Best restaurants in Philadelphia
Modern Israeli restaurant Zahav—which recently nabbed national attention with the release of its own cookbook—has been serving its famous hummus and baked-to-order wood-fired laffa bread along with a full complement of traditional Israeli cuisine since 2008. If you’re lucky enough to nab a reservation here (you’ll have to start trying months in advance), order the multi-course tayim dinner and just sit back with a glass of wine and watch the plates—everything from pickled veggie salads to grilled meats to, yes, that hummus and laffa bread—start rolling in. Guests who aren’t able to snag a reservation can get a small taste of what all the fuss is about at Zahav’s more casual offshoot, Dizengoff, where a rotating list of five types of hummus are up for grabs.
James Beard award-winning chef Greg Vernick’s romantic, two-level eatery near Rittenhouse Square serves inventive seasonal dishes like sea urchin with scrambled eggs, Atlantic halibut with saffron risotto and adobo-rubbed duck breast with grilled corn relish. Settle into a warm wooden table or grab a spot at the friendly back-lit bar to try out one of the specialty cocktails, such as the Time Regained (blended scotch, Singani 63, French vermouth and jasmine). Chef Vernick has had such a hit with this location that’s he’s opened two other spots in the city: Vernick Fish and Vernick Coffee Bar, both located in the brand new Comcast Technology Center in Center City.
A decadent four-course tasting menu is the sole dining option at James Beard award-winning chef Marc Vetri’s upscale dining room in Midtown Village. Located in the charming former home of Georges Perrier’s legendary Le Bec Fin, Vetri Cucina’s $165 gourmet menu includes Italian-focused dishes, such as porcelet chops, Swiss chard gnocchi with brown butter and chocolate polenta soufflé. Guests can complement their fancy dinner with cocktails and wines by the glass, but as long as you’re splurging you might as well opt for the wine pairing, which will set you back an extra $135 per person.
Chef Townsend Wentz’s namesake restaurant, which recently relocated to Walnut Street in Rittenhouse after being on East Passyunk Avenue since 2014, draws crowds with an engrossing, seasonal menu that, while à la carte, encourages multicourse marathons. Begin with a Townsend classic like the hamachi tartare, followed by a second course of escargot, which, depending on the time of year, could be prepared with chicken fricassee, chorizo and caramelized cipollini onion. The third course is a feast of land and sea, with options like butter-poached halibut and roasted duck breast. If you truly want to try it all, the tasting menu includes six courses with suggestions for expert wine and beer pairings throughout.
Nicholas Elmi opened his first restaurant on East Passyunk Avenue just after winning season 11 of Top Chef in 2014. The intimate 22-seat eatery focuses on modern, French-inspired American fare, a style Elmi honed while working with Georges Perrier at the famed Le Bec Fin. Diners have two options: a six-course seasonal tasting menu for $85 or the nine-course chef’s tasting menu for $125. The menu changes with the seasons but always highlights locally sourced ingredients. Recent offerings have included plates like slow-roasted cod, dry-aged Pennsylvania duck and wild Burgundy snails. Cocktails, beer and wine are available for an extra charge, but try to save time for an aperitif at Laurel’s sister restaurant, ITV Philly, located just next door.
This Old City mainstay serves new American fare in an elegant dining room setting. Jeremy Hansen, who took over the reins as executive chef in August 2019 after moving from Spokane, Washington, has prepared a locally sourced menu that includes a selection of starters like fluke crudo, rabbit terrine and dry-aged steak tartare. Entrées run the gamut from seared scallops to glazed halibut and a veggie-friendly cauliflower dish with tamarind curry, black lentils and shaved vegetables. Happy hour gives folks the chance to try a variety of bar snacks and drink specials, and weekend crowds can join the feast for brunch on Sundays from 11am-3pm.
Housed in an old mansion on Locust Street, Vedge is a vegan restaurant that is not just for vegans. Even devoted carnivores will delight in entrées like the ssamjang glazed tofu and eggplant braciole with preserved lemon salsa verde. The menu changes seasonally and is separated into three sections: Vedge Bar (cold dishes with veggie charcuterie), the Dirt List (plates built around a single vegetable) and the Grill (larger, warm entrées). Complement your meal with something from the bar, which is stocked with more than 70 varieties of natural wines, craft beers and specialty cocktails that, like the Cava Cake (St. Germain, carrot and bubbly), incorporate some kind of fruit or vegetable.
Ncholas Elmi’s latest project, a spirited French-influenced American brasserie in Old City, pairs the Top Chef winner with David Frank and Stephen Simons, the minds behind local hotspots like Cantina Los Caballitos, Dos Segundos, Royal Tavern and Royal Izakaya. A selection of raw-bar offerings and house-made charcuterie complement snacks and larger dishes, all graced with Elmi’s signature French touch. The bi-level leather-and-wood dining room is warmed by a fireplace, making it a cozy, welcoming atmosphere to share a few plates, a couple of cocktails or a bottle of vino from the massive wine list.
Momofuku alum Peter Serpico came to Philly from New York City to open this sleek South Street spot in collaboration with longtime Philly restaurateur Stephen Starr—a move that paid off nicely for the city’s diners. Serpico’s seasonal, Asian-influenced plates come from a bustling open kitchen into a dimly lit, 60-seat dining room, where vibrant plates and unlikely flavor pairings illuminate the space. Try to grab a seat at the chef’s counter and work your way through the selection of intriguing dishes, such as the chicken and snail lasagna, crispy porchetta and pan-seared halibut.
Sitting just adjacent to the charming Singing Fountain, Noord offers a quintessential East Passyunk experience while serving a type of cuisine that's hard to come by in Philadelphia: Dutch. Sure-bet mainstays on the appetizer menu include the rustic house-made bread served with a hefty dollop of garlic butter, the bitterballen (Dutch fried pork krokets) and herring broodjes (mini herring sandwiches topped with cucumber and pickled onion on a potato roll). When it’s time for your entrée, go for the rabbit leg stew, a hearty bowl served with smoked sausage, lardons, baby turnips and zuurkool. Don't forget to bring a gutsy wine to match the rich flavors—the place is BYOB.
Garces veterans Chad Williams and his wife Hanna took over Friday Saturday Sunday in the mid-2010s, breathing an exciting, youthful energy into a time-worn Philadelphia dining institution. The elegant revamp of the two-story space and complete menu redux has paid off. The bar is as bustling as ever—cranking out gorgeous, boozy drinks—and Williams’ refined take on American fare has won legions of new fans among critics and locals alike. Reserve a table in the candle-lit second-story dining room to fully enjoy the eclectic menu that includes raw-bar oysters, a variety of pastas, like the smoked herring spaghetti, and baller-worthy entrées like lobster, New York strip and dry-aged duck.
Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors converge at this spacious, contemporary dining room helmed by Jennifer Carroll, another Top Chef alum from the City of Brotherly Love, and her partner (in life and business) Billy Riddle. Carroll’s technique incorporates flavorful ingredients from Greece, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and other Northern African countries to create inventive menus that include options like grape leaves stuffed with farro, peri-peri shrimp with garlic and harissa and a variety of kebabs. Larger platters, like the vegetarian shakshuka and date-braised lamb shank, are great options when you want to feed the whole table.
Taking over his grandfather’s members-only South Philly social club, Zeppoli chef Joey Baladino has reimagined this nondescript 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 (you’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the line out front). Once you’re in, order a well-mixed negroni and don’t miss standouts on the menu like the stuffed artichokes, spaghetti with crabs and house-made spumoni.
Diners order straight from a chalkboard menu at this tiny seafood restaurant in Bella Vista. Chef Alex Yoon prepares each entrée from an open kitchen, cranking out fresh, expertly cooked fish dishes like black bass with corn, rye, tomato and fennel, and steelhead trout with eggplant, miso, cucumber and broccoli. Don’t forget to bring a bottle of wine, as this place is BYOB.
Cristina Martinez, who arrived in Philly a decade ago from Toluca, Mexico, has a major hit on her hands with this unpretentious taco spot in the Italian Market. Lines of hungry patrons wrap around the block waiting to get in to savor Martinez’s signature barbacoa tacos, made with lamb that simmers for hours in a citrus-based marinade before being enveloped in a warm, house-made tortilla. Limited hours (it’s only open Saturday, Sunday and Monday) and a recent feature on Netflix shows Chef’s Table and Ugly Delicious make it nearly impossible to get in—especially around dinner time—but trust us when we say it’s worth the wait.
This casual neighborhood café in Queen Village serves rustic, farm-fresh comfort foods and a delicious array of baked-on-site pastries throughout the day. Breakfast and weekend brunch times 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 entrées 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; bottled or on-tap wine and a host of specialty cocktails.
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 entrées 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.
The best way to taste your way through the worldly flavors of the Jewish diaspora is with Abe Fisher’s year-round, shareable prix-fixe menu for $42 per person. The option lets you choose three plates from a selection of traditional Jewish faves with a contemporary twist, like pickled mackerel, slow-roasted cabbage with anchovies, veal schnitzel tacos and cacio e pepe kugel. The current egg cream on offer is a must for dessert.
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 2nd Street churns out stellar Japanese cuisine that includes unexpected elements like pork jowl and chicken gizzard and standby favorites yellowtail and mackerel. Tucked behind the main dining room, a ten-seat bar focuses exclusively on sushi from chef Jesse Ito, a nominee for Rising Star Chef at the 2019 James Beard awards. Open until 2am, the Bella Vista hotspot also draws a solid late-night crowd who likes to mingle and imbibe around the bar.
My-Le Vuong and chef Nok Suntaranon opened this Bella Vista BYOB in the summer of 2019 with a mission to prepare and serve meals exactly the way their families made them in the southern region of Thailand. The result is a super-authentic dining experience that you won’t get anywhere else in Philadelphia. Sharing is the best way to go here. As an appetizer, try the sakoo sai hed (tapioca dumplings filled with shiitake mushrooms and peanuts) before moving on to larger plates like the kang gai khao mun (chicken curry) and pla thod kamin (wok-fried monkﬁsh with turmeric, garlic and black pepper). The wok-fried cabbage (kalum tod nam pla) explodes with flavor and is an excellent option if you’re looking to add more veggies to your table.
This all-day Old City café welcomes crowds from breakfast time through dinner with fresh-baked breads, pastries and coffee in the morning; salads and piled-high, hearty sandwiches for lunch; and an eclectic dinner menu at night that includes anything from ramen noodles to “beer can chicken.” The sandwiches are the star of the show here, with heavenly options like the beet-cured salmon pretzel roll with cream cheese and fried capers, and the “best grilled cheese ever,” a lip-smacking stacker on roasted potato bread that’s oozing with pungent Pennsylvania noble cheddar and cultured butter.
The Abruzzo region of Italy inspires the flavors at this upscale dining spot that holds down the quieter southwestern stretch of East Passyunk Avenue. Head chef Damon Menapace uses fresh, local ingredients to create a rustic, sea- and mountain-inspired menu that, while it changes with the season, always features knockout pasta dishes made daily with Abruzzese flour. You can’t go wrong with the octopus for an appetizer and entrées the likes of lamb loin, monkfish and veal chop—all prepared with seasonal ingredients. The braised lamb ragu, spaghetti lobster and the pecorino agnolotti, with aged sheep-milk cheese, saffron butter and parsley, are standouts on the stellar menu of pasta dishes.
A Stephen Starr original, this all-day bistro boasts a menu that’s filled with French classics like escargot, steak frites and beef bourguignon. The burger, topped with grilled onions and raclette cheese and served with pommes frites, is one of the best in town. Food aside, Parc offers one of the best people-watching experiences in Philadelphia, sitting just parallel to picturesque Rittenhouse Square. Snag an outdoor table, order a carafe of wine and a cheese plate and set your peepers on the well-dressed Rittenhouse set sauntering by with shopping bags and tiny dogs.
This dual-concept café and restaurant does a bustling day-to-night business, with ReAnimator Coffee drinks, house-baked English muffins and breakfast sandwiches in the morning, and calzones, salads and soups at lunch. Come evenings from Wednesdays to Sundays, the dining room dims to transform into a cozy BYOB with a menu focusing on the vibrant flavors of Sicily.
Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh are the brains behind Philly’s coolest Asian noodle spots—with locations in Midtown Village and Fishtown. Both places give off a fun, diner-like vibe, with counter seating and a smattering of tables around the periphery. The menu offerings hover between traditional and eclectic, with noodle bowls ranging from a rather straightforward miso ramen, with pork shoulder, soy egg and black garlin, to more inventive creations like the brisket ramen, which features matzo ball and kimchi in a sesame red chili broth. A limited selection of beer, wine and cocktails is also up for grabs.
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Best restaurants by cuisine
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