412 S. 13th St., Washington Square West
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.
276 S. 20th St., Rittenhouse
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).
110 S. 13th St., Washington Square West
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.
2034 Chestnut St., Rittenhouse
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.
120 S. 13th St., Center City
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.
121 S. 13th St., Washington Square West
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.
1632 Sansom St., Rittenhouse
Yes, the donuts at this teeny spot are exceptional (flavors rotate and the cinnamon brown sugar is a good introduction to what they do here), but many would argue that the main draw is the fried chicken. Instead of a biscuit, chicken platters—customize yours with a choice of seasonings and glazes—come with a honey donut on the side. Get here on the early side, the fresh-baked stuff tends to go crazy-fast and plan on eating yours on-the-go as seating as limited.
306 Market St., Center City
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.
1210 Frankford Ave., Fishtown
Perfect for day drinking when it’s nice out, this German-style beer garden has everything you’d hope it would: ample outdoor seating in the form of picnic benches (and outdoor heaters, plus space inside, for when it’s chilly), some greenery, a lots of German beer served in steins, and really good giant pretzels. Their menu also includes schnitzel and six different types of sausages, among some other gems—plus, they’ve got classic games on deck like ping-pong and Jenga.
300 E. Girard Ave., Fishtown
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.
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