Two years ago this month, we launched our annual 50 Best Restaurants list. Two months later, COVID came along and shut down our city, our communities, our restaurants. When it came time to publish our list in January 2021, it felt wrong — if not downright impossible — to come up with a ranking. Anyone who survived those lean times deserved accolades, and none of those working in the industry were able to perform full-force. So we went with a non-traditional list that included new restaurants, yes, but pop-ups and food start-ups, too — the entrepreneurs making something out of a restaurant landscape ravaged by a pandemic.
Now we’re here, coming up on the two-year anniversary of the day the Earth stood still, and some way, somehow, our restaurant scene, miraculously, remains standing. Not only that, but it’s on absolute fire. Philly’s chefs and bakers and operators are changing the way we think about food and drink. They’re paving a new path forward to the future and continuing to make Philly one of the most delicious places on the planet.
We’re not back to normal yet, but we’re getting there — and every one of the region’s most vibrant restaurants is firing on all cylinders in this strange new world.
Browse by Neighborhood
Neighborhood: Bella Vista
For a city with so much culinary cred, we’ve long had a smoked-fish-shaped hole in our scene. Biederman’s filled it with everything you need to make the perfect appetizing spread: whitefish salad, tins of osetra caviar, house-whipped cream cheese, and hand-sliced smoked salmon in varieties like vodka dill and pastrami-spiced. Or pre-order, and let the pros arrange mind-bendingly delicious brunch boards for you and your clan.
Bella Vista | Smoked Fish824 Christian Street, 215-392-9229More about Biederman’s | Return to neighborhood list
With Fiorella, Marc Vetri proves, once again, that he does pasta better than literally anyone else. Better than Italians from Italy? Yep. Your grandma? Sorry, but definitely. The proof: ricotta gnocchi that are at once densely satisfying and light as a cloud, deceptively simple cacio e pepe, perfectly al dente rigatoni with robust house-made sausage ragu. You don’t have to admit it to your nonna, but you should definitely bring her to dinner here.
Bella Vista | Italian817 Christian Street, 215-305-9222More about Fiorella Pasta | Return to neighborhood list
Kalaya Thai Kitchen
Is it weird to have a restaurant that opened in 2019 on our Hall of Fame list? Maybe. But Kalaya has absolutelyearned its spot — both because it’s been operating since day one like a restaurant with 20 years of service in the rearview, and because we’ve already given it every other award we reasonably can. Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon did something remarkable when she opened her first small, casual, welcoming neighborhood restaurant: She changed the way we all thought about Thai cuisine, mixing the modern and the traditional, the learned and the experimental, crisscrossing borders and combining flavors. And then she kept going, with a specialty market and grab-and-go pandemic takeout operation a couple blocks away — and a new Fishtown location in the works.
Bella Vista | Thai764 South 9th Street, 215-385-3777More about Kalaya Thai Kitchen | Return to neighborhood list
South Philly Barbacoa
Since it opened in 2014, South Philly Barbacoa hasn’t changed its menu. There are no daily specials or flashy Instagram gimmicks. Cristina Martínez is making the same dishes, using the same Lancaster-grown corn (originally sourced from Chiapas, Mexico) for fresh-pressed tortillas and the same labor-intensive techniques for pit-roasting the meat. The lamb tacos and consommé are every bit as worth waiting in line for as they were back when Martínez’s empire was still just an itty-bitty South Philly food cart. Better yet: SPB’s social justice arm is just as enduring — to wit, the People’s Kitchen, which fed food-insecure Philadelphians throughout the pandemic.
Bella Vista | Mexican1140 South 9th Street, 215-694-3797More about South Philly Barbacoa | Return to neighborhood list
La Chinesca is loud, bright, crowded — all hot neon and cold Tecate, five-spice chicken wings smeared with Chinese hot mustard, gooey-crispy birria tacos, and egg rolls served in a puddle of electric green aguachile. Named after a Chinese neighborhood in Mexicali, this is a Chinese/Mexican/Southern California fusion restaurant that operates more like a mezcal-drunk fantasy of culinary cross-fertilization than anything approaching authenticity. And it lives perfectly in that space — brashly mashing flavors together in a way that comes off as pure, delicious joy.
Callowhill | Mexicali1036 Spring Garden Street, 267-838-9688More about La Chinesca | Return to neighborhood list
Neighborhood: Center City
Even after so many visits, we’re still surprised how exceptional Yehuda Sichel’s sandwiches are. Crisp maitake mushroom, slow-cooked brisket, grilled swordfish — all feel like something you’d see on the menu at a swanky sit-down restaurant, not a fast-casual lunch spot. That they’re tucked into soft milk buns made in-house every morning — the perfect vehicle for these fillings — has raised the bar for every other fast-casual operation in town.
Neighborhood: East Passyunk
Ember & Ash
Blood and bone and dirt and fire: That’s what Ember & Ash is working with. It’s a nose-to-tail, root-to-leaf restaurant, which means lamb-tongue fries and cioppino fisherman’s stew, coal-baked potatoes with chili aioli, and a whole pig’s head for the table, served with pepper vinegar and veg on the side. There’s a beef-shin curry on the board, pig’s-blood cannoli, pork liver mousse, and a local martini made with Stateside vodka, house pickling brine, beet juice and caraway.
East Passyunk | New American1520 East Passyunk Avenue, 267-606-6775More about Ember & Ash | Return to neighborhood list
Philly isn’t lacking for Vietnamese restaurants (we have one of the best Vietnamese restaurant communities in the country, thank you very much), but Gabriella’s chef and owner, Thanh Nguyen, proved to us — with giant platters of water fern dumplings and crispy thang long-style catfish — that all along, we’ve been missing her very specific brand of Vietnamese cookery: authentic, ambitious, made for gathering.
East Passyunk | Vietnamese1837 East Passyunk Avenue, 272-888-3298More about Gabriella’s Vietnam | Return to neighborhood list
The reincarnation of Irwin’s (which closed during the shutdown) is basically a bigger, fancier playground for Michael Vincent Ferreri, former chef of Res Ipsa Cafe (may it rest in peace), with a lot of the same front- and back-of-house staff and a menu that does highly stylized Sicilian food — perfect whole fish, rustic handmade pastas, cheffy seasonal caponatas. Only now, the whole package comes with Irwin’s eighth-floor views of South Philly, its cool lounge vibe inside, and a bar stocked with pretty Italian wines by the bottle.
East Passyunk | Sicilian800 Mifflin Street, 215-693-6206More about Irwin’s | Return to neighborhood list
It would be enough that we finally have bagels that New York respects — covets, even, according to the New York Times. Indeed, bagel baker/poet Philip Korshak cracked the code for crispy, chewy, soft sourdough wonders, perfectly seasoned and offered alongside a raft of spreads like house-made tangerine date jam and whipped schmears. It’s just a bonus that Korshak and his staff are incredibly delightful human beings.
East Passyunk | Bagels1700 South 10th Street, 267-592-7678More about Korshak Bagels | Return to neighborhood list
Messina Social Club
The century-old members-only club is thriving thanks to the combo of Jason Cichonski, beverage director Melissa Pellegrino, and new chef and operating partner Eddie Konrad. Formerly of Laurel (and Top Chef), Konrad shines with dishes like bluefin tuna tartare on a bed of squak, i.e., charred honeynut squash mashed with cilantro, lime and pumpkin oil. Pellegrino’s cocktails are also stellar, including a new seasonal lineup that includes the Keystone State Martinez, a mix of Bluecoat gin, Ploughman cider, Plenum vermouth, and bitters she makes with foraged spice bush and sumac.
East Passyunk | New American1533 South 10th Street, 267-928-4152More about Messina Social Club | Return to neighborhood list
Considering how often River Twice’s menu changes, chef Randy Rucker’s dishes are always impeccable. There’s a precision to his kitchen; the cooks give the same TLC to an off-menu cheeseburger as to a deceptively simple plate of soft mushrooms blanketed in shaved truffles. Dining here means knowing that every, nay, any plate Rucker dreams up will come out deeply considered, involved, and completely thought through, with nary a flaw.
East Passyunk | New American1601 East Passyunk Avenue, 267-457-3698More about River Twice | Return to neighborhood list
It’s a good thing that when Michael and Jeniphur Pasquarello opened their Fishtown restaurant in 2014, they gave it the fairly generic name Kensington Quarters. A place called that could be anything—and in its seven years on Frankford Avenue, it has been many things: a restaurant, a butcher shop, a classroom, a wine-centric restaurant, a Southern-ish restaurant. At the moment, in its newest post-shutdown incarnation, this is a straight-up coastal restaurant, serving bluefin tuna in brown butter, stuffed clams, and skate wing with seafood kimchi. Who knows what KQ will become next? For right now, this pandemic identity shift has finally given Fishtown a proper fish house — something the neighborhood (and the city) has needed for a long time.
Fishtown | Coastal 1310 Frankford Avenue, 267-314-5086More about Kensington Quarters | Return to neighborhood list
Middle Child Clubhouse
Four years ago, with a head full of steam and ideas, Matt Cahn opened a sandwich joint called Middle Child in an unassuming storefront in Washington Square West. Who knew that in four years, it would become indispensable? That its fluffy breakfast sandwiches and Italian hoagies would be name-dropped in the same breath as Zahav’s hummus and Vetri’s pastas in conversations about destination dining? For Middle Child Clubhouse — essentially a bigger, more learned, more equipped version of the original — Cahn decided to take what he’d already built and expand its ethos under the El in Fishtown. He hired Adam Sosnowik to run the kitchen, which, yes, still does breakfast sandwiches and hoagies during the day. But at night? It’s latke bites covered in caviar, stupid-good cheeseburgers, and giant plates of chicken Milanese. It’s salty margs and cool wine. In its heart of hearts, it’s still the same playful, delicious Middle Child. Just grown up. A little.
Fishtown | Sandwiches1232 North Front Street, 267-858-4325More about Middle Child Clubhouse | Return to neighborhood list
From the moment he started selling 40 pies a night out of a tiny storefront, Joe Beddia, with his obsessive attention to ingredients and technique, showed us all what truly great pizza can be. And while the digs have changed (there’s a dining room now; there’s a bar; there are snacks and salads and wine on the menu), his pies endure as some of the best in the region—or anywhere else on Earth, for that matter.
Fishtown | Pizza1313 North Lee Street, 267-928-2256More about Pizzeria Beddia | Return to neighborhood list
Olive oil cakes and kouign amann at brunch. For dinner, a table full of mezze, grilled chicken marinated in lemon and sumac, and cocktails made with turmeric, burnt honey and blood orange. In the way it mixes the modern and the traditional, the casual and the sublime, Suraya is like no other Philadelphia restaurant before it.
Fishtown | Levantine1528 Frankford Avenue, 215-302-1900More about Suraya | Return to neighborhood list
Neighborhood: Fitler Square
With a notable dearth of good dining options in the neighborhood, Fitler Square needed a new restaurant — any restaurant. And it struck gold with the perfect neighborhood restaurant. Sally is everything you want in your local spot: snacks like house-made ricotta and fluke crudo, spot-on salads and small plates, a pizzazz pie. There’s an attached wine shop, and the vibe is fun and casual and just what you want on a Saturday night. Or a random Wednesday with friends.
Fitler Square | Italian2229 Spruce Street, 267-773-7178More about Sally | Return to neighborhood list
Neighborhood: Grad Hospital
Rex at the Royal
The historic Royal Theatre got a long-awaited revamp over the past few years and finally, blessedly, opened in early November as Rex at the Royal. And if the gorgeous dining room—restored to its original glory with a glistening marble bar, plush banquettes, and dramatic golden chandeliers—isn’t enough to bring you in, the menu of she-crab soup, shrimp and Marsh Hen Mill speckled grits, and other Low Country favorites surely will.
Grad Hospital | Low Country1524 South Street, 267-319-1466More about Rex at the Royal | Return to neighborhood list
Owner Thu Pham was already turning out some of the most interesting coffee in Philadelphia before the pandemic — beans from smallhold farms in Vietnam and Thailand, locally roasted and conjured into dark, powerful, woody brews unlike anything that anyone else in the city was doing. But late in the fall of 2021, Pham, in collaboration with pop-up chef and Instagram sauce entrepreneur Jacob Trinh of Trinh Eats, doubled down and opened a full-on cafe offering up delicate pastries, baguette breakfast sandwiches, eight-spice fried potatoes and banh mi. It’s a way to more fully showcase her extraordinary coffee, sure. (Check out her latte float for a taste of pure indulgence.) But it’s also 100 percent in keeping with the collaborative, cooperative, community-focused and DIY way she runs her business.
Kensington | Vietnamese Cafe3400 J Street, 215-690-1268More about Càphê Roasters | Return to neighborhood list
Eeva is, depending on how you look at it (or utilize it), a retail bakery and bottle shop, a takeout pizza joint, a delivery operation, a full-blown sit-down-and-eat restaurant. It’s a place that is whatever it needs to be — changing day to day and customer by customer. To sit down and eat is to be folded into the easy embrace of casual, comforting service, and the menu — bowls of marinated olives, natural wines, fresh bread with house ricotta, hot salami pies drizzled with local honey or topped with fennel cream and roasted hazelnuts — is deceptively simple yet deeply fulfilling no matter how you choose to approach it.
Kensington | Pizza310 Master Street, 267-687-7910More about Eeva | Return to neighborhood list
It seems almost impossible that a restaurant structured around the idea of a lot of people coming together in a small, raucous space for a meal of beef kebabs, merguez sausage, Israeli pickles and soft-serve ice-cream sundaes could survive an apocalypse that made exactly that — its core strength — a literal existential threat, but Laser Wolf did. As a matter of fact, it didn’t just survive; it pivoted almost immediately to a takeout, curbside, take-care-of-your-neighbors-and-family model that showed a way forward for a lot of other restaurants in the early days of the pandemic. And while things at Michael Solomonov and chef Andrew Henshaw’s Kenzo shipudiya might seem more normal now, that kind of innovation and flexibility in the face of change is now written into Laser Wolf’s DNA.
Kensington | Israeli1301 North Howard Street, 267-499-4660More about Laser Wolf | Return to neighborhood list
Neighborhood: Midtown Village
There was a time (not all that long ago) when Philadelphia needed an award-winning, fine-dining vegetarian restaurant to convince people that vegetables could take the place of meat at the center of the plate. That’s what Vedge was — a proof-of-concept experiment that escaped the lab and became a nationwide phenomenon, with cookbooks, t-shirts and spin-off locations. Today, Vedge operates with that same revolutionary spirit, but in an environment where it no longer has anything to prove.
Midtown Village | Vegetarian1221 Locust Street, 215-320-7500More about Vedge | Return to neighborhood list
There are plates here that you’ll remember for the rest of your life — pastas as carefully crafted as a work of art, simple salads that will change the way you look at vegetables forever. No list of Philly’s Hall of Fame restaurants doesn’t include Marc Vetri’s stunning celebration of Italian cuisine. From the epic hours-long prix-fixe dinners that once defined the place to more contemporary tasting menus, cooking classes, and Quattro Piatti dinners served in one of the city’s most storied dining rooms, Vetri has continued to evolve while maintaining its focus on handmade pastas, seasonal flavors, old-school service and exquisite technique.
Midtown Village | Italian1312 Spruce Street, 215-732-3478More about Vetri Cucina | Return to neighborhood list
Neighborhood: North Philly
Our city is the proud home of dozens of stellar pizza shops that serve what would be the best pizza in any other town. Among them is Down North, which isn’t just delivering (not literally; you have to go pick them up) dense, frico-crusted Detroit pies topped with genius concoctions like barbecued chicken and pepperoncini. It’s also operating on a groundbreaking mission-based model — one that pays formerly incarcerated folks a fair wage and offers them a chance to learn a culinary career. Doing either one of these things would make Down North special; doing both makes it a highly worthy pizza destination.
North Philly | Pizza2804 West Lehigh Avenue, 215-377-9787More about Down North | Return to neighborhood list
Neighborhood: Old City
If you’re of a certain age and living in Philly, you probably remember when High Street opened on Market Street. Specifically, you remember the Forager breakfast sandwich and how, with its messy-delicious mix of scrambled eggs and pickled mushrooms hanging over a house-baked roll, it changed what we thought about restaurant breakfasts. When landlords jacked up the rent on Ellen Yin and Eli Kulp’s landmark restaurant and bakery, the duo found a new home. The Forager is still on the menu, but so is a dizzying array of baked goods: kabocha squash bread, lemon squares, muffins, cookies and biscotti, sandwiches on fresh-baked bread, soups, salads, pizza and much more.
Old City | Artisanal Bakery101 South 9th Street, 215-625-0988More about High Street | Return to neighborhood list
It was cool enough that Mat and Amy Falco took an old auto shop and turned it into a small-batch coffee roaster and boutique market. But when COVID pretty much killed the coffee-shop culture of leisurely hanging out over a latte, Herman’s responded by throwing open the roll-up doors, setting out the patio furniture, and turning the place into a hub for food trucks and pop-ups. Birria tacos from Burrito Feliz, Filipino rice bowls from Tabachoy, gourmet pop tarts, benefit dinners, brunch — Herman’s hosts ’em all. And all you have to do is show up.
Pennsport | Coffee and Cafe1313 South 3rd Street, No phone number listedMore about Herman’s Coffee | Return to neighborhood list
Neighborhood: Point Breeze
With her brilliant #NotPizza box, Diana Widjojo created an entire national pandemic trend. But really, it was just a reminder that wherever you eat Hardena’s homespun Indonesian dishes — the beef rendang, the tofu curries, the collard greens stewed in coconut milk—be it at a table in their no-frills dining room or out of a banana-leaf-lined cardboard box at your kitchen counter, they’re always comforting and always perfect.
Point Breeze | Indonesian1754 South Hicks Street,#2217, 215-271-9442More about Hardena | Return to neighborhood list
Yes, Stina is a wood-fired pizza joint that serves some really excellent pies. But that’s never been all Stina does. First, there’s the surprisingly deep Mediterranean menu, full of filo pie, soujouk and shawarma. Then there’s the delightfully weird decor, and the community partnerships and charitable giving. Most recently, Stina has started running a guest chef series that brings some of the most interesting chefs in the city into the house to cook amazing and strange one-off benefit dinners.
Point Breeze | Pizzeria and Mediterranean1705 Snyder Avenue, 215-337-4455More about Stina Pizzeria | Return to neighborhood list
Cicala at the Divine Lorraine
Cicala had barely opened when the pandemic shut the entire city down. And Joe and Angela Cicala came back slowly, just like everyone else. They did curbside; they did outdoor seating; they did classes and event dinners. But now that things are back to something resembling normalcy in the city, Cicala is getting a second chance. On offer: ziti in a rabbit ragu, cider-brined pork chops with apples and hazelnuts, glasses of Italian wine and eggplant polpette. With its gorgeous space and soft light, Cicala was an Italian fantasia during its first incarnation. Now, in its second, it’s even stronger, more soulful, and more special for our knowing what we nearly lost.
Poplar | Italian699 North Broad Street, 267-886-9334More about Cicala at the Divine Lorraine | Return to neighborhood list
Neighborhood: Queen Village
When restaurants were forced to close to dine-in customers, owners Ed Crochet and Justine MacNeil found new ways to connect with their guests: takeout Sunday suppers of lasagna and broccoli rabe, pints of Justine’s made-from-scratch gelato, pastry chef Gina Nalbone’s baked goods, with standouts like morning buns, pistachio cornetti, and cream-filled bomboloni. And even now, in the midst of the worst labor shortage in history, they’re still creating memories.
Queen Village | Italian757 South Front Street, 215-339-0509More about Fiore | Return to neighborhood list
Little Fish is the place where you send visitors to give them a perfectly Philly BYOB experience. Over the past year, the tiny seafood-centric spot has changed its menu from à la carte to tasting, and now tasting with an à la carte option. Whatever the format, Little Fish shows off the best of our restaurant scene with an ever-changing menu, scribbled on a chalkboard, of sashimi, scallop toast, and seemingly every other fish, prepared in infinite delicious ways.
Queen Village | Seafood746 South 6th Street, 267-455-0172More about Little Fish | Return to neighborhood list
What did Jesse Ito do when a global pandemic made it all but impossible for us to nestle like sardines in the seats of his coveted omakase bar? He kept bringing in the freshest scallops, king crab and bluefin tuna, breaking them down with his trademark precision. He switched to takeout, tucking his perfect nigiri into shiny black boxes like technicolor jewels. Royal Izakaya has rebirthed its sushi bar, but we’ll always remember the feeling of opening those black boxes during some of the darkest days of the pandemic, and how doing so made us feel normal, even if just for a night.
Queen Village | Sushi780 South 2nd Street, 267-909-9002More about Royal Izakay | Return to neighborhood list
With its warm wooden bar, twinkly outdoor patio, crisp-skinned roasted chicken and flowing rum punches, Southwark was already pretty much perfect before its mid-pandemic renovation. Nowadays, though, you can also book a chef’s table inside the kitchen for splashing out on dinner (at $300 a head), or go for #Winewark Mondays, when you can get a glass from some of the swankier bottles, or Breeze by BBQ Tuesdays, at which burgers are served alfresco even when chilly temps require bundling up.
Queen Village | New American701 South 4th Street, 267-930-8538More about Southwark | Return to neighborhood list
Friday Saturday Sunday
The evolution of Friday Saturday Sunday from a casual neighborhood spot to Chad and Hanna Williams’s low-key, elegant destination has hit its apex with the launch of a new tasting menu. It’s not a regular tasting menu. It’s done the Williams way, which is as a pitch-perfect mix of luxury and fun. It’s flaky bite-size empanadas filled with pig’s head. It’s a mini buttermilk biscuit topped with beef tartare and osetra caviar. It’s a canelé — glistening a little with the lacquer of local beeswax, double-baked in a copper mold after the batter rests for three days—that comes with the check at the end of the meal. Paired with cocktails by Paul MacDonald, the decades-old restaurant reigns as one of the city’s best.
Rittenhouse | New American261 South 21st Street, 215-546-4232More about Friday Saturday Sunday | Return to neighborhood list
Amanda Shulman bills her Sansom Street boîte as a “supper club,” but really, it’s a straight-up dinner party—like the kind you’d have with your friends and family at home, except here, your friends and family are spearing their forks into pickles and picture-perfect pâté en croûte. They’re oohing and aahing over all the fresh black truffles atop the free-form lasagnetta. They, like you, are floored by the amount of love and warmth and dedication to craft radiating through the dining room.
Rittenhouse | New American1740 Sansom Street, No phone number listedMore about Her Place | Return to neighborhood list
Parc is Philly’s most indispensable restaurant. No matter the occasion — from an anniversary dinner to an apology dinner, for Grandma’s birthday, visiting in-laws, or celebrating a successful parole hearing — it’s always on the list of possible destinations. And while some restaurants might get that kind of reputation by being so patently inoffensive that no one could possibly complain, Parc — with its French heart and Philadelphian soul, its onion soup, salade Niçoise, bustling patio, and truly excellent burger — has earned it by being so good at every single thing it does.
Rittenhouse | French227 South 18th Street, 215-545-2262More about Parc | Return to neighborhood list
Vernick Food & Drink
The best table at Vernick has always been in the narrow back dining room, where you can watch the cooks in the crowded kitchen work. The best plates have always been the simplest ones — a perfectly grilled pork chop with cherry au poivre and polenta, cheese toast with onion jam or tartare and horseradish. And the best thing about chef Greg Vernick’s original, namesake restaurant has always been its near-magical ability to walk the incredibly narrow line between casual comfort and high-end hospitality while making it look effortless.
Rittenhouse | New American2031 Walnut Street, 267-639-6644More about Vernick Food & Drink | Return to neighborhood list
It opened as a beautiful new neighborhood wine shop, stocked with bottles you couldn’t easily find anywhere else, along with some bottled hot sauce and various other treats the kitchen was making. During the pandemic, the kitchen helped turn out pizza dinners and takeaway meals, and now it’s transitioned into a charming (and slightly quieter) place in which to taste your way through Greg Vernick’s always-exceptional menu.
Rittenhouse | American2029 Walnut Street, 267-951-2462More about Vernick Wine | Return to neighborhood list
Neighborhood: Society Hill
Thanks to a global pandemic, anyone in America can order Michael Solomonov’s pomegranate lamb shoulder, delivered via Goldbelly, with all the trimmings — golden saffron-scented rice, twice-cooked eggplant, the hummus. But it’s ours, Philly, and if you’re persistent enough to score a reservation, you’ll be rewarded with the freshest flavor-bursting salatim, mezze like black bass tartare and haloumi slicked with honey, and, yes, the lamb, always falling off the bone.
Society Hill | Israeli237 St. James Place, 215-625-8800More about Zahav | Return to neighborhood list
Neighborhood: West Philly
Alif Brew & Mini Mart
In a neighborhood chock-full of Ethiopian delights, Alif Brew & Mini Mart stands out by twisting any preconceived notions we may have of what an Ethiopian cafe is supposed to be and what it can do for its community. The intensity and fragrances of Ethiopian cooking are on full display here, but flexed in a casual grab-and-go environment where kifto and stewed collard greens are sometimes layered and wrapped together in injera like a burrito. Where Taco Tuesdays mean berbere-spiced squash with black beans stuffed inside injera tortillas. Where malawah (like crepes, but thicker) are stuffed with Nutella and bananas, rolled into cones, and wrapped in foil so you can eat them with cups of Alif’s house-roasted coffee at Clark Park down the way.
The Suburbs and Beyond
Anthony Andiario’s restaurant is only open four nights a week. He cooks a prix-fixe meal based on what he can get from local farmers and producers and doesn’t announce the menus in advance. Once something is gone, it’s gone — possibly never to return. Eating here is often the kind of experience that sticks with you for years—a carefully curated and expertly prepared taste of a particular moment or season in Pennsylvania, expressed through the flavors that best represent the state. Yet your meal never feels forced or heavy or false. Dinner here is just dinner, after all. But Andiario stands as an example of just how extraordinary something as simple as “dinner” can be.
West Chester | Italian106 West Gay Street, 484-887-0919More about Andiario | Return to neighborhood list
Bardea Food & Drink
Bardea is one of those restaurants where you don’t go for any specific thing. You go for the burrata-stuffed pop-tart starter that oozes melted cheese when you cut into it, the wood-fired pizzas, handmade pasta, the cobia collar glazed with dulse butter and swiped with mango beurre blanc. You go for cocktails mixed with the house-made limoncello and laminated doughnuts with caramelized pineapple. Wilmington’s dining scene was a little stagnant when Scott Stein and chef Antimo DiMeo opened Bardea in 2018, and since then, it’s been drawing crowds for doing everything right.
Wilmington | Italian620 North Market Street, 302-426-2069More about Bardea Food & Drink | Return to neighborhood list
Dubu (named for the tofu that goes into its Korean soups and stews) low-key dazzles us with comforting bowls of soondubu jjigae, made with soft tofu and just the right amount of heat. With an endless array of complimentary banchan that kicks off your meal, with haemul pajeon—crisp, savory pancakes, pan-fried and flecked with shrimp and scallion — and with handmade dumplings in broth that’s been simmering for two days. Lastly, you come for the warm vibes and the K-pop that plays in the background as you fervently wish this place existed in your own neighborhood.
The dining room is all stonework, dark wood, flames licking from the big wood-fired ovens in the kitchen and the gleam of candles on every table. The menu is lobster spaghetti, brussels sprouts with the sting of Calabrian chilies, smoked pork chops with grits and bacon jus, and whole roasted branzino with olives and artichokes in a white wine beurre blanc. Together, they make Hearthside feel like a Restaurant With a Capital R — a place for dining that eschews the flighty and impulsive in favor of something more refined. Serious but not stodgy, solid but not stuffy.
Collingswood | New American801 Haddon Avenue, 856-240-1164More about Hearthside | Return to neighborhood list
Sometimes at June, Todd Cusack — the chef who runs the restaurant with his wife and sommelier, Christina Cusack — will wheel an antique duck press to your table. He’ll use the silver-plated press to crush the carcass in a century-old tradition that extracts its juice, leaving nothing edible to waste. The pomp is followed by a sequence of duck courses that show off the chef’s decidedly French culinary prowess and cred. (His résumé boasts stints at New York’s Daniel as well as Bibou here in Philly.) Not up for partaking in that tradition? There are plenty of other French-inspired dishes on the menu, from escargots imported from Burgundy to Parisian gnocchi, all of them deserving a visit to Collingswood.
Collingswood | French690 Haddon Avenue, 856-240-7041More about June BYOB | Return to neighborhood list
Since 2013, Nick Elmi has been working from his teeny-tiny kitchen at Laurel, his East Passyunk tasting-menu boîte. Lark, opened in October with partner Fia Berisha, is sprawling by comparison, with a scenic outdoor patio overlooking the Schuylkill River. For most chefs, the expansion might mean road bumps, but not for these two. The service is friendly and professional as ever, and every single dish—from wide pillows of gnocco fritto served with silky ricotta and paper-thin prosciutto to squid-ink chitarra dusted in garlic breadcrumbs to the oh-so-fluffy espresso budino — nails the mark.
Bala Cynwyd | MediterraneanIronworks at Pencoyd Landing,611 Righters Ferry Road, 484-434-8766More about Lark | Return to neighborhood list
The historic Green Room inside Delaware’s Hotel Du Pont served the same menu in the same archaic, heavy-draped environs for decades. Then local boy Tyler Akin took over and breathed new life into the space. Gone are the curtains; gone is the wall-to-wall carpet that covered the original terrazzo floor. The menu, too, got a modern revamp, with French brasserie-inspired plates of duck frites and chicken Provençal. The result is worth traveling for.
Wilmington | French42 West 11th Street, 302-594-3154More about Le Cavalier | Return to neighborhood list
Some people might call Sagami a perfect Japanese restaurant. We call it a happy place where the same sushi chefs have been behind the same sushi bar, making the same chirashi bowls and eel rolls, for decades. Where the servers know guests by name, and where technique and tradition live together in perfect harmony inside a 47-year-old suburban New Jersey dining room.
Collingswood | Japanese37 Crescent Boulevard, 856-854-9773More about Sagami | Return to neighborhood list
Sweet Amalia Market and Kitchen
The Sweet Amalia Farm Market, smack in the middle of South Jersey between here and the Shore, is at once a side-of-the-road farm market, a raw bar and artisan hoagie shop (backed by the talented Melissa McGrath), and an event space. Which means there’s a reason to get in the car and take a drive without, you know, having to pack the car with beach chairs, swimsuits and a cooler.
Newfield | Shoreside994 Harding Highway, 856-839-2478More about Sweet Amalia Market and Kitchen | Return to neighborhood list
It takes a lot for an Italian restaurant to make it worth leaving Philly. But chef Joey Baldino’s warm, intimate, tiny BYO is absolutely worth crossing the bridge for, because he’s channeled generations of love and passion for Italian (specifically Sicilian) food into this one place. Tagliatelle with lemon and prosciutto, stewed rabbit with tomato and rosemary, whole shrimp sautéed with garlic and lemon and tossed with cannellini beans — all of it is so simple yet so perfect, reduced to only its most elemental ingredients.
Collingswood | Italian618 West Collings Avenue, 856-854-2670More about Zeppoli | Return to neighborhood list
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