Where to Eat in Rittenhouse: The Ultimate Guide

Parc | Facebook

Rittenhouse Square is Philly’s most contested restaurant neighborhood. It is the place where all our best and all our worst notions of ourselves are laid out plain for everyone to see. It is the center of Center City, the heart of swank Philly and day-to-day Philly both at the same time. For restaurateurs, it’s expensive to operate in but also offers the biggest draw. Rittenhouse is where Philly lunches, where it power-dines, where it brunches as if brunch were a contact sport.

It contains multitudes. A corner burger-and-beer bar can be just as important as the fanciest French restaurant. Philly-style fast-casual — that counter-service, glossy-industrial, put-everything-in-a-bowl model that’s like the Chipotle of everything but Mexican food — gets refined every day in Rittenhouse at a dozen different outposts offering everything from falafel to lobster rolls. And for a serious restaurateur, that Rittenhouse address means a lot. An investment, certainly. A weight of seriousness. A sense of having arrived, no matter if it’s the first location or the 10th that finally finds a space within the fluid borders of this neighborhood.

Some of the worst disasters of the Philly food scene (Serafina) have come and gone in Rittenhouse. But we’re here to focus on the best. Let’s start things off with…

The Restaurants You Must Try First

Vernick Food & Drink | Facebook

Vernick Food & Drink
Occasionally (and rightly) called the best restaurant in Philadelphia, Greg Vernick’s original Philly restaurant was a wonder when it opened and has only gotten better. A focus on simplicity, comfort, and exquisite technique have kept it honest, and (miraculously) it’s never let praise and money distract it from its primary mission: making dinner for the neighbors. 2031 Walnut Street

Parc
If Rittenhouse had to choose a single restaurant to represent its collective soul, Parc would have to be it. Fancy but approachable, expensive but not murderously so. Tables at brunch are the most sought after square feet of real estate in the entire city, and the dining room at dinner is a place where being seen matters nearly as much as what’s on the plate. 227 South 18th Street

Zama
Philly has never had a great reputation for sushi. But chef Hiroyuki “Zama” Tanaka has never let that slow him down. Zama does a particularly modern version of sushi and Japanese cuisine, churning out all sorts of locally-inspired rolls and giant catering platters for wherever sushi is required. 128 South 19th Street

Oscar’s Tavern
Can you even call yourself a Philadelphian if you’ve never fueled your evening with a cheesesteak-and-a-half and a very tall Yuengling? 1524 Sansom Street

Village Whiskey
Know what people love to complain about? The crowds at Village Whiskey, and how they have a burger on the menu that costs $26. But here’s the thing, those crowds are there because Village Whiskey managed to successfully translate a straight U.K.-style gastropub into Philadelphianese, make it somehow feel like it’s been here for 30 years, and operate in such a way that even if you’re annoyed by the crowds, the wait, or the service, you still kinda want to go back again the next day because the food and the booze was just so good. (Plus, there’s a $13 burger on the menu that’s better than the $26 Whiskey King anyway). 118 South 20th Street

a.bar
The drinks are strong and the menu is interesting, but I’m including this joint among the musts for two reasons. One: There’s a nine percent chance on any given night that you’ll end up sitting next to some very famous Philadelphian (I’ve done the math). Two: As unlikely as it seems, I have had some of my best, strangest nights in Philly at this tiny bar in the middle of Rittenhouse. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just magic. 1737 Walnut Street

Quick and Casual

Dizengoff | Facebook

HipCityVeg
You know that thing I said up at the top about Philly-style fast casual? HCV defines that. Counter service, long lunch lines, stuff in bowls. It’s a restaurant for people who want to be healthy, eat well and look cool doing it —though not always in that order. 127 South 18th Street

Honey’s Sit ‘N Eat
If there was ever a restaurant that was the culinary and philosophic opposite of HipCityVeg, it’s Honey’s. Guess which one I like better? 2101 South Street

Dizengoff
You’d think that a restaurant dedicated exclusively to hummus and pita would be boring, right? YOU ARE WRONG. With an ever-changing slate of seasonal toppings, pita that’s pulled from the oven puffy and steaming right in front of you, and that silky-smooth recipe, Michael Solomonov made the hummusiya awesome right here in Philly. He should have his own holiday. 1625 Sansom Street

V Street
The coolest vegan bar in Rittenhouse. In any other city, that would be a backhanded compliment at best. But here? That makes them better than like a dozen other places within walking distance. 126 South 19th Street

Luke’s Lobster
Because who doesn’t love eating lobster rolls in a basement? Seriously, though, these are awesome. You should eat here every day. 130 South 17th Street

Rooster Soup Co.
Kinda diner-y, kinda Jewish-y, kinda Southern-y. I dunno exactly how to explain the place, especially since chef George Sabatino took over in the kitchen in early 2018 and started putting his stamp on things. One thing I can say? It’s good, casual, and offers brunch all day long on the weekends. 1526 Sansom Street

Shake Shack
People made a HUGE deal out of Shake Shack opening their flagship Philly location a few years back. Normally, that’s the kind of thing I would make fun of (big chain, out of NYC, doing fast food burgers in our gastropub kinda town), but not here. Shake Shack is consistently fantastic, constantly innovates with the menu, and does a better burger than, I’d say, half of all this city’s so-called “best burgers.” Any list like that which doesn’t contain the Double Shackburger is total bullshit. And if you don’t think so, I will fight you. 2000 Sansom Street

DanDan
Imagine if eating dinner at Han Dynasty didn’t involve a 50 percent chance of getting screamed at by and/or getting high with the owner. That’s DanDan — less edgy, more consistent, and still a helluva lot of fun. 126 South 16th Street

Giwa
Giwa has been doing Korean fast-casual in Rittenhouse since before Korean fast-casual was cool. And they do it better than anyone else. 1722 Sansom Street

Nom Nom Ramen
Remember when everyone in the city was trying to open a ramen shop? Remember how they all closed? Yeah, Nom Nom held on and remains one of the best spots in the area for real Hakata-style ramen — with broth made from bones boiled for more than 24 hours and handmade noodles. 20 South 18th Street

Revolution Taco
I like this place for the tin trays and special taco-holders. I like it for the burrito bowls that feel significantly safer than those at Chipotle. Mostly, I like it for the roast duck taco topped with fried chicken skin because it is delicious and weird and almost insulting to the notion of tacos in general, in the best possible way. 2015 Walnut Street

Machi Sushi
Tiny little storefront sushi bars are the way God intended us all to eat sushi in the first place. And Machi is nothing more than that — perfect in its smallness and simplicity. 209 South 20th Street

A Proper Dinner

Oyster House | Facebook

Barclay Prime
Big steaks in a black-and-white room. Bring your wallet. Better yet, find someone else who’ll pay. 237 South 18th Street

Pub & Kitchen
P&K has been great ever since it opened nine years ago. Now, chef Steve Eckerd — who’s worked in some of New York and Philly’s top kitchens — has brought his focus on local sourcing to the simple, high-quality neighborhood gastropub. 1946 Lombard Street

Lacroix
Philly doesn’t have a lot of classic, fancy-pants, sit-down restaurants left these days. I’m talking Le Bec-era fancy. Grandpa’s anniversary fancy. You know what I mean. But we do have Lacroix, with its epic brunches, French-inspired cuisine and kitchen that has employed and trained some of the best chefs in the city. 210 West Rittenhouse Square

Abe Fisher
Modern and traditional Jewish fusion from Yehuda Sichel, one of the best chefs in the city that most of you have never heard of. Plus the dining room (with its retro deli bones and gleaming surfaces) is one of the cooler places in Philly to hang out when you care more about the food than who sees you eating it. 1623 Sansom Street

Melograno
In a city known for some of the best Italian restaurants this side of, you know, Italy, Melograno has always been one of those places that gets a little bit overlooked. Which is ridiculous, because it has been the go-to spot in Rittenhouse for years among neighbors who don’t give a damn about chasing fads or The Next Big Thing. 2012 Sansom Street

Tinto
Tinto has been doing small plates and Spanish tapas since the first time tapas were cool, like, a decade ago. And then they just never stopped. Seriously, it’s a fun place to hang out, drink wine, and eat small things made with potatoes and shrimp. 114 South 20th Street

La Fontana Della Citta
Remember what I said about Melograno? Yeah, this is the place you go when all the tables at Melograno are full. And honestly, a night here can be more fun, because it tends to be a little bit more relaxed. 1701 Spruce Street

Rouge
If Parc had a sister who wasn’t always talking about that semester she spent in Paris, it would be Rouge. Also, the burger here is fantastic — one of the best in the city. 205 South 18th Street

a.kitchen
A grown-up version of a.bar with a full menu, large dining room, and actual space between the tables. It’s kind of a power spot, if that’s your thing, but the New American menu is more creative and well-executed than that sort of label usually implies. Plus, with the big open grills, it’s possibly the best-smelling restaurant in the neighborhood. 135 South 18th Street

Russet
I remember when the coolest thing about this place was the way they cured their own meats down in the basement. That was years ago, though — and while the whole farm-to-table thing that defined its early years has become kind of rote in most kitchens around here, Russet has been doing it for so long that they’ve elevated, local, seasonal cooking to something that continually demands attention. 1521 Spruce Street

Tria
Some people love wine bars. I don’t. But even I can have fun at Tria, which is really saying something considering how much I REALLY don’t like wine bars. But I make an exception for the prosciutto and fig sandwich here, some cheese, shrimp toast, and a cold cider. 123 South 18th Street

The Prime Rib
I didn’t even know there were any restaurants left that served crab imperial anymore. But the Prime Rib does. Its signature black-on-black dining room makes everything from the white tablecloths to the ranks of glassware sparkle, and the menu offers everything from chicken piccata and soft shells (in season) to a full cut, 24-ounce roasted prime rib. 1701 Locust Street

Alma De Cuba
The fact that there aren’t more high-end Cuban restaurants in this city is one of the reasons I’m angry all the time. Not the only reason, but it’s certainly one of them. Until this is rectified, Alma de Cuba is the city’s source for empanadas, lechon asado, and an epic flight of seven (!) different ceviches. 1623 Walnut Street

Gran Caffe L’Aquila
This place is weird. It’s a combination bar, restaurant, and gelateria with multiple floors, bars, and dining rooms. That said, if you haven’t been there yet, you should go — because every part of it is done really well, and it never seems to get quite enough love. 1716 Chestnut Street

Davio’s
It’s got a really nice view over 17th Street, a swanky bar, cheesesteak spring rolls, and a cool little elevator that you get to ride in just to get to the dining room. But the thing no one remembers is that the kitchen here is also very talented and turns out a nice, hybrid Italian steakhouse menu. 111 South 17th Street

Veda
A beautiful space, smart and modern Indian cuisine, cheap lunch deals and happy hour seven days a week? Honestly, I don’t care that you people don’t go here because it just means I can always get a seat. 1920 Chestnut Street

Good Dog Bar
They’ve got a great beer list, a bar crew that knows how to mix a fine cocktail, and a menu that’s simple, fun, and creative without being weird or flashy. Think of it as a neighborhood bar for people passing through from Fishtown. 224 South 15th Street

Oyster House
It’s loud, crowded, raucous, fun, full of seafood and gin. Basically, it’s my happy place. So stay away. 1516 Sansom Street

Mission Taqueria
The folks who own Oyster House (see above) opened a taco joint on the second floor. In addition to the tacos — which are good — they also do churros for dessert. And seriously, I’ll trade you a half-dozen donuts for one good churro any day. 1516 Sansom Street

New and Interesting

Friday Saturday Sunday | Facebook

The Dandelion
This place ain’t new, but it is interesting, because it serves a very specific purpose within the Rittenhouse restaurant ecology. The Dandelion is the place you go when no one in your group can agree on where to go. It’s the place you go for business meetings, when you want to drink a little too much at lunchtime but still make it back to the office in one piece, and where you go when you really don’t want to think about where you should go. It is the Swiss Army Knife of Rittenhouse restaurants: useful in any situation. 124 South 18th Street

Friday Saturday Sunday
Born in the ’70s, reimagined yesterday. If you haven’t been since it reopened under the command of Chad Williams and Hannah Whitaker, you have no idea how things have changed. Now a solidly New American spot with a fascinating menu (mussel toast, collard greens, pork trotter gemelli) and a killer cocktail program, you need to go and check the place out again. 261 South 21st Street

The Love
Aimee Olexy is amazing at designing restaurant experiences. She makes places that you remember long after the bill is paid and everyone has gone home for the night. And the Love is the perfect example of that: a beautiful, comforting, welcoming space. Oh, and bonus? The kitchen and bar are killing it, filling that perfectly imagined space with delicious, smart food and sharp cocktails that are worth remembering all on their own. 130 South 18th Street

Southgate
Best Korean chicken wings in town, hands down (you’re nuts if you don’t think so), plus a surprisingly good burger. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it’s got it where it counts — in the kitchen and on the floor, with remarkably friendly service no matter how tightly packed the crowds are. 1801 Lombard Street

Goldie
Goldie does two things: falafel and milkshakes. And it does them so incredibly well that the line regularly runs out the door, down the steps, and out onto the sidewalk. Trust me, though — it’s worth the wait. (Also, they have really good French fries, but no one’s standing in line just for those.) 1526 Sansom Street

Res Ipsa
This place is good at breakfast. It’s solid (if a little quiet) at lunch. But at dinner, when the entire place turns into a brilliant, candle-lit Italian restaurant, it immediately becomes one of the best restaurants in the city — just as busy, fun, joyful, and serious as any others on this list. 2218 Walnut Street

The Black Sheep
I’m putting the Black Sheep on this list because, sometimes (a lot of the time), Rittenhouse’s bougie bullshit is fucking exhausting. Sometimes you don’t want local, organic, or vegan. Sometimes you don’t care where your water came from or if the straws are biodegradable. Sometimes you don’t want to pay $40 for lunch and just want a cold beer, a shot of good whiskey, and a fucking sandwich, you know? That’s when you head for the Black Sheep. Also, it’s a good place for getting shitfaced and making fun of the swells strolling by on their way to Parc. 247 South 17th Street

Places to Eat in Rittenhouse, Mapped

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