Walking into the Continental Midtown restaurant, one might feel as if she is walking into the set of some high profile movie. Or better yet, it might feel as if one should be mingling among Hollywood’s rich and famous.
Think you are going crazy? Think again. Owner Stephen Starr hired a mastermind designer from Los Angeles to create this $7 million retro chic style and atmosphere.
Located on the corner of 18th and Chestnut Streets, this three-story eatery cannot be missed. The building stands out with a giant martini, olive complete with a toothpick, hanging over the front entrance.
Upon entering the restaurant the first thing that demands attention is the remarkable chandelier with over 140 dangling cracked glass balls of amber, coral, lime and teal.
The main floor has a unique atmosphere with light blue faux-leather car-seat booths around a sunken lounge in the center. While the music tends to be on the louder side, communicating with others at the table is not hard.
With hanging basket chairs and its own bar, the second floor seems straight out of a movie. This level is not recommend for anyone with a breathing problem due to the amount of smoke present.
The rooftop lounge and bar is a whole other trip in itself, and is touted as the city’s first penthouse rooftop patio with an indoor/outdoor bar.
Heading down the flight of stairs to bathrooms in the basement, guests will notice something unlike anything ever seen in a conventional restaurant. Each of the bathrooms has a trendy two-way mirror, allowing men and women to see into each other’s bathrooms.
The eclectic cuisine is not only affordable but also flavorful. Each dish jumps off the plate with its own distinctive style.
Upon being seated, a waitress asks guests if they want flat or sparkling water. Here is a warning to anyone who is tight for money: make sure to ask for tap water or else you will have to pay for your water! Perhaps the only thing thatwas disappointing about this restaurant had to be paying $6 for a 1-liter bottle of Fuji non-refillable flat water.
A fun aspect of the Continental Midtown is that each entrée is made for sharing. This makes ordering a very enjoyable table-involved process. Once ordered, each item is brought out as soon as it is prepared. Our first entrée was ready in under 10 minutes.
My favorite dish, the Crispy Calamari Salad, $12, is an Asian inspired dish laced with crisp, fried rings of squid and decoratively topped with shredded beets. This colorful dish mixed with a soy-ginger dressing is a perfect meal starter.
An additional starter that is bound to impress is the Szechuan Shoestring Fries, $6.50, which are drizzled with Chinese mustard sauce. These fries are unlike any fries ever experienced before.
Also try the Hummus and Pita, $5, as well as the Wasabi Mashed Potatoes, $5, for these flavor-packed dishes are phenomenal.
Another favorite of mine was the Continental Cocktail Party. For $17, this sampler for two includes crab wontons, Vietnamese summer rolls, lobster spring rolls and tofu-chive dumplings. Each sample has a sauce made specfically to enhance its flavor. The crab wontons come with a sweeter sauce, while the lobster spring rolls come with a spicy mustard sauce.
The Raspberry Lemonade Cheesecake, $4, tops the list for the desserts. This sliver of cheesecake is topped with a thin, gelatin-like raspberry layer. Sugarcoated lemon peels are then sprinkled with a few drops of lime juice.
Luckily for us, the owner of the Continental Midtown also owns more than 10 other trendy restaurants in Philadelphia. Go to the Tangerine, on Market; Pod, on Sansom; or even the Striped Bass, on Walnut. Whatever you choose dressing up and becoming a star for an evening is a definite possibility.
1801 Chestnut Street
Be prepared to pay $10-18 to park in a garage.