Field Guide: 12 Hidden Outdoor Dining Spots in Philadelphia

Outdoor garden at Little Nonna's | Photo by Jason Varney

Outdoor garden at Little Nonna’s | Photo by Jason Varney

The Center City District now counts 412 outdoor dining cafes in just Philadelphia’s downtown area. Many a sidewalk has been turned over to eating al fresco. But if you’re looking to dine in the sunshine without the crowds, out of earshot of the SEPTA bus and away from the peering eyes of passersby, you’ve come to the right place. Here, our picks for the 12 best hidden outdoor dining spots in Philadelphia.

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Nick Elmi Is Opening a Bar

Photo by Claudia Gavin

Photo by Claudia Gavin

Last May Nick Elmi went to work on securing a liquor license and expanding into the former coffee shop that is next door to his Laurel. The initial plan was to add some seating and install a bar. But here we are more than seven months later and that hasn’t happened.

So when we caught up with Elmi at Philly Cooks, we asked him what was up. Elmi, whose Laurel has been named the top restaurant in the city for the past two years, has decided not to mess up the good thing he has going at Laurel. So Laurel remains BYOB though he does now offer a $60 wine pairing for those interested.

About the bar »

Announcing the New 50 Best Restaurants in Philly

The new 50 Best Restaurants List | Photo by Samuel Markey

The new 50 Best Restaurants List | Photo by Samuel Markey

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.

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Laurel Goes Exclusively to Tasting Menus

Photo by by M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia

Photo by by M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia

Starting in May, Laurel will be moving to only offering tasting menus. Currently, Nick Elmi’s East Passyunk BYOB offers the option of a la carte during the week with tasting menus only on Fridays and Saturdays. Elmi tells us, 70% of weeknight guests are now choosing the tasting menu and “it really doesn’t make sense for a small space like ours to carry a full menu.” Elmi says it has always been the goal to go tasting menu only at Laurel, and the restaurant’s reception has allowed him to speed up the process.

The number of courses and pricing remains the same, 7 courses for $85 per person.

May reservations will be available beginning on Tuesday, March 3rd, starting at noon.

Laurel [Foobooz]
50 Best Restaurants in Philadelphia – 2015 [Foobooz]

Time Running Out for Early Bird Philly Cooks Tickets

foobooz-speakeasy-philly-cooks-940

The Foobooz Speakeasy from Philly Cooks 2014

Get your tickets for Philly Cooks Big Event before the end of day on Friday, January 9th in order to save 15%. After that the tickets go up to $100. The Big Event will feature food from more than 40 of Philadelphia’s best restaurants including this year’s number one restaurant, Laurel.

The event will also feature the chance to try food from Philadelphia’s newest restaurants including Brick and Mortar, Bing Bing Dim Sum, Palladino’s and more.

Get your Philly Cooks Big Event tickets now before the prices go up.

Philly Cooks [Philadelphia Magazine]

Twelve Philadelphia Restaurants Make OpenTable Best Restaurants List

opentable-top-2-100

Today, OpenTable revealed its Top 100 restaurants “fit for foodies” in America. The list was determined by OpenTable’s analysis of more than five million reviews of more than 20,000 restaurants across the country. The list includes twelve restaurants from Philadelphia, the second most restaurants from one city, only Portland, Oregon had more.

The list includes a high concentration of restaurants from California, Oregon and Pennsylvania but not as many from traditional restaurant cities like Chicago (five restaurants), Los Angeles (five), New York (four) and San Francisco (one).

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Let’s Get Ready to Ramen Rumble

Ramen-Rumble-4Cheu Noodle Bar, home to some of Philly’s most beloved noodles, is hosting its fourth Ramen Rumble on Monday, September 29th at 6 p.m. And this one looks to be an epic battle.  Greg Vernick of Vernick Food & Drink will rumble with Nick Elmi of Laurel Restaurant to produce the best noodles of the night.

The event costs $25, which will get you 2 mini-ramen bowls, a beer and a voting card. The event is also first come, first served; however, the chefs make plenty of ramen so don’t let a line scare you.

Cheu Noodle Bar [Foobooz]

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