Best restaurants in Philadelphia
Since 2008, Zahav has been serving its now-famous ethereal hummus and baked-to-order wood-fired laffa bread along with a full complement of traditional Israeli cuisine, including a special Passover menu in season. Guests who aren’t able to secure a reservation at this sought-after spot can opt instead to grab a cold lemonnana and a casual plate of hummus at Dizengoff, Zahav’s sister café.
Instead of serving dishes à la carte, James-Beard-award-winning chef Marc Vetri offers a four-course tasting menu for $155 in his upscale dining room just off Broad Street. Located in the former home of Georges Perrier’s legendary Le Bec Fin, the gourmet menu includes Italian-focused dishes such as porcelet chops, Swiss chard gnocchi with brown butter and a chocolate polenta soufflé. As long as you’re splurging, you might as well add a full or partial wine or beer tasting to your experience.
This cozy two-level eatery offers inventive seasonal dishes like Spanish mackerel ceviche venison au poive or a small-plate char-grilled octopus niçoise. Settle into a warm wooden table or grab a spot at the friendly back-lit bar and try out one of the seasonal cocktails, like the Palomino (tequila, grapefruit, cardamom and kaffir lime).
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Tom Ipri
This Old City mainstay serves new America fare in an elegant dining room setting. Executive Chef John Patterson’s menu features a selection of starters including hand-torn scallops with carrots, buttermilk and ground cherries, and lamb tartare served alongside sauer kohlrabi, green blueberries and parsley. Choose a half portion of any one of his decadent pasta dishes to save room for your entree. Your choices there include standouts like the duroc pork with spaetzel, chanterelles and broccolini, and the New Jersey golden tilefish with potatoes, ham, corn and poblanos. Want to try a little bit of everything? Go for the house menu. At $78, you can choose a starter, pasta, entree and one of the amazing desserts whipped up by pastry chef Samantha Kincaid.
When you name your flagship after yourself, you’d better be sure your word is bond. Since opening his doors in spring 2014, Townsend Wentz has more than warranted the hype he generated for, yes, Townsend (a tad more patrician than Wentz, after all). The crisp yet cozy townhouse surroundings serve as an unobtrusive backdrop for an engrossing menu that, though à la carte, encourages multicourse marathons—starting, perhaps, with a signature like the exquisite hamachi tartare, followed by escargots and Brussels sprouts in bacon-enriched, sherried crème fraîche; pot au feu-inspired rabbit three ways; and a good old spiced baked apple with amaretto cream and candied walnuts. Sommelier Lauren Harris tightly curates her list to showcase the food-friendly finds of lesser-known terroirs—from the Canary Islands to Long Island—and her dessert-wine offerings are a special treat, as is the staff’s comfort level with regard to pairings. But you’d be wise to kick off the whole adventure with a cocktail at the bar Wentz himself built from reclaimed cherrywood.
Housed in an old mansion on Locust Street, Vedge is a vegan restaurant (no animal products used) that is not just for vegans. Even devoted carnivores will delight in entrees like the ssamjang glazed tofu and eggplant braciole with Italian salsa verde. Vedge also offers a gluten- and soy-free menu and handles other less common dietary requests with grace.
The Abruzzo region of Italy inspires the flavors at this upscale dining spot along East Passyunk Avenue. That means head chef Joe Cicala uses fresh, local ingredients to whip up rustic dishes that run the gamut from lamb and pork to fish and pasta handmade with Abruzzese flour. Start your meal with polipo grigliato, a grilled Mediterranean octopus dish; dive into the seafood- and tomato-based spaghetti alla chitarra; and finish up with a meat or fish entrée such as the lightly spicy brodetto vastese, a seafood stew reminiscent of bouillabaisse. Dolci, or dessert, includes everything from an assortment of biscotti to mousse and lemon cake, and there’s a jampacked menu of wine, beers by the bottle and on tap and signature cocktails that change by the season.
The location is different and the name has changed, but the Cypriot cooking at chef Konstantinos Pitsillides’ Kanella 2.0 is every bit as good as the original, if not better. A newly-installed wood-fired oven and charcoal grill add a smoky hit to whole roasted branzino, goat chops and lamb-filled flatbread, while a full-fledged liquor license (the old Kanella was BYOB) means a new sophisticated drinks program. Choose from deftly-mixed cocktails like the masticha-infused Cypriot or ouzo daiquiri and hard-to-find wines from Greece, Lebanon and Hungary.
This Mediterannean kitchen from Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran doesn’t exactly sell itself as a pizza shop, but it manages to whip up some of the city’s most daring pizza recipes, such as the Fico, with black mission figs and gorgonzola dolce; a white-sauce asparagus pizza with truffled egg; and a zucchini and squash blossoms pizza. Stop by late at night during the week for easy happy hour bar seating to watch a pizza be whipped up right in front of you.
This casual neighborhood café in Queen Village serves up rustic, farm-fresh comfort foods and a delicious array of baked-on-site pastries throughout the day. Breakfast and weekend brunch periods are most popular, when you can grab anything from a banana bread sticky bun with coffee to a selection of heartier dishes such as an egg and cheese sandwich with your choice of meats or the popular breakfast bowl with a brown-rice-porridge base. Dinner entrees can range from thick vegetarian soups to pastas to seasonally prepared meats and fishes. There's also an impressive selection of beer by the draft or in bottles and cans; boxed, bottled or on-tap wine and a host of specialty cocktails.
When Chad Williams and his wife Hanna took over this beloved Rittenhouse institution, Philadelphia foodies were curious to say the least. After an elegant revamp of the two-story space and a complete menu redux, the bar is as bustling as ever and Williams’ refined take on American fare has won legions of fast fans among critics and locals alike.
Billing itself as “Italian influenced, American executed and completely Fishtown,” Wm. Mulherin’s Sons is a cozy spot decorated in wood and leather that is below a hotel also run by the owners. Spend the night in one of the four beautiful guest rooms and then treat yourself to the decidedly Philly “Spicy Jawn” pizza for brunch.
Another one of the Vetri family of restaurants, Osteria is reminiscent of the traditional osterias found in Northern Italy. Chef Jeff Michaud, winner of the 2010 James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic,” offers such plates as lemon ricotta cavatelli with nduja rock shrimp in this cool industrial space outfitted with exposed ductwork, rustic wood floors and a huge open kitchen.
Taking over his grandfather’s members-only South Philly social club, Zeppoli chef Joey Baladino has reimagined the space into an intimate Italian-American enclave. To keep things in the family, a limited number of memberships are available at the door each evening. Once you’re in, order a well-mixed negroni and don’t miss the stuffed artichokes, spaghetti with crabs and housemade spumoni.
The best way to taste your way through the worldly flavors of the Jewish diaspora is with Abe Fisher’s year-round, sharable prix fixe. During Restaurant Week, the menu is discounted but not abbreviated meaning that all those bubbe-inspired faves like borscht tartare, mushroom blintzes and bacon and egg creams are on offer.
The main level of Double Knot functions as a cozy café, but Philly’s sushi connoisseurs know to expect more than coffee and pastries at this Midtown Village outpost. Downstairs, a dimly lit dining room serves a Japanese menu complete with sushi, sashimi, meaty entrees and creative sides. Specialties include the crowd-pleasing edamame dumplings, a Philly-inspired duck scrapple bao bun and the signature Big Eye Tuna roll. Behind the bar, unique cocktails incorporate Japanese components like yuzu, Japanese plums and cherry blossoms.
With décor reminiscent of a mid-century Midwestern rec-room, Bud & Marilyn’s is one of chef Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran’s string of successful eateries along the recently renovated 13th Street corridor. Warm up with Marilyn’s fried chicken or crispy Wisconsin cheese curds or stop in for a grapefruit mimosa with brunch on the weekend.
Identified by only a blue door and a red lantern, Royal Izakaya isn’t easy to find, but those who do are in for quite a treat. This tiny spot on South Second Street churns out stellar Japanese cuisine that ranges from preparations of unexpected elements like pork jowl and chicken gizzard to standby favorites like yellowtail and mackerel. Tucked behind the main dining room, a ten-seat bar focuses exclusively on sushi from Chef Jesse Ito. Open until 2am, the Bella Vista hotspot also draws a solid late-night crowd.
Noord eetcafe offers a quintessential East Passyunk experience, with its window seating facing the charming Singing Fountain, while providing a cuisine that's hard to come by in Philadelphia: Dutch. Sure-bet mainstays on the appetizer menu include the rustic house made bread that's served on the house with butter and garlic before your meal, the bitterballen (Dutch fried pork krokets) and herring broodjes (mini herring sandwiches topped with cucumber and pickled onion on a potato role). When it comes time for your entree, go for the rabbit leg stew, a hearty meal served with smoked sausage, lardons, baby turnips and zuurkool. Don't forget to bring wine—the place is BYOB.
Philadelphia top chefs like Nick Elmi and Joe Beddia have raved about Zeppoli, calling it one of their favorite restaurants in the Philadelphia area. The homestyle Sicilian fare at this intimate, 35-seat BYOB in Collingswood, New Jersey, hits all the right marks when you’re looking for a simple yet classic Italian dining experience. Standounts on Chef-owner Joey Baldino's menu include pesto trapanese, a Sicilian-style fusilli pasta with almond-pistachio pesto, and the coniglio pizzaiola, rabbit stewed with tomato and oregano and served with rosemary oven-roasted potatoes. The wine is on you, considering the space is a BYO, but coffee drinkers will find a selection of espresso drinks on the menu that are perfect digestifs after a filling Italian meal.
Walking onto the outdoor garden seating in the back, you will feel like you’re winding through the streets of Venice. Once seated, you’ll feel wholly transported to Italy. Another restaurant owned by Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, Little Nonna’s offers fontina stuffed meatballs served with “Sunday Gravy” made fresh over the day’s macaroni and dished out until gone.
Another Stephen Starr outfit, Parc's French-inspired menu is filled with classics like escargot, steak frites and beef bourguignon and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. Enjoy a fresh, house-baked baguette with a café au lait at an outdoor table in picturesque Rittenhouse Square and feel like you’ve been transported to a Parisian bistro.
Dollar-priced oysters could sound suspect anywhere else, but not at Oyster House. The Rittenhouse restaurant is a go-to in Center City for seafood all-around, but a sort of “old faithful” for oysters, especially. For happy hour (Mon–Fri 5–7pm and Sat 9–11pm), they're paired with drinks that make sense with oyster flavors—mostly shooters, like a mini-sized Bloody Mary called “The New Englander.” But if that’s not your thing, don’t fret: They also feature a $3 draft beer menu.
If there is such a thing as a superstar baker, Alex Bois is it. His artisanal breads, like anadama miche—not to mention perfectly flaky croissants—are the foundation upon which chef Eli Kulp builds edgy, award-winning menus for High Street on Market. Think beet-cured salmon with cream cheese and fried capers on a perfectly chewy pretzel roll, or go for broke with the Hickory Town breakfast sammie, which stacks Lancaster bologna, horseradish-spiked Amish cheddar and farm egg on a homemade kaiser roll.
The fourth outpost of Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh’s Asian noodle empire has landed in a historic former police horse stable in Fishtown. Fans of the Midtown Village original will be happy to see Cheu classics like black-garlic wings and matzo-ball ramen alongside new additions such as falafel-stuffed steamed buns, corn rangoon dumplings and char sui brisket with mushu pancakes. At the bar, the cocktail team is having fun with tropical flavors and large-format drinks.
This dual-concept café and restaurant does a bustling business with ReAnimator coffee and house-baked English muffins and Italian-inspired sandwiches during daylight hours. Come evenings from Wednesday to Sunday, the dining room dims and transforms into a cozy BYOB with a menu focusing on the vibrant flavors of Sicily.
Philly’s one and only source for Hawaiian grinds has gone brick and mortar at this sunny Rittenhouse storefront. Mac salad and rice plate lunches come with crunchy fried chicken and kalua pig, loco moco is finished with super savory miso gravy and the poke here is about as close to the Big Island as you’re going to get around these parts.
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