Hope for Philly’s Food Scene: 3 New Top-Tier Restaurants Are Open in Northern Liberties
Let’s face it. Dining during lockdown can get a little repetitive, even dull. After the umpteenth time you’ve gotten takeout at the same corner pizza shop, eating might be just another (admittedly relatively minor) frustration on top of everything else.
For those looking for a little more excitement, I have good news. Three new restaurants are open on North 2nd Street, and thanks to their culinary pedigree (New York’s dining scene plays a strong influence), and No Libs’ new outdoor dining program, they’re the centerpiece of one of the most significant and thriving culinary destinations in Philly right now.
Best of all? They come completely equipped for takeout and socially distant dining, with an abundance of built-in outdoor space, in a neighborhood that’s leading the city in convenient socially distant measures. So, if you’re hankering for an exquisite fall dinner out, it’s time to take a culinary tour of the Piazza.
The Perfect Socially Distant Environment
The trendy NoLibs neighborhood has been ripe for the arrival of luxury food options since the reinvention of the Piazza. The Northern Liberties Business Improvement District has recently been at work turning the northern Second Street corridor into a mecca for foodies looking for a socially distant experience.
They’ve closed the portion of 2nd Street around the Piazza, and car traffic is limited in the area, providing ample space for restaurants like Jerry’s, Urban Garden, Bourbon and Branch, Rustica Pizza, Standard Tap and many cafes to set up outdoor dining. The neighborhood has benefitted from extensive measures to make socially distant dining comfortable. The street acts as a venue for dining under the stars with newly installed lights, while diners are kept cozy with heat lamps and individualized tents, in addition to safe indoor dining options.
These socially distant measures have been ramped up with the construction of the new restaurants Añejo, Hudson Table and SET NoLibs. Since the pandemic hit as the restaurants were still getting underway, they’ve been able to incorporate safety into their design. Each has the ability to accommodate a large outdoor seating space, while residents and guests at The Cove, the Piazza’s new luxury “aquatic experience,” will be able to scan a QR code and order from their seat by the pool.
The overall effect makes for a lovely, quiet dinner out, a precious and all-too-rare experience nowadays, and as a result, the restaurants have done well, finding support as the area has maintained foot traffic thanks to the Piazza and surrounding shops. Around the square the community is vibrant. Residents are working outside and taking advantage of the space to get some much-needed time outdoors. With ample room for a pleasant fall stroll along the re-opened shopfronts in the square and along Second Street, residents have been able to regain some sense of normalcy, so it’s always a pleasant crowd as diners settle in for their meal.
As a neighborhood dining destination, then, the area around No Libs is still thriving. But with these new restaurants, it promises to become one of the most important dining destinations in the city. That becomes clearer when we take a closer look at what each restaurant brings to the (pun not intended) table.
A New York transplant, this upscale Mexican tapas restaurant specializes in small plates, guacamole and, yes, tacos — but not just any tacos. The Hell’s Kitchen location of Añejo offers an octopus-taro root tostada and pineapple-arbol glazed crispy cauliflower taco in addition to your more typical fillings. Order from a fully stocked agave bar featuring tequila and mezcal as well as lesser-known Mexican liquors like raicilla, sotol and baconara. For a full taste of the menu, book a table for brunch.
Romantic date night or special dinner out, Hudson Table can do it all. The community cooking school offers classes in its Piazza location. Professional chef demonstrations let onlookers watch how the experts do it and then taste the results. Alternatively, foodies can book an intimate “chef’s table” experience for a first-hand view of what happens behind swinging kitchen doors. The Seafood Shack, now open on weekends, offers high-end seafood comfort food, for a day-at-the-beach experience in the middle of Philly. Order at The Cove, and you can enjoy a lobster roll by the pool for a perfect culinary experience.
Think gastropub with an Asian twist and you’ll get a sense of the SET NoLibs menu. Originally from the Lower East Side (hence the name), It’s already known for inspired specialties like banh mi sliders, soy-glazed pork belly skewers and Thai chili sriracha wings. Sharing is encouraged with group-friendly bites, so its perfect for takeout and a small outdoor gathering at the Piazza. At the original location, for example, the SET loaded tots come piled high with bulgogi sliced ribeye, bacon bits, scallions, fried shallots, slaw and pickled onions plus a generous topping of sriracha garlic cheese. So basically, it’s not your average gastropub at all.
Click here or call (215) 883-2000 to learn more about The Piazza, home to luxe residences, Philly’s newest restaurants and the best Northern Liberties has to offer.This is a paid partnership between Post Brothers and Philadelphia Magazine's City/Studio