Philly restaurateur Jill Weber had to dig her way into the food industry — literally. She began her professional career as an archaeologist, excavating animal bones in countries like Syria, Turkey, Oman, Armenia and Italy. Her travels sparked a passion for cuisine and culture and Weber opened her first venture, Jet Wine Bar, with her husband Evan in 2010, followed by Rex 1516 and Cafe Ynez. Weber dishes on “salad done right,” the simple joys of late-night Wawa snacks and bulgur-crusted fried oysters.
Best place to dine alone
Le Cheri (251 S. 18th St.). I often find myself eating alone — which is best done at a bar where one can chat with the bartender and other guests. We specifically designed both Jet and Rex to have “dining” bars for that reason, and I love to eat at both of them — alone or encumbered. But, if I must be pulled away, Le Cheri also has a very pleasant bar at which to dine solo. I love the salade Lyonnaise — salad done right!
Best meal under $10
Jezabel’s (2536 Pine St.). At $2.78 a piece, I can get three real empanadas with flakey crusts from an Argentine ex-pat for $10. I like the traditional ones like the spicy beef or spicy corn special.
Best hidden foodie gem
Apricot Stone (1040 N. 2nd St.). Eating here takes me back to Aleppo, whose cuisine is divine. The chef grew up in Aleppo and I can taste it in her mezze, in particular. Good, flavorful, traditional foods. Try the Kibbeh Kufteh — a deceptively simple dish.
Best late night meal
Snyder’s hard-pretzels and gooey cheese dip from your favorite Wawa. I used to be out later and grab the addictive fries from Monk’s (264 S. 16th St.) but now I rarely am out late and just open a bag of pretzels on the couch.
Place you always recommend for out-of-towners
Café Ynez (2025 Washington Ave.). A lot of people visit me from other countries where Mexican food isn’t easily found. The food at Café Ynez is incredibly fresh and well-cooked, with the rich peppers and flavors of Mexico City. Try the carne de ternera with huitlacoche butter.
Go-to date spot
Fork (306 Market St.). I expect it to always be perfect, and it always is. I love everything here. I like to always pick among the appetizer specials, though, because there is always something a little offbeat (like a weird vegetable) that ends up being the star of the evening.
Best place to catch up with friends
Restaurant Neuf (943 S. 9th St.). I love the cuisine. I’ve always had a long-distance love affair with North Africa. The setting is comfortable and convivial, and so is Joncarl. I always feel at ease and happy. Try the bulgur-crusted fried oysters — I think I’ve gotten them at every visit.
Most Instagrammable restaurant
Pumpkin (1713 South St.). Ian’s food is inspired, fresh, beautiful and delicious — which all comes through in photos. The menu is always changing, but if there is mackerel on it, I’ll get it.