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Photograph: Michael Persico

The best restaurants in Philadelphia

Philly’s restaurant scene is hotter than ever. Here’s where you need to be eating right now.

Josh Middleton
Written by
Josh Middleton
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People who don’t know Philly talk about its cheesesteaks, Rocky Balboa and our smack-talking sports fans. But those who really know this city know that the restaurant scene is where it’s at. The food here is amazing, thanks to a community of superstar chefs and restaurateurs—including three 2023 James Beard award winners, thank you—who have helped turn this city into a foodie destination that can go toe-to-toe with any on the planet. Just try us. 

Looking for a bomb omakase experience, fluffy Pueblan sandwiches and bountiful Israeli spreads? We got you. Bubbling traditional curries from Thailand and succulent barbacoa lamb tacos worth standing in line for? Check and check. Our guide to the best restaurants in Philadelphia right now covers all that and more, from cozy and affordable BYOs in our most charming neighborhoods to special-occasion prix-fixe menus from internationally known chefs 

Don’t worry, you’ll still have time to grab a cheesesteak and water ice in between because, well, this is Philadelphia, after all, and those things are delicious. Bon appetit! 

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At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines.

Best Philadelphia restaurants

Chef Nok Suntaranon, winner of the 2023 James Beard award for best chef mid-Atlantic, moved her beloved Italian Market BYOB, Kalaya, to a spacious and chic new spot in Fishtown. The concept is the same—preparing wonderfully flavorful dishes the way she saw her mom do it when she was growing up in the south of Thailand—but now your options are greater, and the wait staff is plentiful. There’s a full bar cranking out innovative tropical cocktails, a beer slushy and a full list of whites, reds, rosés and oranges.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Rittenhouse

Garces veterans and real-life husband-wife Chad and Hanna Williams took over Friday Saturday Sunday in the mid-2010s, breathing exciting, youthful energy into a time-worn Philadelphia dining institution. The elegant revamp and menu redux have paid off: in 2023, the restaurant won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant for its refined take on American fare, which you can enjoy dining at a table upstairs or sidled up to the bustling bar with gorgeous, boozy concoction in hand.

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Chef Thanh Nguyen works magic in the kitchen at this buzzy restaurant on East Passyunk Avenue, bringing to South Philly the wonderfully flavorful foods she grew up eating in her native Saigon, Vietnam. Using fresh, seasonal ingredients and a wizard’s array of herbs and spices, she cranks out a knockout menu of must-tries—from the sizzling catfish to the unforgettable shaken beef to the bánh bèo quảng nam (open-faced dumplings). Bring some beers or a bottle of wine. Gabriella’s Vietnam is BYOB.

Chef Carlos Aparicio’s BYOB in South Philly has gained national recognition for cultivating traditional cooking styles and flavor-packed recipes from Mexico. The menu comprises a selection of cemitas, or Pueblan sandwiches, that stack a variety of meats and veggies between delightfully fluffy pieces of bread, and tacos served rather unconventionally on house-made sourdough tortillas. The BYOT menu offers a range of Mexican cocktail makings, so you only have to bring the tequila.

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Nestled on the lofty eighth floor of the Bok Building, an abandoned technical school in South Philly, Irwin’s offers not only a charming setting from which to enjoy sweeping views of Philadelphia from every direction but an A-grade menu of Sicilian food helmed by Philly veteran chef Michael Vincent Ferreri, the former owner of the dearly missed Res Ipsa. Thankfully, we get a taste of that magic here, with Ferreri’s menu of divine mezze and pastas, and three shareable entrees —a whole fish of the day, pepper- and pistachio-crusted swordfish, and a half chicken roasted in a sweet and tart agrodolce sauce.

This larger Fishtown version of sandwich king Matt Cahn’s beloved Middle Child deli in Midtown Village offers not only all the sandos that customers at the original outpost have grown to adore but a whole sit-down experience with appetizers, small plates, entrees and a full bar. Unique menu options include an okonomiyaki-style latke, grilled maitake with crispy egg and spaghetti with crab gravy.

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Cristina Martinez, an Philly expat 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 savor Martinez’s signature barbacoa tacos made with lamb that simmers for hours in a citrus-based marinade before being enveloped in a warm, housemade tortilla. Limited hours and a 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.

  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Center City West

One of Philly’s most well-known restaurants, Vernick Food & Drink remains decisively relaxed, and very romantic. Settle down in this cozy, two-level space at warmly lit wooden tables and chairs, and be brought some of the best seafood you might ever try (and some seriously good cocktails). Try out blue crab with lemon aioli on toast, sea urchin with scrambled eggs and grilled black sea bass.

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  • Restaurants
  • Israeli
  • Old City

Modern Israeli restaurant Zahav has been serving its famous hummus, baked-to-order wood-fired Laffa bread, and a full complement of traditional Israeli cuisine since 2008. Every meal begins with bread baked in the taboon, served alongside hummus and salatim. For imbibements, have a glass of Israeli boutique wine. Guests who can't snag a reservation can get a small taste of what all the fuss is about at Zahav’s more casual offshoots, Dizengoff and Laser Wolf.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Greater Philadelphia

At Vetri Cucina, you have one option (and trust us, it’s worth it). The $165-per-person four-course tasting menu by renowned chef Marc Vetri isn’t inexpensive, but you’ll be thinking about it for the rest of your days. Think venison foie gras pastrami, roasted lamb, and ricotta cavatelli with wild boar sausage. The tasting menu is subject to change but is available online to check before you book. If you’re looking for a blowout meal in Philadelphia, this is the place.

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Michael Solomonov’s stylish Israeli grill, or “shipudiya,” specializes in succulent charcoal-grilled meats (lamb, beef, chicken), fish (salmon, branzino) and veggies (eggplant, royal trumpet mushroom) along with an array of traditional and inventive sides, such as baba ganoush, falafel-spiced cauliflower with chickpeas and Lebanese potato salad. Come thirsty and possibly in the mood to turn up. The beverage list is extensive, with options ranging from craft and zero-proof cocktails to beer and every color of wine.

Philadelphia meets Motor City at this popular North Philly pizza joint serving square Detroit-style pies with crust so airy and cheese sauce so oozy and perfectly spiced that you’ll fall in love with pizza all over again. The mission behind the place may be even better. Owner and Executive Chef Michael Carter has made it a mission to employ formerly incarcerated individuals, providing them the fair pay and training they need to get back on their feet again. Fancy, artisan pies at sit-down spots like Pizzeria Stella and Pizzeria Vetri are great. Still, you can’t do any better in Philadelphia than Down North when it comes to takeout pizza.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • 3rd St Fabric Row

With its dive bar-styled front room and moody sushi den in the back, Royal Izakaya could make this list by “coolness factor” alone, but it doesn’t need to rely on aesthetics. The menu of top-grade Japanese cuisine is extensive and full of flavors that’ll make your toes curl in glee, whether you’re going the sushi/sashimi route or trying one of Chef Jesse Ito’s standout dishes, such as the sourdough okonomiyaki, salt-broiled Norwegian mackerel or pork and veggie gyoza. If you need help deciding what to order, Royal Izakaya’s photographic menu should keep you on the right track.

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When it comes to ambiance, few restaurants in Philly can match the dazzling beauty of Suraya, with its sprawling dining room decorated with colorful rugs and tiles, a crackling fireplace, and a spectacular outdoor dining area. Ancient Levantine ingredients infuse the selection of mezze and mashawi on the menu that runs the gamut from hummus and baba ganoush to decadent kebabs of lamb, beef and halibut. The “Taste of Suraya” option (required on Friday and Saturday) lets you try a little bit of everything on the menu, and a full bar of wines, beers and craft cocktails will keep the thirsties at bay.

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Chef Joncarl Lachman and his husband-partner Bob Moysan have created a little magic at Dankbaar, their intimate new Dutch BYO that gives us many of the flavors we so desperately miss from their bygone South Philly spot Noord, but somehow with even more charm. The low-lit dining room is decked out with white tablecloth-draped tables and artwork by Moysan, a photographer and mixed-media artist when he’s not managing dining rooms. Baskets of hearty housemade bread with divine garlic butter, juicy whole fish and steaming rabbit stews arrive at the table in colorful, mismatched dishware—sometimes in the hands of Lachman himself, when he can get a break from the kitchen. Be sure to bring your favorite beverage. This place is BYO. And for more Lachman-Moysan magic but in the light of day, visit their brunch hotspot Winkel in the Gayborhood.

The Good King Tavern is a gem of a French haunt in charming Bella Vista, a perfect cozy oasis for delicious wines and cocktails, and hearty, rich French fare. Diners could go full-on Euro with the mussels Marseillaise, escargots in herb butter or the duck of the day. But whatever you do, put TGKT on your list of must-try burger joints. The Tavern Burger—two smashed patties, special sauce, raclette cheese and lettuce on the most perfectly toasted bun—with pommes frites and a glass of red wine is #winning at its very finest.

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Diners order straight from charming hand-written menus at this tiny seafood restaurant in Bella Vista. Chef Alex Yoon prepares each entrée from an open kitchen, cranking out fresh, expertly prepared fish dishes that change so regularly that those hand-written menus must be re-written regularly. Don’t forget to bring a bottle of wine, as this place is BYOB.

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Rittenhouse

This all-day bistro that has attracted the likes of Jessica Alba and Denzel Washington boasts a menu 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 tony Rittenhouse set sauntering by with shopping bags and well-groomed pooches.

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Alex Tewfik knows what diners want. He spent years of his life not only working in the food industry—once under Joncarl Lachman from the above Dankbaar—but writing about and reviewing local chefs and restaurants as a prolific food journalist. He took that knowledge and a healthy dose of passion to bring us Mish Mish, a stylish dining room serving “easy,” locally sourced dishes in view of South Philly’s iconic Singing Fountain. The menu changes with the seasons, but you can always count on fresh, beautifully presented plates that have included everything from grilled scallops with New Jersey corn to beef ribs paired with grilled maitakes and pomegranate-lacquered grilled chicken.

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • East Passyunk Crossing

Nicholas Elmi opened his first restaurant on East Passyunk Avenue almost immediately 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 world-famous Le Bec Fin. Seafood features prominently on the a la carte menu, with options ranging from paprika aioli-spiced mussels, scallops in oyster cream and cod enlivened with the flavor and crunch of cherries and almonds.

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