Philadelphia may be famous for cheesesteaks, but this cosmopolitan city also offers plenty of more sophisticated fare, from Mediterranean small plates to farm-to-table vegetarian dishes. Pack your appetite and check out this list of the best Philadelphia restaurants to sample on your next trip.
A waterfall and a 10-foot Buddha statue greet diners at Buddakan, one of the most perennially popular Philadelphia restaurants. The wide-ranging Asian menu includes everything from sashimi and dumplings to pad Thai and lamb chops grilled with Mongolian BBQ sauce.
The bright, airy dining room at Positano Coast offers an attractive backdrop for its seasonal Mediterranean dishes. Choose from classic Italian options like eggplant parmigiana or veal marsala, or savor seafood dishes like the zucchini crabcake or pan-seared branzino.
High Street on Market
Many of the breakfast, brunch, and lunch dishes at High Street on Market feature fresh bread from the restaurant’s own bakery—including the avocado toast with pomegranate seeds, fresh herbs, and feta, which appears on the breakfast menu, and the “best grilled cheese ever,” served at lunch with cheddar and butter on potato bread. At dinner, the focus is farm-to-table fare.
Founded in 1773, the historic City Tavern is kitschy but fun, with waiters dressed in colonial costume. On the menu are traditional dishes like braised rabbit and Martha Washington-style colonial turkey pot pie, but also fried tofu, the directions for which were inscribed in a 1770 letter from Franklin. Bonus: George Washington and Benjamin Franklin really did eat here.
Reading Terminal Market
One of Philly’s favorite spots for lunch is Reading Terminal Market, housed in a huge, late-19th-century railroad shed at 12th and Arch Streets. Vendors at the market offer nearly every imaginable cuisine, from smoothies and seafood to gyros and pad Thai. You can also pick up local favorites like Amish home-baked goods and, yes, cheesesteaks.
Barbuzzo is on 13th Street, in a once-desolate neighborhood that has recently transformed into the trendy Midtown Village with new restaurants and boutiques. The Mediterranean-inspired fare includes seasonal pastas, pizzas, and main dishes such as grilled octopus. Small plates, sophisticated farmhouse decor, and reasonable pricing will help you forget about the cramped tables.
Many locals believe El Vez serves the tastiest tacos in the city, and they’re not alone; the restaurant’s shrimp taco made a recent list of America’s best. Other highlights on the menu include margaritas, carne asada, and freshly made guacamole.
Devon Seafood Grill
The Devon Seafood Grill, located in the Rittenhouse Square area, is one of the best Philadelphia restaurants for an upscale evening out. The menu changes depending on the fresh catch of the day, but usually includes favorites such as jumbo lump crab cakes, freshly shucked oysters, and grilled Atlantic salmon.
One of the hottest spots in town is Zahav, whose name means “gold” in Hebrew. The Israeli menu features hummus, vegetable salads, small plates (fried cauliflower, haloumi cheese), and coal-grilled main dishes such as beef kebab and chicken shishlik.
For pub fare try Monk’s Cafe, offering comfort food favorites like burgers and macaroni and cheese, as well as a wide selection of fine brews. “If you think that you don’t like beer,” the restaurant’s website claims, “then you have never really tasted quality beer.”
Cuba Libre, a restaurant and rum bar in Old City, is eclectic and dynamic (and has fabulous mojitos). The menu offers Cuban and Latin favorites like arroz con pollo, and, of course, the classic Cuban sandwich.
Even dedicated carnivores find themselves savoring the cuisine at Vedge, a vegan restaurant in Center City. The ever-changing menu emphasizes seasonal local vegetables, with indulgent desserts such as white chocolate “cheesecake” and strawberry shortcake.
Recognized as the best new restaurant of 2018 by Philadelphia Magazine, Middle Eastern favorite Suraya starts out strong with appetizers such as baba ghanoush and fried kibbeh (beef and bulgur dumplings), leading into delicious main courses such as kebabs and black bass grilled in a banana leaf. In nice weather, you can enjoy your meal in the restaurant’s lovely garden.
Located on Passyunk Avenue, in a part of town where most of the other restaurant options are Italian, Sate Kampar offers a welcome change of pace. Malaysian dishes are the focus here, from classic meat skewers to nasi lemak bungkus, a mix of rice soaked in coconut cream and topped with sambal, anchovies, roasted peanuts, and hardboiled egg.
Sample Andalucian tapas like ham croquettes and bacon-wrapped medjool dates at Amada in Old City—or splurge on larger main dishes such as lobster paella or roasted suckling pig. You can add a tasting menu of Spanish wines or sherries as well.
Have a taste of West African cuisine at Kilimandjaro, a Senegalese restaurant in West Philadelphia that’s popular for its grilled fish and roasted meat dishes. Consider ordering a fresh ginger-mango juice to enjoy while you wait for your main course.
Located near Rittenhouse Square is The Dandelion, an English-style pub serving up classics like rabbit pie, beer-battered fish and chips, and bangers and mash. You can even stop by for afternoon tea, featuring mini-sandwiches and pastries alongside your favorite cuppa.
Butcher and Singer
With a vibe inspired by 1940s Hollywood, Butcher and Singer is one of the best Philadelphia restaurants for a classic steakhouse experience. In addition to excellent cuts of meat, you can also enjoy seafood dishes like oysters from the raw bar and lobster a la Newburg. There’s also a lengthy wine list.
Order up a margarita to go with the lovingly prepared Mexican food at Las Bugambilias on South Street. The wide-ranging menu offers plenty of vegetarian options, including enchiladas and chiles rellenos, and the restaurant serves brunch, lunch, and dinner most days of the week.
Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s flagship restaurant brings the delicately balanced tastes and exquisite preparation of Japanese cuisine to Center City Philadelphia. Order a la carte—options include sushi, noodles, wagyu dumplings, and more—or treat yourself to the omakase, or tasting menu, for the full experience.
Enjoy solid American fare in the up-and-coming Fishtown neighborhood at Kensington Quarters. Popular items on the menu include the excellent KQ burger, served with smoked cheddar and garlic aioli, and the mixed charcuterie appetizer.
Vientiane Cafe has been serving up authentic Lao and Thai cuisine in West Philly since 2002. Try the laab, a traditional Lao dish in which meat or tofu is marinated with a mix of roasted rice powder, lime juice, kalanga, mint, cilantro, and bean sprouts. Other options include curries, noodle dishes, fried rice, and more.
More from SmarterTravel:
- Hidden Philadelphia: 10 Under-the-Radar Gems Worth Discovering
- The 8 Best Spots for Shopping in Philadelphia
- 11 Fun Things to Do in Philadelphia
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Sarah Schlichter visited the city as a guest of Visit Philadelphia. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration. Carolyn Spencer Brown contributed to this story.
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