American Restaurants: The 2009 Philly Mag 50

Queen Village | Continental | Entrées: $13-$20
Ranking: 20 • Last Year’s Ranking: 17
While Ansill may not be as tightly focused as some of our other favorites, the dishes on its eclectic menu always have one thing in common: utter deliciousness. Chef David Ansill has a reputation for serving offal, and while he does have a way with ingredients like tripe and pig trotter, most of Ansill’s menu is far more approachable than you might expect—a big braised osso buco sandwich, bacon with Brussels sprouts, tomato-and-garlic-slathered toast, mussels fragrant with orange and rosemary. Not so scary, huh? There’s nothing like hunkering down for a gimmick-free meal amid the earth-brown and sage hues of Ansill’s decidedly grown-up bar. All of this—and the fact that it’s your best bet in town for spotting other city chefs eating on their nights off—makes it a true foodie destination. Order: Rack of lamb. 627 South 3rd Street, 215-627-2485. See User Reviews, Hours, & Other DetailsSee Menu

Bistro 7
Old City | Contemporary | Entrées: $21-$30
Ranking: 31 • Last Year’s Ranking: 23
Chef/owner Michael O’Halloran is poised to expand his culinary reach in Philadelphia—an Asian-focused restaurant is in the works—but his Old City oasis (we love the tonal faux-bois art) isn’t scaling back. In fact, more than ever, items are being made from scratch in the restaurant’s pint-size kitchen. And while we’ve always loved the freshly baked breads, the charcuterie course—with items like braised-rabbit-and-truffle terrines and wild boar rillettes smoked, cured and prepared on the premises—caught our attention. But of course, this kitchen has time to experiment, since so many stalwart items—like the billowy potato gnocchi—have been perfected. Order: The seasonal salad—it’s always well-sized, well-dressed, and way beyond a house-salad standard. 7 North 3rd Street, 215-931-1560. See User Reviews, Hours, & Other DetailsSee MenuMake a Reservation

Old City | New American | Entrées: $21-$30
Ranking: 30 • Last Year’s Ranking: New to the List
We’ve always loved Fork. It’s uncomplicated in the best of ways, with its New American food, cordial and urbane vibe, and realistic prices. (Not to mention that it has one of our favorite bars to eat at in the city.) But it was the recent addition of chef Terrence Feury that reestablished the restaurant’s original intent by bringing the food up to par with the ambience. His ever-changing menu lets his expert cooking techniques and unfussy approach shine, meshing global influences (house-made blood sausage with sauerkraut; duck confit; lemon ricotta fritters) that never stray from the modern-American mission. And it’s a welcome one: In an era of themed-to-the-death and small-plate eateries, this easy restaurant is a breath of fresh (but classic) air that gives weight to our dining scene. Order: Appetizers and the crispy-skinned roast chicken. 306 Market Street, 215-625-9425. See User Reviews, Hours, & Other DetailsSee MenuMake a Reservation

South Philly | New American | Entrée: $21—$30
Ranking: 12 • Last Year’s Ranking: 21
Truth be told, we’ve always liked Daniel Stern best at his smallest. And now that the all-things-to-all-people project that was Rae is, at least for the moment, tabled, we’ve ­happily returned to his Queen ­Village ­jewel-box bistro. Here, among Stern’s black-and-white family ­photos, the perfectionist chef-owner continues to turn out über-precise, just-edgy-enough cuisine that has, in our opinion, taken a turn for the accessible. The menu is as manageably sized (there are about a dozen items, sans specials) as ever, with descriptions that are less opaque—chicken and waffles is comfort food with a twist—and portions that have grown, so you’ll fill up on that steak and potatoes. Order: Minestrone, or breakfast for dessert. 617 South 3rd Street, 215-922-3850. See User Reviews, Hours, & Other DetailsSee MenuMake a Reservation

Marigold Kitchen
University City | New American | Entrée: $21—$30
Ranking: 14 • Last Year’s Ranking: New to the List
When a restaurant reinvents itself, it’s usually a sign that something’s not right. But that’s not the case with this West Philly BYO, which, since it opened in 2002, has been helmed and stamped by three different chefs. In its latest incarnation, Erin O’Shea (who trained under former chef Michael Solomonov—see Zahav) brings us New American fare that reflects her Southern roots. Dixieland ingredients are surprisingly delicate and creatively executed, so grits are light enough to let barely-butter-poached oysters shine, and collard greens are found in fluffy fritters. These flavor combinations, solid execution and stellar price points (entrées are in the $20 range) make Marigold stand out from the tired beet-and-goat-cheese fare at other BYO’s. Order: Any of the delicate but flavor-packed desserts. 501 South 45th Street, 215-222-3699. See User Reviews, Hours, & Other DetailsSee MenuMake a Reservation

Center City | New American | Entrées: $21-$30
Ranking: 37 • Last Year’s Ranking: 27
Six-year-old Matyson is a standard-setter when it comes to BYOs in this town. For some reason, the small, welcoming spot just off 19th and Market seems never to have drawn the fuss and fanfare other restaurants of its caliber receive—but don’t forget to remember this one. The Continental fare (which changes seasonally) is thoughtful and tasty; the simple dining room is pretty; service is comfortable and competent; and creative weekly tasting menus are a real deal at $45 a pop. Order: Soups, which are always seasonal standouts. 37 South 19th Street, 215-564-2925. See User Reviews, Hours, & Other DetailsSee MenuMake a Reservation

Center City | New American | Entrées: $21-$30
Ranking: 36 • Last Year’s Ranking: New to the List
Eateries perched at the tops of tall buildings usually offer better views than food. Not so Nineteen, the classy restaurant that crowns the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue. An elevator ride transports visitors to an opulent dining room in serene shades of cream and ivory, with cushy upholstered chairs, a dramatic cascade of pearly orbs dangling from the vaulted ceiling, and breathtaking city views. The setting alone would attract our attention, but the food is so good that we’d go even if the place were in a basement. Every part of the meal is considered, from the outstanding house-baked bread to the bitter and complex chocolate soufflé with salted caramel ice cream. Best of all, Nineteen delivers major elegance at a surprisingly low price, with entrées that top out at $24 (for tender, flavorful bison tenderloin)—and proves there’s room for more fine hotel dining in this city. Order: A drink at the bar after dinner. Trust us, you won’t want to leave. 200 South Broad Street, 215-790-1919. See User Reviews, Hours, & Other DetailsSee MenuMake a Reservation

Queen Village | American | Entrées: $13-$20
Ranking: 42 • Last Year’s Ranking: New to the List
In a sea of beer-centric gastropubs, this polished Queen Village speakeasy, with its stately gin-and-rye-stocked bar surrounded by tall, candlelit tables, stands out as a refuge for grown-ups. Owners Sheri and Kip Waide are chef and barkeep, respectively, and their efforts to create a gentlemanly atmosphere with a locavore ethos have paid off. Southwark’s standout cocktail list brilliantly resurrects the Sazerac and the gin fizz, while its menu proffers absolutely redeeming presentations of a succulent pork chop and a farmhouse platter—and the best seat in the house is always, always at the bar. Order: Baked Shellbark Hollow Farms goat cheese and flatbreads.701 South 4th Street, 215-238-1888.
See User Reviews, Hours, & Other Details

South Philly | New American | Entrées: $15-$30
Ranking: 24 • Last Year’s Ranking: 14
Jen and Mitch Prensky’s two-floor homage to comfortable, contemporary dining wooed us instantly with its fall-off-the-bone short ribs and gleaming glass windows and duck-fat-fried fingerlings and Warren Muller chandelier and marshmallow-schmeared carrot-and-orange soup and … well, we just can’t get enough of Mitch’s new takes on usual ingredients, and are constantly in awe of the care he gives to each element in each dish. A seat at either the upstairs or downstairs bar makes for a perfect laid-back meal, but ravenous diners (or larger groups) may find that the bevy of petite, easy-to-sample plates can add up to an unplanned splurge. Order: The $38 prix-fixe Sunday supper. 926 South Street, 215-592-8180. See User Reviews, Hours, & Other DetailsSee MenuMake a Reservation

Talula’s Table
Kennett Square | Gourmet To Go | $90
Ranking: 9 • Last Year’s Ranking: New to the List
Many diners who experienced the magic of Django in its heyday now wait—up to a year—for a reservation at Talula’s Table, where chef Bryan Sikora whips up an eight-course “Farm Table Dinner” for 12 lucky diners nightly in the gourmet market he and wife Aimee Olexy run in Kennett Square. When you arrive at the store, shoppers are still checking out, and it’s hard to imagine the room will become a worthy setting for one of the best food experiences of your life. But once the lights dim and your wine has been poured, you feel cocooned by the quiet of horse country and the onslaught of intricately composed plates. The prix-fixe menu changes monthly, but often includes wild ingredients (like ramps and leeks) harvested by the chef himself. Order: Nothing! Dining here means you eat what Chef has prepared. 102 West State Street, Kennett Square, 610-444-8255. See User Reviews, Hours, & Other DetailsSee Menu

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