The Philadelphia Guide
Recently, the City of Brotherly Love has become a hybrid of old and new, classic and cool—experiencing a renaissance of its own. Take, for instance, Fishtown: The neighborhood once known for commercial fishing has seen an influx of some of the city’s best restaurants, bars, and art galleries, offering a destination for young professionals and creatives alike–and giving Philly a whole new, revitalized feel. But at its core, Philadelphia is a city that runs on a medley of loyalty, tradition, and so much history. There are the sports fans—diehards for their Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, and 76ers—the ever-famous (rightfully so) cheesesteaks, and the deep-rooted historical context—after all, it was here where most of the American Revolution was devised and the Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed. For the teeniest tourists, the city’s landmarked buildings and cobblestone streets lend endless opportunities for exploration and surprise history lessons, not to mention, refresher courses for the adults.
Amis412 S. 13th St., Washington Square West | 215.732.2647
Three locations strong (two in Philly, one in Westport), this Italian spot serves up solid, fresh dishes. Restauranteurs Jeff Benjamin, Marc Vetri, Brad Spence, and Jeff Michaud opened the first location back in 2010, which quickly garnered a crowd. We recommend making a res, as it’s often packed, especially on a weekend night. Order the baked pecorino with almond honey and the bucatini with almond pesto. It's a little pricey, but is an excellent experience overall.
Audrey Claire276 S. 20th St., Rittenhouse | 215.731.1222
Out of context, this teeny bistro looks like it was plucked right off a quiet European side street—and the same can be said of the Mediterranean menu (note the seasonal specials written out on a chalkboard): grilled baby octopus, watermelon with feta cheese, and really well done fish, like the potato-crusted ahi. Diners are responsible for their own wine pairings (BYOB).
Barbuzzo110 S. 13th St., Washington Square West | 215.546.9300
This tiny Mediterranean spot is lively and typically packed, thanks to its incredible pizzas (think: red grapes, secret sauce, gorgonzola, arugula, prosciutto, toasted walnuts, and vincotto) and salads, like their watermelon and buffalo mozzarella offering. Dessert here is also a draw—they're known for their budoino (and once even offered their take on a Choco Tac, which was stuffed with frozen salted caramel budino). If you want a table for dinner, definitely make a reservation—seats at the bar are sometimes available if you just walk in.
Butcher Bar2034 Chestnut St., Rittenhouse | 215.563.6328
Meat hooks line the ceiling of this split-level space, which—with its glossy white subway tiles, tidy bar, and expansive front window—is anything but rough around the edges. The menu lives up to the restaurant's name: A meatball and sausage menu complement plenty of meat-forward entrees, like smoked wild boar ribs served with cheesy cornbread. Beers on tap and top-notch whiskey cocktails round out the experience.
Double Knot120 S. 13th St., Center City | 215.631.3868
Okay, Double Knot, which opened in 2016, hardly qualifies as historic, but it seems destined to become a Philadelphia mainstay. It’s a handsomely decorated (dark wood, industrial lighting, leather chairs, bookshelves) hybrid cafe/Japanese fusion restaurant that’s open all day—beginning with a.m. espressos and moving toward banh mi, pork buns, robatayaki-style meat, and handrolls throughout the day. Cocktails are poured into the night at the intimate, speakeasy-like basement bar.
El Vez121 S. 13th St., Washington Square West | 215.928.9800
With its upholstered booths and ample colorful lighting, El Vez is a reliably lively spot perfect for a big meal to share: The fairly extensive menu offers everything from crab and cactus salsa to a kale salad with vegan caesar dressing and cashew “parmesan” to sweet corn and poblano empanadas. Margaritas here are excellent—you can't go wrong with the classic, but they're known for the frozen blood orange. You can sometimes find a seat at the bar while you’re waiting for a table, but to avoid a wait at dinner, it’s best to make a reservation.
Fork306 Market St., Center City | 215.625.9425
A part of the same restaurant group as High Street on Hudson in NYC (and others), Fork has a brilliant dinner menu, now helmed by Chef John Patterson. Handmade pastas are coupled with grilled lobster, dry-aged steak, bitter green salads, and other seasonal dishes. Fork also does a Sunday brunch that showcases more of the acclaimed pastry/bread program, too.
Girard300 E. Girard Ave., Fishtown | 267.457.2486
This happy, sun-soaked spot is ideal for a chill meal—whether you’re looking for a quickie pastry-and-coffee breakfast, a healthy-ish salad for lunch, or a place to post up for an early happy hour. Some menu highlights: The Girard breakfast sandwich (grilled avo, egg, and cheese), the chicken sandwich, and the vegan (!!!) biscuits and gravy. Their local-adored BYOB policy is also worth mentioning.
Goldie Falafel1526 Sansom St., Rittenhouse | 267.239.0777
If you talk to a foodie from Philly, they’ll likely mention Goldie. This vegan falafel shop opened spring 2017 to much anticipation–and it’s lived up to its hype. There will likely be a line stretching along the sidewalk, but we recommend waiting, as the menu is mighty and includes some of the best falafel we’ve had: crispy on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside paired with an excellent tehina. And did we mention the fries? Killer. We love the standing counter if you’re looking to grab a quick lunch.
Harp & Crown1525 Sansom St., Rittenhouse | 215.330.2800
A gorgeous example of marrying old with new, antique with modern, Harp & Crown is a destination for foodies and the design-minded alike. The space was completely renovated by husband and wife team Michael and Nina Schulson, who have several other restaurants under their belt, to reveal a memorable setting, high ceilings, vintage wallpaper, and rich leather seating. And the menu is solid, too, with American dishes that are fresh and seasonal. If you want to keep the night going, there's a reservations-only bowling alley and pizza joint on the lower level.
High Street Market308 Market St., Old City | 215.625.0988
You’ve been forewarned: High Street is not a place for the carb shy. Here, at chef Eli Kulp’s lowkey eatery, it feels like the entire menu is designed to spotlight the extensive (and delicious) breads in all their glory. Let’s start with the Forager, a veggie take on the breakfast sandwich featuring oyster mushrooms, braised kale, a fried egg, and Swiss cheese on a Kaiser roll. Then, come lunch, there’s the “Best Grilled Cheese Ever” on a house-made roasted potato bread, which despite the #humblebrag, seriously delivers.
Hungry Pigeon743 S. 4th St., Queen Village | 215.278.2736
Tucked into a small corner of Fabric Row, the Hungry Pigeon is the kind of spot that has a perpetual buzz all day long. It’s the kind of place you’d happily have breakfast, and then, say, stay for lunch—there are birdcages everywhere, charming, mismatched silverware, and vintage furniture, and brick accent walls. Helmed by co-owners Scott Schroeder and Pat O’Malley (she’s a Balthazar alum), it’s no surprise people flip for the pastries: flaky chocolate croissants, banana bread sticky buns and buttermilk biscuits. At both breakfast and lunch you order at the counter, and the menu is simple, if not traditional in a wholly satisfying kind of way. (Think: a breakfast sandwich served on an English muffin, avocado toast, chopped salad, and even a cheeseburger.) Come nighttime, it switches over to table service and there’s a solid wine and local beer list, plus more polished fare, including spaccatelli and mushrooms, grilled eggplant and a grilled half chicken with quinoa tabouli.
Mission Taqueria1516 Sansom St., Rittenhouse | 215.383.1200
Perched on the second floor above sister restaurant Oyster House, Mission has a bright, welcoming space filled with white picnic tables (and tons more seating throughout), several well-placed skylights, and plenty of greenery. Ceviche, chicken mole tacos, and churros are all on the menu, along with a host of excellent cocktails. They also have wifi, so if you need it, it's not a bad place to perch and work with a meal in the afternoon.
Moshulu401 S. Columbus Blvd., Society Hill | 215.923.2500
We admit this to be a tourist trap, but it's worth the history lesson. One of the world's largest original remaining windjammer sailing ships, the Moshulu also doubles as a floating restaurant. Although the menu is not super kid-friendly (it's heavy on rich seafood dishes), it's a fun place to take little for the unique experience of boarding the boat to dine. You can learn about her epic journeys, when she once carried nitrate from Germany and coal from Australia, and since it's docked in Penn's Landing, it's close to other museum ships USS Becuna and USS Olympia.
Pizzeria Beddia115 E. Girard Ave., Fishtown
With skimpy opening hours (Wednesday through Saturday, 5:30pm to 10:30pm, or until they sell out) and a strict 40-pies-a-day rule, it’s no surprise that Pizzeria Bedia is essentially a one-man show: owner and baker Joe Beddia painstakingly makes all the dough by hand. People tend to line up hours before opening to get their hands on what many consider to be some of the best pies in the country, which can make for a fun little adventure if you’ve got older-ish kids in tow.
Pizzeria Vetri1615 Chancellor St., Rittenhouse | 215.763.3760
The dough here is so delicious that you can easily make a meal of the crusts alone—or order a Rotolo as an appetizer. The Napoletano-style pies cover all the toppings bases—margherita, porchetta, even a tuna—though after eating your way through the city, one of the salads, which are excellent (we like the arugula), is a lighter option. For dessert, the Nutella/marshmallow pizza is a big hit with the littles and so is the soft serve. The space is cozy, so you can watch the pies go in and out of the massive wood-fired oven from pretty much anywhere.
Res Ipsa2218 Walnut St., Fitler Square | 267.519.0329
We love a great egg sandwich, especially served on a homemade English muffin, so when heard Res Ipsa was cooking up one of the best in Philly, we were dying to try it–and were impressed once we did. The brunch menu at this newly opened space in booming Fishtown is incredible, from cinnamon rolls with rosemary to mushroom spinach hash–but the menu’s stellar notes don’t stop there. Lunch includes a simple, satisfying fried green tomato sandwich; and dinner, a whole roasted chicken with traditional Italian sweet and sour sauce that we would likely order several times a week if we lived in the neighborhood.
Rooster Soup Co.1526 Sansom St., Rittenhouse | 215.454.6939
From the same people behind Zahav and Federal Donuts, Rooster is an amazing diner that uses the leftover chicken bones from Federal to create the broth base for their soups. With a menu that's both Southern- and Jewish-bent, you'll find everything from grits to biscuits and sausage gravy to matzo ball soup. The best part? 100 percent of the proceeds go to support the Broad Street Ministry’s Hospitality Collaborative, which serves meals to Philadelphians in need.
Root Resto & Wine Bar1206 Frankford Ave., Fishtown | 215.515.3452
A newer tapas spot in Philly’s booming Fishtown neighborhood, Root serves up an American twist on Italian and Spanish small plates including black cavatelli and lamb chops with lemon and mint. But what we love most is the impressive cheese plate with local selections from Pennsylvania and Vermont and further variations from Spain. With its chic interiors and progressive cocktail list (go for the Fishtown Mule with rhubarb bitters and grapefruit juice), this is one of our favorite spots for a fun night out with friends. (Pro tip: They also have an excellent brunch.)
Talula’s Daily208 W. Washington Square, Society Hill | 215.592.6555
This casual sit-down spot in Washington Square is big with the lunch crowd with its made-to-order sandwiches, pastas, and salads. (There are plenty of vegetarian and pescatarian-friendly options, too, plus a great selection of takeaway.) While it’s a solid choice if you need something quick, it’s also worth securing a table at dinner for their intimate 30-seat nightly supper club—the $55 tasting menu bets big on seasonal produce and freshly-caught fish. Recent menu highlights include a sweet potato soup with ginger marshmallow, duck salad, and—wait for it—lavender polenta cake with rosemary ice cream.
Talula’s Garden210 W. Washington Sq., Society Hill | 215.592.7787
While there’s plenty of indoor seating, as its name suggests, the place to be is in the garden—twinkling lights and pockets of lush greenery throughout. The only thing more whimsical than the setting is the farm-to-table menu, from deviled eggs three ways for brunch (topped with pickled beets, fresh crab, and bacon) to sustainably sourced salmon tabbouleh for dinner. Also important: the wine and cheese selection is arguably the best in the city.
Townsend1623 E. Passyunk Ave., East Passyunk | 267.639.3203
Helmed by chef Townsend Wentz, a reservation at this modern-French restaurant is worthy of a special occasion. It’s set up inside a residential-looking townhouse, which makes for an atmosphere that’s simultaneously unintimidating and elegant. You can order a la carte, though we suggest going all out with the five-course tasting menu. Even if you’re not looking for a sit-down meal, stop by for a drink—the bar here is impeccably stocked with a cocktail list to match.
Twenty Manning261 S. 20th St., Rittenhouse | 215.731.0900
This is one of those fail-proof neighborhood spots where you’re guaranteed a great meal on date night—or any night when you simply don’t feel like cooking. You can go simple with a perfectly prepped burger, or go light with a veggie stir-fry, and for dessert the berry cobbler is bomb.
Vedge1221 Locust St., Center City | 215.320.7500
Vedge has the distinction of being not only one of the best vegan restaurants in the country, but also one of the best restaurants in Philadelphia, period—a particularly impressive distinction for a city that has such stiff competition (not to mention, home of the cheesesteak). An emphasis on vegetables has resulted in an amazing menu that includes drool-worthy fare like stuffed avocado, country-fried kohlrabi, and eggplant braciole. While the food certainly takes center stage, the beer, wine, and cocktail selections are also top-notch.
Vernick2031 Walnut St., Rittenhouse | 267.639.6644
Chef-owner Gregory Vernick’s namesake Rittenhouse Square restaurant is one of those spots that gets name-checked every time someone talks about the booming dining scene in Philly. And while it has topped many “best-of” lists in the last few years, we can say with certainty it’s worth all the hype. (There’s an entire corner of the menu dedicated to beautifully plated toasts—need we say more?) There are plates big (grilled black sea bass with spicy broccoli and saffron) and small (Maryland crab on toast), plus simple wood-fired Amish chicken and a fish of the day. The back dining room has the best views of the open kitchen, but the bar is just as nice if you can’t snag a reservation.
V Street126 S. 19th St., RIttenhouse | 215.278.7943
From the same people behind Vedge, V Street is a similarly impressive and popular vegetable-forward dining spot, where you can expect some next-level vegan food that’s really just excellent food, period. Consider some of their brunch options: pho French dip, waffles with sesame butter, blackberries, and ponzu, a side of Peruvian home fries, and purple sweet potato ice great with orange granita, coconut whip, and picked pineapple for dessert. This spot is decidedly more casual (and cheaper) than Vedge, but it’s still sleek and vibrant; they have a full bar with great cocktails, plus a selection of natural wines and draft beers.
Wm. Mulherin’s Sons Restaurant & Bar1355 N. Front St., Fishtown | 215.291.1355
Set in an a hundred-year-old former whiskey blending and bottling facility, Wm. Mulherin’s Sons was brilliantly restored and designed, blending pre-prohibition details and vibes with modern touches. A curved bar and expansive arched windows are the focus of one room, done in a white mosaic tile floor. Another dining room is laid in reclaimed wooden planks, with a central fireplace surrounded by a rich velvet couch and worn leather chairs. The wood-fired menu is driven by pizzas and charred meats, with ideally sharable small plates like roasted cauliflower and seafood crudos. And to make the space even better, four rooms in the historic building are now open as a boutique hotel.
Zahav237 St. James Pl., Center City | 215.625.8800
James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Solomonov, who was born in Israel and raised in Pittsburgh, is the star of this iconic Philadelphia restaurant. Go for the pre-fixe menu, a sampling of amazing mezze and Israeli-style grilled meats and veggies.