East Passyunk Avenue is hosting its own restaurant week starting on Sunday, February 21st and running through Saturday, February 27th. The week of deals on Philadelphia’s hottest restaurant stretch come in three flavors. There are $15, $25 and $35 options that are available for lunch/brunch or dinner. Of the 24 restaurants participating six of the restaurants participating are in Philadelphia magazine’s latest 50 Best Restaurants list.
This year, the restaurants that didn’t quite make the cut say almost as much about our city as those that did.
Things in Philly are changing. Things in Philly are always changing, but these past couple years have been more tumultuous than usual.
Fine dining has taken a big hit. On our entire list of the best restaurants in the city, there are only a handful that could be considered fine dining. Fast-casual has become a viable local model. Some of our best eating is now done at the bar, late at night. The gastropub revolution that took hold so firmly here has become a base onto which we’ve built something new and not yet really named—a Philly cuisine that has as much to do with how you eat as with what’s on the plate, the table or the wine list.
If it seems too soon for another 50 Best Restaurants issue, you’re right. For a long time, this list was something we put together every two years. But now that’s changing. Because it has to.
Philadelphia’s restaurant scene moves fast today—too fast for the kind of monolithic thinking that says a list of the best restaurants in this city could possibly stand, fundamentally unchanged, for two years. Fortunes rise and fall over weeks, not years. Opinions shift. Focus drifts. There was a time when a list of the best restaurants in Philly could have some breathing room—would be just as true (or nearly as true) six months or a year later as it was on the day it hit the stands. But today that sort of thinking seems as quaint as cedar-plank salmon or those bicycles with one big wheel in front—an artifact of another time.
It’s almost that time. With Pope Francis on his way, Philadelphia’s preparations have been a bit hectic to say the least. If you’re wondering where to eat during this weekend of Pope madness – fear not – we checked in with Philadelphia magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants to see who’s open and ready to feed the masses.
There are more than 200 BYOBs in Center City alone, some of which count among the very best restaurants in Philadelphia. They’re an essential part of the city’s dining culture, and a legit engine of neighborhood economic development. Many people, including Craig LaBan, have credited BYOBs with shaping Philly’s dining scene in a unique, patron-friendly (no 3X markups!) way.
And none of it would be possible without the state’s permissive laws on restaurant patrons bringing in alcohol. The state’s BYOB law has given restauranteurs who can’t hope to afford one of the limited number of liquor licenses a chance to open new dining establishments nonetheless.
Diners aren’t so lucky everywhere in the country. Over a dozen states, including Ohio and Wisconsin, ban BYOB policies. Last year, the city of Atlanta cracked down on them, enforcing a little-understood policy that requires any establishment with patrons providing their own liquor to buy a special license from the city. Read more »
What’s the most underrated part of the Philadelphia food scene?
Service. Philly has this bad reputation for being a place where service just sucks, across the board. That it’s not that servers can’t keep their thumbs out of the soup—they can barely keep their fingers out of their noses. And that’s total bullshit. Go to a place like Vetri or Noord or Fork, or even a tiny little place like Pumpkin, and tell me this city doesn’t understand great service. People will always complain about service, but anyone who’s doing it in a serious way in Philly right now is just lazy and can’t think of anything better to complain about.
There’s something you have to understand about this year’s 50 Best Restaurants list. If a restaurant is on it at all–whether in the coveted first slot or the 50th–that restaurant is a great restaurant. It’s not like the place in the #2 spot did something wrong to wind up there that its neighbor did right. With one notable exception, you don’t really get to do anything wrong and still be on the list.
In this city, and at this time in the development of our culinary identity, the competition is so ferocious that I’d have to drop down to around the 70th or 80th position before I could name a place where something went significantly sideways during our meals. But we don’t do that. Every two years we name our fifty. We rank them, top to bottom, with a combination of science, subjectivity and debate, and put that list out there into the world to be argued over.
And then I name the city’s fifty-first-best restaurant which, this time around, is Bistrot La Minette.
In years past, there always seemed to be a few suburban spots we could depend on to crack our list of the best restaurants in Philly—places that were worth the drive and the time it took to step outside the echo chamber of Philly’s urban restaurant scene.
This year, though, was tougher. We lost a couple places that were always solid, saw some brave, pioneering chefs looking outside the more traditional restaurant neighborhoods, and decided that while not really strong enough yet to deserve a full list of its own, the suburban scene was sufficiently interesting to stand slightly apart from the main catalog of the 50 Best Restaurants.
Three months. That’s about how long it takes us to eat at every important restaurant in the city. And then eat there again. And, sometimes, again.
Read more »
This week, we’re running daily surveys, polling readers about where they believe certain restaurants will land on Philadelphia magazine list of the 50 Best Restaurants.
Answer the poll question now, and if you aren’t already subscribed to Philadelphia Sunday, add your email address after submitting your answer and you’ll get the whole list in your email box, early Sunday morning.