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Zahav
Photograph: Michael Persico

The 20 best restaurants in Philadelphia

The best restaurants in Philadelphia range from pricey to casual and reflect diverse, exciting cuisine.

Josh Middleton
Written by
Josh Middleton
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You’ll have ample opportunity to sink your teeth into a cheesesteak while in Philadelphia. Ignoring the iconic beast would be churlish, but there is more to the best restaurants in Philadelphia than its most famous culinary creation. Folks in Philly take things seriously, and this is very true in its kitchens. There is innovation, creativity, and excitement in equal measure in the restaurants here.

The diners are the winners. Exploring new restaurants has become one of the best things to do in Philadelphia, along with its thrilling nightlife and elite attractions. Don’t forget the appetite because these portions are sizable. Happy eating!

Best restaurants in Philadelphia

  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Center City West

James Beard award-winning chef Greg Vernick’s romantic, two-level eatery near Rittenhouse Square serves inventive dishes like charcoal grilled branzino, Atlantic halibut with basil-pine nut pesto, and a whole (or half) chicken with a delightful lemon herb jus. Settle at a warm wooden table or grab a spot at the friendly back-lit bar to try out one of the specialty cocktails.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Greater Philadelphia

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 gourmet menu is spectacular. Guests can complement their fancy dinner with curated cocktails and wines by the glass. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Israeli
  • Old City

Modern Israeli restaurant Zahav 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. Every meal begins with bread baked in the taboon, served alongside hummus and salatim. For imbibements, have a glass of boutique Israeli 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 offshoot, Dizengoff, modeled on the hummus stalls (hummusiya) found around every corner of Israel.

  • 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 famed Le Bec Fin. Diners have two options: a six-course seasonal tasting menu or the nine-course chef’s tasting menu. The menu changes with the seasons but always highlights locally sourced ingredients.

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  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Olde City

This Old City mainstay serves new American fare in an elegant dining room setting. The locally-sourced menu includes a tremendous selection of starters like fluke Crudo and entrées that run the gamut of magnificence. Yes, that is a thing. The 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 the weekends.

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Old City

Another Nicholas Elmi’s project, Royal Boucherie is a spirited French-influenced American brasserie in Old City that pairs the Top Chef winner with David Frank and Stephen Simons, the minds behind local hotspots like Cantina Los Caballitos, Dos Segundos, 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 two-floor, 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.

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  • Restaurants
  • Vegan
  • Gayborhood

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 eggplant braciole with Italian salsa verde. The menu changes seasonally and is comprised of plates sized a bit larger than tapas, so you can try multiple dishes. Complement your meal with something from the bar, stocked with more than 70 varieties of natural wines, craft beers, and specialty cocktails that incorporate some kind of fruit or vegetable.

8. Spice Finch

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, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, and other Northern African countries to create inventive menus full of great options when you want to feed the whole table.

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  • Restaurants
  • French
  • East Passyunk Crossing

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. If you want to try it all, the tasting menu includes six courses with suggestions for expert wine and beer pairings throughout.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • East Passyunk Crossing

Taking over his grandfather’s members-only South Philly social club, Zeppoli chef Joey Baldino 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.

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  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Rittenhouse

This all-day bistro 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 well-dressed Rittenhouse set sauntering by with shopping bags and tiny dogs.

Little Fish
Photograph: Elena Iwata

12. Little Fish

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 that change on the regular. Don’t forget to bring a bottle of wine, as this place is BYOB.

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13. South Philly Barbacoa

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 on weekends) 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
  • Japanese
  • 3rd St Fabric Row

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, but the flavors do all the talking here. Tucked behind the main dining room, a ten-seat bar focuses exclusively on sushi from chef Jesse Ito.

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  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Rittenhouse

Garces veterans Chad Williams and his wife Hanna took over Friday Saturday Sunday in the mid-2010s, breathing exciting, youthful energy into a time-worn Philadelphia dining institution. The elegant revamp of the two-story space and a complete menu redux have 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 enjoy the eclectic, indulgent, eight-course tasting menu and amazing cocktails.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Center City

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. Behind the bar, unique cocktails incorporate Japanese components like yuzu, Japanese plums, and cherry blossoms.

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  • Restaurants
  • Jewish
  • Penn Center

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. The option lets you choose three plates from a selection of traditional Jewish faves with a contemporary twist.

18. Kalaya Thai Kitchen

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. Make this a social one.

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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Olde City

This all-day Old City café welcomes crowds from breakfast time through dinner with fresh-baked bread, 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, with heavenly options like the “best grilled cheese ever,” a lip-smacking stacker on roasted potato bread oozing with pungent Pennsylvania noble cheddar and cultured butter.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Greater Philadelphia

The Abruzzo region of Italy inspires the flavors at this upscale dining spot that holds down the quieter southwestern stretch of East Passyunk Avenue. The menu features 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. 

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