Have you ever woken up and thought, “Gosh, I’d love to eat at a second-best restaurant today?” Of course you haven’t. Whether you’ve lived here your entire life or are visiting for the first time, it’s human nature to want to experience the best of the best. And that’s exactly why we wrote this guide.
These are the highest-rated restaurants in Philadelphia—the ones we’d sit in an hour of traffic to get to, the ones we pine for when we hear love songs, the ones we seek out on days off. Food and experience are both taken into consideration, and any type of dining establishment is fair game. On this list, you’ll find fancy spots, casual hangouts, walk-up windows, and numerous pizzerias. Every city has its classics and its hot new places, but these are restaurants where greatness is guaranteed.
If you only have one night in the city, securing a meal at Vetri is just as necessary as booking a hotel room. The Center City Italian spot has a tasting menu that includes things like a Dungeness crab budino with asparagus and a puffy gnocco fritto, a pasta lineup featuring spinach gnocchi and corzetti with pistachio tarragon, and a few mains like poached halibut. It’s the kind of place that starts to feel like home after a few courses, especially since the servers make you feel so at ease that you may end up telling them your life story. While a meal here will run you $150 (and more with the worthwhile $85 wine pairing), a night at the intimate spot is so worth it. Whatever they serve you, you’ll be replaying every bite in your mind all week like a highlight reel.
Few things in life will train you for the rejection you’ll face when trying to reserve a table at Zahav. Only going to the DMV on a Saturday can really come close. But when you do get a chance to eat at this Society Hill Israeli spot, you’ll get to taste a fantastic rotation of small plates like fried carrots, fluffy laffa bread, and silky hummus that will make you feel spontaneous joy. Everything on their rotating $72 five-course tasting menu is good, but their tender and pomegranate-glaze lamb shoulder and juicy chunks of swordfish that are coated with earthy kale tzatziki are the headliners when they’re on the menu. They also have a $45 wine pairing featuring all Middle Eastern producers, and throughout the meal, you’ll learn the origin stories of these wines like they’re Marvel superheroes. This spot is worth the two-month wait for a reservation, even if you’re sitting next to a stranger on a corner stool at the bar.
The dishes at this South Philly Italian spot are large, sharable, and rotate as often as mock NFL drafts in April—and if we didn’t have any bills to pay, we’d order everything on the menu. Whether you’re inside at their long pasta bar or get a table on their heated outdoor setup, you can’t go wrong with long strips of beef carpaccio, a chicory salad with vinegary boquerones, and all of the pastas. Although they have a few noodle dishes we can’t stop thinking about, like a lemony lobster-stuffed conchiglie or pumpernickel pappardelle with duck ragu, it’s the rigatoni with Fiorella sausage that we’d order every day of the week. The blend of peppery sausage, chewy rounds of pasta, and a savory tomato sauce will even have your out-of-town friend looking at apartment listings near the Italian Market.
This Kensington Israeli grill is from the team behind Zahav, and is almost as hard to get into as its sister restaurant. You’ll start your dinner with a circular metal rack filled with ten rotating vegetable-based salatim like sweet carrots and beets, lemony gigante beans piyaz, and some fluffy pitta and hummus. It’s big enough that you could make a meal out of these bites alone, but if you did, you’d miss out on things like charred branzino packed with ginger and tomato or the smoky Bulgarian beef kebab that’s dripping in an Aleppo pepper sauce. Pretty much anything they put over the flame is fantastic. This is one of the best group spots in the city, and because of that salatim tray, it’s as good for vegetarians as it is for people who love meat.
If you make the best pizza and cheesesteak in Philly, you deserve to have the key to the city. In this town, that title belongs to Angelo's. The cash-only South Philly spot is the only place you should go to when you want the best of both worlds, like their cheesesteak on seeded crackly bread (that they bake in-house), the signature Upside Down pie that buries a layer of cheese beneath mounds of tomato sauce, and a classic margherita with the creamiest fior di latte in the city. It might feel like you have to choose when you're at this takeout-only spot, but just go for one of each. People care a lot about cheesesteaks and pizza in this city, and after you leave Angelo's, you'll understand why.
Expect attentive service and white tablecloths at Rittenhouse's Barclay Prime, which makes the whole experience feel like you’re living in a real-life version of Billions. What really sets this above any other steakhouse in the city is their $140 cheesesteak that comes with wagyu beef, truffle whiz, and a mini bottle of champagne for the table. The soft and crispy bread and tender beef merge to make a sandwich that we, in no way, were prepared to believe is worth the cost—even though it 100% is. All of their steaks are always cooked to perfection, and they have add-ons like citrusy jumbo lump crab cakes and creamy truffle mac and cheese that make for the perfect accompaniments to your meat centerpiece. Head here for a pricey night out when you feel like celebrating, or just want to feel like the (totally made-up) Royal Family of Philadelphia.
When you want to try the latest and greatest pizzeria in Philly, head to Pizza Jawn in Manayunk. They have three types of pies—round, grandma, and Detriot-style—and all three come with expert leopard char marks and crunchy crusts. You have to buy everything at this takeout-only spot by placing an order online. With 38 topping options, specialty menu items like lasagna sandwiches, and creative pies like a take on a Big Mac that’s covered in Thousand Island dressing, you might be tempted to go wild with the wide-spanning menu. But even though the place offers you more dress-up options for your pizza than a Build-A-Bear workshop with a wood-burning oven, the simple margherita is still the way to go.
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Unlike the other excellent pizzerias on this list (Angelo's, Pizza Jawn, Down North, and Pizza Shackamaxon), Pizzeria Beddia is somewhere that you can actually hang out, drink natural wines, and enjoy some of the best pizza in the city. They have a massive dining room, a u-shaped bar that has a floating cloud hanging overhead, and a menu full of thin-crust pies, small plates like roasted vegetables drenched in miso and breadcrumbs, and a few salads. When choosing between pies, go for the No.2. The mix of Calabrian cream, mozzarella, and old gold creates a bunch of gooey mounds of cheese like there are mini fondue machines hidden in the edges of the crust. Plus, they have some of the best soft serve in town.
Lark is the city’s ideal date night spot. The impressive amount of candles, cozy booths, and chandeliers make this Bala restaurant perfect for a special evening, but the balcony elevates it to the most romantic place in the city. There’s a great view of the Schuylkill River, and while you can't have a full meal out there, you can still lounge at one of their outdoor fire pits and drink a cocktail. The Mediterranean menu changes often, but all of the bigger plates work great split between two people. Make sure to order things from every section of the menu, including a few plates of pasta and definitely a large entree—the grilled trout and strip steak are favorites. The next time your anniversary rolls around, ditch the lame Hallmark card and just book a table at Lark instead.
While restaurants that feel like dinner parties are thriving in other cities, Philly has a history of places like Palizzi and Messina. Her Place feels like the next generation of those supper clubs: the food is better, you don’t need a membership, and even though you might have to struggle for a reservation, you'll feel like you’re eating a meal at a chef’s house rather than at a small Center City restaurant. They serve a four-course $75 tasting menu that changes every two weeks, and to get a reservation, you’ll need to be ready when they drop them on Sundays at 6pm. This is the only place in Philly where you can eat fine dining-quality food like lobster ravioli and brown butter profiteroles while harmonizing with the chef to a Destiny’s Child song—all while you watch her put the finishing touches on a gorgeous plate of pasta.
The $155 omakase at this Fishtown Japanese spot might cost more than a front-row ticket for The Lion King on Broadway. But it’s all worth it since you’ll experience 20-courses of meat and seafood-focused dishes that will be some of the best in your life. You’ll be served things like an expertly cooked wagyu beef tongue covered in white bean foam and gold flakes, poached quail eggs, and spongy matcha tea cake to end your meal or birthday dinner. All of this together makes it the best sushi and Japanese spot in the city. And whether you’re at the crowded sushi bar watching the chefs precisely slice each piece of fish or sitting at one of the intimately lit tables with a group of friends, you’ll feel like everybody working at Hiroki can somehow read your mind.
Between Beddia and Pizza Shackamaxon, people who live on Girard Ave. and search “pizza near me” are in good hands. At this slice shop, there are only four pizzas: plain, tomato, pepperoni, and a special that rotates as much as fantasy lineups during football season. You can’t preorder a pie here (unless you’re getting four or more), so you’ll just have to wait outside the takeout window like you’re a kid in line for the ice cream truck. The bonus of the whole system is that, even on a game day, you probably only have to wait 10 minutes to get your hands on a delicious thin-crust pizza with orange grease dripping off each slice. And although you never step foot inside, the community of people waiting in line still feels lively and special in its own right.
The next time you want to dive into a book, have a memorable breakfast or lunch, and forget the rest of the world exists, come to this Kensington Vietnamese coffee shop. They even have long tables so you can bring a group of friends here and start your day with things like oniony broken rice porridge, egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches on long rolls, cha fries that come covered with salsa roja and fried eggs, or crispy chicken bánh mì that are coated with sweet gochu glaze. Pair any of them with a custard-layered egg coffee (made from beans sourced from Vietnam and around Asia) and you’ll have a complete morning catch-up with friends in a spot that isn’t as frantic as some of the other coffee shops in the city and has way better food.
While Philly has some great pizza, Down North in Strawberry Mansion is one of the rare spots that serves Detroit-style pies—and it’s by far the city's best option. Each bite is pillowy and thick and can be covered in heaps of beef sausage, pepperoni, and a handful of other standout toppings. They have a dozen specialty pizzas, all named after songs by Philly rappers, but our favorite here is the Flip Side. It brings together beef bacon, jalapeños, a heavy layer of melted mozzarella cheese, and caramelized pineapple that are as crispy as the edges on the rim of each pizza. Something that makes us love this place even more is their empowering workforce development plan, which includes hiring only previously incarcerated individuals.
Suraya is an all-day spot that’s good for pretty much any situation. Whether you want a coffee and pastry on a Monday morning or you're looking for an outdoor space to have a birthday dinner, this Lebanese spot in Fishtown is somewhere you should seek out. Both their indoor dining space and patio area are filled with tables that can fit at least seven people, so it’s a great place to bring a group of friends to pass around mezze plates like baba ganoush, smokey eggplant, and puffy pita. They also have one of the better brunches in the city, where you’ll smell flaky almond croissants being baked, see chai being poured at various tables, and watch servers bring out plenty of omelets topped with feta.
Life is full of mysteries, like why some commercials get louder than others and why we can’t effectively park our car without turning down the music. But there’s no mystery as to where to find the best tacos in Philly. It’s at South Philly Barbacoa where they only have three items on the menu: lamb tacos, pork belly tacos, and consomme. But since they’re only open on the weekends (starting at 5am), you may have to wait through a crowd of people who have the same plan as you. You should go for everything, including the oniony broth swimming with rice and chickpeas. The tacos are served on homemade corn tortillas that are thick and speckled with little mini air pockets, come filled with fall-off-the-bone meat, and get topped with a thin layer of diced tomato and cilantro. If there are no empty seats inside, you can walk around the Italian Market and snack on your tacos while appreciating that life has brought you together.
Located in a converted school building, Irwin's might surprise you with a dining space full of retro furniture that we haven’t seen since the last day of twelfth grade and a massive outdoor patio that’s perfect for watching the sunset on a date night. It’s one of the newer spots on this list, but the chef used to run Resa Ipsa—one of the best Italian restaurants in town—before it closed. The dishes that stand out are the juicy whole fish topped with citrusy salsa and an orange-glazed half agrodolce chicken that’s the best roasted poultry in town. Plus, after eating some pasta and sipping on some wine, you'll probably just sit back and marvel at how they made an old South Philly vocational school feel like one of the coolest places on earth.
Open since 2012, Vernick Food and Drink continues to be one of the most longstanding and well-known spots in the city and on this list. Even though it’s one of the first places to come to mind when you want an upscale and fancy night out, the setup is very minimalist—think bare walls, a handful of wooden tables, and a painting or two on the walls. None of that matters, though, as the restaurant comfortably knows that the food is a show of its own. Stop by after a day of shopping near Rittenhouse or for your next date night for a meal of salads, pasta, crudo, and sharable mains, like the perfectly charred pork chop with a peppery romesco glaze and juicy strawberries.
When we want excellent Thai food, Kalaya is the first place we think of. The Bella Vista spot has a 30-seat dining room that’s always filled with the scent of stews, coconut, sticky or jasmine rice, and some wok-fried dishes that are great for passing around the table. Some of the curries here run spicy, but the sweet massaman nua with tender cuts of beef happens to be both the mildest and our favorite dish here. One of our favorite BYOBs, Kalaya is a place where you can sit back at a table with friends, order a lineup of dishes like duck salad, garlicky eggplant, and shrimp tossed in a creamy soup, and already be planning your next meal here before the end of the night.
Butcher & Singer is one of those places that make you feel cooler just by being in its dining room. The space is full of white tablecloths, deep leather booths, and a few of those massive chandeliers that remind us of the ones from the Beauty and the Beast ballroom scene. Head there for a birthday dinner when you don’t have to pick up the tab and wait for the servers in tuxedos to bring you bone-in filets, shareable racks of lambs, and seafood towers. We don’t know if it was an inside joke to make one of the pricier restaurants in the city inside of an old bank, but the $100-per-person price tag is worth every penny. While the excess can kind of steal the show, everything from their starters like lemony crabcakes to a towering Baked Alaska makes this one of the more special meals in the city.
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This two-story Rittenhouse spot has a party scene at their first-floor bar and a more formal dining space upstairs that's filled with candles, blue leather square booths and tables, and stained glass windows surrounded by worn-down shutters. It’s an atmosphere that’s somehow both relaxing and sophisticated, and the giant floor-to-ceiling metallic palm trees make for a great conversation starter. This is great when you want a cool date night spot where you’ll probably eat some type of ceviche, pasta, and a juicy New York strip that we’ve seen come with cinnamony yams. Unlike most New American places in the city that have a similar menu, though, each dish at Friday Saturday Sunday is so perfectly executed that you’ll want to erase every other beef tartare and charred octopus you’ve ever eaten from your memory. Plus, when your tasting-menu meal is over, you can just head downstairs to their lively bar, have a few cocktails, and keep the night going.
Laurel is a 24-seat restaurant on East Passyunk that serves French American dishes and a six-course tasting menu that costs about the same as your cellphone bill each month ($135). But unlike your phone, which oddly drops to one bar when you go near the produce section at the grocery store, this is a place you can actually depend on to give you excellent service. Because when you come for a date night, or when you want to splurge on yourself for your birthday, they have things like truffle-crusted cod, a l'arpege egg served with caviar, roasted duck served with a buttermilk vinaigrette, and a frozen honey curd with kumquats and orange blossom that’s one of the most refreshing desserts we’ve ever had.
If you’re looking for a place to show off an outfit fancy enough that if you randomly ran into Halle Berry you’d be prepared for a photoshoot, head to this Center City steakhouse. One part railroad car, one part library, Alpen Rose is a comfortable and intimate spot where you can sit at leather booths and order a tomahawk ribeye, raw bar items, creamy mac and cheese with aged cheddar, and a tender prime rib roast that’s just the right size for two people. There are quite a few steakhouses in the city, but this one nails every component: impeccable cuts of meat, on-point execution of all the side dishes, and an experience that makes you feel like you're on the set of a big-budget film.
Hardena is somewhere that doesn’t take reservations, but this South Philly Indonesian BYOB is a place that’s worth leaving the office early just to secure a spot in their small dining room. The braised beef rendang is perfect—it’s marinated in coconut milk and goes great with your favorite bottle of merlot you’ll bring to share with friends. One bite into the sweet and peppery meat will make you feel all of the things that cheesy Hallmark cards promise: joy, love, and devotion. And since most things here are under $20, it’s one of the best affordable group dinner spots in the whole city.
Some people listen to wind chimes and crashing waves when they need something soothing. But our best version of stress relief is biting into buttery and fluffy cornbread muffins, spicy jollof rice, and charred juicy chicken from this counter-service Northern Liberties West African spot. Bliss comes in custom orders of plantains, dry-rubbed blackened chicken, saffron-colored yaji-seasoned steak, lightly charred brussels sprouts, and rice all tossed into a bowl. Everything here makes us satisfyingly exhale when we eat it, including the fact that the bowls cost $13. Stop by on a casual weeknight or grab a quick meal before a night out at the bars nearby.