Interviews

5 Restaurants Philly Chefs Wish We’d Talk About More

The pizza, doughnuts, and cheap Indonesian food they can't quit.


We’re always sharing the restaurants we love and the meals we can’t stop thinking about — now it’s the chefs’ turns to spill. Here are the underrated restaurants, best kept secrets, and treats they’ll travel for in and around Philadelphia.

Read more from our “The Chef’s Speak!” story here.


underrated philadelphia restaurants

Happy Valley pork with charred onion juice; grilled squid and winter squash at Cadence in Kensington.

underrated restaurants

EATING PHILLY WITH … Chad Williams, chef/owner of Friday Saturday Sunday

The one restaurant that doesn’t get enough press is …Cadence. It takes guts to be that creative when you must keep butts in the seats. They’re always pushing the envelope and making really delicious food.”

The best fast-food restaurant is … “Five Guys. I get a cheeseburger with bacon and jalapeños. The extra fries they throw in the bag are what hospitality is all about.”

When I’m trying to hide from the world, I go to … “Top Taste in West Philly, for oxtail and jerk chicken.”

The restaurant I wish I could keep a secret is … “Porky’s Point, in North Philly. A few critics and bloggers have been there, and I’m scared that the next time I go, they’ll be sold out of chicharrones.”


underrated philadelphia restaurants

Homespun Indonesian fare at Ramayana in South Philly.

underrated philadelphia restaurants

EATING PHILLY WITH … Cristina Martinez, chef/owner of South Philly Barbacoa

I wish more people knew about …Ramayana, the Indonesian restaurant on 11th Street in East Passyunk. Their food is made from the heart — and it’s really cheap, too.”

My favorite Mexican restaurant in South Philly is … “Blue Corn, in the Italian Market. It’s the only place I’ll order tripe tacos.”

The one dish in Philly I just can’t get enough of is … “the pho from Pho 75 on Washington Avenue. It doesn’t matter if it’s hot or cold outside; my husband, Ben, and I will stop there at least twice a week for chicken pho.”

If I’m craving Italian, I go to … “Osteria. So much prep goes into each sauce they make. It’s really good work.”


Underrated Philadelphia restaurants

The dining room at Saloon in Bella Vista.

underrated philadelphia restaurants

EATING PHILLY WITH … Nick Elmi, chef/owner of LaurelITV, and Royal Boucherie

My go-to Chinatown stop is … “Tai Lake. I’ll bring the staff of Laurel. They’ve got large tables and fast service. Get the broiled oysters.”

The Philly cheap eat everyone must try is … “Rocco’s Sausages at the Home Depot in South Philly. I order a half-sweet/half-hot with onions and peppers, and it’s perfect every time.”

The restaurant that doesn’t get enough press is … “all the good South Philly Italian joints — Mr. Martino’s, Tre Scalini. Oh, and Saloon. I always order the clams casino, the langoustines, and the grilled veal chop or veal parm.”

The one dish in Philly I can’t get enough of is … “the spicy pig ear salad at Nan Zhou. I’ll go to Chinatown specifically for it at least once a month.”


underrated philadelphia restaurants

Curiosity Doughnuts in Princeton.

underrated philadelphia restaurants

EATING PHILLY WITH … Judy Ni, chef/owner of Baology

I’ll cross the Delaware River for … “Curiosity Doughnuts in New Jersey. [Find them at the Whole Foods stores in Princeton and Spring House, PA.] My husband and I drive the two hours just to get some. They have this incredible ethereal texture.”

The one restaurant that doesn’t get enough press is … “A Mano, in Spring Garden. It’s so honest and simple.”

My Philly comfort food is … “the spicy ahi tuna poke at Poi Dog in Center City. There are plenty of ‘poke’ places, but none as delicious and authentic.”

On our nights off, we go to … “ITV. They have awesome cocktails, but their food is so good. We order the whole menu — it’s small enough that you can do that.”


underrated philadelphia restaurants

The patio at Fermentery Form in Kensington.

underrated philadelphia restaurants

EATING PHILLY WITH … Joe Beddia, chef/owner of soon-to-open Pizzeria Beddia

When I’m not making pizza, I’ll order from … “I never eat pizza. I’m too fat for pizza. A few times a year, though, I enjoy a mushroom pie from Square Pie in Queen Village.”

I’ll cross the Delaware for … “Sagami, in Collingswood. Really good Japanese without any pretense. And Zeppoli. Honestly, I’d rather eat there than almost anywhere in Philadelphia, no offense.”

The one restaurant that doesn’t get enough press is … “Russet. Andrew Wood is so talented — his cured meats, his pastas. And maybe Little Fish. Have you guys heard of Hungry Pigeon?”

The one spot I wish I could keep a secret is … “Fermentery Form in Kensington. Simple design, well-made beers and great people.”

Photography by Michael Persico. Illustrations by Kirsten Harper. Published as part of “The Chef’s Speak!” in the January 2019 issue of Philadelphia magazine.