The Best Restaurant Seats in and Around Philly

Whether you need a spot to celebrate or commiserate, to write a new chapter or close the book on an old one, there’s a perfect seat waiting for you.

kalaya fishtown best restaurant seats philadelphia

Best Restaurant Seats in Philly: The bar at Kalaya in Fishtown / Photograph by Ted Nghiem

If all the world’s a stage, as Shakespeare once wrote, then restaurants are the backdrops in the plays of our lives. Where we sit during those grand celebrations and quiet victories — tearful goodbyes and unexpected reunions — is key to creating unforgettable moments. Here’s where to sit when you’re setting the stage for different plot points of your life.

Main-Character Energy

In the city: Corner bar seats at Kalaya, Fishtown
It’s the plushness of the barstools. It’s the pop of color — like pink flowers blooming from the cactus-green bar. But mostly, it’s the way all eyes wander to that corner, where you’ll sit, coolly sipping your lychee Negroni.

In the suburbs: Round table, back corner of Zeppoli, Collingswood
I think of it as the Godfather table: You can see everything happening in the dining room, but the dim lighting in this cozy corner offers privacy … and a little intrigue.

Rekindling Your Romance

In the city: The two-top hugging the wall across from the kitchen at Little Fish, Queen Village
The most intimate seat in one of Philly’s most intimate restaurants. The energy of the kitchen converges with the hum of the dining room, so no one overhears your sweet nothings.

In the suburbs: High-top, far-left corner of the rooftop terrace at Lark, Bala Cynwyd
At golden hour, when the Pencoyd Bridge casts dramatic shadows across the twinkling Schuylkill River, you’re basically in a Nancy Meyers movie.

Ending Your Romance

In the city: The table closest to the door at Victor Cafe, East Passyunk
Don’t worry; the house opera singers will upstage any drama at your table. And once you’ve settled — the bill, the relationship — you’re right by the door, for a clean getaway.

In the suburbs: Bar seat, upstairs in the Loft of Iron Abbey, Horsham
Need a stiff drink after your goodbyes? Here, you’ve got front-row access to more than 170 whiskeys.

Writing Your Novel

In the city: The antique couch, back wall at Higher Grounds, Northern Liberties
Eclectic furniture, exposed brick, and rotating­ works of art on display get your creative­ juices flowing.

In the suburbs: A table outside Grooveground Coffeebar, Collingswood
Novelist Evan Roskos wrote Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets here — and had writing dates with Matthew Quick, author of The Silver Linings Playbook. And Collingswood is full of characters. Hang here and be inspired.

Seeing and Being Seen

In the city: Outdoor tables at Mish Mish, East Passyunk
One of the city’s hippest spots, on one of its liveliest streets, across from the Singing Fountain: It’s a whole social scene every summer.

In the suburbs: Bar seat closest to the entrance at Rosemary, Ridley Park
This new Delco destination is the spot for everything from after-work drinks to date night. In this seat, you’re the first face everyone sees walking in.

Hiding From the World

In the city: The table in the far-right corner of Hop Sing Laundromat, Chinatown
Thanks to the bar’s infamous no-phone policy, what happens here stays here. That goes double in this dark, private corner.

In the suburbs: Back left corner table, the main dining room at The Pub, Pennsauken
Roughly 500 people can squeeze into this massive Tudor-style dining room with walls covered in taxidermied animals and Renaissance Faire decor. You’re not going to stick out.

An Insider’s Guide to the Best Seats at Parc

Parc, one of Philly’s most beautiful restaurants, is also one of its most popular. Which means you can’t always pick where you sit, allows general manager Lauren Shandelman — but sometimes, the planets align, and you get to sip your sancerre in the seat where a president once dined, or in the banquette most requested by the Rittenhouse elite, or at the most coveted two-top in the city at this, the grand dame of Philly. Here’s our insider’s cheat sheet to Parc.

How to Get the Ungettable Seats

Advice from an extreme restaurant-goer

Grad Hospital’s Sharon Thompson-Schill, neuroscientist by day and serial restaurant-goer by night, dines in something like 100 Philly restaurants a year. Here, her tried-and-true strategies for getting seats in the hottest spots.

Plan your timing

Some places post openings at midnight 30 days out on Resy or OpenTable; some, every other Sunday at 6 p.m; some require an email. Suss out online or via phone, Thompson-Schill says, then set yourself a reminder a few minutes before reservations drop. And for groups? Agree on specifics beforehand, she says: “You basically have one minute to look at the reservations.”

Go hard for cancellations

You know the confirmation texts you get before a reservation, giving you one last chance to opt out before you’re charged? “That’s when the cancellations start dropping,” she says — so you should check at the 24- or 48-hour mark before the moment you hope to go. Also, try logging on early (Thompson-Schill likes 6 a.m.) for openings other diners are literally sleeping on.

Make friends

There’s no magic formula for getting the primo spots or seat upgrades, Thompson-Schill says. “You can make a note in your reservation, but I feel like I get the best seats at places where I’m a regular.” Want that window seat? Go often, get to know the staff, and — obviously — tip well. In cash!


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Published as “The Best Seats in the House: Restaurants & Bars” in the July 2024 issue of Philadelphia magazine.