Every so often, a restaurant summons all its confidence, swings open its doors, and absolutely nails every single thing it sets out to do. In Sally’s case, Anna D’Isidoro, D’Onna Stubblefield and Rob Marzinsky set out to do pizza, wine and small plates — which, well, feels so very … common these days. But the menu here is deceivingly special, a treasure trove of perfect, deeply considered vegetables (the charred cabbage drenched in a spicy, tangy “who knew?” sauce is so confoundingly good, you’ll be wondering about it for weeks), sourdough pizzas that range from margherita to clam and leek to South Philly-style pizzazz, and a thoughtfully curated wine list the whole staff seems excited to chat about. The servers are having fun, the music’s always bumping, and every time we go, we leave feeling happy, full, even a little bit resentful that there aren’t a hundred more restaurants in Philly like Sally, bringing that same kind of youthful, future-thinking vibrancy to our dining scene. 2229 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Vegan cheesesteaks and fried chicken sandwiches that would satisfy even the most carnivorous eaters, a do-good mission bringing more plant-based cookery to our communities, and fantastic bread pudding specials that change at chef Cody Ballard’s every whim.
When you get that first whiff of their sweet house-made milk buns, when you sink your teeth into the grilled swordfish or the fried maitake or the soft brisket, you’ll understand full well how Yehuda Sichel’s Center City sandwich spot is basically a chef-owned upscale restaurant disguised as a fast-casual sandwich shop. 32 South 18th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Some of the best pasta dishes in Philly right now — hand-rolled trofie pasta salad with gochujang and smoked celery; fusilli tossed with broccolini and preserved lemon — aren’t coming from any one kitchen, but from whatever restaurant or bar gives the Nardone crew the keys for a night. Multiple locations.
Less a coffee pop-up than a Japanese/Korean lifestyle brand, Persimmon has been appearing all over the city with limited runs of its own single-origin coffee, perfect cups of pour-over and Japanese flash-chilled coffee, and a line of apparel that can only be described as high coffee fashion. Multiple locations.
One day, it’s Vietnamese home cooking — chilled silken tofu in a mushroom XO sauce, or stuffed squid in tomato sauce. Another day, it’s Sri Lankan curried vegetable buns and string hoppers. The options are always different because Kampar Kitchen is many things all at once: a restaurant incubator, an outlet for cooks with big ideas, a way for food-obsessed Philadelphians to try something new. 1901 South 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19148
Sometimes it’s an onion-stuffed porchetta. Sometimes it’s brisket with a bark so thick, you’d think it doesn’t want to be eaten. Whatever it is, you can rest easy knowing NXTX’s barbecue only uses meat that’s sourced ethically and is smoked by a homesick dude from Austin — which can only mean damn-excellent BBQ. The pop-up operates out of Cadence. 161 West Girard Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19123
The pandemic-born pop-up peddles Argentine-style empanadas with flaky, delicious dough and fun fillings like buffalo chicken, Big Mac, pork banh mi and pop tart. It’s business on the outside, party on the inside, which maybe makes them the mullets of empanadas?
Imagine an open-face dumpling — a rice cake topped with minced shrimp, crispy pork skin, mung beans and scallions. Imagine it nestled and steamed inside its own small, shallow bowl. Now imagine 10 of them being paraded out of Gabriella’s kitchen on a giant platter for you and all your friends. The dream, right? Yeah, that’s the dream. 1837 East Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19148
There’s something to be said about a tiny cafe and micro-roastery that can look a seething global pandemic right in the eye and not so much as flinch at the idea of going toe-to-toe with it. There’s even more to be said about the creativity it takes to completely transform, to wholly rebrand, to expand in ways nobody expects, at a time when fear and tragedy can be so debilitating. Herman’s did both. Owners Matt Falco and Amy Strauss were able to turn their converted-auto-repair-shop cafe into a pop-up hub for aspiring chefs and business owners in need of a home, a retail pop-up outlet for vintage brands and plant shops, and a boutique market with an enviable collection of imported pastas, tinned seafood, chocolates, and more food-things you never knew you ever wanted, let alone needed. When the pandemic forced so much of Philly to become less, Herman’s became more, for the neighborhood it’s in and for all of us who needed some inspiration, hope and delicious things in especially trying times. 1313 South 3rd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Francisco Garcia makes only two things in his micro-distillery: a white corn whiskey, and something he calls Papa Juan, a take on the traditional Dominican Mama Juana, made with infused single-malt whiskey and honey. Getting your hands on one of these bottles might take a little planning and forethought (this is supposedly the smallest commercial distillery in America), but it’s worth it. 3237 Amber Street, Philadelphia, PA 19134
The meatless cheesesteak — treated as an afterthought in most Philly steak shops — is given the reverence it deserves at Frizwit in Pennsport. The mushrooms are local (from Mycopolitan, a mushroom farm that supplies some of the city’s finest chefs) and the cheese is made with local Abundantly Good cheddar (a do-good cheese that benefits Philabundance), and along with some onions, it’s all stuffed into a hoagie roll baked by Merzbacher’s in Germantown. Most importantly, the shroomwit eats like its meaty counterpart: unabashedly greasy, impossibly cheesy, and as junky and delicious as it ought to be. 100 East Morris Street, Philadelphia, PA 19148
You can find birria tacos (a traditional Jaliscan recipe of stewed beef stuffed into tortillas, griddled, then doused in a spiced beef broth) at pretty much any Mexican restaurant in Philly these days. But the Burrito Feliz truck is one of the few places that do birria in burrito form. Which means you can dunk your entire burrito into a cup of spicy beef broth, like the best French dip you’ve ever had.
In its seven years in Fishtown, we’ve seen Kensington Quarters rebrand, reconceptualize, and redo everything. When it turned into a coastal restaurant with an excellent raw bar and a boundary-pushing kitchen, it finally grew into itself — a place where you can sit on a twinkly patio, munching on Peconic escargots and milk bread slathered with anchovy butter. 1310 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19125
Ruth Nakaar grew up eating the food her Ghanaian-born parents made but couldn’t easily find it without sitting down to elaborate restaurant meals. So she scratched her own itch and launched Fudena, a fast-casual West African pop-up-turned-brick-and-mortar. And jollof rice, curried goat, and pan-seared tilapia make for an undeniably more mouth-watering dinner than another $9 kale salad.
Dolores’ opened with a tight menu of classics: Italian, tuna, turkey, ham, chicken cutlets and a couple others. Then the place went absolutely nuts. The Great White Buffalo has thinly sliced Buffalo chicken, lettuce, tomato, onion, Buffalo mayo, and Cool Ranch Dorito-crusted Cooper Sharp American cheese. Pretty surprising from a place that sounds like it’s named after a grandma. 1841 South 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19148
We know. We know. Vegan cheese? But when Conscious Cultures’ brie-like Maverick appeared on restaurant cheese boards, it was so good that it had us second-guessing our own taste buds. And when the Barn Cat arrived, with its bloomy vegetable-ash rind and veggie-ash inlay, we second-guessed it being labeled vegan at all.
Davina Soondrum crafts tangerine-hued, googly-eyed chocolate orbs, filled with hot cocoa and Lucky Charms marshmallows, that when doused in hot milk dissolve into a frothy winter treat. It’s the next best thing to meeting the Orange King himself.
Philly doesn’t do rooftop bars well. We have so few of them, and many are owned by the hotels, so they’re kinda lame. El Techo? With its perfect pitchers of margaritas? And its retractable roof? And its squid and long hot pepper tacos? Not lame. Not lame at all. 1826 Ludlow Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
There are smoked whole chickens smothered in everything bagel spice, and sandwiches stuffed with brisket and a fistful of pulled pork seasoned with fish sauce and lime. The slaw here is made with tehina, coriander, sumac and Aleppo pepper. There’s even a Szechuan-style cucumber salad. None of it really makes sense together (especially as far as barbecue restaurants go) — until you get there and eat. 2111 East York Street, Philadelphia, PA 19125
We know we’re about to start a major Philly-vs.-Delco conflict by bestowing this coveted title on a joint that’s not only in Delco but is named after the goddamned place. But we just call ’em as we taste ’em. Since March 2020, people have been jamming the phone lines on a nightly basis for the Delco, a decadent two-foot-long masterful monstrosity of pulled prime rib eye packed into a seeded roll from South Philly’s Carangi Baking Company. They’re so popular that the shop had to find an additional rib-eye provider after the Chambersburg farm it was buying from couldn’t keep up with the orders. 2567 West Chester Pike, Broomall, PA 19008
The cocktails at the Farm & Fisherman Tavern in Cherry Hill are better than they have any right to be — and it’s all because of Danny Childs. Over the past year, his Instagram account (@slowdrinks) became a wealth of cocktail expertise where you could ask him drink-related questions. Now he’s back behind the bar just off Route 70, slinging in-season strawberry Sazeracs and fig-leaf-infused daiquiris.
Fried chicken thigh with cured egg yolk and Dijon-maple sauce. Philadelphia Bee Co. honey butter. Toasted cream and summer nectarines. Foraged herb spread. However inventive, unexpected and downright delicious it is, whatever goes on top of Sarah Thompson’s crispy-topped, butter-soaked biscuits … is just gravy. (Oooh, gravy would be good, too!)
It almost doesn’t matter what’s on this pizza. The naturally leavened crust takes up to five (five!) days to make and tastes like you’re biting into a baguette. In Paris. It’s just a bonus that toppings — sauce made with tomatoes grown in volcanic soil near Mount Vesuvius, soppressata with hot honey — are also a slice of heaven. 240 South 22nd Street , Philadelphia, PA 19103
In the past two years or so, we saw an influx of independently owned wine shops open all around Philly — many of them run by restaurant owners and bar managers who take their wine programs very seriously, sourcing and stocking only the natural, or the local, or the hard-to-find stuff. We also saw Acme and Whole Foods get into the wine game here in Pennsylvania — though their selections are, um, heavy on the Sutter Home. And then there’s the IGA, a pretty generic grocery store in a pretty blah strip mall on Aramingo Avenue, not particularly boutique-y or high-end. Just a plain ol’ grocery store. Unlike Acme and Whole Foods, though, its wine selection is vast and fairly priced and downright thoughtful. There are traditional bottles — the chianti classicos, the Châteauneuf-du-Papes — but there are orange wines from Georgia, too, and pecorinos from Abruzzo, and natural and biodynamic wines everywhere you look. You’ll leave and wonder a lot about this place: Who’s running this shop? How do they keep the prices so low? And how the hell is it still such a secret? 2497 Aramingo Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19125
Out with minimalist pizza; in with maximalist. Here, the What We Do is topped with beef pepperoni, beef sausage, kale, banana peppers and honey chipotle; the Flip Side is like a next-level Hawaiian pie, with BBQ beef bacon, pineapple and jalapeños. And if the pizza’s having fun, imagine how much fun we’re having here. 2804 West Lehigh Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19132
A dozen kinds of smoked fish (including pastrami, vodka dill and Darjeeling and ginger varieties), plus a raft of caviar, pickles, French butter, and NYC-imported halvah, make this new Italian Market shop a veritable candy store for anyone who loves Jewish delicacies. 824 Christian Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Crispy exteriors, fluffy, chewy interiors (with that now-requisite sourdough quality about them), thick schmears, cheffy chutneys and jams if you so please. They’re just great bagels, made by a staff of friendly people — which Philly could always use a little more of. 1700 South 10th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19148
We have plenty of wine shops selling cabernet sauvignon from Napa, malbec from Argentina and chardonnay from Jerz. (We even have a mechanic who gives us bottles of his homemade red. Just me?) But one thing we didn’t have: our very own winery. Mural City changed that. From the Kensington-based tasting room, try varietals the owners help harvest, then hand-crush and bottle on-site — all made with grapes sourced from within 300 miles of Philly. 2011 Amber Street, Philadelphia, PA 19125
Wanna know how to make Delco natives freak out? (No, not close their neighborhood Wawa, though that will work, too.) You take an iconic but well-past-its-prime see-and-be-seen restaurant and reopen it five years later with $15 old-fashioneds, $19 burgers, and $55 meat-and-cheese boards. But hey, it works, and this is one of the few places in Delco where you actually feel like a mook for wearing a t-shirt and a Phillies cap. 117 Veterans Square, Media, PA 19063
Joe and Angela Cicala opened their eponymous restaurant, in the lavishly restored Divine Lorraine Hotel, just weeks before the pandemic shuttered the city. It’s time to go (or go back) for house-cured salumi, whole roasted sea bass, and maccheroni alla mugnaia, a hand-pulled single strand of pasta. Every dish is the luxury we deserve after this year. 699 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123
Father-daughter duo John and Jen Choi make everything at their Midtown Village restaurant from scratch, including sauces like Korean BBQ, honey soy, and super-spicy sweet chili — all of which can be doused over wings, popcorn nuggets, or whole, perfectly crispy Korean fried chicken. 212 South 11th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Ditch your usual BEC for one with house-made pickles, herbs and eggplant pâté on a baguette, a.k.a. a banh mi op la. Come back again and again to this homey spot showcasing American Vietnamese breakfast comfort food, for the chao ga (a rice porridge dish with a poached egg, bits of crispy chicken skin and fresh herbs), Momma’s egg rolls, and Caphe Roasters Vietnamese coffees. 1500 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19146
Welp, we found it: the deepest, darkest, fudgiest tray of brownies on the East Coast, bar none, no contest. Apologies to all the other folks who tried.
Order pints online in flavors like Earl Grey, flecked with handmade honeycomb candy, or lemon curd, swirled with made-from-scratch blueberry basil compote. Classic options include chocolate peanut butter and vanilla, made with a double-strength extract. Either way, you’re getting some of the city’s most exciting (and straight-up delicious) new ice cream. 3525 I Street Unit B06, Philadelphia, PA 19134
The pandemic inspired Chopped Sweets champion Abby Dahan to share the baking skills that have made Parc’s dessert program one of the best in the city. Sign up for a private class, held in your own kitchen, where through the magic of Zoom she guides you on whipping up cream-filled choux, pastel macarons and more.
At his new Kensington creamery, cheesemaker Yoav Perry is forgoing wedges of cheddar in favor of young-aged, soft-ripened lactic cheese he calls “Intergalactic,” natural and washed-rind wheels of long-aged cheeses, and innovative monthly specials. There are also drinkable yogurts, flavored kefir and whey tonic — all made with milk from Pennsylvania dairy farms. 1639 North Hancock Street Ste 103, Philadelphia, PA 19122
Brothers and former home brewers Mengistu and Richard Koilor now have the distinction of running the city’s first Black-owned brewery, churning out deep and complex stuff like their Nubian brown ale and Who You Wit, a Belgian-style witbier. The duo is still looking for a permanent home; for the time being, check out their website for where to pick up a four-pack of tallboys.
You can tell this delightful Central American joint has joined one of America’s oldest food markets by the patrons gleefully carrying Sofia Deleon’s showstopping cups of soft-serve — stabbed with loops of churro and topped with treats like cajeta, Nutella and chunks of cannoli. 51 North 12th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Sande Friedman has bought and sold a lot of wine as the Di Bruno Bros. wine buyer. Now, in collaboration with some of her favorite wineries, Friedman helped create two new bottles — a barbera-zinfandel blend from La Clarine in California, and Rosé of Carmine, with WayVine Winery & Vineyard in Chester County — with stellar results. 1730 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Chef Greg Vernick’s menu is inspired by his summers at the Jersey Shore. It’s why his seafood is fresh as hell, it’s why James’ saltwater taffy comes at the end of the meal, and it’s why his ice cream, made with seasonal fresh fruit, instantly transports you to the boardwalk. One North 19th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Whole cauliflower bathes in a guajillo pineapple marinade overnight, then is spit-roasted, sliced thin, and crisped on the plancha griddle, proving that the “alt pastor” gets just as much fussy attention here as any meaty al pastor. 1800 North American Street, Philadelphia, PA 19122
Discs of cheese danish and icing-smothered brioche cinnamon rolls taste that much better when you know Kyle Cuffie-Scott’s business supports AIDS and HIV relief orgs. And they tasted pretty damn good to begin with. 444 North 3rd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123
Lansdale’s Boardroom Spirits founder Marat Mamedov says he noticed the rise of malt-based seltzers, knew canned cocktails would be the next big trend, and started canning a Moscow Mule. Made with the distillery’s Brazilian-ginger-root-infused vodka, the effervescent drink is not too sweet and totally refreshing — a tough balance to strike in a can.
“When you have a clean canvas to work with, which the vodka offers, you can let the other flavors shine through in a bigger manner without off-putting notes,” says Mamedov.
ALCO, one arm of Kensington-based New Liberty Distillery, canned classics like vodka soda and gin and tonic with the brand’s own spirits plus fresh ingredients — tonic from century-old soft-drink company Natrona Bottling Company and real lemon and lime juices.
Others in Philly didn’t go so far as to can their concoctions, but they found creative ways to get them into eager drinkers’ hands this past year (well, while to-go cocktails were still legal), including Paul MacDonald at Friday Saturday Sunday and Eddie Adams, head bartender at Bar Hygge. Drawing on the ingenuity that makes them stand-out drink-makers even when we’re not in the midst of a global pandemic, both bartenders figured out how to keep the cocktails coming.
Adams made a steady stream of seasonal punch, which he offered in single-serving pouches or large-format glass bottles. Those came with a bottle of club soda plus a special mix of raw sugar, salt, lavender and coriander so you could rim your glass at home — a fancy touch in not-so-fancy times.
At FSS, MacDonald didn’t limit himself to any specific cocktail but instead bottled (or poured into a single-serving plastic cup) pretty much everything on the menu, except, he says, for the swizzles, which rely on packed-down pellet ice, and the egg-white drinks, which depend on that freshly shaken texture. “Fulfilling off-menu or bartender’s-pick requests has always been a big part of our cocktail program, so I did my best to keep that up when possible,” MacDonald says.
A grateful, slightly tipsy city salutes these libation innovations (and hopes the politicians in Harrisburg get their heads out of the cooler long enough to sign a permanent to-go-cocktail bill).
Back in 2018, British expat Sam Elings and her husband Charlie looked around Delco and immediately noticed the lack of quality British food. So they opened their own spot, which is as friendly as it is tiny. Order a sausage roll and the creamy vegetarian cottage pie, if it’s on special. (The fish and chips are damn good, too.) 433 Manchester Avenue, Media, PA 19063
Ten years in the making, this compact little co-op bursts with fresh produce, plant-based foods, and plenty of staples sourced from fewer than 100 miles away, like Merzbacher’s bread, Kismet bagels and Soom tehina. (Bonus: Get it all delivered via Bloc ebikes.) 2031 South Juniper Street, Philadelphia, PA 19148
Yes, our soft pretzels are perfect with a single protracted squirt of mustard. But have you tried one as a vehicle for bacon, eggs and cheese? Owners Hugh Morretta and Eli Shaika thought it would work better than a bagel, and we agree. 2536 Pine Street , Philadelphia, PA 19103
Unwilling to wait in line for some of the city’s best new bagels? Let us suggest this service, which on Fridays and Saturdays leaves Philly at three a.m. to collect New York bagels (and bialys, and schmear!) and delivers them right to your door.
Some people were surprised to learn that this new Center City spot is pairing pressure-fried chicken and champagne, but it’s been a thing, and one taste of the sharp bubbles cutting through the rich bird will convince you we’ve long deserved this brilliant concept. 2005 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Diana Widjojo’s innovation spurred copycats from Boston to the Bay Area. But the original — a banquet of up to 18 separate dishes, from coconut-infused collard greens and spicy mie goreng noodles to whole fried fish, painstakingly piled onto a bed of banana leaves inside a cardboard pizza box — is still the greatest. 1754 South Hicks Street, Philadelphia, PA 19145
A corner wedge of West Passyunk got a lot more lively when La Llorona opened last summer with tables that spill out onto the sidewalk, goblets of shrimp ceviche, and a tequila and mezcal menu as long as your arm. 1551 West Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19145
When 2020 halted indoor dining, the city’s restaurants took to the streets (and anywhere else you could jam a table). Some setups were rustic, and others looked like they were plucked from the sidewalks of Copenhagen and planted in Philly. Many of those — including Parc, Bar Bombón and Bud & Marilyn’s — were the work of the Stokes team. 1700 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
There are two kinds of people in this city: the ones who love Justine MacNeil’s otherworldly gelato, and those who just haven’t tasted it yet. Keep a special eye out for masala chai gelato, with fennel shortbread and swirls of spiced caramel, and brown sugar gelato, with bourbon caramel and toasted peanuts. 757 South Front Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147