The Best Restaurants in Philadelphia

Absolutely try the cheesesteaks, hoagies, and doughnuts that Philadelphia’s famous for, but take time to taste the fresh flavors of the city’s extraordinary markets, chef-driven international restaurants, craft beers, and local cafés. You won’t regret it.

237 St James Pl, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA
Chef Michael Solomonov, a 2017 James Beard Award winner, presents his take on modern Israeli cuisine at this Society Hill destination. Zahav is the Hebrew word for “gold,” which is reflected in the beautiful golden decor of the restaurant. Menu highlights include the fabulous hummus, halloumi with strawberries and peas, and any of the mezes or small plates. Try the restaurant’s signature cocktail, the refreshing Lemonnana—Jim Beam, muddled mint, fresh lemon, and verbena—served by the glass or by the pitcher. Save room for dessert; the coffee custard is divine. The bar at Zahav is a popular weekday spot for happy hour from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Dinner reservations are a must.
1221 Locust St, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA
Opened in 2011 in a historic brownstone, Vedge is widely considered one of the best vegan restaurants in America. Even such veganism-averse food critics as Alan Richman have sung its praises, and chef Rich Landau and his wife, Kate Jacoby, the pastry chef at Vedge, have both been nominated for James Beard awards. Landau works with ingredients that traditionally send carnivores running (tofu, seitan), but inventive dishes—such as salt-roasted beets layered with avocado, smoked tofu, and pickle mustard, a play on pastrami on rye—upend their hippie-dippie reputation. Save room for dessert: Jacoby’s creations, such as caramel-and-pecan-topped NOLA mud pie, have their own cult following.
1219 S 2nd St, Philadelphia, PA 19121, USA
Federal Donuts, which sells wacky-flavored handmade doughnuts, coffee, and Korean-style twice-fried chicken, is just one example of how chefs in the City of Brotherly Love are pursuing their culinary obsessions. The original Center City shop has been joined by branches around town (including one at the baseball stadium) as well as a satellite shop in Miami: The owners’ whimsical impulse to pick up a doughnut machine on Craigslist in 2011 now seems less crazy and more like the first steps of delicious empire-building.
2031 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA
This upscale New American restaurant in a brownstone near Rittenhouse Square is a popular destination for business dinners and special occasions. Chef Greg Vernick is a James Beard Award winner, and the restaurant regularly appears on many national and local “Best of” lists. The dinner menu changes with the seasons, but favorite options include the sea urchin and the roasted whole fish of the day. For dessert, look for the tasty blueberry pie, which is served with elderflower ice cream. A highlight of the cocktail menu is the Milk Punch—a classic rum drink made with Madeira, lime, and bitters.
1623 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA
Philadelphia has famous local restaurateur Stephen Starr and chef Douglas Rodriguez to thank for Alma de Cuba, a dark and atmospheric multilevel restaurant serving inventive Latin-fusion cuisine. The lounge of this beloved Philly spot offers a great tapas menu and a well-curated craft-cocktail list (starring the best mojitos this side of Cuba), which make its weekday happy hour one of the city’s favorites. The kitchen is known for its lechón asado (roast pork), as well as creative riffs on ceviches and variations on guacamole, including a divine one spiked with smoked hazelnut.
2313 Frankford Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19125, USA
Pizza Brain, located on Frankford Avenue in Fishtown, bills itself as the world’s first pizza museum and restaurant. With pizza-related toys, artwork, and memorabilia on display around the eatery, fine dining becomes fun dining. An added bonus? An outpost of Little Baby’s Ice Cream—revered around Philly for its handcrafted batches of exotic ice cream flavors—is right next door, making this the perfect address for kids and foodies of all ages. The geniuses behind Pizza Brain have now opened a second restaurant, Pizza Dads, in Brewerytown. Both locations are BYOB.
2043 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA
In a city where hoagies are everywhere, how can a visitor know which is the best? Ask a local where they buy their hoagies, and chances are their answer will be Primo. The Primo Italian hoagie, for anyone new to these signature Philadelphia foods, is a classic. Winner of multiple awards, Primo Hoagies has locations all around Philly, and boasts an extensive menu featuring sandwiches of many sizes. The offerings include creative meatless options such as the Veggie Diablo (eggplant, sharp provolone, broccoli rabe, and long hot peppers); make sure to try a side of olive salad. Buon appetito!
524 S 4th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA
This small, colorful restaurant located near Fourth and South streets showcases authentic Venezuelan street food, including Venezuelan-style arepas rellenas (thick cornmeal patties stuffed with meat, cheese, and other fillings) and patacones (sandwiches with fried-plantain patties in place of bread). With a friendly staff and fast service, Puyero is popular for dining in as well as for takeout and delivery. The limited menu is geared toward meat eaters, but two of the arepas and several sides are vegetarian-friendly. Try the tequeños—deep-fried dough wrapped around white cheese—and the churros. Muy delicioso! Puyero is BYOB.
1500 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19102, USA
That the Mad Men-esque Butcher & Singer has landed on Philadelphia Magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants list for two consecutive years speaks volumes about serial restaurateur Stephen Starr’s keen design sense and unparalleled stagecraft. Although the plush leather banquettes, imposing ceilings and throwback supper-club experience are certainly striking (“an homage to Old Hollywood,” Starr says), it’s the archetypal steaks and chops that really shine here. Those harboring an obsession with sandwiches, like myself, should opt for the 10oz dry-aged beef burger—a more than suitable strip substitute. As for that tempting third course, don’t be surprised if tuxedo-bedecked waiters encourage you to save room for their signature dessert, the Baked Alaska. Whatever you do, just say yes. Unbutton your pants if you have to, the wait staff will understand. A vintage experience, masterful steaks and a killer ambiance means yet another success story for the Starr empire and a big win for Philadelphia. Reservations recommended.
1009 S 8th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA
No need to jet to France for French bistro fare—holding court a stone’s throw from the famed 9th street Italian market, French husband-and-wife duo Charlotte and Pierre Calmels (formerly of Le Bec Fin fame) regale locals at Bibou with a masterful, market-driven menu that changes at the chef’s whim. A must on any visit to the City of Brotherly Love!
204 S 17th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA
Voted Philly’s best French bakery, Miel is a charming and comfortable café that serves great coffee, inexpensive lunch options (hot and cold sandwiches, and soup), and of course, the best pastries. Get here early or the croissants will be gone! Enjoy free wi-fi with your treats.
208 W Washington Square
An offshoot of the highly acclaimed restaurant Talulah’s Garden, this neighboring cafe and market offers a casual spot for eating in and gourmet foods and treats for taking out. Located directly on Washington Square park, the cafe serves wine and beer and premium La Colombe coffee. Talulah’s Daily is a comfortable place to enjoy healthy prepared foods and creative sandwiches, with many options for vegetarians. The gourmet shop offers a variety of unique non-perishable food treats that will survive your trip home.
51 N 12th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA
Never has a yummy treat been mired in such controversy as the Whoopie Pie. First, how did this burger-shaped cake with the sugary cream filling get its name? Does the name come from the exclamation that schoolchildren shouted upon opening their lunch bags to discover these delights? Or does it come from the Amish farmers, who were rewarded with these portable “pies” in their lunch boxes? My vote (and Pennsylvania Dutch lore) favors the school kids. But wait—there’s more controversy! While I am one hundred percent certain that these little cakes called pies originated in my lovely state of Pennsylvania, it seems that the state of Maine has also laid claim to their origin, even going so far as to name the Whoopie Pie as its “official state treat.” Other research points to somewhere in New York state as their birthplace. We may never know… There was a time not long ago when Whoopie Pies felt much like a prized local secret because no one outside of Pennsylvania had ever heard of them (excepting, I guess, some of those Mainers). These days, though, you can even find Whoopie Pies in the bakery sections at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. But the most authentic and delicious version can only be found at the Amish bakery Beiler’s in the Reading Terminal Market. My personal favorite is the pumpkin flavor, but the chocolate is also delicious. Or maybe try the oatmeal, or the red velvet. Better yet, try one of each—they’re portable!
264 S 19th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA
Since 1993, Philadelphians Wendy Born and James Barrett have shown a deft hand in the kitchens of their multi-location Metropolitan Bakery. Artisanal breads – able to rival any venerated loaf from Europe– are their claim to fame but their cookies, cakes, croissants and locally-sourced jams and spreads are equally as divine. They have several locations in Philadelphia, including my favorite in Chestnut Hill a bit further afield, but consistency is assured in each outpost. You can also expect to see the duo’s vision (and baked goods) played out at FARMiCiA, the organic/local restaurant they co-own in Old City. If you have a hankering for something sweet, don’t leave without picking up one of their toothsome chocolate chip cookies (or a few).
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