How is it that I’d never spent more than one night in Philadelphia until now? It’s the fifth largest city in America but it never seemed particularly welcoming to visitors. How wrong I was! It only took a few days of exploration to get below the gritty, no-bullshit facade and find all the cool spots. I’d already been to standouts Zahav and Amada on previous trips, but in the past few years their chef-owners (Michael Solomonov and Jose Garces, respectively) have become serious players, dictating the present and future of Philly’s food scene. Solomonov now has Federal Donuts and Percy St. BBQ (both must-visits) and Garces has too many restaurants to name in one breath. And while I never got a chance to try Horizons before it closed, the vegan husband-and-wife duo behind it have opened a new restaurant called Vedge where I had one of the best meals so far this year.
If my wallet had been a bit deeper I’d have hit up Vetri, Talula’s Garden, and Koo Zee Doo, but I was content to do an espresso tour instead. Turns out Philly has a white-hot coffee community, led by the small crews at Shot Tower, Ultimo, Elixr and Odd Fellows. They even have two mobile shot-pullers–HubBub and Rival Bros–and nothing goes better with a La Colombe cappuccino than some seasonal sorbetto at Capogiro Gelato, my new sweet obsession. But Philly is perhaps, above all, a drinking town. Franklin Mortgage and The Ranstead Room can throw down with the best mixologists of NYC, but it’s bar-restaurants like The Farmer’s Cabinet that really blew me away (next time I’ll make it to Fishtown for drinks at Kraftwork and Frankford Hall). Anyone looking for an alternative to New York’s hyper-kinetic restaurant buzz machine should get their butts down here asap.
Philadelphia Food Map:
The best food & top restaurants in Philadelphia & environs…
NOTE: All establishments are worth a trip. ** = best choices for 1-2 day stay.
American & Upscale
MID-RANGE: **Zahav, **Vedge, Amada, Barbuzzo, Ela, Meme, Tinto, Percy St. BBQ, Farmer’s Cabinet, Kanella, Garces Trading Company, Stateside, Alla Spina, Bar Ferdinand, JG Domestic, Village Whiskey, Oyster House, The Dandelion, Bistro La Minette, Ulivo
UPSCALE: **Vetri, **Talula’s Garden, **Koo Zee Doo, Marigold Kitchen, Osteria, Amis, Chifa, Tashan, Fish, Bibou, White Dog Cafe, Majolica, The Farm and the Fisherman, Paloma, Pumpkin, Lolita, Cochon, Southwark, Tria
COFFEE: **Shot Tower Coffee, **Ultimo Coffee, **Elixr Coffee, Odd Fellows Coffee, HubBub Coffee Truck, La Colombe Torrefaction, OCF Coffee House, Bodhi Coffee, Rival Bros. Coffee Truck, Chapterhouse Cafe
DAILY BREAKFAST: **Sabrina’s Cafe, **Cafe Estelle, Morning Glory, B2
WEEKEND-ONLY BRUNCH: **Marigold Kitchen, Kanella, Meme, Southwark, Bar Ferdinand
BEER: **Monk’s Cafe, **Frankford Hall Beer Garden, **Farmer’s Cabinet, South Philadelphia Taproom, Kraftwork, Yards Brewery, Victory Brewery, Pub & Kitchen, Resurrection Ale House, Standard Tap, Kennett, Dock St. Brewing Co, Sassafras, Khyper Pass Pub, Pub on Passyunk, Memphis Taproom, Green Rock Tavern, Grey Lodge Pub, Barcade
COCKTAILS: **Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co, **Farmer’s Cabinet, **Ranstead Room, Southwark, National Mechanics Bar, Trestle Inn, Village Whiskey, Graffiti Bar
FUNKY: North Bowl, Kraftwork, Barcade
SWEETS: **Capogiro Gelato, **Federal Donuts, Sweet Freedom Bakery (gluten-free), Sugar Philly Truck, Franklin Fountain
FOOD TRUCKS: Sugar Philly, Guapo’s Tacos, Honest Tom’s, Magic Carpet Foods, HubBub Coffee, Rival Bros. Coffee, Pure Fare
MEXICAN/LATIN: El Rey, Lolita, Xochitl, Distrito, Taqueria Los Taquitos de Puebla, Tacos Don Memo, Taco Loco, Taqueria Veracruzana
JAPANESE: Izumi, Zama, Shiroi Hana, Tokio, Morimoto
SOUTH ASIAN: Hardena, Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House, Pho 75, Vietnam, Banana Leaf, Penang Malaysian, Nhu Y, Desi Chaat House, Philadelphia Chutney Company
BBQ & SOUTHERN: Percy St. BBQ, Carmen’s Country Kitchen, Sweet Lucy’s Smoke House
PIZZA: Pizzeria Stella, Zavino, Tacconelli’s Pizza
AFRICAN: Kaffa Crossing, Abyssinia
GROCERY: Italian Market, Reading Terminal Market