Carrot cake at Buddakan — The dip sum dough-nuts are great and all, but when pastry chef Kate Honeyman had the flash of genius to replace frosting layers with malted-milk panna cotta in her maple carrot cake, she stole our hearts forever.
325 Chestnut Street, 215-574-9440.
Dumplings at Margaret Kuo — These from-scratch morsels bring to mind fortune-cookie logic: The biggest successes come from the tiniest of things.
Octopus at Lacroix — On a menu that changes with the seasons, the one thing to remember is eight-limbed, salt-scrubbed, honey-glazed, and charred and crispy all over.
210 West Rittenhouse Square, 215-790-2533.
Blackbean and plantain burrito at Pico de Gallo — It’s that surprising tinge of sweet from the fried plantains that takes this otherwise savory street food from merely good to absolutely-gotta-have-it.
1501 South Street, 215-772-3003.
House-made bratwurst at Brauhaus Schmitz — Brauhaus woos skeptical diners with its fragrant, meter-long link of bratwurst, full of flavorful fat and perfumed with caraway. Pair it with braised cabbage and a pile of freshly made spaetzle for a meal so satisfying, you may not eat again for a week.
718 South Street, 267-909-8814.
Black-tea-glazed spare ribs at Honey — Offbeat, decadent perfection: A mildly spicy ginger ice cream tempers the ribs’ sweetness, emphasizes their smokiness, and makes one wonder if a T-bone could be topped with chocolate.
42 Shewell Avenue, Doylestown, 215-489-4200.
Valenciana paella at Amada — The whole mélange is a masterpiece — plenty of saffron rice, plenty of meat, plenty of heat — but you’ll fight over the lumps of spiced chorizo, forking right into that cast-iron pan to stake your claim.
217 Chestnut Street, 215-625-2540.
Tagliatelle with duck ragù at James — Who’d have guessed that homemade pasta, dark chocolate and duck ragù (with accents of orange) would taste like this?
824 South 8th Street, 215-629-4980.
Pork paprikash and spaetzle at Yardley Inn — Peppery nuggets of pork generously ladled atop eggy dumplings are proof that comfort food is so much more than mac-and-cheese.
82 East Afton Avenue, Yardley, 215-493-3800.
Sweet-potato cass-erole at Marsha Brown — Piping hot, smooth, flecked with crushed pecans and topped with a toasted, buttery crumble — this dish is really just a way to sneak in an extra dessert.
15 South Main Street, New Hope, 215-862-7044.
Turkey wing at Ms. Tootsie’s Soul Food Café — Packed with flavor (thanks to the herby sauce) and full of fall-off-the-bone dark meat. You’ll never look at puny chicken wings the same way.
1314 South Street, 215-731-9045.
Bahn mi at Q.T. Vietnamese Sandwich — Carnivore or vegetarian, you can’t go wrong here; the “house special” is caulked with a layer of porky pâté, and the -lemongrass-and-tofu version is crunchy and pungent with cilantro.
48 North 10th Street, 267-639-4520.
Shrimp and cheese grits at Mélange — If we called it “Southern polenta,” could we persuade more Yankees to try chef Joe Brown’s bubbling bit of heaven?
18 Tanner Street, Haddonfield, 856-354-1333, and 1601 Chapel Avenue West, Cherry Hill, 856-663-7339.