The best restaurants in Philadelphia

From red gravy Italian BYOBs, Vietnamese pho shops and award-winning cheesesteak stands to a multicourse che...

Posted: Sep 29, 2018 11:41 AM
Updated: Sep 29, 2018 11:41 AM

From red gravy Italian BYOBs, Vietnamese pho shops and award-winning cheesesteak stands to a multicourse chef's tasting menu primarily made with vegetables, you'll find it here in Philadelphia.

You could spend years exploring the restaurants when you travel to this city. But if your visit is short, start with one of these 15 spots to get a true taste of Philly. (And on the way out of town, stop by John's Roast Pork and pick up the house specialty with sharp provolone to take along with you.)

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The star chefs

Tucked alongside a nondescript apartment complex in Philly's Old City neighborhood, find Zahav, chef Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook's award-winning modern Israeli restaurant.

Start with the chef's famous hummus, served with hot laffa and salatim — a bright and flavorful assortment of vegetable salads — before tasting your way through the mezze and coal-grilled lamb or eggplant.

For a sweet finish, pastry chef Camille Cogswell seamlessly melds traditional and unexpected flavors in her memorable, Middle Eastern-inspired desserts.

Also from Solomonov and Cook's CookNSolo restaurant group, Abe Fisher is known for fresh takes on classic Jewish fare.

Chef Yehuda Sichel's specialties like chicken liver mousse with housemade rye and pastrami onion jam, and veal schnitzel tacos can be ordered a la carte on the prix-fixe menu, with three dishes for $39. It's one of the very best deals in the city.

No cheesesteaks here

If you can't get a reservation at nearby Vernick Food & Drink, arrive early to score seats at the bar and sample chef Greg Vernick's celebrated dishes.

Inspired toasts (try the one with hunks of lemony crab and slivers of pickled jalapenos), seasonally-changing small plates, and the city's best roasted chicken, cooked in a wood-fired oven, all pair well with the outstanding cocktails.

For equally inventive and delicious fare that all happens to be plant-based, head to Vedge.

While the menu changes often to take advantage of the season's freshest produce, some signature dishes remain, including the creamy and decadent rutabaga fondue served with soft pretzel and pickles.

Just a few blocks south, chef Marc Vetri's charming, eponymous restaurant has been serving upscale Italian cuisine for 20 years. Save this spot for a special occasion — the tasting menu-only dinner runs $165 per person, with course after delicious course of antipasti, handmade pastas, secondi and dolci.

Another celebrated restaurant with two decades under its belt, Fork highlights regional ingredients and cuisine for dinner, and it's a special spot for Sunday brunch, too.

Next door, and part of the same hospitality group, High Street on Market is an all-day restaurant with one of the best bread programs in the city.

Pastries, toasts and a slate of egg sandwiches that are hard to forget are available all morning, with house made soups and grain bowls for lunch and a thoughtful and ever-changing menu for dinner. Try the Hickory Town with Lancaster bologna, Amish horseradish cheddar, and fried red onion for a taste of some local delicacies. Loaves of bread are also for sale.

New kids in town

The two-year-old Hungry Pigeon serves breakfast, lunch and dinner from a cozy corner in Queen Village.

Chef-owners Scott Schroeder and Pat O'Malley (the latter formerly of New York City's Balthazar) are near-obfrsessive about sourcing regional ingredients, and it shows in dishes like fresh crudo, locally-grown veggies, farmstead cheeses and even the simple but outstanding bread and butter.

A little north in the vibrant Fishtown neighborhood, Suraya is a brand new addition to Philly's collection of all-day cafes.

Choose a seat inside the sprawling, colorfully-tiled space or outside in the charming back garden to feast on Lebanese specialties like herb falafel, yogurt-marinated chicken sandwiches and housemade hummus with slow-roasted lamb or crispy, paprika-coated chickpeas.

The beautiful Lebanese chai latte and the pink, spongy cruller, flavored with rose and pistachio, are a perfect (and perfectly Instagrammable) breakfast treat.

Near the city's center, find the coffee shop-slash-subterranean izakaya and sushi spot Double Knot, part of chef Michael Schulson's restaurant group.

Go for the excellent and expertly prepared sushi, or choose from a long list of options on the robatayaki menu, including king oyster mushroom, Kobe beef and lobster tail.

Beyond the city center

Due south, you'll find East Passyunk Avenue, home to a swath of Philly's thriving culinary scene.

There's Saté Kampar, Ange Branca's homage to her home country, Malaysia. Don't miss the Beef Rendang, achat — bright pickled vegetables with a little kick, made using an old family recipe -- and of course, myriad different options of hot and flavorful saté.

A few blocks away is Laurel, helmed by Nicholas Elmi, and featuring modern French cuisine that's as beautifully plated as it is divine. Go early and stop into tiny sister bar, ITV (In the Valley), next door for a pre-dinner cocktail.

Also in the neighborhood is Noord, highlighting Dutch cuisine in a simple, intimate space. The salmon "Lohikeitto," in an herby chowder broth with leeks and potatoes, is a standout.

Located right across the street is Fond, one of the early pioneers of the East Passyunk renaissance. Run by a husband-and-wife team, chefs Lee Styer and Jessie Prawlucki, Fond specializes in contemporary American dishes with a stellar selection of desserts crafted by pastry chef Prawlucki.

Friday Saturday Sunday has been a neighborhood standby in Rittenhouse Square for years. It recently got a sleek revamp from new owners Chad and Hanna Williams. Despite the name, it is open every day of the week but Monday.

The former was just named the city's best chef by Philadelphia magazine, and every plate — from seafood plateaus to rich pastas and creative vegetable dishes — confirms the nod. If you only have time for a drink, take a seat at the swank, white marble bar and let bartender Paul MacDonald mix you one of the city's best cocktails.

John's Roast Pork, 14 Snyder Ave, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19148, +1 (215) 463-1951

Zahav, 237 St James Pl, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106, +1 (215) 625-8800

Abe Fisher, 1623 Sansom St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103, +1 (215) 867-0088

Vernick Food & Drink, 2031 Walnut St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103, +1 (267) 639-6644

Vedge, 1221 Locust St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107, +1 (215) 320-7500

Vetri Cucina, 1312 Spruce St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107, +1 (215) 732-3478

Fork, 306 Market St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106, +1 (215) 625-9425

High Street on Market, 308 Market St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106, +1 (215) 625-0988

Hungry Pigeon, 743 S 4th St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19147, +1 (215) 278-2736

Suraya, 1528 Frankford Ave, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19125, (+1 215) 302-1900

Double Knot, 120 S 13th St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107, +1 (215) 631-3868

Saté Kampar, 1837 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19148, +1 (267) 324-3860

Laurel, 1617 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19148, +1 (215) 271-8299

In the Valley, 1615 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19148, +1 (267) 858-0669

Noord, 1046 Tasker St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19148, +1 (267) 909-9704

Fond, 1537 S 11th St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19147, +1 (215) 551-5000

Friday Saturday Sunday, 261 S 21st St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103, +1 (215) 546-4232

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