The Best Restaurants in Philly
Philly is no longer just for cheesesteaks. While Geno’s and Pat’s still battle it out, the last decade has brought a spate of exciting chef-driven dining concepts. Below, a guide to new and old haunts which continue to elevate the City of Brotherly Love, making it one of the U.S.’s most exciting places to dine.
Vedge is a vegan restaurant for carnivores, and its where husband and wife duo Richard Landau and Kate Jacoby have been offering inventive plant-based cookery since 2011. Set within a renovated townhouse in Washington Square West, over the last seven years the team has garnered national acclaim via several James Beard nods, and they’ve slowly expanded their veggie empire to include a slate of eateries (VStreet, Wiz Kid), with their first project outside of Philly––Fancy Radish––hitting D.C. shortly. Expect to find a slightly Asian-leaning menu, with plates of kimchee-glazed Brussels sprouts and seared maitake mushrooms paired beside natural wines and a seasonal fresh fruit cocktail list.
Israeli cuisine is a hot topic right now, and chef Michael Solomonov is due credit for casting a spotlight on fried cauliflower with labne and chicken shishlik at his critically acclaimed Zahav, which hit Center City in 2008. Over the years, Solomonov has pioneered modern Israeli cuisine in the U.S., spawning a slate of 14 restaurants along the way, from Philly to New York. Zahav celebrates the flavors of Jerusalem as a cultural crossroads, with small plate inspiration from North Africa to Eastern Europe to Persia.
Palizzi Social Club
Last year chef Joey Baldino of Zeppoli fame took over food and beverage offerings at his family’s longstanding members-only club in South Philly, Filippo Palizzi Societa di Mutuo Soccorso di Vasto, reworking the space into what many are now calling the best homestyle red sauce Italian joint in America. The catch is that as a members-only club, you’ve got to be a member to get in, or know someone who is. Initially, Baldino offered 10 one-time memberships per night priced at $20, but after the restaurant landed on Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurants list last year, those temporary one night stands are over––at least for now. Patrons lucky enough to secure entry to this Italian-American speakeasy can expect classics from a Caesar salad to grilled meats to spaghetti with blue crab.
Vernick Food & Drink
An American restaurant heavy on toasts (loaded with beef tartare and Maryland crab) that’s dually praised for a wicked good roast chicken, by now chef Greg Vernick’s beloved, upscale Rittenhouse Square eatery has earned countless awards, including James Beard Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic last year. Set within an uncluttered, contemporary bi-level space, Vernick excels at elevating seemingly simple seasonal plates––many fired in a wood-fueled hearth––into more delicious versions than you’ve ever had before.
Marc Vetri did the fine dining regional Italian thing long before it was de rigueur, launching his cozy, 32-seat namesake restaurant 20 years back. While the menu has morphed from a la carte to tasting menu-only, despite the eatery’s age, it’s still as relevant as ever. Inspired by local and seasonal product, Vetri and his team weave together a seven to 10–course meal rooted in Italy, with inspired and classic plates of white truffle-dressed almond tortellini and whole roasted dover sole.
Somewhat classic French fare enriched with global flavors is what one will find at chef Townsend Wentz’s lauded white table cloth bistro, which moved into a cozy East Passyunk row home in 2014. Here, ingredient-driven, seasonal plates available a la carte or via a five-course tasting menu highlight sweetbreads with chanterelles and scallops atop an uni-seaweed emulsion, paired against a backdrop of small-production wines, many sourced from France.
The Hungry Pigeon
Really good versions of familiar foods from around the world grace the menu at Queen Village all-day café Hungry Pigeon. And in a quick two years, chef-partners Scott Schroeder and Pat O’Malley have earned a 2018 James Beard semifinalist nod for their exceptional pastries. Think, banana sticky buns and flaky biscuits (protip: try the pastry sampler), which flood the bar counter during a.m. hours, on offer alongside breakfast sandwiches and avocado toast. The cozy space, marked by exposed brick and hanging succulents, swings seamlessly from day to night when heartier dishes of pasta fagioli and pot roast kick in.
Serving since 2013, Top Chef alum Nicholas Elmi’s Laurel is still one of the city’s toughest tables to score––you’ll need to book this one several months out. This intimate 22-seat BYOB claims a tiny nook in South Philly, where Elmi orchestrates a New American and subtly French seven-course tasting menu with a clear affinity for Asia. While one will find braised Burgundy snails and a frozen foie gras tart, there’s also Peking duck and bass in chicken dashi.