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Italian Hoagie at Cosmis in Philadelphia

Where to Eat in Philadelphia – The Best Philadelphia Restaurants, Cafes and Bars

In Food Guides, North America, USA by Daryl & Mindi HirschLeave a Comment

Move over cheesesteak – the Philly food scene is more than the ubiquitous sandwich. Check out our Philadelphia food guide for the best Philadelphia restaurants, cafes, and markets.

Roast Pork Sandwich at Johns Roast Pork in Philadelphia

Thomas Wolfe said that you can’t go home again, but we beg to differ. Perhaps that’s because our home is Philadelphia – a city teeming with American history, eclectic culture and amazing food.

John's Water Ice in Philadelphia

John’s Water Ice has been serving water ice since 1945. More than just water and ice, the summertime treat includes fruit like lemons and cherries.

We’re proud (and a little embarrassed) to admit that we miss Philadelphia food favorites like pretzels, krimpets and water ice as we travel the world. If you’re not familiar with any of these popular local food icons, then you clearly need to visit Philadelphia and taste them for yourself.

Why Visit Philadelphia?

2foodtrippers at Headhouse Square in Philadelphia

Headhouse Square comes alive during the day when the historic meeting place morphs into a bustling market.

When we go home, the question isn’t what to do but rather how to fit everything into our busy schedules. The struggle of balancing time with friends and family together with all the places we want to visit and revisit is real. Seriously, there is no lack of things to do in Philadelphia.

Independence Hall in Philadelphia

Philadelphia is a city that blends old and new. Pictured here is Independence Hall flanked by more modern buildings.

Though often overshadowed by nearby cities like New York and Washington DC, Philadelphia is an ideal spot for an American city break. America’s founding city is a veritable treasure trove for history buffs with sites like the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and the Betsy Ross House.

Art lovers will go crazy at the amazing Barnes Foundation with an Impressionist collection that rivals, if not beats, the best museums in Paris. We recently revisited the Barnes and were impressed by the hodgepodge of world-class art accessibly displayed in its controversial Benjamin Franklin Parkway location adjacent to Center City.

Barnes Foundation Art in Philadelphia

The art at the Barnes Foundation is surprisingly accessible considering that the collection is one of the world’s finest.

Most Impressionist art lovers rate Paris’ Musée D’Orsay as the greatest museum to view Impressionist and post-Impressionist art. While we don’t like to argue too strongly about the ‘best’ of anything, we are compelled to make a strong case for Albert Barnes’ diverse billion dollar collection.

While there may be better individual works hanging in museums throughout the world such as the Orsay and NYC’s MoMA, the Barnes collection, with its stacked Cezannes, Renoirs and Matisses like gold over platinum, is a daunting display. We struggle to understand the why the museum wasn’t more crowded during our visit on a holiday weekend.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Internationally famous due to the “Rocky” steps, the Philadelphia Museum of Art houses a world-class collection of art that spans the centuries.

Another art museum not to miss is the Philadelphia Museum of Art with its world-class collection ranging from the antiquities to modern day works, not to mention the famous Rocky steps. Quirkier in a folk-art kind of way, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens gallery draws crowds to South Street with its crazy mosaics and numerous photo ops.

Magic Gardens Mosaics in Philadelphia

Crowds flock to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens to experience Isaiah Zagar’s mosaic vision in person. This is a case where seeing is believing.

As for families, they can occupy the kids at the Franklin Institute and Please Touch Museum. We’ve been there, done that with our niece and nephew in the past.

Pro Tip:  Purchase a Philadelphia Pass if you plan to visit multiple Philadelphia attractions during your visit. This pass will save you both time and money at over 35 sites including the Franklin Institue, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Foundation. The pass also includes Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus tours.

Visiting the Barnes and these other great attractions, not to mention Philadelphia’s rich history as the USA’s founding city, would be more than reason enough to make Philadelphia an ideal spot for a city break for travelers from all corners of the world. But Philly’s food scene completes the puzzle.

Philly Food Scene

Beef Carpaccio at High Street in Philadelphia

High Street on Market takes the classic Philly Cheesesteak to a new place with their creative Beef Carpaccio Philly Style served with spicy peppers, whiz wit and hoagie crostinis.

With a thriving food scene that ranges from humble food trucks to nationally acclaimed restaurants, Philadelphia is a great destination for food travelers at every budget. Though crowds assemble nightly at Pat’s and Genos, the neon-adorned rival cheesesteak shops in South Philly, savvy travelers know to expand beyond the popular sandwich.

Genos Steaks in Philadelphia

Day and night, crowds gather at popular cheesesteak stands to stuff their faces. Some stands like Geno’s Steaks are open 24 hours a day.

However, when you think about it, the quality of Philly’s food scene should come as no surprise. Philadelphia is the most centrally located city on America’s eastern seaboard. Plus, living in Philadelphia is far more affordable than nearby cities like New York and Washington, D.C., which has provided a draw to some of the nation’s best young and experienced chefs.

Quietly over years and then suddenly with a bang, Philadelphia has elevated itself to become one of America’s premier food cities recognized by the likes of James Beard, Travel & Leisure and the Washington Post. These days, it’s hard to find a periodical that hasn’t recently discovered Philly’s sophisticated restaurants.

This acclaim isn’t limited to restaurants in Center City Philadelphia. Some of the top restaurants in Philadelphia are in neighborhoods like Fishtown, Bella Vista and South Philly.

Haloumi in Brik at Zahav in Philadelphia

Open since 2008, Zahav has been wowing local and national crowds with modern Israeli cuisine like this flavorful Haloumi in Brik starter.

The beginnings of Philadelphia’s restaurant gold rush go back to the 1970s with chefs like George Perrier and continued with Stephen Starr and his Philly-based restaurant group. Beyond Perrier and Starr, much of the credit goes to New York-trained chefs like Eli Kulp and Peter Serpico who relocated to the city to take advantage of business opportunities, not to mention the city’s relatively low cost of living. However, chefs like Michael Solomonov, Marc Vetri and Jose Garces also need to be recognized for their ongoing contributions to the local restaurant scene.

Pro Tip:  Take a Philadelphia Food Tour to experience some of the best food in Philadelphia with a local expert.

Traveling within Philadelphia

Don’t worry if you’re traveling without a car – Philly is one of the few cities outside of NYC and Chicago where it’s not necessary to have a car to get around.

Philly has a decent public transportation system, one of the few public transit networks in the U.S. that provides train service directly from its airport (Philadelphia International Airport) to the center of town. Philadelphia is also one of only two or three cities in the U.S. that we consider to be truly walkable.

If you choose to stay within the limits of Center City (what Philadelphians call the center of town), it’s entirely possible to plan your trip on foot. It generally takes no longer than 45 minutes to walk from one side of Center City to the other. Also, a network of overground and underground transit, including the Market-Frankford Line and the Broad Street Line, makes it easy to explore trendy neighborhoods like Fishtown and South Philly without a car.

Add the Philly Flash Bus which moves around a circular network of city attractions (and is cheaper than Hop-On-Hop-Off buses) and Uber to the mix, and travel around the City of Brotherly Love is a breeze.

Check Philadelphia Hotel Rates

Philadelphia Food Guide

Samke Nayyeh at Suraya in Philadelphia

A newcomer to the Philly food scene, Suraya is serving sophisticated food in a striking Fishtown setting. Pictured here is the Lebanese restaurant’s Samke Nayyeh with raw yellowtail, parsley, garlic, lemon jalapeno and labneh.

The 2foodtrippers have seen and tasted a lot of great Philly food during our combined 25+ years of living in the city. Until we hit the road, we ate out a lot, always seeking the newest trends while never forgetting the city’s culinary stalwarts. Our challenge isn’t finding enough restaurants to recommend here; rather, it’s limiting our recommendations for the best places to eat in Philadelphia to a manageable number.

Philadelphia Pretzels

Pretzels are one of the main food groups in Philadelphia. Though different from the classic soft pretzel, these chocolate dipped pretzels are equally satisfying.

After much internal debate and a recent food-focused visit in partnership with Visit Philadelphia, we are finally ready to present a Philadelphia food guide with our favorite restaurants, cafes and markets. As always, we have included a variety of fine dining, cheap eats and coffee options because that’s how we roll in real life.

Standard Tap in Philadelphia

Chef Joel Mazigian helms the kitchen at Standard Tap. The popular Northern Liberties gastropub has been open since 1999.

The Philadelphia dining scene is deep with many restaurants which we like but chose not to include in this guide. We have limited the guide to highlight restaurants that we truly love and think that you, our readers, will enjoy when you visit Philly. We’ve eaten (or drank) at every recommended establishment at least once and some multiple times.

This guide is a living document. Since we plan to return to Philadelphia regularly, not only to visit friends and family but also to eat the best Philly food, we will regularly tweak this guide with updates, additions and deletions as necessary.

Top Philadelphia Restaurants

Confit Carrots at Friday Saturday Sunday in Philadelphia

Philadelphia restaurants continue to push the culinary envelope with creative dishes like Friday Saturday Sunday’s Confit Carrots. This colorful dish pops with ingredients like carrot yogurt, burnt coconut crumbles and fermented salsa verde.

Philadelphia has more than its fair share of solid restaurants, even for a city with over 1.5 million residents. Despite the city’s international reputation as the world’s cheesesteak capital, the best restaurants in Philadelphia PA run the gamut of global cuisine options from French to Israeli. The city also houses one of the country’s most innovative Vegan restaurants.

Over the years we’ve dined at most of the best Philadelphia restaurants. We celebrated anniversaries and birthdays at hot spots including Bibou, Morimoto, Serpico, Vetri and Volver. As happens, we’ve seen some of our favorite restaurants come and go but most of the best continue to serve great food over the years.

If you’re researching where to celebrate a special occasion in Philadelphia, the choices can be overwhelming. Critics have their favorites and so do we. Based on our own personal dining experiences, we recommend the following top restaurants in Philly:

Zahav

Mezze at Zahav in Philadelphia

Small plates, like this assortment of ‘Mezze’, deliver big flavors at Zahav. Due to national awards and tons of publicity, this restaurant is the toughest reservation in town.

Once upon a time, not so many years ago, the only Israeli food available in Philadelphia was of the hummus and falafel variety. Then, after Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook opened Zahav in 2008, everything changed. Since that time, Israel-born and Pittsburgh-raised Solomonov earned two coveted James Beard awards and now co-runs a thriving restaurant empire.

Zahav, Hebrew for gold, is a modern Israeli restaurant that takes diners on a culinary journey starting with wood-fire baked laffa bread served with three varieties of hummus and continuing with vegetarian salads and meatier mezze. Diners can order additional plates on an a la carte basis or sample a variety including the restaurant’s tasting menu and signature lamb shoulder.

Back in 2008, we could easily walk into Zahav before or after a movie and grab a bite and a drink at the bar. We especially enjoyed the happy hour.

Fast forward to the present and the happy hour is still going strong with its ever-popular lemonnana cocktails and hummus. However, the 16 seats at the bar now fill up quickly. And by quickly, we mean that the bar is full with a waiting list when Zahav opens at 5:00 pm each day.

Lemonnana at Zahav in Philadelphia

Zahav’s Lemonnana is liquid gold, otherwise known as liquid Zahav.

Eating at Zahav requires planning and advance reservations a good two months before the dinner date. Otherwise, plan to arrive by 4:30 to secure a first come, first serve seat at the bar.

Sure, you’ll be eating early but at least you’ll get discounted lemonannas to start your meal. You can put the savings toward a Zahav cookbook, an ideal souvenir of your meal.

Pro Tip:  If you can’t score a reservation, consider going to Abe Fisher instead. Run by the same restaurant group as Zahav, Abe Fisher serves high-end food of the Jewish diaspora. If you’re not sure what that means, think about food you might eat in Budapest but with a creative twist and you get the idea.

Zahav is located at 237 St James Place, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA.
Abe Fisher is located at 1623 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA.

Vernick Food & Drink

Sausage at Vernick in Philadelphia

Chef and owner Greg Vernick, who ran kitchens for internationally famous Chef Jea-George Vongerichten, is an example of one of the world-class chefs working in Philadelphia. Pictured here is Vernick’s Duck Toulouse Sausage with braaised runner beans and fresh marjoram.

Jean-George Vongerichten disciple Greg Vernick serves an amazing assortment of food at his restaurant, appropriately named Vernick, starting with a varied and changing selection of ‘toasts’ to expertly crafted starters and entrees. Not flying under the radar, Vernick is fully booked every night it’s open, making advance reservations a necessity except at the bar.

Despite the restaurant’s popularity and prime Rittenhouse Square location, Vernick’s staff maintains a non-pretentious vibe. We especially like the convivial atmosphere at the sleek bar with its mix of locals and expense account travelers who often bond over a shared love for food. Plus, sitting at the bar provides a front-row view to a nightly mixology show performed by Vernick’s expert barkeeps.

Bar at Vernick in Philadelphia

Michael Dunphy expertly crafts a cocktail for us at Vernick.

But at the end of the day, the best part of dining at Vernick is the food. Vernick offers toasted bread with toppings that go beyond avocado, offering sophisticated seasonal pairings like Fromage & Pickled Cherries and Beef Tartare & Fresh Horseradish.

Toasts may whet your appetite at Vernick but surprises don’t stop there. Go big and try a dish like Red Curry Shrimp Duck or keep it simple with locally sourced Organic Amish Chicken.

Pro Tip:  Vernick closes for two weeks each summer for an annual ‘Vernication’. Call the restaurant to confirm the dates if you plan to visit Philadelphia at this time of year.

Vernick Food & Drink is located at 2031 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA.

Friday Saturday Sunday

Chamomile Panna Cotta with Three Citruses at Friday Saturday Sunday in Philadelphia

Pastry Chef Tish Smith shines with creative desserts like this Chamomile Panna Cotta prepared with three citrus fruits, house-made granola and grapefruit gelee.

Proving that everything old can become new again, a crackerjack team of Philadelphia restaurant pros have transformed formerly stodgy Friday Saturday Sunday into an exciting culinary destination. Despite its age on paper, Friday Saturday Sunday is one of the best new restaurants in Philadelphia.

Chad and Hanna Williams seamlessly run the back and front of the Rittenhouse Square restaurant, but they don’t do it alone. Locals will recognize familiar faces like bartender Paul MacDonald and pastry chef Tish Smith as well as servers from some of the best restaurants in Philly.

Bartender at Friday Saturday Sunday in Philadelphia

Pick your cocktail passion at Friday Saturday Sunday. Bartender Paul MacDonald is up to the challenge.

Start your meal at the restaurant’s beautifully restored bar replete with ornate marble and a dizzying selection of liquors and cocktail ingredients. You could request a standard drink, but we recommend choosing one of the restaurant’s signature concoctions like Sob Story. We almost cried from happiness as we chilled with this not-so-sad cocktail made with Haitian rum, Torino vermouth, Nardini, Batavia arrack and coconut rum.

The one-page menu includes an enticing variety of dishes starting with a raw bar and continuing with beef tartare, octopus and sweetbread katsu. Don’t worry if you don’t eat meat, vegetable options like charred cauliflower and confit carrots (pictured above) are the opposite of a sacrifice. Plus, the restaurant’s desserts are splurge-worthy.

Pro Tip:  Friday Saturday Sunday is actually open six nights a week. Just don’t plan to go there on a Monday.

Friday Saturday Sunday is located at 261 S 21st Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA.

Fork

Salmon at Fork in Philadelphia

It’s only fitting that a beautifully designed restaurant serves beautifully plated food. Pictured here is seemingly simple salmon at Fork.

If you’re looking for a New York level dining experience in Philadelphia, head to Old City and eat dinner at Fork. This restaurant has been a sophisticated Philadelphia dining destination since Ellen Yin opened the doors in 1997.

Back in the day, now trendy Old City didn’t offer diners much beyond Stephen Starr’s martini bar, The Continental. Plus a young pup named Daryl lived around the corner in a walk-up apartment decorated with pink carpet and sparkly ceilings, allegedly not his design choices.

Like the rest of us, Fork has evolved over the years. Talented Chef Eli Kulp, a veteran of the Major Food Group in New York City, took the restaurant to new culinary levels with dishes like lamb tartar and sweet corn ice cream sandwiches. The u-shape bar at Fork also remains a friendly spot for neighborhood folk to enjoy a light bite (or a full meal) with drinks, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Pro Tip:  The seasonal menu at Fork includes hyper-local ingredients, which means that it changes with the seasons. Check the website for current food offerings when you make your reservation.

Fork is located at 306 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA.

Amada

Paella at Amada in Philadelphia

The lobster paella at Amada is a glorious one-dish feast.

Iron Chef Jose Garces’ original restaurant remains his crowning jewel. Named after Garces’ grandmother, Amada introduced many Philadelphians to the tapas style of eating when it opened in 2005. Popular from the get-go, Amada is still one of the hottest restaurant tickets in town for Madrid style tapas and a popular spot for celebratory dinners.

Amada’s menu has dozens of small plate options. You can’t go wrong with Spanish favorites like Serrano ham (jamón Serrano) or bacon-wrapped Medjool Dates (dátiles con almendras). In addition to its outstanding wine list, Amada also serves tasty red and white sangria by the pitcher or glass.

When you dine at Amada, you can go whole hog and order the roasted suckling pig (conchillo asado) meal which is both sized and priced for a large group. Suckling pigs must be ordered in advance. We recommend checking with the restaurant a week before your reservation.

Pro Tip:  Limited for time or dining on a budget? Go to Amada for lunch and try the two-course Catalan Express. It’s a great deal albeit limited in options.

Amada is located at 217-219 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA.

Suraya

Suraya in Philadelphia

Open and airy, Suraya offers a delightful dining environment in relatively gritty Fishtown.

Suraya opened in Fishtown after we left Philadelphia. We’d heard positive reports about the Lebanese restaurant but we had to see and taste it to believe it. After doing just that, we’re now fans of the exciting Frankford Avenue restaurant.

The first thing you’ll notice when you walk in Suraya is the massive gorgeous, sunlit converted machine shop space. The owners spared no expense with the design including a sleek bar and inviting market. This is the kind of restaurant where you can start your day with a Levantine pastry and a cup of Stumptown coffee and come back later to end it with artistically prepared small plates and a crafted cocktail.

We sat at the bar during our impromptu visit which gave us a prime people-watching vista. Dishes like the Samke Nayyeh (pictured above) and Labne with Za’atar satisfied us and left us excited to return and eat more of Suraya’s exotic yet accessible food.

Pro Tip:  Are you on Instagram? Between the food and decor, Suraya is a photographer’s dream.

Suraya is located at 1528 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19125, USA.

Vedge

Figgy Cheesecake at Vedge in Philadelphia

Cheesecake without dairy? Anything is possible at Vedge, one of the country’s premier Vegan restaurants.

Located on Locust Street, Vedge’s modern Vegan menu is so good that it will make you think twice about ever eating meat again. Our meal didn’t turn us into Vegans or even Vegetarians, but we did consider the option for a few minutes.

Operated by power couple Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby and housed in a stately building formerly occupied by old-school restaurant Deux Cheminees, Vedge is a beautiful restaurant that serves beautiful food. The only thing missing from the equation is meat – but there’s no reason to miss it.

Opting to celebrate plants rather than fake meat, Vedge’s seasonal menu is separated into three sections – Vedge Bar, Dirt List and The Grill. Standout dishes during our meal were the wood roasted carrots and luscious eggplant braciole. We also enjoyed a fruit-topped cheesecake dessert and crafted cocktails. In case we weren’t clear, we didn’t miss meat at all.

Pro Tip:  If you can’t score a reservation at Vedge or if it’s above your budget, try another Vegan restaurant like V Street or Charlie Was a Sinner. The former is owned by the Vedge team and the latter by the owner of HipCityVeg.

Vedge is located at 1221 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.

Vetri Cucina

We celebrated our fifth anniversary at Vetri Cucina back in 2012, just a few months before we launched the 2foodtrippers site and 14 years after the top-rated restaurant opened. A lot has changed for us since then, but Vetri has continued its status as one of the best restaurants in Philadelphia.

Situated in an impressive rowhouse just a block off of busy Broad Street, Vetri Cucina only serves prix fix meals fit (and priced) for special occasions and romantic dates. During our anniversary dinner, we enjoyed diving deep into Chef Mac Vetri’s authentic take on northern Italian cuisine. Vetri trained in Bergamo, Italy and later trained a young crop of chefs including Zahav’s Michael Solmonov (see above).

Michelin has no inspectors in Philadelphia but, in our opinion, a restaurant like Vetri would merit at least two Michelin stars. Does our meal at Vetri rank at the top of meals we’ve eaten at similarly priced restaurants like French Laundry, Maison Lameloise and Maison Bras? We can’t say it that it did. But we still recommend a meal here if you have the time and budget.

Pro Tip:  Vetri Cucina’s wine program features a collection of over 2,500 bottles. When you dine at Vetri, you can order wine by the glass, bottle or as a pairing.

Vetri Cucina is located at 1312 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.

Additional Top Restaurants

Escargots at Bibou in Philadelphia

You can find all types of cuisine in Philadelphia. We ate these escargots at Bibou where the chef hails from Lyon France.

But wait there’s more! Each of the following Philadelphia restaurants serves exciting food that you should not miss when you visit Philadelphia. Like the restaurants featured above, these restaurants require advance reservations – so plan ahead.

  • Bibou – Chef Pierre Calmels serves seasonal seven-course dinners four nights a week at his intimate Bella Vista restaurant. Bring your own wine as this restaurant does not have a liquor license. In our opinion, this is a good thing. Wine on Pennsylvania restaurants menus can be prohibitively expensive.
  • Serpico – When you head to South Street, try a plate of Chef Peter Serpico’s diver scallops that looks like a museum piece or a fun, tasty sandwich with deep-fried duck leg. Better yet, try both.
  • Laurel – Top Chef winner Nick Elmi serves an extraordinary French prix-fixe menu in his intimate space on Passyunk Square. Elmi also operates In the Valley (ITV) next door to Laurel as well as  Royal Boucherie in Old City.
  • Townsend – Chef Townsend Wentz didn’t miss a beat when he left Center City to open his first restaurant down the block from Laurel after working for acclaimed Chef Jean-Marie Lacroix. Along with wife Gordana Kostovski, an acclaimed sommelier, Wentz also runs other exciting restaurants in town including Italian A Mano in the Art Museum neighborhood and the newly opened Spanish Oloroso in Washington Square.
  • Will  BYOB – Chef Christopher Kearse lets his imagination run wild at Will BYOB where diners can bring their own wine. This restaurant completes the Passyunk Square fine dining trifecta.
  • Lacroix – Start at this legend if you want to check out fancy restaurants in Philadelphia. Lacroix Restaurant in the Rittenhouse Hotel is a great place to splurge on a romantic dinner, elegant afternoon tea or lavish weekend brunch.

Casual Restaurants

Goat Cheese Brik Pastry at The Good King in Philadelphia

Creatures of habit, we often dined locally in Bella Vista when we lived in Philadelphia. We ate this vibrantly colored and flavored Goat Cheese Brik Pastry at The Good King in the Bella Vista neighborhood.

The only problem with choosing a casual restaurant in Philadelphia is that there are too many options. Throughout the city, each neighborhood has its own dining scene with new restaurants popping up all the time. We recommend you try the following casual restaurants when you eat out in Philly:

High Street on Market

Pasta at High Street in Philadelphia

High Street on Market is open from morning to night. Regardless of the time of day, the casual restaurant serves consistently good food.

Unlike Fork (see above), High Street on Market didn’t open until 2013, well after Daryl left Old City’s for greener pastures in Bella Vista. Don’t feel bad for him – the distance was still short enough for him to frequently enjoy baker Alex Bois’s award-winning bread.

More than just Fork’s little brother and next door neighbor, High Street is an excellent spot to enjoy a quick breakfast or leisurely brunch. Better yet, make a reservation for dinner. The restaurant has an eclectic menu filled with twists on local favorites that satisfy diners from vegetarians to carnivores.

We’d tell you what to order but that would be dangerous since the menu changes with the seasons. That being said, we recently enjoyed dishes like Philly style beef carpaccio (pictured above) and half brick chicken served with gem lettuce and warm caesar dressing. As an option, diners can leave the food selection up to the kitchen for a reasonable flat price, so there’s no need to be stressed by the numerous tempting choices.

High Street’s atmosphere is more intimate than Fork, but the cooking is just as good. This should be no surprise since eagle-eyed owner Ellen Yin is often on site, alternating between the two dining rooms. Yin is a legend in the Philly restaurant scene, a true leader in Old City’s restaurant resurgence.

Be sure to order a crafted cocktail or glass of wine from a carefully curated selection and save room for dessert. We found High Street’s Philly style pretzel sundae particularly divine.

Pro Tip:  Try to sit near the front of High Street if you dine during the day. You’ll soak up the sunlight as it streams through the restaurant’s large window.

High Street on Market is located at 308 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA.

Standard Tap

Duck Liver Mousse at Standard Tap in Philadelphia

Known for its burgers and mussels, Standard Tap serves more sophisticated dishes like this Duck Liver Mousse with fresh apricots, pickled cipollini onions on toasted ale bread.

Located in Northern Liberties, the tragically hip Philadelphia neighborhood that’s now overshadowed by even hipper Fishtown just a few blocks away, Standard Tap was a gastropub before the word was a common vocabulary term. Despite its longevity, Standard Tap has stayed fresh with one of the city’s best beer selections and a top-notch food menu.

Chef Joel Mazigian took over the kitchen in 2017 and has piloted the restaurant in an exciting direction. Sure, The Tap, as locals call it, still sells hamburgers and mussels, but Mazigian has added locally sourced items like seasonal heirloom tomatoes and heritage pork to the menu and brings years of charcuterie craft to this classic Philadelphia restaurant.

During our most recent visit, we enjoyed dishes featuring ingredients like Persian cucumbers, smoked ricotta, duck liver mousse and baked feta.

And the beer? Our pints were outstanding. Standard Tap has one of Philly’s deepest brew selections including two beers tapped from hand-pumped (British style) beer engines.

If we were to name a local restaurant that epitomizes American food in Philadelphia, Standard Tap would have to be in the conversation. If you’re a tourist who’s new to the USA, this is a spot that more than typifies what New American dining is all about.

Pro Tip:  check out Johnny Brenda’s in Fishtown if you’re in the mood for music with your beer. The owners of Standard Tap own Johnny Brenda’s in Fishtown as well as The International Bar in Kensington.

Standard Tap is located at 901 N 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123, USA.

Hungry Pigeon

Grilled Cheese at Hungry Pigeon in Philadelphia

When we ate this grilled cheese sandwich at Hungry Pigeon, the only thing missing was a cup of tomato soup. Oh, wait, they have that too.

Until recently, Fabric Row was a culinary wasteland. The arrival of Hungry Pigeon in a repurposed fabric shop (natch) is proof that things are looking up in this pocket of Philadelphia’s Queen Village neighborhood.

Hungry Pigeon is far from a one trick bird. Acclaimed Chef Scott Schroeder’s restaurant serves distinct meals depending on the time of day – pastries for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and chef-driven, locally sourced food for dinner. Coffee fans will dig the coffee program, though be warned that free refills are not provided even during brunch.

Pro Tip:  Plan ahead if you’re a fried chicken fan. Hungry Pigeon requires 24 hours notice for its gourmet fried chicken picnic package complete with accompaniments like old bay cole slaw and Nashville hot chicken oil.

Hungry Pigeon is located at 743 S 4th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA.

Oyster House

Oyster Crackers at Oyster House in Philadelphia

It’s only fitting to eat OTC oyster crackers at Oyster House. The crunchy, toothsome globes are a defining element in Philadelphia’s few remaining seafood houses.

Previously known as the Sansom Street Oyster House, Oyster House lives up to its name by serving the best oysters in town. Its name may have been shortened, but the oyster selection remains strong with mollusks hailing from as close as the Mid Atlantic shores and as far away as Prince Edward’s Island and British Columbia.

Beyond oysters, the Center City restaurant serves a variety of seafood including shrimp, octopus and lobster. Meat lovers can opt for burgers. Choices are more limited for Vegetarians as is the case at most seafood restaurants in Philadelphia.

If you’re a non-vegetarian and want to eat seafood like a native Philadelphian, order the Snapper Turtle Soup (or as locals call it – ‘Snapper Soup’). Made with real snapping turtles, this thick, meaty soup will warm your bones on a cold winter night.

Pro Tip:  Get a bang for your buck at Oyster House’s daily (except Sunday) Buck-a-Shuck happy hour. Not only can you eat oysters for a buck, but shooters and drinks are also value priced. As always, check the restaurant’s website for exact times and details.

Oyster House is located at 1516 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102, USA.

Village Whiskey

Hamburger at Village Whiskey in Philadelphia

Village Whiskey’s big, juicy village burger is worth the wait at the popular Center City gastropub.

More than just whiskey, Jose Garces’ Village Whiskey serves a full range of tasty beverages as well as some of the best burgers in town. Ironically, another favorite burger favorite Shake Shack is right across the street, but that’s a chain restaurant based in NYC. Sure, you can order other items like cobb salad and jarred pickled vegetables at Village Whiskey, but the restaurant’s burgers, specially butchered in-house, are the star attractions.

Most purists order the Village Burger with an 8-oz. patty, tomato, lettuce and thousand island dressing while others shoot for the moon by ordering the Whiskey King, a whopper of a burger with its 8-oz. patty, cipollini onions, blue cheese, applewood bacon and foie gras. Vegetarians are welcome to the party too – Village Whiskey’s third burger is a black bean lentil veggie burger with guacamole and pickled red cabbage.

Pro Tip:  Don’t forget to order duck fat fries. The popular side is an add-on item.

Village Whiskey is located at 118 S 20th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA.

Noord eetcafe

Bitterballen at Noord in Philadelphia

Noord is a great spot to try Dutch food in Philadelphia.

Chef Johncarl Lachman became a bit of a legend when he returned to South Philly to open Noord eetcafe in a sun streamed corner building on Passyunk Square. This legendary status is not just due to his boisterous, welcoming personality. The main reason is that he brought Dutch food to a city better known for Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine.

When you eat at Noord, be sure to try Lachman’s signature bitterballen, golden fried pork balls, but don’t stop there. Go for it and order the smørrebrød – three types of sandwiches with toppings like egg, herring and salmon. Save room for dessert. The almond butter cake is sensational.

Pro Tip:  Head to The Dutch if you’re more interested in trying Pennsylvania Dutch (which actually has roots in Germany) cuisine during your visit. Lachman is a co-owner there. Another Pennsylvania Dutch restaurant option is Dutch Eating Place at Reading Terminal Market (see below).

Noord eetcafe is located at 1046 Tasker Street, Philadelphia, PA 19148, USA.

Parc

Parc Restaurant in Philadelphia

Outdoor tables are highly desirable at Parc when the weather cooperates. | Photo by M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia®

Directly across the street from leafy Rittenhouse Square, Parc Restaurant is Philadelphia’s gentrified version of a Parisian brasserie. Stephen Starr and his team left no stone or tile unturned when they decorated this corner restaurant with both style and panache.

When you dine at Parc, you can order solid versions of French food classics like onion soup gratinée or steak tartare. However, we love eating at Parc for the prime people-watching opportunities both inside the restaurant’s beaux-arts dining room as well as outside on the bistro’s expansive sidewalk. The sidewalk seating is a key reason why Parc is one of the most popular Rittenhouse Square restaurants.

Pro Tip: Order a bread basket at Parc so you can try slices of the restaurant’s housemade French baguettes. You can also buy baguettes to eat later.

Parc is located at 227 S 18th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA.

Khyber Pass Pub

Cajun Popcorn at Khyber Pass in Philadelphia

At the Khyber, freshly popped Benton’s bacon grease popcorn pairs perfectly with a beer or two or three.

Don’t go to the Khyber Pass Pub if you’re looking for good Pakistani food. Despite the name, this pub doesn’t serve any Pakistani food at all. But do go if you’re looking for a classic bar with a standout Philadelphia beer selection and some of the city’s best New Orleans pub inspired cuisine.

The Khyber is by many estimates the oldest operating bar in Philly. Its ornately sculpted wood bar dates back to the 1876 Centennial Exposition, and legend says that troughs below the bar were previously used for a very special purpose by its rough-hewn dock and seafaring clientele.

The Khyber used to be the kind of bar locals would go to for good beer and live music. Some of the legendary music acts that performed at the Khyber include Morphine, Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair, Pavement, Kings of Leon and Future Tips. However, the 150-year-old bar was generally not the kind of place where you’d find a clean bathroom or good food. The pub always had great beer, but that’s another story.

Boy, have things changed. Not only did Esquire include the Khyber in its 2015 list of the 15 best bars in America, but it’s one of our favorite places to enjoy a bowl of gumbo or a New Orleans Po-Boy on a Leidenheimer roll shipped specially from the Big Easy.

The Khyber also serves popcorn freshly popped in Benton’s bacon grease. Warning: This popcorn is the greatest bar snack you will ever eat!!

Pro Tip:  The Khyber serves food until 1:00. Go here for solid grub before or after a night of drinking in Old City.

Khyber Pass Pub is located at 56 S 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA.

The Love / Talula’s Garden / Talula’s Daily

Purist Poke at The Love in Philadelphia

We ate this Purist Poke with raw salmon cubes, rainbow radishes, olive oil and Hawaiian salt at The Love, the newest collaboration between Aimee Olexy and Steven Starr.

Aimee Olexy became an institution after she opened the wildly successful Talula’s Table in nearby Kennett Square. With a one-year waiting list, not many people can actually eat at the tiny BYO restaurant. Who plans that far ahead???

We originally met Olexy at Talula’s Table and later bonded with her at Headhouse Square Market (see below), but we never ate dinner at the exclusive suburban restaurant. Luckily for us and people who don’t want to schlep to the suburbs, Steven Starr has partnered with Olexy to open three restaurants in the city.

If you’re looking for a romantic dinner, go to Talula’s Garden on the edge of Washington Square. Diners looking for a more casual dining experience can opt to try Talula’s Daily, also on Washington Square. For a more trendy experience, try newly opened The Love by Rittenhouse Square.

Pro Tip:  Sommelier Alexandra Cherniavsky has curated an award-winning wine list at the Love. Wine choices include wine in a can, not something you can drink every day in Philadelphia.

The Love is located at 130 S 18th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA.
Talula’s Daily is located at 208 W Washington Square, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA.
Talula’s Garden is located at 210 W Washington Square, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA.

Additional Casual Restaurants

Chocolate Malt Ball Cake at Bud and Marilyns in Philadelphia

Save room for dessert when you dine out in Philadelphia. We ate this decadent cake at Bud and Marilyn’s.

Sometimes the best way to narrow down the good restaurants in Philadelphia is to start with the neighborhood where you want to eat. The following recommended casual restaurants span the city:

  • Bistro La Minette – Less flashy than Parc (see above), Peter Woolsey’s Bistro La Minette plates up authentic French bistro fare cooked by Chef Kenneth Bush in the Queen Village neighborhood.
  • Bud & Marilyn’s – Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran bring fun to the Gayborhood with their take on American food. Their other Philadelphia restaurants include Barbuzzo, Little Nonna’s and Lolita.
  • Double Knot – Also in the Gayborhood, Michael Schulson’s Izakaya, Double Knot is a haven for people who love coffee and Japanese food, not necessarily at the same time. The restaurant offers excellent coffee and a casual Vietnamese inspired menu by day and a robotayaki and sushi menu at night. Schulson’s other restaurants include Sampan, Harp & Crown and Independence Beer Garden.
  • The Good King Tavern – The epitome of a neighborhood cafe, The Good King is a quaint spot to dine in Philadelphia’s Bella Vista neighborhood.
  • Helm – Bring your own wine when you dine at Helm in West Kensington. Though they don’t serve liquor, their farm-to-table food variety is both seasonal and tasty. Helm also has a restaurant in Rittenhouse Square.
  • Kanella Grill – Chef Konstantinos Pitsillides brings flavors of Cyprus to his cozy Washington Square West neighborhood BYOB. His souvlaki takes us straight back to Athens. (Yes, we know that Athens is in Greece, not Cyprus, but they’re close.)
  • Mission Taqueria – The team from Oyster House (see above) opened Mission Taqueria right above their legendary seafood house on Sansom Street. The Mexican cantina’s specialties include ceviche, guacamole, house-made tortillas and frozen margaritas.

Pizza

Neapolitan Pizza in Philadelphia

Good pizza in Philadelphia is no longer an exception to the rule. You just need to know where to find it.

For years, South Philly’s Marra’s and Kensington’s Taconelli’s Pizza were the best places to eat pizza. Marra’s has been open since 1927 on Passyunk Avenue, while Taconelli’s has been open since 1918 in Port Richmond. Both remain favorites for locals who have fond memories of eating pies with their parents or grandparents

When choosing pizza in Philadelphia, we generally prefer more modern Campania-style pizza like the pies we’ve eaten in Naples and at Pepe in Grani, which many, including us, consider to be the best pizzeria in the world. When we’re in Philadelphia, these are our favorite spots for pizza:

Capofitto Forno

Pizza at Capofitto in Philadelphia

Pizza at Philadelphia’s Capofitto rivals pizza we’ve eaten in Naples, the birthplace of Margherita pizza.

Stephanie Reitano doesn’t do anything halfway. Before she opened Capogiro (see below), she trained in Italy to learn the best gelato practices and procedures. Her results, in terms of gelato quality and business success, have been nothing short of remarkable.

Reitano did the same thing before opening Capofitto, her Neapolitan pizzeria in Old City. Not only did she hone her pizza skills in Naples, but she even staged with top pizzaiolo Ciro Salvo, at one of our favorite pizzerias, 50 Kalo. Talk about commitment!

Reitano understands that good pizza starts with the dough which she cooks to light, slight crispness in a wood-fired oven. Try a Margherita con Bufala pie to experience the Neapolitan classic, but also consider other pies topped with local ingredients and Italian imports.

As for dessert, the answer is obvious. Eat the city’s best gelato from Capogiro. To us, this choice is a no-brainer. Plus, no matter how much pizza you eat, there’s always room for ice cream.

Pro Tip:  Don’t be deterred by the inevitable Philadelphia construction on Chestnut Street. Once you walk through its doors, Capofitto is a happy place for lovers of pizza and gelato.

Capofitto Forno is located at 233 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA.

Pizzeria Vetri

Pizza at Pizzeria Vetri in Philadelphia

We’re suckers for authentic Neapolitan pizza including the ones served at Pizzeria Vetri.

Opened by Chef Marc Vetri in 2013 and now owned by retailer Urban Outfitters, Pizzeria Vetri dishes out Neapolitan pizza at multiple locations including two in Philadelphia. Did we mention that we love Neapolitan pizza? Pizzeria Vetri makes traditional pies that meet our pizza standards, and that’s saying a lot.

Beyond pizza, Pizzeria Vetri has a menu filled with Italian treats, both savory and sweet. We recommend you start your meal with a rotolo. Made with pizza dough, mortadella, ricotta and pistachio pesto, the rotolo may be our favorite item on Pizzeria Vetri’s menu.

Pro Tip:  Stop for pizza at Pizza Vetri’s Art Museum location before or after you visit the Barnes Foundation. It’s just around the corner.

Pizzeria Vetri has multiple locations in Philadelphia.

Santucci’s

Pizza at Santucci's in Philadelphia

Square is the new round at Santucci’s in Philadelphia.

As much as we love a properly baked Neapolitan pizza, sometimes we are happy to eat a pie smothered with sauce, coated with melted cheese and topped with Italian sausage. When that’s our mood, Santucci’s in the Italian Market is our go-to spot in Philadelphia.

Beyond a consistently crunchy crust and top quality sausage, Santucci’s pulls away from the pizza pack for two reasons. Not only does Santucci’s make rectangular pies instead of the standard round shape, they also add a slightly sweet tomato sauce on top of the cheese. The results may look strange but the taste gets our thumbs up.

Pro Tip:  Feeling lazy? Santucci’s delivers. Just saying.

Santucci’s has multiple locations. We frequented the Italian Market location at 901 S 10th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA.

Bagels + Brunch

Preparing Bagels at Philly Style Bagels in Philadelphia

Bagels are a good brunch option in Philadelphia, especially when they’re hand-rolled and prepared Philly style.

Like many cities, Philadelphia has a thriving brunch scene with bustling weekend crowds that willingly wait hours for a table. When we lived in Philly, our favorite brunch go-to was Morning Glory Diner for its breakfast fare and a chill vibe as well as the short two-block walk from our house. When we weren’t in our neighborhood, we liked to eat lemon ricotta pancakes at Cafe Lift and traditional New Orleans fare at the Khyber.

Until recently, bagels were good but not great in Philly. That all changed with several bagel shops opening in town, with our favorites being Knead Bagels and Philly Style Bagel. Both of these bagel shops serve top quality bagels with a twist – think togarashi bagels at Knead Bagels and bagels made with beer at Philly Style Bagels.

Philly Style Bagels

Bagels at Philly Style Bagels in Philadelphia

The everything bagels at Philly Style Bagels have an extra kick of pepper.

The debate between New York and Montreal as to which city makes the better bagel now has a third rival for the claim. Young guns Collin Shapiro and Jonathon Zilber have joined the competition with their locally loved and nationally lauded bagels.

For the past few years, the team at Philly Style Bagels has been hand rolling bagels and boiling them in IPA beer from nearby Yards Brewing Company (see below). While bagels in Montreal are boiled in honey water and New York bagels are boiled in malt syrup, Philadelphians Shapiro and Zilber ramp up their bagels with beer. These bagels aren’t cheap, but these round beauties are some of the best in the world.

According to Zilber, beer adds “flavor, color and crunch” while “embracing the culture of Philadelphia”. Based on the lines that form daily to buy bagels, sandwiches and Elixr coffee at Philly Style Bagels, they’re doing something right.

Pro Tip:  Set your alarm and go to Philly Style Bagels early. When they sell out of bagels, they’re done for the day.

Philly Style Bagels is located at 1451 E Columbia Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19125, USA.

Knead Bagels

Bagel and Lox at Knead Bagels in Philadelphia

Sometimes we just want to start our day with a bagel and lox like this one we ate at Knead Bagels.

At first glance, Knead Bagels looks like a typical bagel shop. But when you look closer for the full picture, you will see that Knead doesn’t stop at plain, poppy seed and sesame bagels.

Instead, the Washington Square West bagel shop offers provocative bagel flavors like togarashi, black sesame and lavender. And salt bagel lovers get an option that adds fennel seed to the mix.

Sure, you could slather plain cream cheese on a Knead bagel, but that’s kind of boring. We suggest trying a specialty cream cheese spread like scallion lime or roasted tomato. Then again, you could go for whitefish salad. We rarely say no to the fishy yet legendary bagel topping.

Pro Tip:  Vegetarians have multiple options at Knead including a hot kale sandwich, kale salad and a vegetarian banh mi. Vegans will also find options here like superfood and flax bagels.

Knead Bagels is located at 725 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA.

Sam’s Morning Glory Diner

Sam's Morning Glory Diner in Philadelphia

Long-time employee Millie Crotty keeps it real at Sam’s Morning Glory Diner.

Open since 1997 before brunch was a ‘thing’ in Philadelphia and around the world, Morning Glory Diner set the standard for daytime dining in the city. All these years later, crowds still line up at this brunch spot in the Bella Vista neighborhood, especially on weekends.

Though Morning Glory serves comfort food like frittatas, breakfast burritos, pancakes and monte cristo sandwiches, we recommend the diner’s breakfast platter. In addition to two eggs cooked to order, the value-priced platter comes with a jumbo buttermilk biscuit, potatoes or grits and a fruit. Meat is an optional add-on for those feeling particularly carnivorous.

One of the most unique diners in Philadelphia, Morning Glory has its quirks. In addition to serving food with a side of attitude, the diner makes its own jams and ketchup. If you like Heinz ketchup, you won’t find it here.

Pro Tip:  Bring cash. Unlike most Philly restaurants, Morning Glory Diner does NOT take credit cards.

Sam’s Morning Glory Diner is located at 735 S 10th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA.

Additional Brunch Spots

The Clucker at On Point Bistro in Philadelphia

Though your cardiologist wouldn’t approve, The Clucker at On Point Bistro is a fun brunch option in Philadelphia.

You would need a year of Sundays to eat at every brunch spot in Philadelphia. Once you hit our favorites mentioned above, we recommend you continue your mission at the following spots:

  • Cafe Lift – The Callowhill neighborhood cafe serves brunch daily. Don’t miss their lemon ricotta pancakes topped with fresh strawberries, honey and whipped cream!
  • Honey’s Sit ‘N Eat – With locations in Northern Liberties and Center City, Honey’s serves food all day though brunch is our favorite meal here. Be sure to order a potato latke on the side.
  • Khyber Pass Pub – We like eating at the Khyber at any time of day. What makes brunch special is that it’s less crowded than most Philadelphia restaurants. For some reason, people don’t realize that the Khyber serves a great one on the weekends with dishes like praline bacon, beignets and bananas foster french toast. Shhh.
  • On Point Bistro – This local BYOB in Point Breeze excels at serving satisfying brunch dishes like its signature Clucker, a sweet potato waffle generously topped with fried chicken, poached eggs, honey mustard hollandaise and maple syrup. We also like their cobb salad.
  • Sabrina’s Cafe – Now with three locations in town plus two in the burbs, Sabrina’s has been a popular Philly brunch spot since their original Italian Market cafe opened in 2001. The go-to menu item here is double stuffed french toast.

Cheap Eats

Matzoh Ball Soup at Rooster Soup in Philadelphia

Eating matzoh ball soup at The Rooster is a guilt-free experience. Not only do the flavors take like a holiday dinner, but 100% of the profits go to Broad Street Ministry to assist the needy.

Despite all the fun restaurants in Philly slinging cheesesteaks and hoagies, sandwiches are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cheap eats in the City of Brotherly Love. Seriously, the options are wide if you’re looking for a quick meal on the go.

When you visit Philadelphia, you’ll find all kinds of food values including fried chicken, hummus, tacos and matzoh ball soup. There’s no need to drop a bundle every time you eat out in Philly unless that’s your thing. These are our favorite spots when we want to save money and/or eat our guilty pleasures in Philadelphia:

Federal Donuts

Fancy Donut at Federal Donuts in Philadelphia

Donuts are just one of Federal Donuts’ offerings. The other two are fried chicken and coffee. Pictured here is a vanilla rhubarb fancy donut just moments before we ate it.

Federal Donuts serves only three things. But these three are enough to satisfy crowds of hungry Philadelphians who affectionately call the spot Fed Nuts. In Philadelphia, this is THE place to go for cake-style donuts and Korean-style fried chicken. Great coffee is a bonus.

When Fed Nuts opened its first location in the Pennsport neighborhood in 2011, the crowds were crazy. Not only did the restaurant regularly run out of hot donuts but they served a limited supply of fried chicken on a first-come-first-serve basis, selling out every day. We missed out on fried chicken on our first visit but quickly learned to arrive early for a chance at the twice cooked, Korean-style fried birds.

Things have changed for the better now that Fed Nuts has multiple locations in the city. Guests no longer have to arrive early or queue up for hot donuts or fried chicken. Plus, Fed Nuts has added fried chicken sandwiches, a hybrid of one of its three offerings. And there’s even a convenient parking lot at their North 7th Street location.

Flavors at Fed Nuts skew toward the exotic. Customers can choose between fresh hot (which are our favorite) and fancy donuts (also excellent). Hot donut flavors are basic with flavors like cinnamon, brown sugar and strawberry lavender while fancy flavors are more unusual with varieties including vanilla rhubarb, blueberry lemonade and maple bacon.

Fried chicken is offered in dry style flavors like za’atar, coconut curry, buttermilk ranch and wet style flavors like chili garlic, honey ginger and sweet soy. You may need to visit twice if you can’t pick just one style.

Pro Tip: Although each order of fried chicken comes with a hot donut, buy a few extra to enjoy later. Hot, fresh donuts are best eaten ‘hot and fresh’ while fancies travel better and will stay fresh for about a day.

Federal Donuts has multiple locations in the city. We usually go to the original location at 1219 S 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA.

John’s Roast Pork

Cheesesteak at John's Roast Pork in Philadelphia

More than just roast pork sandwiches, John’s Roast Pork serves some of the best cheesesteaks in town.

Recognized by James Beard and loved by locals, John’s Roast Pork serves some of the best sandwiches in a sandwich city. In fact, many Philadelphians (including us) consider John’s Roast Pork as THE best spot in the city for roast pork sandwiches and cheesesteaks.

The Bucci family opened John’s Roast Pork back in 1930. In many ways, the sandwich shop hasn’t changed a lot over the years. It’s still located at the industrial corner of Weccacoe and Snyder Avenue near shop docks, warehouses and I-95. The service is surly as ever but in a friendly way – just know what you want to order when you enter.

The line is long but John’s wants to serve customers quickly. The experience is chaotic but orderly and you will rarely have to wait more than 15 minutes for your sandwiches. On the upside, the eatery is now open six days a week and until 7:00 pm.

By all means, order a roast pork sandwich here – it’s the best in town. Be prepared to share it or take part home to eat later. It’s that big! Our best recommendation is to order your pork with greens (spinach – they don’t use broccoli rabe at John’s) and sharp. Sharp provolone is one of Philly’s great sandwich secrets. The aged cheese adds a funky edge of flavor that makes this sandwich special.

John’s cheesesteak is arguably the best in the city. John’s uses top quality meat and, controversially, does not use cheese whiz. It’s a spectacular sandwich. Some would say that the mixture of cheese whiz and grease from the steaks at Pat’s, Jim’s and Geno’s makes those sandwiches special and we don’t disagree. But to us, John’s cheesesteaks are just a little better.

Be prepared to roll up your sleeves after you snag a spot at an outdoor picnic table. If you really love your sandwich, you can buy some roast pork by the pound to take back to your hotel room.

Pro Tip:  Although Philly is a walking city, drive or take an Uber to John’s Roast Pork. The long walk to deep South Philly is not particularly scenic.

John’s Roast Pork is located at 14 Snyder Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19148, USA.

Cosmi’s Deli

Sicillian Hoagie at Cosmi's in Philadelphia

This Sicilian Hoagie is loaded with prosciutto, soppressata, hot capicola, imported mortadella, sharp provolone and cherry peppers. We approve!

Like most Philadelphians, we had a favorite hoagie spot. Sadly, that spot is now a hair salon on the edge of the Italian Market. Such is progress.

Sure we could eat hoagies at Wawa, the popular Philadelphia convenience store, but sometimes we want a more loaded sandwich. After a bit of research, we found Cosmi’s Deli to satisfy our hoagie needs.

Owner Mike Seccia continues his family’s culinary traditions at a tiny corner stand in South Philly. He and his team serve a full menu of hoagies featuring Italian cured meats, meatballs, tuna, turkey, roast beef and more. Cosmi’s also has hoagie options for Vegetarians.

Pro Tip:  For those not familiar with a hoagie, think of it as a submarine sandwich or hero. They’re all pretty much the same thing with slight regional variations. Being from Philly, we’re hoagie-biased. One more thing – order your hoagie with oil and vinegar for it to be authentic.

Cosmi’s Deli is located at 1501 S 8th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA.

Dizengoff / Goldie

Hummus at Dizengoff in Philadelphia

The hummus at Dizengoff will make you think you’re actually on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv.

After Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook became kings of Israeli food in Philadelphia with Zahav (see above), they cemented this status with Dizengoff and Goldie. Located a block from each other, these two casual eateries strike a chord with local hummus lovers and falafel fans.

Dizengoff will remind you of a Tel Aviv hummusiya with its hip design and bold flavors. Not surprisingly, hummus is the star here and it’s just as creamy as at Zahav. However, unlike Zahav, you can order toppings like lamb and veggies depending on the current seasonal menu.

Tahini Shake at Goldie in Philadelphia

Goldie serves four tahini shakes – original, Turkish coffee, mint chocolate and banana. Try all four and pick your favorite.

Female-friendly Goldie specializes in just a few things – falafels, fries and tahini shakes. All three items are completely vegan and utterly addictive. If you don’t believe us, stop by for a quick bite and watch the constant flow of eager customers. Without a doubt, you’ll be back to join the flow.

Pro Tip:  Grab some friends and do an Israeli-themed progressive lunch at Dizengoff and Goldie. The two restaurants are literally one block apart.

Dizengoff is located at 1625 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA.
Goldie is located at 1526 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102, USA.

DiNic’s

Roast Pork Sandwich at Dinics in Philadelphia

You may want to use a fork when you eat a roast pork sandwich in Philadelphia so you don’t miss a bite.

As the nation’s fifth biggest city, Philadelphia is big enough to support multiple restaurants that specialize in roast pork sandwiches. In addition to John’s Roast Pork (see above), we recommend award-winning DiNic’s for visitors who want to experience this quintessential Philadelphia sandwich without leaving the center of town.

For better and worse, DiNic’s is located inside the Reading Terminal. The good part of this location is that it’s highly convenient to public transportation and near many of the city’s top tourist sites. On the downside, the stand is often crowded with a long line for seats.

Don’t be scared by the line – this sandwich is worth the wait. You’ll know what we mean after you take a bite, especially if you order your sandwich with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone.

Pro Tip:  Start your day with a roast pork sandwich at Dinic’s. It’s the best way to miss the crowds. Plus, the ample carbs and protein will energize you during a busy day of sightseeing.

DiNic’s is located inside the Reading Terminal Market at 51 N 12th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.

Cheese Steaks – Pat’s/Geno’s/Jim’s/Tony Luke’s

Loaded Cheesesteak at Pats King of Steaks in Philadelphia

Most people top their cheesesteaks with cheese and fried onions. Don’t judge Daryl. He prefers ordering ‘pizza steaks’ with whiz and mushrooms. It may not be traditional, but he has ordered them this way dating back to his childhood. In his opinion, it’s perfectly messy and absolutely acceptable.

We get that tourists have a mission to eat a cheesesteak when they visit Philadelphia. We do the same with signature foods when we visit American cities like New OrleansCincinnati and New York.

We even have an answer to the inevitable question as to whether we prefer Pat’s or Geno’s for cheesesteaks. Drum roll – the answer is generally John’s Roast Pork (see above) in deep South Philly.

We’ll eat at Pat’s and Geno’s when it’s convenient (like at 4 am on a weeknight), but we’ll travel to John’s when we crave a juicy cheesesteak. We must also mention Jim’s, a local cheesesteak favorite since 1939, both for its sandwiches and South Street location.

Most visitors can’t resist visiting Pat’s and Geno’s, vying cheesesteak stands at 9th and Passyunk. The neon-adorned stands are internationally recognized as much for the friendly competition as for their meaty sandwiches. As a bonus, both Pat’s (open since 1930) and Geno’s (open since 1966) are open 24/7 for early birds and late nighters.

For lifelong Philadelphians, there’s a certain degree of nostalgia associated with eating a steak from Jim’s, Geno’s or Pats. As we said above, there’s a special way the cheese whiz combines with the fat from the thinly sliced, flat top grilled steak. It’s special. While we do love John’s best, we still think that eating a steak at Jim’s, Pat’s or Geno’s is worth a special trip.

Another option is Tony Lukes – a relative newcomer since opening in 1992. Tony Luke’s serves quality cheesesteaks along with other specialties like Pork Italian (similar to John’s and DiNic’s) and chicken cutlet parmesan sandwiches. Their most famous location on Oregon Avenue gained popularity due to its proximity to the Philadelphia Sports Complex in deep South Philly.

FYI, Philadelphians are crazy about their sports teams and there’s nothing better than a cheesesteak either before or after you catch a game. Ask us later about the time we woke up at 5am in Da Nang, Vietnam to watch the Eagles win the Superbowl…

Fun Idea:  Take a Cheesesteak Tour by Segway so that you can taste a variety of Philly cheesesteaks all in one day.

Geno’s Steaks is located at 1219 Street 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA.
Jim’s Steaks is located at 400 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA.
Pat’s King of Steaks is located at 1237 E Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA.
Tony Luke’s is located at 39 E Oregon Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19148, USA.

South Philly Barbacoa

Tacos at South Philly Barbacoa in Philadelphia

Don’t skip the fixings bar when you eat at South Philly Barbacoa. Flavorful add-ons like peppers and guacamole add an extra pop of color to the elevated Mexican comfort food.

Recognized by the likes of Bon Appetit and James Beard, Chef Cristina Martínez specializes in cooking authentic Mexican food like lamb consommé and tacos. Not your standard tacos, Martínez makes hers with freshly pressed tortilla shells and tops them with slow cooked lamb and pork barbacoa.

Does this story sound familiar? If so, you may have seen Martínez and her cooking on David Chang’s Netflix show Ugly Delicious. Either way, you’re going to want to arrive early when the restaurant is open on weekend days to try the famous barbacoa before it sells out.

Pro Tip: Craving Mexican food for lunch during the week? Go to El Compadre, South Philly Barbacoa’s sister restaurant, for tortas and guisados.

El Compadre is located at 1149 S 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA.
South Philly Barbacoa is located at 1140 S 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA.

Famous 4th Street Delicatessen

Pastrami on Rye at Famous Deli in Philadelphia

Though not internationally famous like the Philly cheesesteak, the Pastrami on Rye sandwich at Famous 4th Street Deli is a local classic.

Don’t freak out when you see the prices at Famous 4th Street Deli. Their monstrous sandwiches are actually a good value at this traditional New York deli-style eatery. At Famous Fourth, a classic pastrami on rye sandwich is big enough to share, though you may need to ask for extra rye bread.

As for the Famous chicken soup with a huge matzo ball, kreplach, noodles, rice and kasha – you can share that too and take the rest home or to your hotel room to enjoy later. You’ll want to order your own can of Dr. Brown’s soda, at least that’s what we do.

Pro Tip:  Discount diners won’t want to miss the coleslaw and dill pickles at Famous Fourth. They’re a free start to every meal.

Famous 4th Street Delicatessen is located at 700 S 4th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA.

Foolish Waffles

Foolish Waffles in Philadelphia

Despite the whimsical name, sweet and savory waffles at Foolish Waffles are serious business. Pictured here is the food truck’s signature Belly Banh Mi Waffle with Tofu.

Owner Robin Admana started her award-winning food truck business back in 2014 (along with former partner Flo Gardner) armed with a jacked up truck and a dream. Between creativity and hard work, the ladies of Foolish Waffles built a loyal following with fans who chase the truck for the chance to eat freshly made regular waffles and special, sugary liege waffles served with both sweet and savory toppings.

You can’t make a bad waffle choice – that would be foolish. If nothing jumps out to you, we recommend trying a fried chicken waffle, a banh mi waffle (with pork belly or tofu) or a simple, crunchy liege waffle with fresh berries and whipped cream.

Pro Tip:  Since the Foolish Waffle truck is mobile, its location and hours are not set. Click here to see where you can find the truck this month.

Foolish Waffles is located on the streets of Philadelphia. Check the website for an up-to-date truck schedule.

Asian Food

Sashimi at Royal Izakaya in Philadelphia

It wasn’t so long ago that good sushi was difficult to find in Philadelphia. Those days are now over that the city has a number of quality sushi restaurants like Royal Sushi & Izakaya.

We love Asian food so much that we celebrated our rehearsal dinner in Chinatown back in 2007 when Philly’s best Asian food was in the one center city neighborhood. We still have our roster of favorites in Chinatown, but we’re pleased to report that many of the city’s best Asian restaurants have spread to different neighborhoods throughout the city.

Pick an Asian country and you will likely find a restaurant serving its cuisine in Philadelphia. We recommend that you start exploring Philly’s Asian restaurants with a hungry stomach and a plan. Since each restaurant has its own specialty, start with our favorites until you have your own.

Dim Sum Garden

Soup Dumplings at Dim Sum Garden in Philadelphia

Why eat soup in a bowl when you can eat soup in a dumpling at Dim Sum Garden?

Originally located in a dank space on 11th Street next to an infamous Chinatown bus depot, Dim Sum Garden moved to the big time when it relocated to Race Street in 2013. Since the move, the Shanghainese Chinatown restaurant has achieved local cult status due to the rabid popularity of its main dish –  Xia Long Bao, otherwise known as soup dumplings.

Mother/daughter team of Chef ShiZhou Da and Sally Song showed foresight when they moved to the larger space, evidenced by the line of regulars who queue up daily to eat soup dumplings filled with a choice of either pork or crabmeat and pork. Sure, the restaurant offers other dumpling choices like excellent Shao Mai, but the soup dumplings are the star of the show. They also serve a pan-fried soup dumpling (Shengjian Bao) for those who are so inclined.

Pro Tip:  Dim Sum Garden has secured a liquor license and no longer allows customers to BYOB for free.

Dim Sum Garden is located at 1020 Race Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.

Sang Kee Noodle House

Roast Pork Noodle Soup at Sang Kee in Philadelphia

Although the roast pork noodle soup at Sang Kee is big enough to share, you’ll want to eat the whole bowl by yourself.

Sang Kee is not a hidden gem that we discovered together. Instead, the Hong Kong style Chinatown restaurant was a personal favorite of ours before we met. So it should be no surprise that this is the restaurant where we kicked off our wedding weekend with a food-focused rehearsal dinner.

In our opinion, Sang Kee is the closest thing Philly has to a Hong Kong style roast duck house. Like in Hong Kong, an array of hanging roast ducks, char siu pork and soy sauce chickens greet diners at the restaurant’s foyer. Ting Wong is another popular Hong Kong restaurant, but we believe that Sang Kee has the best char siu pork in the city. Plus, their roast duck, while not always consistent, is usually a winner.

There are a number of other items on Sang Kee’s menu but make no mistake – roast Southern Chinese meats are the big draw here. Order simple and you can’t go wrong. Sang Kee previously offered excellently valued Peking duck. Unfortunately, they have raised the price and the duck is no longer the value that it once was.

We both have our favorite dishes at Sang Kee. Mindi always orders a big bowl of noodle soup loaded with shrimp and pork wontons, char siu pork and wide noodles. Daryl prefers to order a plate generously topped with roast pork, duck, chicken and green vegetable over rice.

Pro Tip:  Don’t feel compelled to order dessert at Sang Kee. Each meal ends with ice cream and fortune cookies.

Sang Kee Noodle House is located at 3549 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.

Royal Sushi & Izakaya

Tofu at Royal Izakaya in Philadelphia

Did we eat this agedashi tofu in Japan? Nope, we ate it at Philly’s Royal Sushi & Izakaya.

We discovered the izakaya concept in Las Vegas and got the full experience in Tokyo, but Philly didn’t have a decent izakaya when we lived there. We heard rumors of the Khyber team opening one in the Queen Village neighborhood, but it never happened. That is, it never happened until after we hit the road and left town.

Royal Sushi & Izakaya is the izakaya that we had wished for when we lived in Philadelphia. The cool factor is high with an anonymous sign pulled straight from a Tokyo back alley (blink and you’ll miss it) and Japanese animé projected on the restaurant’s interior brick wall. But it’s the food that makes this izakaya truly special.

In addition to traditional izakaya fare like yakitori and chasu buns, Royal excels with a sushi program led by Jesse and Massaharu Ito, both formerly at the beloved Fuji in nearby Haddonfield, New Jersey. Guests can order sushi and sashimi at the izakaya, but the better option is to reserve a spot at the intimate sushi bar in the back room for a special omakase meal.

Pro Tip:  Royal Sushi & Izakaya is a great spot for night owls since it’s open until 2 am every day of the week.

Royal Sushi & Izakaya is located at 780 S 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA.

Han Dynasty

Dan Dan Noodles at Han Dynasty in Philadelphia

The dan dan noodles at Han Dynasty are so good that they inspired multiple locations.

Historically, the Han Dynasty was a golden age in China many moons ago. Today, Han Dynasty is a gem of a restaurant group for lovers of spicy food in Philadelphia and beyond. The cuisine is Sichuan, and the spice level is as hot as you want it to be.

Han Chiang opened the original Han Dynasty in Philly exurb Exton and soon expanded into Philly proper. He now has nine locations including the original location and three in the city. With additional locations in New Jersey and New York City, Chiang’s dynasty is for real.

We usually start our Han Dynasty meals with dan dan noodles and spicy, crispy cucumbers. Main dishes run the gamut much like a who’s who of Sichuan favorites. Whatever you order, the key is to select the right heat level. Too low and your taste buds will be bored. Too high and you’ll need to be peeled off the ceiling.

Pro Tip:  If you like spicy Sichuan food and you’re in Rittenhouse you may want to check out Jane G’s. They also serve great renditions of Sichuan favorites like MaPo Tofu and Double Cooked Pork along with excellent Cumin Lamb.

Han Dynasty has multiple locations. We like the location at 123 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA.
Jane G’s is located at 1930 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103.

CheU

Cheu Noodle Bar in Philadelphia

Food at CHeU Noodle Bar | Photo Credit:  C. Smyth for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

When Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh opened CHeU Noodle Bar in the Washington Square neighborhood in 2013, it was a cool joint serving creative Asian food in a funky bar setting. We often went at off hours to avoid crowds in the tiny space and ordered dishes like Brisket Ramen, a unique, spicy take on the Japanese classic with a matzoh ball and kimchee. For a while, the spot felt like a hidden gem with its graffitied walls, paper lanterns and space for just a couple dozen or so guests.

Puchowitz and Darragh quickly expanded their horizons with bigger, bolder spaces in South Philly (Bing Bing Dim Sum) and Fishtown, two of Philly’s hottest neighborhoods. Expect fun designs and non-traditional Asian food at the newer locations which are similar yet different to the original CHeU. Without a doubt, these are some of the most trendy restaurants in Philly.

Pro Tip:  All three locations offer happy hour specials. Check the websites for specific details.

Bing Bing Dim Sum is located at 1648 E Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19148, USA.
CHeU Fishtown is located at 1416 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19125, USA.
CHeU Noodle Bar is located at 255 S 10th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.

Stock

Pho at Stock in Philadelphia

The chicken pho at Stock is a meal in a bowl.

Open since 2014, Stock has become a fixture in Fishtown despite its tiny space and a limited menu with just a handful of Vietnamese food favorites including pho, salads and banh mi sandwiches. Locals often queue up for a spot so that they can eat a satisfying bowl of pho before hitting the many bars that have sprouted in Fishtown over the past decade.

Chef Tyler Akin quietly made a name for himself at Stock before achieving dubious acclaim in 2016 due to a poorly-received Bon Appetit video that featured the chef explaining how to eat a bowl of pho. He weathered the PR storm and has since co-opened Res Ipsa Cafe (see below) in Rittenhouse Square and a second Stock in that same tony neighborhood.

Pro Tip:  Stock doesn’t take reservations. Plan your visit accordingly.

The original Stock is located at 308 E Girard Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19125, USA. The second location is in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood.

 Additional Asian Restaurants

Sushi at Zama in Philadelphia

Zama is a great choice for sushi in Rittenhouse Square.

Can you tell that we like Asian food? Here are additional Asian eateries that we love in Philadelphia:

  • Cafe Diem – This casual day-time spot serves excellent bowls of Bun Bo Hue and Pho near the Italian Market.
  • David’s Mai Lai Wah – Open until 3 am seven days a week, David’s is great for late night noodles and people watching in Chinatown.
  • Nam Phuong – When you crave Vietnamese food beyond soup, Nam Phuong has a massive menu filled with pages of Vietnamese food favorites. Though just outside the boundaries of Center City, Nam Phuong’s strip mall location offers free parking for customers.
  • Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House – Philadelphia’s original hand-drawn noodle house offers an extensive menu in its expanded Chinatown location. Some people prefer their shaved noodles. As for us, we agree to disagree on this important topic.
  • Zama – Though overshadowed by some newer sushi joints, Zama is a solid sushi restaurant in Rittenhouse Square. The restaurant has a second location called CoZara in University City.

Coffee

Cappuccino in Philadelphia

It’s no longer difficult to find a good cappuccino in Philadelphia. Or, in our case, two.

Ten years ago, coffee in Philadelphia was nothing to write home about with a plethora of chain cafes serving burnt coffee and frozen coffee drinks to the masses. What a difference a decade can make! Philadelphia now has excellent coffee shops and roasters all over the city.

If you’re not from the United States and decide to drink coffee in Philly, it’s not uncommon to drink filtered coffee made from automatic drip machines. Not only is this the cheapest option on most cafe menus, but drip coffee also tastes surprisingly good and is the best way to drink coffee on the go.

Drinking coffee in Philadelphia will always hold a soft spot for us because this is the city where we developed our ongoing love for third wave coffee. Though we’ve drunk some of the world’s best coffee in cities like Cape Town and Naples, we still love the following Philadelphia cafes:

Elixr Coffee Roaster

Evan Inatome at Elixr Coffee

Evan Inatome became a pioneer of the Philly coffee scene when he opened the original Elixr Coffee in 2010.

Just steps away from hectic Walnut Street, Elixr Coffee Roasters is an oasis for coffee roasters in need of a jolt of classic artisan coffee. Evan Inatome opened the original Elixr in 2010 before relocating to the artistically designed flagship location and is quietly building a coffee juggernaut. He and the company now have multiple locations, a roastery and a busy distribution business.

We originally met Inatome in his Center City cafe and later had the opportunity to rap about coffee with him at Elixr’s Kensington roastery. As we learned, Inatome developed a love for coffee while volunteering in Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami. This love influences his ongoing commitment to procuring and roasting some of the world’s best beans.

Pro Tip:  If you can’t make it to Elixr, you can drink Elixr coffee at many outlets listed in this guide including Double Knot, Federal Donuts, Knead, Philly Style Bagels and Shot Tower.

Elixr is growing rapidly with locations throughout the city. We like to drink cappuccinos, Chemex pour-overs and drip coffee (of course) at the location at 207 S Sydenham Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102, USA.

Shot Tower Coffee

Shot Tower Coffee in Philadelphia

Locals fill the chairs at Shot Tower Coffee in the Queen Village neighborhood. | Photo Credit:  R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia™

Though several coffee shops were located near our Bella Vista house, we usually trekked to Shot Tower for our daily jolt of joe when we wanted to drink locally. Of course, the baristas at Shot Tower craft good cappuccinos and lattes – that’s a given. But we also preferred the cafe’s airy space, good lighting and friendly service.

Until recently, Shot Tower used beans from Counter Culture but has switched to local Elixr beans. After drinking iced lattes under the new coffee program, we wholeheartedly approve of the change.

Pro Tip:  Shot Tower offers a frequent buyer program for regular customers. Just ask the barista to put your information in their system.

Shot Tower Coffee is located at 542 Christian Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA.

Menagerie Coffee

Breakfast at Menagerie Coffee in Philadelphia

More than just coffee, Menagerie also serves light breakfast and lunch food items.

After spending time at coffee shops in Helsinki and Stockholm, we appreciate cafes with clean Scandinavian design. In Philadelphia, Meneragie fits this bill and then some.

Beyond its modern decor, this Old City cafe serves expertly crafted brews made with beans from Minneapolis’ Dogwood Coffee Co. Breaking the mold, Menagerie has opted against procuring and roasting its own beans so that the owners can focus on the cafe itself.

Pro Tip:  Snag a space by the cafe’s front window. In our opinion, this is the ideal place to sit at Menagerie.

Menagerie Coffee is located at 18 S 3rd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA.

La Colombe Coffee Roasters

Latte Taps at La Colombe in Philadelphia

La Colombe is a pioneer when it comes to draft latte.

La Colombe was one of our gateways to better coffee, though we’ve since outgrown the company’s dark roasting style. Todd Carmichael opened the original La Colombe in 1994 before he found fame and fortune with the Travel Channel and Chobani. With over 30 locations in cities across the US, La Colombe is now a national powerhouse when it comes to coffee.

Even though the original cafe is just off of Rittenhouse Square, the company’s flagship location is in Fishtown. Not only does La Colombe brew beans onsite in Fishtown, but they pull tap draft lattes from a tap and serve excellent baked items and artisan baguettes. Seriously, head baker John McGrath’s baguettes are almost as good as those sold in France.

Pro Tip:  Be sure to try a draft latte when you visit La Colombe in Fishtown. The caffeinated beverage is surprisingly refreshing.

The flagship La Colombe Coffee Roasters is located at 1335 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19125, USA.

Additional Coffee Shops

Cappuccino at Reanimator in Philadelphia

You can enjoy a quality cappuccino at many Philadelphia cafes. We drank this one at ReAnimator in Fishtown.

The boom in Philadelphia coffee shops means that you don’t have to travel far to quench your caffeine fix. We always enjoy visiting these coffee shops as we travel around Philadelphia:

  • Bodhi Coffee – This cafe sources beans from PTs and Stumptown as well as food from local proprietors. However, the best part of Bodhi is its location directly next to Headhouse Square.
  • Ox Coffee – Part art gallery and part coffee shop, Ox differentiates itself by serving Stumptown coffee and not offering free Wi-Fi in its tranquil Queen Village location.
  • ReAnimator Coffee Roasters – Now with locations in Kensington, Fishtown and West Philly, ReAnimator roasts its own beans locally. The cafes offer a selection of single-origin and blends that customers can enjoy onsite or brew at home.
  • Res Ipsa Cafe – Co-owned by the owners of ReAnimator Coffee Roaster and Stock (see above), Ress Ipsa lives a dual life as a BYOB restaurant and cafe. Go for the coffee but consider staying for the food.
  • Rival Bros. Coffee – Ironically the owners of Rival Bros. are neither rivals nor brothers. There’s no confusion with the freshly roasted coffee that they serve in their three third wave cafes as well as via other local outlets. As a bonus, they also serve bread from High Street (see above) and pastries from Machine Shop Boulangerie.
  • Ultimo Coffee – Coffee pioneers Aaron and Elizbeth Ultimo opened the original Ultimo in the Newbold neighborhood back in 2009. They now roast their own beans and serve them in Ultimo’s three Philadelphia locations.

Dessert

Franklin Fountain in Philadelphia

Everything old is new again in Philadelphia including the ice cream at Franklin Fountain.

As the saying goes, life is short so eat dessert first. This mission could be a challenge in some cities but not in Philadelphia where dessert options are seemingly endless. If you don’t believe us, check out some of our favorite dessert spots and see for yourself.

Capogiro Gelato Artisans

Gelato at Capogiro in Philadelphia

Three scoops are better than one at Capogiro.

Stephanie Reitano solidified her position in the Philadelphia food scene when she opened her first Capogiro gelateria in 2003. Since then, Reitano has opened three additional shops and a pizzeria (see Capoffito above), won numerous worldwide awards and made a city of ice cream eaters smile.

Capogiro distinguishes itself by following ‘artigianale’ gelato rules that Reitano learned in Italy. With a focus on quality, the Philadelphia gelateria makes its gelato and sorbetto in-house in small batches with the best available local products. The result is nothing short of magic.

We can never resist Capogiro’s cioccolato scuro, an obscene chocolate gelato that the gelateria describes as ‘rich, black and serious.’ Depending on the season and our mood, we’ll pick another flavor to counterbalance the intense chocolate, perhaps avocado or melon.

Pro Tip:  Don’t skip Capogiro if you have dietary restrictions. Their sorbetto flavors are both Vegan and gluten-free.

Capogiro Gelato Artisans has multiple Philadelphia locations. The original location is at 119 S 13th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.

Franklin Fountain

Sundae at Franklin Fountain in Philadelphia

Franklin Fountain’s serves sundaes in takeaway boxes if you’re tight on time but still want dessert.

Open since 2004, Franklin Fountain has embraced its Old City neighborhood and could pass for an ice cream counter from a century ago. Beyond classic scoops, uniformed servers and a restored soda counter complete the retro picture.

Crowds form day and night to eat handmade ice cream made with local dairy and seasonal fruit. Flavors include chocolate and vanilla standards as well as more unique offerings like Teaberry Gum, a minty gum popular in the early 20th century. Vegans will even find options to whet their whistles.

Beyond ice cream, Franklin Fountain has a menu filled with tempting treats including egg creams, milkshakes and sundaes. The sundaes are quite elaborate and easily shareable with a friend or two.

Pro Tip:  Not in the mood for ice cream? Head over to Shane Confectionary for chocolate. The owners of Franklin Fountain own a retro candy store just down the block!

Franklin Fountain is located at 116 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA.
Shane Confectionary is located at 110 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA.

Isgro Pastries

Cake for Two at Isgro in Philadelphia

Icing fans will love the birthday cake for two at Isgro.

Living near the Italian Market can be dangerous. No, not for crime. The danger is being so close to Isgro Pastries.

Isgro has been a neighborhood institution since founder Gus Isgro opened the bakery’s doors in 1904. Over a hundred years later, crowds continue to gather at the shop and patiently wait for their numbers to be called so they can buy Italian pastries, cakes and custom-filled cannolis.

Pro Tip:  You can have your cake and eat it too at Isgro. The shop sells cakes of all sizes from individual cupcakes to elaborate, multi-tiered wedding cakes.

Isgro Pastries is located at 1009 Christian Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA.

Termini Bros. Bakery

Cannolis at Termini Bros in Philadelphia

The cannolis at Termini are a local favorite.

Just like Philadelphia has dueling cheesesteak shops, local Italian bakeries vie for top cannoli honors. Usually, the contenders are Isgro Pastries (see above) and Termini Bros., a third generation Italian bakery based in South Philly.

Opened by Giuseppe and Gaetano Termini in the early 1920s, aptly named Termini Bros. specializes in Italian pastries of all sorts including the aforementioned cannolis. Though customers can choose their cannoli fillings, we prefer the just-sweet-enough ricotta filling with tiny bits of chocolate.

Pro Tip:  Don’t plan to buy cannolis or other sweet treats on Christmas Eve day unless you like to wait in ridiculously long lines.

Termini Bros. Bakery has multiple locations. The original South Philly location is at 1523 S 8th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA.

Beiler’s Doughnuts

Beilers in Philadelphia

Beiler’s Doughnuts | Photo Credit: VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

With a population exceeding 1.5 million, Philadelphia is a city that can support more than one donut store. In fact, it’s a city that loves donuts – and a lot of them.

Based in nearby Reading and owned by the Beilers, an Amish family, Beiler’s Doughnuts is up to the challenge. The Pennsylvania Dutch operation has commanded a corner of the Reading Terminal (see below) since 1985 and sells thousands of donuts every day of the week there except Sunday.

Popular choices include apple fritters, banana cream and salted caramel, though the shop also sells fancy donuts with toppings like fruity pebbles and m&m’s. We shared a caramel apple donut during our last visit and found it to be finger-licking good.

Pro Tip:  Check out the industrious employees hand-rolling and filling the donuts at the market stand. Their efforts are nothing short of impressive.

Beiler’s Doughnuts has multiple locations. We recommend the location inside the Reading Terminal Market at 51 N 12th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.

Essen Bakery

Babka at Essen Bakery in Philadelphia

Admit it. You want to try this chocolate babka now.

Chef Tova du Plessis’ tiny Essen Bakery packs a big wallop with its traditional baked Jewish delicacies. The pedigreed chef, with an impressive resume that includes a stint at Zahav (see above), hails from Johannesburg, South Africa but her babka takes us straight to New York’s lower east side. It’s that good!

Though we’re partial to Essen’s babka, we understand if you want to try other treats like apple cake, rugelach and black & white cookies. The bakery also sells sandwiches and loaves of bread.

Pro Tip:  The Yiddish word essen translates to eat in English, which is exactly what you’ll want to do at Essen Bakery.

Essen Bakery is located at 1437 E Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA.

Markets

Tomatoes at Headhouse Square in Philadelphia

Tomatoes are the king of Philadelphia’s markets every summer.

Philadelphia’s MidAtlantic location positions the city as a hub for a myriad of fresh seasonal produce including our favorites – tomatoes from New Jersey and apples from Adams County, PA near Gettysburg. To try the best produce, we recommend shopping at local markets whenever possible.

Ironically, prices are often higher at Philadelphia’s markets when compared to chain grocery stores. However, in this case, sometimes you have to pay more for quality.

Headhouse Farmers Market

Apples at Headhouse Square in Philadelphia

Honeycrisp apples sell for a premium at Headhouse Farmers Market every autumn – and they’re worth every penny.

Operated by the Food Trust since 2007, Headhouse Farmers Market sells some of the area’s best local produce for just four hours a week. The popular market is open from 10 am to 2 pm on Sundays only.

Locals fill historic Headhouse Square shambles every week to buy the area’s best produce from dozens of vendors who regularly convene in Society Hill to sell their wares. Popular items include fruits, vegetables, meat, baked goods and local cheese.

When you go to Headhouse Market, we recommend stopping at the following stands:

  • Birchrun Hills – They make some of the best bleu cheese in the country.
  • Beechwood Orchards -Their seasonal selection of Honeycrisp apples are nothing short of incredible.
  • Happy Cat Organics – Go here for amazing heirloom tomatoes in a mind-numbing selection of varieties.
  • Talula’s Table – We like their house-made charcuterie and spreads.
  • John & Kira’s – This local chocolatier makes chocolates that look as beautiful as they taste.

Pro Tip: Bring a shopping bag when you shop at Headhouse Farmers Market.

Headhouse Farmers Market is located at 401 S 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA.

Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia

Hungry locals and curious tourists fill the Reading Terminal Market every day of the week.

Open since 1893, Reading Terminal Market functions both as a local institution and a major tourist attraction. Most visitors don’t know or care about the history. They come to this market for the food.

75 food vendors sell a melting pot of food from Chinese to Mexican, but the most popular spots sell local favorites like roast pork sandwiches and chocolate covered pretzels. The market even has an entire section dedicated to Pennsylvania Dutch merchants who commute from nearby Lancaster County.

With so many vendors, the choices can be overwhelming. We recommend you stop and eat at locations previously highlighted in this article including Beiler’s Doughnuts, DiNic’s, Dutch Eating Place, Sang Kee and Termini Bros. Bakery.

Pro Tip:  Plan to visit Reading Terminal Market at off-peak hours to avoid the largest crowds. We recommend mid-morning or mid-afternoon if that timing works with your touring schedule.

Reading Terminal Market is located at 51 N 12th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.

Italian Market

Italian Market in Philadelphia

Philadelphia’s Italian Market isn’t actually a market. It’s more of a shopping district.

Visitors to Philadelphia’s Italian Market will likely be surprised for two reasons. First, the market spans several blocks on South 9th Street and is not enclosed. Second, many of the shops are not actually Italian.

Despite the surprises, the Italian Market is in a wonderful place to visit in Philadelphia. The ‘market’ has numerous locally-owned, non-chain shops, markets, bakeries, butchers, cheese shops, not to mention taquerias, bodegas and Asian eateries.

We recommend starting your Italian Market stroll at 9th and Christian, perhaps after you have brunch at either Morning Gory or Sabrina’s (see both above). Wander south toward Washington Avenue making stops at Claudio’s and Di Bruno where you can indulge in Italian cheese and cured meats.

Cheese Counter at Di Bruno Brothers in Philadelphia

Tom Buchanan mongers cheese and meat at Di Bruno Brothers in the Italian Market.

After you’re done nibbling, pop into Fante’s to peruse the local store’s extensive kitchenware selection. Finally, if you’re still hungry, consider looping back to Villa di Roma, one of the most popular Italian restaurants in Philadelphia, for a plate of South Philly pasta with gravy.

Fun Idea:  Take a walking tour of the Italian Market so you can meet local shop owners and taste local food while hearing stories about the colorful neighborhood.

Claudio’s Specialty Foods is located at 924 S 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA.
Di Bruno Brothers has multiple locations including Rittenhouse Square and Washington Square. The Italian Market location is at 930 S 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA.
Fante’s Kitchen Shop is located at 1006 S 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA.
Villa di Roma is located at 936 S 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA.

Drinks

Cocktail at Friday Saturday Sunday in Philadelphia

You’re never far from a bar in Philadelphia. We drank this cocktail at the bar at Friday Saturday Sunday.

“There cannot be good living where there is not good drinking.”

Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia’s most favorite citizen, penned numerous famous quotes, though none more prolific about his adopted city than his quote about good drinking. We agree with Franklin. Philadelphia is a city conducive for both good living and good drinking.

Martha in Philadelphia

Bars like Martha in Fishtown cater to locals seven nights a week.

Visitors to the City of Brotherly Love will have no problem finding good spots to drink. To the contrary, the true challenge will be narrowing down the many options.

For decades, Philadelphia’s drinking scene was hampered by Pennsylvania’s archaic liquor laws. With the state finally loosening its noose, the city is seeing a renaissance of new bars, breweries and distilleries popping up all over the city.

Fun Idea:  Go bar hopping on a Philadelphia Prohibition Tour to learn more about the local bar scene. 

Beer at Standard Tap in Philadelphia

Philly’s a beer city. Be sure to try some while you’re in town. We drank this pint of Kenzinger at Standard Tap.

Beer lovers will feel right at home in Philly where craft beer is both popular and plentiful. This situation is nothing new. Prior to Prohibition, the city had almost 100 breweries within its borders, many located in a neighborhood now known as Brewerytown.

Beer connoisseurs consider Philadelphia to be one of the best beer cities in the country. The city has its own craft beer trail with multiple breweries and an entire week dedicated to drinking beer every year. Whether or not you follow the trail or visit the city during Philly Beer Week, you’ll easily find a spot where you can belly up to the bar and enjoy a pint or two.

Yards Brewing Company

Yards Brewing Company | Photo by C. Smyth for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

Even if you don’t drink beer, you won’t go thirsty in Philadelphia. Many of the same bars that serve beer also serve a variety of beverages. Some bars specialize in crafted cocktails and a few focus on wine. As you narrow the choices of where to drink in Philadelphia, we recommend the following spots:

  • Bob & Barbara’s Lounge – Go to this Center City vinyl-padded dive bar and order ‘The Special’, a can of PBR and a shot. It’s a true Philly experience.
  • Franklin Porter – In addition to a rotating selection of craft beer, this South Philly watering hole has one of the best burger deals in town.
  • The Franklin Bar – Formerly known as Franklin Morgage & Investment Company, this Rittenhouse Square speakeasy serves hundreds of cocktails. Just don’t try to order one with vodka.
  • Johnny Brenda’s – You can play pool, eat food and catch live music at this Fishtown favorite.
  • Lloyd Whiskey Bar – This East Girard Avenue bar in Fishtown offers an excellent selection of whiskeys as well as an underrated food menu.
  • Martha – What do you call a hipster neighborhood bar? In Philadelphia, the answer is Martha. Dig deeper and you’ll find fun drinks and food as well as cool spaces where you can enjoy them.
Monk's Cafe in Philadelphia

Monk’s Cafe in Philadelphia | Photo by J. Smith for Visit Philadelphia®

  • Monk’s Cafe – This Center City dungeon has the most extensive Belgian beer selection in town plus good food to eat with it. Pretend you’re actually in Belgium and order some mussels with frites.
  • Philadelphia Distilling – If you love Bluecoat gin, go to Fishtown to see where the magic happens. Try some samples of the popular liquor while you’re there. The distillery also has a classic bar serving drinks with Vieux Carré absinthe. Need we say more?
  • Standard Tap – Since you’re already going to the Tap for food, be sure to stay for one of the city’s best selections of local brews.
  • Tria – Philly isn’t a great wine city, but Tria is a great wine bar. In addition to drinking wine, you can also enjoy cheese, small plates and beer at Tria’s locations in Rittenhouse Square, Washington Square and University City.
  • Village Whiskey – We already recommended Village Whiskey for their burgers. To nobody’s surprise, their whiskey selection also merits a visit.
  • Yards Brewery – As more breweries open in Philadelphia, we’re still partial to Yards and the local brewery’s Ales of the Revolution. As a bonus to beer lovers, Yards offers daily tours and has a full kitchen at its new Spring Garden facility.

Hungry for more? Check out our food travel guides for Las Vegas and New Orleans


Where to Stay in Philadelphia

Room at Loews Hotel in Philadelphia

The Loews Philadelphia Hotel is one of the best hotels in Philadelphia. The rooms here are comfortably appointed and offer fantastic views of the city.

If you’re looking at Philadelphia hotels, we recommend staying at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel for its central location, friendly service and comfortable rooms. Although the Loews is located in the historic PSFS building, the amenities are totally modern including an indoor pool, flatscreen televisions and free wi-fi.

Click here to research rates for this 2foodtrippers-approved hotel in the heart of downtown Philadelphia.

Book a Tour

There’s more to do in Philadelphia besides eating and drinking. Click here to find an awesome Philadelphia tour or try one of these tours:

Buy a Travel Guide

We thank Visit Philadelphia for hosting us for two days. Beyond these two days, we self-funded the vast majority of the meals highlighted in this guide.

We've prepared the ultimate Philadelphia restaurant guide with lots of insider information. You'll find our top picks for Philly restaurants, cheap eats, cafes and bars. #Philadelphia #PhiladelphiaRestaurants #PhiladelphiaFood #Cheesesteaks

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