and my old boss. [It’s a] local farm-to-table restaurant where the pastas are hand-rolled daily and the menu changes weekly. The desserts creations of Kristen Wood are sublime, too.
Best place to dine alone?
Vietnam Cafe (816 S. 47th St.) in West Philly is a great spot when I am craving Vietnamese food and feel like a quick getaway. The decor of the restaurant takes me to another place when I dine there. I feel like I am dining in the countryside of some remote Vietnamese town.
Place you always take or recommend for out-of-towners?
Sagami (37 W. Crescent Blvd., Collingswood, New Jersey) hands-down will always be one of my top recommendations. The sushi menu is simple and unpretentious. There aren’t any fancy sushi rolls, just the best products that are sourced with applied precision every time.
Go-to date spot?
Michael Solomanov’s Middle Eastern menu at Zahav (237 St. James Place) is inspiring and full of flavors. No one does this cuisine better than Mike. The restaurant is always booked, so plan your date in advance!
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Best place to catch up with friends?
Rival Brothers Coffee (2400 Lombard St.) was founded by Jonathan Adams and Damien Pileggi — former foodtruckers. It’s a great spot to catch up with old friends with great coffee and pastries from High Street on Market.
Most Instagrammable restaurant?
A Mano (2244 Fairmount Ave.) is the corner restaurant on 22nd and Fairmount with open windows on both sides of the dining room. It's brings in lots of natural lighting that provides awesome photographs.