The Art of Throwing a Killer Dinner Party in Philadelphia

Philly-area shops where you can pick up everything you need for a dinner party, from cocktail supplies to cheese spreads and tinned fish.

philadelphia dinner party

Photograph by Jillian Guyette

As much as I love a restaurant, I really love a dinner party. The evening stretches later, the drinks flow easier (and, usually, for less money) and I get to dream up my own parade of dishes presented throughout the evening. While it’s totally possible to throw a banger of a dinner party using only the ingredients you have at home or a couple things cobbled together from the corner store, I find there’s big payoff in spending a little time curating the party.

For the nights when you want dinner at your house be an occasion, these are the spots that I keep in my back pocket to pick up those extra somethings — cocktails to serve when people first show up, sliced fruit to plate up after the meal is over, or even tiny bowls for olive pits that have no significant value-add other than just being cute. Just remember: if things goes south, you can always order pizza (and people will probably be just as excited).

Riverwards Produce in Old City / Photograph by Cohere + Alex Cahanap

Where to Pick Up Food for a Dinner Party

Herman’s Coffee, Pennsport
I’m not going to try to sell you on the merits of a platter of briny, tinned seafood imported from Spain or Portugal or heaven. You either understand the unrivaled glory of this category of foods or you don’t. What I will say is this: if you’re a Tinned Fish Person, you should head to Herman’s. Here, the shelves of tinned seafood are somehow ever-expanding, and full of options ready to be paired with Spanish olive-oil-fried potato chips, hot sauce, and many more surprises. 1313 South 3rd Street.

Riverwards Produce, Old City and Fishtown
There are a few go-to places in Philly to pick up excellent cheese, olives, and charcuterie (chief among them is Di Bruno Bros). But here’s a piece of advice for your dinner party you may not have tried before: at the end of the meal, when the conversation is the best and the people are cozy and drunk, pull out a big plate of fruit. In the winter, I usually opt for something that my friends can peel themselves, like clementines or oranges. In the summer, pre-cut is best. My recommendation would be to slice up a couple of juicy peaches, and maybe a few pieces of watermelon. You can get all of this (and more) at Riverwards Produce in Fishtown or Old City. These shops are basically a gathering of the best of the farmers’ market, all in one spot. 146 Bread Street, 2200 East Norris Street.

Dim Sum Garden, Chinatown
You could throw a dumpling-making party (with wrappers and fillings procured at H Mart, Oregon Market, or Hung Vuong Supermarket). Another option: you could throw a dumpling eating party where you order a bunch of bags of Dim Sum Garden’s frozen, handmade dumplings, and steam them at home alongside a lot of beer and good times. 1020 Race Street.

From Marjorie, City-wide delivery; or pick-up in East Passyunk, Society Hill, or Kensington
The internet would have you believe that anyone can pull together an impressive spread of cheese and charcuterie. But the reality is that making a cheese-and-meat plate look effortless takes a lot of work and sourcing. From Marjorie (a play on the word fromagerie, get it?) will deliver pre-assembled cheese boards and boxes to your home, all of which feature local cheesemakers and produce. They come in all shapes and sizes, including number-shaped boxes for birthdays, large-format boards, and individual snacking boxes. $7.50 delivery charge or free pick-up at The Bottle Shop, Old Pine Community Center, or Mural City Cellars.

Party Girl Bake Club, Online ordering
It’s a tired cliche that a party without cake is just a meeting (thank you Julia Child for those words of wisdom) but Mallory Valvano’s cake company takes that phrase to a whole different level. Her neon-colored cakes (which also taste very good) will entice anyone who says they don’t really do dessert. Although I’m not sure why you would invite someone like that in the first place. Fill out the order form here.

New June, Online ordering
For seasonal pies, flower-covered cakes filled with Swiss buttercream, or a lemon tart topped with pink-peppercorn meringue, order dessert from New June. Owner Noelle Blizzard has turned her adorable Fairmount home into a highly productive bakery. A tip: if you lie to your friends and say that you made any of Blizzard’s desserts yourself, you’ll probably be asked to bring one of “your” new gorgeous, delicious treats to every event for the rest of your life, so tread carefully. Pick up in Fairmount.

Where to Pick Up Drinks for a Dinner Party

Art in the Age, Old City
If you want to chat about liquor before you spend your money on a few bottles, Art in the Age is where you should go. The staff can help you figure out the perfect cocktail to dole out before or after dinner, sell you local spirits to make it, and help you pick out the bar tools and glassware to serve it. 116 North 3rd Street.

Moore Brother’s Wine Co., Wilmington, DE
In my party-throwing experience, an abundant beverage selection is the singular key to a great night. To acquire that in Philadelphia, I’d recommend … leaving Philadelphia. Cross the Delaware and head to Moore Brothers in Wilmington, where they’ve got a large selection of wines made by small producers, shipped in temperature-controlled containers, and priced fairly. The knowledgeable team will help you make some selections if you’re feeling stumped, but the wine is so uniformly high-quality, that you could also choose any number of sub-$20 wines at random and rest easy knowing that they will be totally delicious. (There’s also a location in South Jersey, in case that’s easier for you.) 1416 North Dupont Street.

Symone Salib

Yowie /Photograph by Jauhien Sasnou

Where to Pick Up Dinner Party Supplies

These shops are located within a few blocks of each other in Queen Village. You could easily browse ’em all in one go.

Yowie, Queen Village
Shop at Yowie for all sorts of things that will make you seem cooler than you are: multi-colored ripple glasses, a handmade vase for some flowers in the middle of the table, a brand of vinegar you’ve seen on Instagram 40 times in two days. In addition to home goods, clothing, and books, Yowie sells a bunch of hot-item cooking ingredients all of your friends are sure to ask about when they see them on your countertop. 716 South 4th Street.

Ode a la Rose, Queen Village
It’s not that you need a fancy floral arrangement in order to throw a dinner party — obviously you do not. But opting for something pretty takes the whole experience from “normal dinner” to another level. Plus, they’ll last the rest of the week, reminding you of how fun your party was. Ode a la Rose has same-day delivery all over Philly. 622 South 5th Street.

Moon & Arrow, Queen Village
When you don’t quite know what you’re looking for — but you know that you’re in the mood to browse for little touches to add to your dining room or kitchen — head to Moon & Arrow. You might leave with a set of tiny bowls that you’ll use for olives, or maybe a couple of candles to light when you sit down to eat. Does the evening require that beautiful water jug to set on the table for all to see? No, but it’s possible you want one anyway. 742 South 4th Street.

Wallflower Paper & Party, Queen Village
Wallflower lives next door to The Merrygold Shop, a boutique that’s great for picking up gifts and vintage knick-knacks. But the paper-goods side of the operation is dedicated to above-average cards and wrapping paper. You might not be looking to wrap presents for a dinner party (unless it’s a birthday? In which case, happy birthday), but Wallflower is a useful stop if you want to get creative with cake toppers, whimsical garlands, confetti, and lots more party-making goods to help you celebrate any occasion. 723 South 4th Street.