Philadelphia has always been a world class city. For many years it has thrived in the areas of arts and culture, historical significance and architecture. However, until recently, Philly has never been known as a culinary hotbed. Sure, there were a few heavy hitters, but nothing like it’s current offerings. These days, it seems Philadelphia gives cities like Chicago, New York and San Francisco a run for their money in edible excitement. We are a city of neighborhoods filled with BYOB’s, Iron Chefs and Ethnic Delicacies.
The Old City/Society Hill area is one of the most dense, restaurant-wise, in the city of Philadelphia. Being ground zero of the birth of our nation, this area represents colonial charm with quaint cobblestone streets lined with dozens upon dozens of excellent restaurants and bars. Enjoy our summary of the best of the area!
Amada: (Spanish) The gorgeous rustic-chic restaurant and bar has embraced the rich traditions of Spanish gastronomy while incorporating avant-garde cooking techniques.
Morimoto: (Japanese) The restaurant’s namesake and head chef, Morimoto (of Food Network’s Iron Chef fame), has created a menu offering the very best in contemporary Japanese cusine. While regulars flock here for the exquisitely prepared sushi, Morimoto offers diners a broad spectrum of flavors that delve beyond nigiri and sashimi.
Buddakan: (Asian Fusion) The fare is top notch — appetizers include seared kobe beef carpaccio, endamme ravioli, miso tuna tartare and tea smoked spareribs. For the main course, delve into delicious dishes like Japanese black cod, wasabi crusted filet mignon, roasted ponzu chicken and collosal tempura shrimp. For dessert, the chocolate bento box will please just about anyone.
Cuba Libre: (Cuban) Dedicated to a continued exploration of Cuban heritage, art, music, flavors and traditions. The open-air setting, tropical ambiance, vintage décor, upbeat Latin music and Concept Chef/Partner, Guillermo Pernot’s delectable menu of ‘Nuevo Cubano’ dishes and traditional favorites, make all of our restaurants a must-see, must-experience dining destination.
Zahav: (Middle Eastern) With the opening of Zahav, chef Michael Solomonov realized his dream of bringing the flavors of his native Israel to his. adopted city of Philadelphia.
Eulogy: (European) The restaurant features Philadelphia’s largest beer selection with an amazing menu of over 300 international and domestic craft brewed bottled beers and 21 draught beers are served every day. Ranked as the fifth best beer restaurant in the United States by ratebeer.com beer menu highlights include “Eulogy’s Busty Blonde” beer brewed by La Binchoise Brewery in Belgium exclusively for Eulogy Belgian Tavern. The Belgian owned restaurant features a full menu of award winning Belgian and casual dining American foods.
Spasso: (Italian) When you’re dining at Spasso, you can expect great food at a reasonable price. Spasso’s open kitchen produces a menu that combines a full array of fresh seafood and meat, an assortment of appetizers, fresh vegetables, and homemade pasta. All the desserts are made on the premises, so be sure to save some room.
Positano Coast: (Italian) For an extraordinary dining experience, savor mouthwatering inspired Italian cuisine, such as the Sea Urchin Pasta, Beef Tenderloin, Pan Seared Branzino, Gnocchi Gorgonzola, Grilled Octopus and of course, the must have Crudo. Positano Coast welcomes guests to sample delicious selections from the menu, including the freshest fish and seafood, the Crudo menu (the Italian version of sashimi) and creative variations of classic Italian dishes. With menu options for everyone in your group, including those seeking traditional Italian flavors and certainly for the adventurous palates, Positano Coast offers a dining experience unlike any other in Philadelphia.
Han Dynasty: (Chinese) Award winning Sichuan style Chinese restaurant.
Aqua: (Thai / Malaysian) With a passion for fine food, a gifted expert chef, and love of hospitality, Aqua Restaurant welcomes you to experience the best in Asian dining right here in Philadelphia. Their distinctive menu features entrées from South East Asia.
Plough and The Stars: (Irish) The Plough and The Stars is Philadelphia’s premier Irish Pub.
Zento: (Japanese) Contemporary Japanese Cuisine and Sake bar.
Kabul: (Afghan) This understated, long-running BYO sleeper takes you out of loud Old City via delectable Afghan dishes and a quiet setting that charms. There’s nothing more you can ask for besides an excellent value, and a staff that is as attentive as possible.
Ristorante Panorama: (Italian) A feast for the senses, Ristorante Panorama offers authentic trattoria-style dining in the heart of Old City. The flavors of the Northern region influence this Philadelphia Italian restaurant, featuring homemade pastas, authentic veal dishes, and fresh seafood specialties.
Kisso: (Japanese) Come and enjoy the edible art here at Kisso Sushi Bar in the heart of Old City, Philadelphia. Kisso’s menu reflects the eclectic upbringing and taste of its chef and owner, Alex Park. BYOB.
Karma: (Indian) One of Philadelphia’s very best Indian restaurants.
La Famiglia: (Italian) An old world inspired menu, an exquisite wine list and flawless service to create the most romantic and memorable dining experience in Philadelphia.
La Locanda Del Ghiottone: (Italian) “You can smell the garlic a block away” from this “attitude”-filled Italian BYO in Old City, where “made-to-order” “classics” (mushroom crêpes, mussels) are slung with “panache” by “bossy”, “colorful” waiters who are quick to “dish out food as well as quips”; “you really feel like part of the family here”, so “don’t expect a quick meal” and don’t forget the cash. -Zagat.
European Republic: (European) A restaurant serving up fresh and healthy European wraps in the Philadelphia area!
Xochitl: (Mexican) While the food has its ambitious moments — like the deconstructed tamale served without its typical corn husk — there’s no pretension, simply a solid, modern play on classic Mexican fare. Both custom-ordered guacamole and ceviche serve as perfect starters, and from there, it can become a Tecate and taco night. Or you can make it a tequila flight, short rib and red snapper affair. Either way, prepare to leave wanting to return to Xochitl.
Pizzicato: (Italian)Since 1997, Pizzicato, the Olde City Landmark brings the robust flavors of Italy with hand crafted pastas, pizza, and truly authentic Italian cuisine.
Hibachi: (Japanese) Hibachi possesses all the qualities of a perfect dining experience. Enjoy the finest in steak and seafood skillfully prepared and presented with great flair by Master teppan-yaki chefs over an open flame on your table top grill.
Ariana: (Afghan) Experience the unique flavors of authentic Afghan cuisine. Traditional specialties, skillfully prepared and attentively served in a cozy environment.
Uzu: (Sushi) UZU, meaning “whirlpools” in Japanese, are known to produce some of the most fresh fish in the world. At UZU, they aim to please every customer serving Grade-A sushi and sashimi, as well as some of the most creative rolls in the city.
Pagoda Noodle Cafe’: (Chinese) A simple, unassuming noodle bar.
Lucha Cartel: (Mexican) National Mechanics’ new Philadexican cousin Lucha Cartel is serving a tex-mex mix of apps and entrees at 2nd and Chestnut along with a bevy of beverages like mojitos, margs and a host of specialty cocktails. The decor is your typical rudos y tecnicos battling dia de los muertos monsters in a bloodbath of distressed bar stools, prickly cacti and evocative lighting. Your typical Mexican joint, basically.
El Azteca: (Mexican) Amigos abound for these “nothing-fancy” Mexican twins in Mount Laurel and Wash West that are “better than the big chains” with “authentic”, “consistently good” comida, “reasonable prices” and an offer to BYOT (bring your own tequila); the staff is “friendly”, the vibe is “comfortable, not uppity” and the decor? – well, “it’s one of those places you can’t judge by looks.” – Zagat
La Veranda: (Italian) Old School Italian Restaurant on the Waterfront.
Rosa Blanca: (Spanish) Rosa Blanca features a rotisserie in the kitchen, comfort food on the menu, and a take-out counter with a variety of Cuban coffee and pastries.
Triumph: Always 9 or 10 Triumph brews on tap with a solid selection of pub food.
Race Street Cafe: Sit inside the low-key café and you’ll feel like you’ve settled into a rustic bistro: heavy wood beams hold up the ceiling, a wood stove warms the room, and a gas street lamp throws dim light on exposed brick. During the warmer months you are likely to find the large barn doors on the front of the building propped wide open looking out onto the sidewalk dining and passers by. Friendly bartenders and a broad selection of 15 beers on tap, with one hand pump, help you wet your whistle. The menu is simple but accomplished with a blackboard list of specials and a focus on seasonality of local products.
Cooperage Whiskey and Wine Bar: Gastropub meets southern soul, Cooperage: A Wine & Whiskey Bar combines southern bistro fare with an eclectic list of wine and whiskey.
PIZZA / CHEESESTEAKS:
LaScala: Since 2005, LaScala’s Restaurant and Bar has been serving up quality Italian-American home-style cuisine in the heart of Philadelphia’s historic district.
Soho Pizza: Offers a wide selection of brick oven pizzas.
Pizzeria Stella: Combining Philadelphia’s love of pizza and Stephen Starr restaurants, the restaurateur has opened Pizzeria Stella, a gourmet-minded, neighborhood pizza shop.
Gianfranco Pizza Rustica: GianFranco Pizza Rustica has always given the people of Philadelphia quality food, fast delivery, and great customer service… all at a palatable price. Their pizza, pasta, and meats are prepared freshly daily in their kitchens.
Margherita Pizza: Pizza with a thin-crispy crust.
Pete’s Pizza Joint: Crispy crust and large prices.
Barra: Basic pizza place with a nice variety of pies.
Jones: (American) Shaggy, stylish décor and unfussy, upscale comfort food are the focus at this moderately priced, 70s-themed restaurant.
Continental: (American) The creative cocktails and imaginative décor at this diner-made-martini bar creates an atmosphere all its own, making it one of the hottest night spots in Old City.
Fork:(American) Ellen Yin’s elegantly casual New American bistro helped pave the way for Old City’s revival in the mid-1990s. Ever since, Fork’s consistent output of finely crafted and inventive cuisine has made it a neighborhood classic. With Chef Eli Kulp in the kitchen, Fork has continued to reinvent itself time and time again. Fork has a variety of menu options including a fixed price menu that offers diners the opportunity to choose from among Chef Kulp’s wealth of creative dishes and customize their own multi-course supper. Fork’s menu changes frequently throughout the year to showcase the region’s finest produce, seafood and meat.
Farmicia: (American) FARMiCiA is the conception of Kevin Klause (formerly of the White Dog Cafe), James Barrett and Wendy Smith Born (owners of Metropolitan Bakery), who share a vision of a restaurant that captures the pleasures of simply crafted food and excellent beverages served in a relaxed yet lively environment. The emphasis is on great tasting food and beverages crafted from local, organic, and artisanal producers.
City Tavern:(American) Est. 1773, City Tavern hosted the first July 4th celebration. Paul Revere stopped here on his midnight ride & the unofficial White House. Chef Walter Staib, host of PBS A Taste of History has recreated 18th century cuisine.
Wedge and Fig: (Modern American) A cheese-bistro in the heart of Old City, Philadelphia. If you like carefully chosen cheese, hearty soups or salads, and inspired sandwiches, you’ve found the right spot!
National Mechanics: (Pub Food) National Mechanics is the most authentic new bar Old City has seen in years. The space is large but feels very neighborhood-like. And with a menu full of delicious bar fare and more than 15 beers on draught, National Mechanics is a place you should add to your to-do list.
Khyber Pass Pub: (Creole, Cajun) Khyber Pass Pub is a historic Old City tavern that features a beautiful bar handcrafted in 1876. One of Philadelphia’s oldest bars and a ‘Philadelphia Magazine’ Best of Philly 2011 winner, the menu features an extensive selection of craft beers, authentic New Orleans specialties, hickory-smoked barbecue, and tasty vegan and vegetarian options.
Moshulu:(American, Seafood) Docked permanently on the Penn’s Landing waterfront, the Moshulu is a restaurant that deserves a spot on your must-visit list. Featuring an adventuresome contemporary American menu with a South Seas flair, the Moshulu was named one of the top 15 restaurants in Northeast America by noted food critic John Mariani and is the recipient of the AAA Four Diamond Award (2005, 2006). Dining on the Moshulu, one of the world’s grandest tall ships, will surely be a most memorable experience. The Moshulu’s private dining rooms and outdoor decks take full advantage of the unparalleled views of the city and waterfront.
Sonny’s Famous Steaks: (Steaks and Burgers) Hand sliced ribeye steaks and 100% angus beef burgers.
Sassafras: (American) A fixture on Second Street for over 35 years, Sassafras is the Grande Dame of neighborhood bars. Among the bright lights and crowds of Philadelphia’s Old City lies this old-world pub with modern flavor.
Campo’s Deli:(Steaks and Burgers) Campo’s Deli is the best place for authentic Philadelphia food. Located conveniently in Old City, Campo’s is only three blocks from the Liberty Bell and Independence Visitor Center. So after your visit to the historic sites in and around Independence Mall, take the short walk down Market Street to this charming corner deli for a delicious Philadelphia Cheese Steak. Campo’s specializes in two authentic Philadelphia sandwiches — Philly cheesesteaks and Philly hoagies. There are several varieties of each, so take your pick. Both of the classic versions, however, are consistently rated among the best in the city. Campos will even ship a Philly Cheese Steak or hoagie anywhere in the country.
Mac’s Tavern:(Pub Food) Mac’s Tavern is a true blend of comfort and quality. Whether you are looking for a fantastic sandwich, a unique beer and a ball game to watch, or just a friendly face… Mac’s is where you want to be. Located in historic Old City, Philadelphia, Mac’s offers a welcoming tavern aesthetic and experience… with a little something extra. Mac’s Tavern was formed by a small to semi-medium group of partners, comprised mainly of old friends. Mixed with a few national, local and (perhaps) cult celebrities – most notably, Rob and Kaitlin McElhenney of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fame – the dynamic is as unique as it gets.
Chloe: (American) A solid, unassuming BYOB in the heart of Old City.
Serrano: (International) Nestled in the heart of old city, Serrano’s motto is simple…serve great food at neighborhood prices. Executive Chef Gina Rodriguez has recently introduced new menu items such as ‘Serrano’ Pot Stickers, Frito Misto and Pistachio & Coriander Crusted Perch. She’s also given a new twist to classic dishes like the Serrano Meatloaf and Lamb Shank. The craft beer and boutique wine lists have been hand selected.
Revolution House: (American) The creative comfort food is the work of Chef Luca Sena Jr. He has created a menu of internationally influenced comfort food and inspired wood fired pizzas made in Revolution House’s custom pizza oven. Some signature items include savory cupcakes (like the mozzarella lasagna topped with a warm ricotta “icing” and fresh marinara sauce), housemade tater tots (the traditional tot with a twist), and fried calamari served with a mustard and pickle infused dipping sauce.
Bistro 7: (American) Bistro 7 is a modern French byob located in the heart of Philadelphia’s historic Old City section. Chef/Owner Michael O’Halloran relies on a network of local, organic farmers for the pristine ingredients that form the basis for his creative dishes, and the ever changing menu reflects the best that the season has to offer. The understated, minimalist décor features white linen tablecloths, filigreed heirloom flatware and graceful stemware, and the open kitchen provides an intimate glimpse of the chefs at work.
Nick’s Roast Beef: (Sandwiches) The first “Original” Nick’s Roast Beef opened in 1938 and is still a Philadelphia institution.
Buffalo Billiards: (Pub Food) Billiards, beer and pub food. Any questions?
Prime Stache: (American) American Comfort food, with a great fusion of spices that will tickle your palate.
DiNardo’s: (Seafood) DiNardo’s is the place to have your shell-cracking, claw-sucking, crab-eating feast…A Philly Tradition for 35 years, family-owned DiNardo’s flies fresh Crabs in daily, Served “Hot and Dirty” Baltimore Style or Sauteed Garlic Style, with the DiNardo’s family’s Secret Sauce. Award-winning Seafood Specialties, Grilled Juicy Steaks, Chicken and Pasta Dishes are also featured.
Morgan’s Pier: (American) At Morgan’s Pier Head Chef, George Sabatino (Philadelphia Magazine “Best Chef 2012” / Craig LaBan “Best New Chef”) has created a refined foodie picnic menu with fresh seafood snacks, creative bar bites, seasonal and locally-sourced veggie dishes and a variety of sammies.
Rotten Ralph’s: (Pub Food) A down to earth Philadelphia bar with pub food and solid beer selection.
Drinkers: (American) Bar and pub food. Party central on weekend nights.
Red Owl Tavern:(American) Cocktails hand-crafted with fresh squeezed juices, house-cured charcuterie, butcher shop cuts of steak. Red Owl has the roots of a true tavern – so ideas can be exchanged over a great meal and a cold drink. It manages to be old, new and free-thinking. Just like Philly.
There are also dozens of coffee shops, sandwich shops and other food options too numerous to list, and many new restaurants pop up almost daily. Bon Appétit!