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The 20 best restaurants in Philadelphia

The best restaurants in Philadelphia range from pricey to casual, and reflect diverse, exciting cuisine

Josh Middleton
Written by
Josh Middleton
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The cheesesteak is no doubt iconic, but it's not Philly's only sought-after cuisine. The city has shed it's image as a rough-and-tough, hand-held meal kind of town and has emerged as one of the premier dining destinations in the country. Now, the best restaurants in Philadelphia are also some of the most noteworthy in America.

That’s mostly due to a crop of young, talented chefs who, instead of jutting off to larger cities like New York or Chicago, are staying in the City of Brotherly Love to build a community of inventive, world-class eateries that are bringing top-notch flavors and amazing vibes to every corner of the city.

These spots have nabbed national attention and give Philadelphians the chance to not only enjoy the foods we’ve always loved (hello, red sauce and meatballs!) but work in a range of dishes from across the globe—from Israeli to Japanese to elegant vegan.

This list represents the places that locals love the most—the ones we talk about and return to over and over again. It includes a range of amazing places to eat and drink that are located in some of the best neighborhoods in the city and that fit every kind of budget—from the pricey spots for special-occasion dinners to more casual options for any old Saturday night.

Best restaurants in Philadelphia

  • Restaurants
  • Israeli
  • Old City

Modern Israeli restaurant Zahav has been serving its famous hummus and baked-to-order wood-fired laffa bread along with a full complement of traditional Israeli cuisine since 2008. Every meal begins with laffa bread baked in the taboon, served alongside hummus and salatim. For imbibments, have a glass of boutique Israeli wine. Guests who aren’t able to snag a reservation can get a small taste of what all the fuss is about at Zahav’s more casual offshoot, Dizengoff, modeled on the hummus stalls (hummusiyas) found around every corner of Israel.

  • Restaurants
  • Spanish
  • Center City West

James Beard award-winning chef Greg Vernick’s romantic, two-level eatery near Rittenhouse Square serves inventive dishes like charcoal grilled branzino, Atlantic halibut with basil-pine nut pesto and citrus and fennel salad with a warm duck confit vinaigrette. Settle into a warm wooden table or grab a spot at the friendly back-lit bar to try out one of the specialty cocktails, such as the Better Luck Tomorrow (rye, islay scotch, punt e mes and cherry heering). 

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Greater Philadelphia

A decadent four-course tasting menu is the sole dining option at James Beard award-winning chef Marc Vetri’s upscale dining room in Midtown Village. Located in the charming former home of Georges Perrier’s legendary, Le Bec-Fin, Vetri Cucina’s $150 gourmet menu includes Italian-focused dishes, such as pork coppa roast, spinach gnocci with shaved ricotta salata and brown butter and chocolate polenta soufflé. Guests can complement their fancy dinner with curated cocktails and wines by the glass. 

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • East Passyunk Crossing

Temporarily Closed

Chef Townsend Wentz’s namesake restaurant, which recently relocated to Walnut Street in Rittenhouse after being on East Passyunk Avenue since 2014, draws crowds with an engrossing, seasonal menu that, while à la carte, encourages multicourse marathons. Begin with the butternut squash soup, followed by a second course of escargot, which, depending on the time of year, could be prepared with chicken fricassee, chorizo and caramelized cipollini onion. The third course is a feast of land and sea, with options like seared halibut and roasted duck breast. If you truly want to try it all, the tasting menu includes six courses with suggestions for expert wine and beer pairings throughout.

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  • Restaurants
  • French
  • East Passyunk Crossing

Nicholas Elmi opened his first restaurant on East Passyunk Avenue just after winning season 11 of Top Chef in 2014. The intimate 22-seat eatery focuses on modern, French-inspired American fare, a style Elmi honed while working with Georges Perrier at the famed Le Bec Fin. Diners have two options: a six-course seasonal tasting menu or the nine-course chef’s tasting menu. The menu changes with the seasons but always highlights locally sourced ingredients. Recent offerings have included plates like slow-roasted cod, dry-aged Pennsylvania duck and wild Burgundy snails.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Olde City

This Old City mainstay serves new American fare in an elegant dining room setting. The locally-sourced menu includes a selection of starters like fluke crudo, rabbit terrine and dry-aged steak tartare. Entrées run the gamut from seared scallops to glazed halibut and a veggie-friendly cauliflower dish with tamarind curry, black lentils and shaved vegetables. Happy hour gives folks the chance to try a variety of bar snacks and drink specials, and weekend crowds can join the feast for brunch on the weekends.

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  • Restaurants
  • Vegan
  • Gayborhood

Housed in an old mansion on Locust Street, Vedge is a vegan restaurant that is not just for vegans. Even devoted carnivores will delight in entrées like the ssamjang tofu and eggplant braciole with Italian salsa verde. The menu changes seasonally and is comprised of plates sized a bit larger than tapas so you can try multiple dishes. Complement your meal with something from the bar, which is stocked with more than 70 varieties of natural wines, craft beers and specialty cocktails that, like the Vanishing Act (vodka, pineapple, amaro sfumato), incorporate some kind of fruit or vegetable.

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Old City

Ncholas Elmi’s latest project, a spirited French-influenced American brasserie in Old City, pairs the Top Chef winner with David Frank and Stephen Simons, the minds behind local hotspots like Cantina Los Caballitos, Dos Segundos and Royal Izakaya. A selection of raw-bar offerings and house-made charcuterie complement snacks and larger dishes, all graced with Elmi’s signature French touch. The two-floor, leather-and-wood dining room is warmed by a fireplace, making it a cozy, welcoming atmosphere to share a few plates, a couple of cocktails or a bottle of vino from the massive wine list.

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  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Rittenhouse

Garces veterans Chad Williams and his wife Hanna took over Friday Saturday Sunday in the mid-2010s, breathing an exciting, youthful energy into a time-worn Philadelphia dining institution. The elegant revamp of the two-story space and complete menu redux has paid off. The bar is as bustling as ever—cranking out gorgeous, boozy drinks—and Williams’ refined take on American fare has won legions of new fans among critics and locals alike. Reserve a table in the candle-lit second-story dining room to fully enjoy the eclectic, indulgent, eight-course tasting menu and amazing cocktails.

Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors converge at this spacious, contemporary dining room helmed by Jennifer Carroll, another Top Chef alum from the City of Brotherly Love, and her partner (in life and business) Billy Riddle. Carroll’s technique incorporates flavorful ingredients from Greece, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and other Northern African countries to create inventive menus that include options like grape leaves stuffed with farro, peri-peri shrimp with garlic and harissa and a variety of kebabs. Larger platters, like the vegetarian shakshuka and date-braised lamb shank, are great options when you want to feed the whole table.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • East Passyunk Crossing

Taking over his grandfather’s members-only South Philly social club, Zeppoli chef Joey Baladino has reimagined this nondescript space into an intimate Italian-American enclave. To keep things in the family, a limited number of memberships are available at the door each evening (you’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the line out front). Once you’re in, order a well-mixed negroni and don’t miss standouts on the menu like the stuffed artichokes, spaghetti with crabs and house-made spumoni.

Diners order straight from a chalkboard menu at this tiny seafood restaurant in Bella Vista. Chef Alex Yoon prepares each entrée from an open kitchen, cranking out fresh, expertly cooked fish dishes like black bass with corn, rye, tomato and fennel, and steelhead trout with eggplant, miso, cucumber and broccoli. Don’t forget to bring a bottle of wine, as this place is BYOB.

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Cristina Martinez, who arrived in Philly a decade ago from Toluca, Mexico, has a major hit on her hands with this unpretentious taco spot in the Italian Market. Lines of hungry patrons wrap around the block waiting to get in to savor Martinez’s signature barbacoa tacos, made with lamb that simmers for hours in a citrus-based marinade before being enveloped in a warm, house-made tortilla. Limited hours (it’s only open Saturday, Sunday and Monday) and a recent feature on Netflix shows Chef’s Table and Ugly Delicious make it nearly impossible to get in—especially around dinner time—but trust us when we say it’s worth the wait.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Center City

The main level of Double Knot functions as a cozy café, but Philly’s sushi connoisseurs know to expect more than coffee and pastries at this Midtown Village outpost. Downstairs, a dimly lit dining room serves a Japanese menu complete with sushi, sashimi, meaty entrées and creative sides. Specialties include the crowd-pleasing edamame dumplings, a Philly-inspired duck scrapple bao bun and the signature big eye tuna roll. Behind the bar, unique cocktails incorporate Japanese components like yuzu, Japanese plums and cherry blossoms.

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  • Restaurants
  • Jewish
  • Penn Center

The best way to taste your way through the worldly flavors of the Jewish diaspora is with Abe Fisher’s year-round, shareable prix-fixe menu. The option lets you choose three plates from a selection of traditional Jewish faves with a contemporary twist, like pickled mackerel, slow-roasted cabbage with anchovies, veal schnitzel tacos and cacio e pepe kugel. The current egg cream on offer is a must for dessert.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • 3rd St Fabric Row

Identified by only a blue door and a red lantern, Royal Izakaya isn’t easy to find, but those who do are in for quite a treat. This tiny spot on South 2nd Street churns out stellar Japanese cuisine that includes unexpected elements like pork jowl and chicken gizzard and standby favorites yellowtail and mackerel. Tucked behind the main dining room, a ten-seat bar focuses exclusively on sushi from chef Jesse Ito, a nominee for Rising Star Chef at the 2019 James Beard awards.

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My-Le Vuong and chef Nok Suntaranon opened this Bella Vista BYOB in the summer of 2019 with a mission to prepare and serve meals exactly the way their families made them in the southern region of Thailand. The result is a super-authentic dining experience that you won’t get anywhere else in Philadelphia. Sharing is the best way to go here. As an appetizer, try the sakoo sai hed (tapioca dumplings filled with shiitake mushrooms and peanuts) before moving on to larger plates like the kang gai khao mun (chicken curry) and pla thod kamin (wok-fried monkfish with turmeric, garlic and black pepper). The wok-fried cabbage (kalum tod nam pla) explodes with flavor and is an excellent option if you’re looking to add more veggies to your table.

  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Olde City

This all-day Old City café welcomes crowds from breakfast time through dinner with fresh-baked breads, pastries and coffee in the morning; salads and piled-high, hearty sandwiches for lunch; and an eclectic dinner menu at night that includes anything from ramen noodles to “beer can chicken.” The sandwiches are the star of the show here, with heavenly options like the beet-cured salmon pretzel roll with cream cheese and fried capers, and the “best grilled cheese ever,” a lip-smacking stacker on roasted potato bread that’s oozing with pungent Pennsylvania noble cheddar and cultured butter.

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Le Virtu
  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Greater Philadelphia

The Abruzzo region of Italy inspires the flavors at this upscale dining spot that holds down the quieter southwestern stretch of East Passyunk Avenue. The menu features fresh, local ingredients to create a rustic, sea- and mountain-inspired menu that, while it changes with the season, always features knockout pasta dishes made daily with Abruzzese flour. You can’t go wrong with the octopus for an appetizer and entrées the likes of lamb loin, monkfish and veal chop—all prepared with seasonal ingredients. The braised lamb ragu, spaghetti lobster and the pecorino agnolotti, with aged sheep-milk cheese, saffron butter and parsley, are standouts on the stellar menu of pasta dishes.

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Rittenhouse

This all-day bistro boasts a menu that’s filled with French classics like escargot, steak frites and beef bourguignon. The burger, topped with grilled onions and raclette cheese and served with pommes frites, is one of the best in town. Food aside, Parc offers one of the best people-watching experiences in Philadelphia, sitting just parallel to picturesque Rittenhouse Square. Snag an outdoor table, order a carafe of wine and a cheese plate and set your peepers on the well-dressed Rittenhouse set sauntering by with shopping bags and tiny dogs.

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