Can we all agree “Pharewell” would be cliché? I first came to Philadelphia as a college freshman internally kicking and screaming, knowing not a soul in the Mid-Atlantic. I psyched myself up and found my way, but initially it was a challenge.
That was more than 11 years ago, and Philly and I both came around in that decade plus. To share some of our favorite spots – I intended to write this as a collective post of restaurants, fitness, and shopping, but it was becoming War & Peace length.
So I invite you to enjoy a very detailed- Part I: Restaurants! If you are heading to Philly anytime soon – here are the spots we are hoping to visit one.last.time. before our move to Geneva.
A note before you scroll – I really do not care for people who describe themselves as “foodies.” I really love food, but my favorites below are not “foodie favorites” and I am not a sophisticate of the “Philly food scene.” But they are all reliably solid spots and I hope you have the same excellent experiences we have enjoyed if you visit.
Full Philly Series:
You know that us selfish millennials only brunch right? Every Saturday/Sunday we sleep till 11, dust off our participation trophies, and saunter out for our avocado toast. We simultaneously Snapchat photos of the toast and moan about how unrealistic mortgages are. I jest. Kind of.
- Cafe Lift – delicious savory and sweet options and BYOB which means long weekend waits – don’t go in a rush! (Callowhill)
- Little Spoon – cozy cafe with great daily scrambles and yummy chai lattes, and they stock pints of ice cream from Philly favorite Franklin Fountain). They have both savory and sweet pancakes – I went here on a rainy morning after a tough workout and treated myself to exactly ONE pancake for $4. Can’t beat it! (Graduate Hospital)
- Fitzwater Cafe – no frills, wonderful Bella Vista neighborhood spot (cash only) bistro style cafe with excellent service and awesome omelet specials (Bella Vista)
- FARMiCiA – solid brunch with great cocktails (I love the Grace Kelly) in a really roomy spot in Old City and is much easier to get a table on a weekend! Metropolitan Bakery bread and excellent omelets! (Old City)
The power lunch is *so over.* Onto happy hour…
This list could also be defined as “places where I have repeatedly left behind my credit card.”
- Tria – the #1 place I visit for drinks with girlfriends but appeals to anyone and everyone. They have an enormous wine and beer list, great cheese plates and an asparagus artichoke salad I obsess over. The servers are really knowledgeable about the menu without being unapproachable. (Locations in Rittenhouse and Washington Square West)
- Double Knot – coffee shop when you walk in during the day, and a really great Japanese restaurant in the basement. The short ribs for two (more like four) are standout amazing. Really good cocktails and particularly whiskey drinks if that’s your jam (Midtown Village)
- Tredici – we’ve only had drinks here (no reservations) but I adore the interior and the cocktails are so lovely (Midtown Village)
- Frankford Hall– outdoor fire pits, the best Santa in Philly, enormous pretzels, solid brats and a great group spot with board games in the courtyard. We had a farewell party here before the holidays and it was an ideal spot. (Fishtown)
- Harp & Crown- incredible and gastropub in Center City – great for groups, lethally good cocktails (sometimes literally on 🔥) I like the “Ruby Slippers” and even bowling in the basement (Rittenhouse)
- Bok Bar – summer only, and cash only with unbelievable views on the top of an old high school – with great Viet/Fillipino food (South Philly)
- Dandelion Pub – Charming gastropub with authentic-feeling ambiance right near the park. Lots of Churchill Arms vibes from London (Rittenhouse)
I reviewed this post with one of my best girlfriends who reminded me to share that one of the greatest things about the Philly dinner scene is the abundance of BYOB places- so keep an eye out for those in particular!
- Talula’s Garden– especially in the summer is always one of my top recommendations. The stunning garden makes you feel 100 miles outside the city, the food is farm fresh, seasonal, and creative and the CHEESE PLATES. (Washington Square West)
Vernick – soared to the top as likely my favorite place in Philly this year. It’s a total treat if you can get a reservation and revered for a reason – we’ve had more luck if you’re free on a weeknight to try to eat in the bar area. The specials are incredible, the menu is jam packed with simple, elegant, delicious plates from gorgeous local vegetables to roast chicken and crudos. (Rittenhouse)
Wm. Mulheirsons – feels like a fantastic Brooklyn in Philly – beautiful interior, great cocktails and a super indulgent pizza and porterhouse specials- also great for brunch! (Fishtown)
The Good King Tavern – quality, cozy, no fuss bistro that breaks down their red and white house wine down into categories of “Good” “Better” “Best” – love the radical transparency and also the steak frites. (Bella Vista)
Kensington Quarters – more Brooklyn in Philly. The restaurant is in a beautiful repurposed warehouse with amazing charcuterie, burger, tartare, and pork shoulder – they do butchery classes and I’ve known folks who order Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas tenderloins from the kitchen. (Fishtown)
Vedge– By it’s own definition, “a vegetable restaurant.” In other words, Kensington Quarter’s polar opposite. Great happy hour specials, and the dishes are so creative and flavorful, it hardly feels like you are missing out. (Washington Square West)
Barbuzzo– really great Mediterranean- consistently amazing dishes and my favorite dessert below – a must reservation (Midtown Village)
Zavino – a solid wine list, salads, and pizza and a particularly great “healthier” pizza called The Stache with whole wheat crust and pistachio pesto. (Midtown Village and University City)
Zahav – for the hummus and salatim (six daily vegetable salads) ALONE (Society Hill) – amazing happy hour if you can snag a seat at the bar at 4:55 flat. Also revered for a very big reason! Come hungry.
Parc – truly Paris in Philly – French brasserie, right on Rittenhouse Square (best bread basket and amazing beef bourguignon, great for brunch and fancy people/dog watching/full mink spotting too) (Rittenhouse)
Parc in Rittenhouse
Pumpkin – a consistent favorite BYOB with gorgeous seasonal specials (Graduate Hospital)
Mercato – is a perfect little BYO with great pasta and risotto specials (the summer and winter choices are equally wonderful) (Washington Square West)
Audrey Claire – BYO mediterranean/farm fresh “South of France” sensibility – no weekend reservations— but you can visit Twenty Manning just a stone’s throw over for a drink while you wait! (Rittenhouse)
And for specific menu needs/moods…
A retrospective of cravings: When you want a seriously good $5 basic cheeseburger – Fountain Porter (Passyunk)
- Or a more robust one with all of the things and a great beer list and atmosphere… Pub & Kitchen (Graduate Hospital)
- An essential breakfast sandwich for a murderous hangover – Spread Bagelry (I do the egg white with cheddar) (locations in Rittenhouse & University City)
- A great seasonal pizza (the summer corn is my favorite ) … Bufad (Callowhill) – also a stellar Sunday Gravy special!
- A great margherita pizza and seriously inventive salads… Pizzeria Nomad (Bella Vista and also a traveling food truck)
- If you have 2+ hours to wait for very, very good pizza and can take it home with you quickly… Pizzeria Beddia (Fishtown)
- A basket of popcorn cooked in rosemary and bacon grease and you want to wash it down with a great whiskey lemonade… Twisted Tail (Society Hill)
- For unbelievable ramen on a chilly night – Cheu Noodle Bar (two locations: Washington Square West & Fishtown) – great dumpling and veggie specials, too.
- When you need to have cucumber margaritas and guac for dinner … Cantina Los Caballitos (Passyunk)
- For great mussels, crusty bread, and Belgian beers … Monks (Rittenhouse)
- An out of it’s mind great dessert – the budino at Barbuzzo (the recipe made it into Bon Apetit Magazine here. (Midtown Village)
Maybe you will say – Nicole, thanks, but this all sounds a little much. Do you only wear pants with an elastic waist? It is is a fair question and fortunately I have become addicted to a few places that help me button my jeans…which I will share in my next post!
UPDATE: I mentioned when I first published this post that we were about to partake in one more VERY splurgey dinner at the notorious Italian Cucina Vetri (with enormous thanks to my in-laws who generously gave us a holiday gift card) which was my holy grail for many years. Truly, head to toe it was spectacular from wine to each homemade pasta dish to stellar service. It was stunning – but the bill was only justifiable for massive 25th wedding anniversary type events. Our favorite for a celebratory night out remains Vernick absolutely!
what did I miss?!