Where to Have a Blowout Birthday Dinner in Philly

Philadelphia restaurants where you can splurge on a special meal or celebrate with a big group.

The dining room at Friday Saturday Sunday is perfect for a special birthday dinner. / Photograph by Jason Varney

Diners in Philly can be divided into two categories: those who celebrate their birthdays by pretending it doesn’t exist and those who prefer to honor the day with the fervor of Mariah Carey at a Mariah Carey show.

Both approaches are valid, and we’re not here to judge you for your personality. But if you fall into the latter camp and you’re looking for a great place to have dinner, here are some of the Philadelphia restaurants where you can make your dreams of hosting a monumental birthday meal come true — whether that’s by celebrating with one other person or with a group of six friends. Happy birthday, you mini Mariah.

Saloon, Queen Village
There’s something deeply nostalgic about this Italian American pasta-and-steak joint — the waiters dress up, the tablecloths are white, the red sauce is just a touch sweet. It’s a perfect place to wear something a little fancy (dresses, heels, and dinner jackets aren’t out of place) and fill your table with espresso martinis, lobster fettuccine amatriciana, porterhouse steaks, and Caesar salad. Bring a group of friends or a bunch of relatives. The place is so giant — five rowhouses smushed together, to be exact — that the staff won’t rush you out or mind if you’re laughing loudly. And really, what is more important for a birthday dinner than a good belly laugh? 750 South 7th Street.

Friday Saturday Sunday, Rittenhouse
Not all birthday dinners need to be a party. Sometimes the birthday person might prefer a romantic night in soft lighting and a tasting menu experience they don’t normally get to try.
For these types of celebrations, Friday Saturday Sunday’s upstairs dining room is an ideal setting to drink great wine; eat inventive and personal New American dishes like grilled quail with coco bread, lamb ribs with cherry jus, and a dessert made with sweet potato. If you can’t quite bring yourself to break the revery at the end of your meal here, have one more drink at the bar downstairs before you go back to your non-birthday life. 261 South 21st Street.

Lair KTV, Chinatown
We can all agree that karaoke is a sacred birthday activity that should be enjoyed in a private room away from the judging ears of non-birthday celebrators, right? At Lair KTV in Chinatown, private spaces start at $70 per hour. They also offer a BYOF policy, meaning you can schlep in all the birthday cake and elaborate takeout platters you can carry (and, of course, dutifully schlep it out when the night is over). Heads up: the English-language song selection here is fairly limited to pop classics, but they should get the job done. 1025 Arch Street.

Even though Philly is swimming in rustic Italian food, you should really head to South Jersey to celebrate your birthday at Zeppoli, a sweet, brick-walled BYOB that fits 35 lucky people at a time. Zeppoli currently only offers a prix-fixe option (three courses for $55 or four courses for $75). And, if you bring five other people with you to dinner, you can easily eat your way through the entirety of the Sicilian-focused menu. Think: buttery whole shrimp with cannellini beans, garlicky pesto trapanese, tender rigatoni alla disgraziata, and a perfectly grilled swordfish — these can be your birthday presents. And for dessert, get the sticky, sweet balls of zeppoli, of course. Your server will put a candle in them if you ask nicely. 618 West Collings Avenue.

The backyard at Cantina la Martina / Photograph courtesy of Cantina la Martina

Cantina La Martina, Kensington
If the weather is even close to being warm on your birthday, celebrate in the backyard of this excellent Mexican restaurant from the former chef of El Rey and Xochitl, Dionicio Jiménez. There’s plenty of space for you and friends to drink tequila and split aguachile, queso fundido and machetes. A bonus incentive: The kitchen runs a weeknight happy hour from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. with $1 tacos. 2800 D Street.

Laser Wolf, Kensington
If you’re thinking about your birthday a month in advance, there’s a good chance you can book a Laser Wolf reservation without issue. And that would be a very good dining decision, since the Israeli shipudiya always feels like a party: Upbeat pop pumps through the dining room, platters of salatim are refilled as much as you want, and every meal ends with ice cream. This is also a great spot if you’ve got dietary restrictions in the mix — the seasonal rotation of cold vegetables and dips are almost all vegan. For your choice of entrees, go all out with a skirt steak or whole branzino, or keep it veggie-heavy with the eggplant and whole-roasted cauliflower. 1301 North Howard Street.

Kim’s Restaurant, North Philly
Kim’s serves some of the best Korean barbecue in the entire region, thanks in part to the charcoal grills in the middle of each table and the quality meats and banchan. Bring a group of four or six and order a few specialty cuts of meat plus the $98 barbecue combo that comes with
 salad, egg custard, unlimited banchan and all the ssamjang, garlic, and sliced jalapeño peppers you need to make the perfect lettuce-wrapped bite. Throw in a couple bottles of soju, then pass the empties around so each person gets a turn flicking the cap’s fastener until it breaks — a simple but endlessly amusing Korean drinking game. There is a 100-percent chance you’ll leave with a shirt that smells like campfire, but there’s also a 100-percent chance you’ll want to have another blowout extravaganza at Kim’s in about a month’s time. Call ahead for reservations. 5955 North 5th Street.

Era, Fairmount
Blowout birthdays shouldn’t be limited to places where you can sit down at a fancy table and pretend your life is together. No, birthdays can and should also involve some degree of fluid chaos. If you like the idea of posting up at a dive bar and inviting a bunch of friends to drop by as they see fit, then you’ll probably also like the idea of choosing a dive bar where you can order platters of remarkable Ethiopian doro wot or collards simmered for so long they barely require any teeth to eat. At Era, the beer is cheap, there’s ample space in the back, and a Benjamin Franklin portrait hangs in the center of the room for no reason clearer than “It’s Philadelphia, duh.” 2743 Poplar Street.

The kitchen table experience at Ambra / Photograph by Neal Santos

Ambra, Queen Village
For a special dinner with one other person, book the chef’s counter in the kitchen at Ambra. Here, you’ll have a transportive, three-hour dinner of innovative, seasonal Italian food, all accompanied by a wine pairing by Jamie Harrison. When we say “special,” we mean it: Dining in the kitchen will run you $300 per person, though that includes beverage and tip.
For an equally special blowout meal for a group, consider booking Ambra’s dining room, available for parties of eight to 10 people for a flat price of $2,500, inclusive of wine and tip. Owners Marina de Oliveira and Chris D’Ambro essentially throw you a dinner party better than what you could ever put together at home. 705 South 4th Street.

Gabriella’s, East Passyunk
A casual BYOB like Gabriella’s is always a good option for a group birthday celebration since eliminating booze from the bill helps make everything a bit more affordable. But this Vietnamese restaurant works well for a birthday because the food is also built for sharing. Order plenty of appetizers, all portioned for a group of six or eight, like the individual water-fern dumplings and the mini coconut cakes. Then move on to family-style platters of shaken beef, chicken wings, salted-egg fried rice, and catfish hot pot. The vibe here is casual, which can be nice for a more l0w-key affair, though you should definitely make a reservation if you’re bringing a crowd. 1837 East Passyunk Avenue.

Pizzeria Beddia, Fishtown
Pizza, natural wine, and nice salads might just be your personal recipe for birthday success. Beddia does these things extremely well, all in a lofty Fishtown space that you’d have to be the Mayor of Friendville to adequately fill. As an alternative to the a la carte menu, the team at Beddia also offers a group pizza party (this option will show up in Resy when you reserve for more than five people.) For $45 a person, you’ll get a family-style selection of small plates (hello, Judion beans) and salads (hello, chicory caesar), plus your choice of pizza and soft serve. Just add on your drinks, sit back, and enjoy the grown-up pizza party of your dreams, without being shunted into an awkward private room. 1313 North Lee Street.

Ocean City, Chinatown
If you like the sound of gathering a group of friends at a round table and housing jumbo shrimp with walnuts, congee, and Peking duck, you’ll feel right at home celebrating a birthday at Ocean City. This Cantonese spot operates with a BYOB policy, so bring some special bottles of wine for the group to share and it’ll feel like a party. 234 North 9th Street.

“The Thousand Island Lounge” at Middle Child Clubhouse / Photograph by Michael Persico

Middle Child Clubhouse, Fishtown
Looking for a place to bring 15 people without dropping a ton of money on a buy-out? Book Clubhouse’s “Thousand Island Lounge,” a casual private dining room for parties of eight to 17 people. The baseline option costs $30 a head, which gets every person a cheeseburger or vegan sandwich, plus unlimited fries and Caesar salad. You can add on from there as you see fit by ordering off the regular menu and choosing from dishes designed for groups. There’s also separate sound system, a TV, and a disco ball. In short, it’s a party. 1232 North Front Street. 

Amazing Crab House, Queen Village
It’s possible you’ve passed by this place and thought, “Huh, I sure do like amazing seafood.” Well, the good news is that Amazing seafood likes you, too. The menu includes fried seafood baskets, po’boys, and other appetizers, but the real draw here is the combo deal, which involves your choice of crab legs, shrimp, lobster, crawfish, or mussels doused in seasoned butter and served with potatoes, corn, and sausage and served — all delivered to you in a giant bag. Oh, and they serve beer. 604 South 2nd Street.

Mish Mish, East Passyunk
Maybe it’s the curated, millenial-nostalgic playlist. Maybe it’s the wine, described by phrases like “Céline Dion-esque” or “easy peasy” on the menu that help you choose what you’re in the mood to drink. Or maybe it’s the tiny room full of flickering candles and plates of grilled shrimp with saffron mayo and fried Armenian string cheese. There’s something about Mish Mish that makes it feel like a cool person’s birthday party. You, at least for a night, can be that cool person. 1046 Tasker Street.

Perla, East Passyunk
Sitting down at a banana leaf-lined table that is quickly filled with garlic rice, crispy chicken quarters, fried pork lumpia, an entire fish, and hunks of fried pork is a sure way to have a good birthday. There are no decisions to be made at Perla, only when you’ll go and who you’ll bring. Each BYOB kamayan dinner costs $50 per person, which makes splitting the check simple. You won’t have to worry about bringing the vibe down at the end of the night with math problems and Venmo charges. 1535 South 11th Street.