I recently discovered that Philadelphia offers an amazing selection of authentic cuisine and top-notch restaurants. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising considering many chefs from New York keep moving out here to open their own amazing restaurants. This vibrant city’s dining scene is taking the foodie market to a whole new level! It’s more than the cheesesteaks, too–though they are obviously amazing! Philadelphia has amazing restaurants in every culinary realm. I had my work cut out for me during our trip, but I put in the hard work of sampling as much fine Philly dining as I could. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it, right? Here are some of my favorite Philly restaurants you must eat at!
Reading Terminal Market
Top of my list is the famous Reading Terminal Market. It’s truly a foodie’s paradise! You can get everything from Cheesesteak to Pad Thai to the world’s best donuts. You can also pick up local, fresh produce, artisinal cheeses and fresh baked goods. It’s open 7 days a week and no trip to Philadelphia is complete without a visit. But, it’s worth noting that the Amish vendors only sell Tuesday-Saturday and they offer some of the best goodies. While you’re here you have to stop into Dinic’s for its Roast Pork sandwich (with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone) that the Travel Channel named as the best sandwich in the United States. Grab a soft pretzel from Metropolitan Pretzel and a famous Fourth Street Cookie but my ultimate favorite treat were the donuts from Bieler’s Donuts. It is truly the best dessert I have ever had in my entire life. I highly recommend the maple bacon, salted caramel or the Oreo creme, all are cream-filled deliciousness!
Best Cheesesteaks in Philadelphia
If you’re looking to get your hands on Philly’s most famous food–the cheesesteak, then you may have a difficult time choosing the best spot. There is a never-ending debate as to who prepares the best thinly sliced steak sandwich with fried onions and cheese. The typical fight for the right to call themselves the owner of the best Philly cheesesteak is between Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King of Steaks. The two sit across the street from each other and are open until the wee hours of the morning. You’ll always find them packed with drunk college kids and tourists. The local’s though often argue that John’s Roast Pork, Tony Luke’s in South Philly or Jim’s Steak serve the best. We were actually told to hit up John’s Roast Pork for breakfast since it opens at 7am.
Best Middle-Eastern in Philadelphia: Zahav
This Israeli eatery serves up unforgettable middle-eastern food but the hummus takes the prize (there are actually four different varieties!). Zahav is one of the hottest restaurants in Philadelphia and Chef Michael Solomonov will blow your mind with his fresh-outta-the-oven Laffas! The lamb shoulder (which isn’t my thing) is also what they’re famous for–it sells out quickly so be sure to put your order in fast!
Best Pizza in Philadelphia: Santucci’s
This no-frills pizza joint allows you to Bring-Your-Own alcohol (a popular Philly restaurant trend). It’s famous for its square pizza, which is made “upside-down” with the cheese layered under the sauce. The crispy crust will keep you coming back to one of its several locations. Save room for the legendary granny smith salad (with caramelized walnuts and blue cheese) and the garlic parm fries. We loved these as much as the pizza! Visit Santucci’s at one of its multiple locations.
Best Vegetarian in Philadelphia: Vedge
Vedge is ranked one of the top restaurants in all of Philly–and guess what? It’s vegan! Yep! Now, I know what you’re thinking–with so many amazing options how can I spend a meal at a vegan place with limited time in Philadelphia–okay I thought the exact same thing. When I was fielding suggestions for where to eat several people recommended Vedge and I can’t lie, I kind of ignored them. But eventually I figured if all these people said it was so great I had to try it out. And I am so happy I did. Our dinner at Vedge was one of the best meals I’ve ever had–and not just in Philadelphia. Every morsel tasted better than the last. The salt-roasted golden beets is reminiscent of a tuna tartare in its presentation as well as its palate–but even more refreshing. The spicy grilled tofu and the grilled seitan were out of this world. And don’t even get me started on the brussels sprouts! Oh and they have an excellent craft beer selection to boot!
Best Chinese in Philadelphia: Han Dynasty
This amazing chinese restaurant chain serves up the best dandan noodles. Han Dynasty is also popular for its spicy cucumbers. There are multiple locations so you can get your sichuan on, stat!
Best Mediterranean in Philly: Barbuzzo
Barbuzzo, a wonderful Mediterranean eatery will make your mouth happy! They serve up everything from farm-to-table salads and a great uovo pizza. It’s most famous though for its magical salted caramel budino, which is a butterscotch pudding that’s topped iwth gooey caramel and based with a chocolate cookie crust that’s magical.
Best Afternoon Tea: Mary Cassatt Tea Room
The afternoon tea at the Mary Cassatt Tea Room in the Rittenhouse hotel was one of the best tea experiences I’ve ever had. There’s a wonderful harpist playing familiar tunes and everything is made fresh on the premises. The bright room is lovely without being stuffy. This Five-Diamond hotel knows how to put on a good show.
I highly recommend going for the signature afternoon tea, which is $49 per person. You get a wonderful selection of tea sandwiches, pastries and other fun sweets–and it comes with a glass of sparkling wine, too. The scones though may have been my favorite treat! So if you’re looking for some civilized tranquility to break up all your sightseeing, I highly recommend a visit to the Mary Cassatt Tea Room.
Best Brunch: High Street on Market & A.Kitchen
High Street on Market is fantastic and serves up excellent new American cuisine. It’s part-bakery, part cafe and has the best pastries imaginable! Its freshly baked breads are incredible and made from locally-sourced flour. The breads are used in all the sandwiches.
A.Kitchen, High Street’s sister restaurant is definitely worth a visit as well! We tried the burger, which was great and a Waygu Beef Pastrami Rueben, which was out of this world! A.Kitchen also uses High Street’s baked goods. The coffee at both is outstanding.
Best Sushi in Philadelphia: Zama
Zama serves up creative and unexpected Japanese dishes that will delight. While the sushi is solid and comes in tons of unique rolls, its small plates are the most memorable. The brussels sprouts are out of this world and the Kirin Ichiban Braised Shortribs will please the palate! Yum, Yum, Yum! We ended up coming here last minute and LOVING it! It’s also a great scene if you’re looking for that.
Best Coffee in Philadelphia: La Colombe
If you’re looking for the best coffee in Philadelphia be sure to check out a cup at La Colombe. Its Italian-style espresso will keep you going, and going, and going…
Best Ice Cream in Philadelphia
And I can’t speak to the ice cream since I came in the winter when it was freeeeeeeeezing cold but when we come back this summer we’ll be checking out The Franklin Fountain and Little Baby’s Ice Cream, which we hear serves up a mean Earl Gray Sriracha variety.
Need a place to stay?
Get an inside look at the Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco, our favorite hotel in Philadelphia!
Image Courtesy Flytographer
The Best Things to Do in Philadelphia
We have handpicked the Top Ten things you must see when you’re in Philly.
*PS I paid for all the meals above except for tea service at the Rittenhouse Hotel where I was graciously hosted.