Philadelphia Restaurants

Welcome to the third wave of Philadelphia dining, an era in which locals are more likely to chat you up about their favorite chorizo tacos, wild-yeasted ales, or tasting menu than anything cheesesteak. Yes, the famous sandwich is still around (eat one if you must) but is slowly losing traction to its distant cousin, the roast po
Welcome to the third wave of Philadelphia dining, an era in which locals are more likely to chat you up about their favorite chorizo tacos, wild-yeasted ales, or tasting menu than anything cheesesteak. Yes, the famous sandwich is still around (eat one if you must) but i
Welcome to the third wave of Philadelphia dining, an era in which locals are more likely to chat you up about their favo

Welcome to the third wave of Philadelphia dining, an era in which locals are more likely to chat you up about their favorite chorizo tacos, wild-yeasted ales, or tasting menu than anything cheesesteak. Yes, the famous sandwich is still around (eat one if you must) but is slowly losing traction to its distant cousin, the roast pork. This is the Philly sandwich to try, be it a traditional rendition at John’s or DiNic’s in Reading Terminal Market or a new-school take, like the one topped with lacto-fermented broccoli rabe at High Street on Market.

Speaking of Old City’s High Street, its chef/partner, Eli Kulp, represents a group of Philadelphia chefs that has had a massive impact on the dining scene in the last few years: the ex–New Yorkers. Like Kulp, Peter Serpico of Serpico, Eli Collins of Pub and Kitchen, Greg Vernick of Vernick Food & Drink and other talented former 212-ers have shifted their careers here from some of NYC’s finest kitchens and restaurant groups. Even in East Passyunk and Fishtown, white-hot neighborhoods that are dethroning Center City as Philly’s dining nucleus, inflated rents are bargains compared to those in the Big Apple.

The recent influx of out-of-town chefs complements Philly’s homegrown talent. This has always been a scene that has fostered and supported its own, and the last several years have seen young chefs rising through the kitchens of Stephen Starr, Marc Vetri, and Georges Perrier and going on to debut compelling, idiosyncratic, solo projects. Like Pierre Calmels, who left the storied (now closed) Le Bec-Fin to open tiny Bibou in Bella Vista, and his LBF successor, Nicholas Elmi, who won Top Chef after opening Laurel on East Passyunk. (To give you an idea of the depth of talent in the 215, Elmi is the second Philly chef to win Top Chef.) And then there’s Michael Solomonov, a former Vetri capo who went on to found Zahav, the restaurant that ignited America’s passion for Israeli cuisine, and win a James Beard Award. Solo (as he’s affectionately known here) is in conscientious empire-building mode with longtime business partner, Steve Cook, and mentoring a new generation of young chefs. You can still catch him working the bread station at Zahav most nights, between annual research trips to Israel and surfing breaks at the Jersey Shore.

The Israeli, Iraqi, Turkish, and Yemenite recipes on the menu at Zahav are just a handful of the cuisines represented in this multiethnic town. Philadelphia has a long history as a city of immigrants, from Western Europeans in the early 20th century to the Vietnamese, Mexicans, and Africans of today. Chinatown reigns as the city’s hub of hand-pulled noodles, breakneck dim sum, and siphon coffee before it was cool, while Middle Eastern, Ethiopian, and Senegalese hideaways occupy tree-lined storefronts and old banks in West Philly. Vietnamese pho halls and bakeries congregate along Washington Avenue in South Philly, also home to the city’s vibrant Mexican population. In the Italian Market, many of the old businesses have given way to industrious taquerias. You can follow the trail of fresh-pressed tortilla crumbs from Bella Vista down into East Passyunk, a hood where it’s not uncommon to hear Spanish, Vietnamese, and five different dialects of Italian just walking down the street.

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  • 1. a.kitchen

    $$$$ | Rittenhouse Square | American

    Smoke, coal, fire, and ash create a through-line for the menu at a.kitchen in the ground floor of the AKA Hotel. Attired in blonde wood and...Read More

  • 2. Fork

    $$$$ | Old City | American

    Happy sounds have always emanated from diners in this comfortable, elegant eatery, but the menu of modern American fare went from tasty to...Read More

  • 3. Franklin Fountain

    $ | Old City | Café

    You can’t throw a wet walnut in Philly without hitting an artisanal ice cream maker these days, but brothers Ryan and Eric Berley and their...Read More

  • 4. High Street on Market

    $$$ | Old City | American

    This sunny, clean-cut younger sibling of perennial favorite, Fork, is half clubhouse for its Old City neighbors, half food tourist magnet (thanks...Read More

  • 5. Izumi

    $$$ | East Passyunk | Japanese

    Facing East Passyunk's nucleus, the Singing Fountain, Izumi (a BYO) is always packed with people toting everything from cult sake to Santa Margherita...Read More

  • 6. John's Roast Pork

    $ | South Philadelphia | Deli

    Housed in a cinder-block bunker along a derelict railroad crossing, John’s is the quintessential purveyor of roast pork sandwiches. Newbies...Read More

  • La Colombe

    7. La Colombe

    $ | Fishtown | Café

    When real estate agents want to sell house-hunters on Fishtown, they take them to the new world headquarters of La Colombe, a combination café...Read More

    La Colombe
  • 8. Lacroix at the Rittenhouse

    $$$$ | Rittenhouse Square | Eclectic

    Jonathan Cichon has proven himself to be a worthy successor to this luxe establishment and one who forges his own way with graceful dishes using...Read More

  • 9. Laurel

    $$$$ | East Passyunk | American

    Reservations were tough to procure at Laurel before Nicholas Elmi won Top Chef’s 11th season. Since then, the 26 seats at the intimate, candlelit...Read More

  • 10. Manakeesh Cafe

    $ | University City | Lebanese

    Housed into a former bank building in the Spruce Hill area of West Philly, Manakeesh specializes in the Lebanese flatbread of the same name...Read More

  • 11. Marra's

    $$ | East Passyunk | Italian

    One of the longest-tenured restaurants on East Passyunk, this wood-paneled red-gravy hall dates back to the 1920s and oozes South Philly charm...Read More

  • 12. Paesano's Philly Style

    $ | Bella Vista | Italian

    Philly's cheesesteaks are famous, but hoagie shops like Paesano's make more artful (and often drippier and more gluttonous) sandwiches without...Read More

  • 13. Penang

    $ | Chinatown | Malaysian

    The juxtaposition of bamboo and exposed pipes is indicative of the surprising mix of flavors in this perennially busy restaurant. A taste of...Read More

  • 14. Pizzeria Beddia

    $$$ | Fishtown | Pizza

    When Bon Appétit calls your pizza the best in America, you ramp up production, prepare for the onslaught, and plan an expansion. Right? Not...Read More

  • 15. Pub & Kitchen

    $$ | Rittenhouse Square | American

    Pub & Kitchen has been a favorite since it opened in 2009, but the food has never been better since chef Eli Collins relocated here from...Read More

  • 16. Reading Terminal Market

    $ | Chinatown | Eclectic

    When the Reading Company opened its train shed in 1892, it was the only one in the country with a market tucked away in its cellar. The trains...Read More

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  • 17. Serpico

    $$$$ | Bella Vista | American

    After earning a James Beard Award for his work at Momofuku Ko in New York, Peter Serpico teamed up with restaurateur Stephen Starr and opened...Read More

  • 18. South Philadelphia Tap Room

    $ | South Philadelphia | American

    Once upon a time, before South Philly was home to the city’s hottest zip codes, a little wood-clad tavern named South Philadelphia Tap Room...Read More

  • 19. South Philly Barbacoa

    $ | East Passyunk | Mexican

    Benjamin Miller and Cristina Martinez have moved their popular weekend taco cart into a permanent no-frills space populated with an industry...Read More

  • 20. Talula's Garden

    $$$$ | Center City East | American

    Aimee Olexy's Talula's Table in Kennett Square was an unlikely phenomenon—the little country market had a months-long backlog of reservations...Read More

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