Summer is here, the heatwave is upon us, and there’s no better solace than digging into a meal at one of Philly’s newest restaurants (preferably in A/C). Whether you’re on the lookout for seasonally appropriate barbecue, newly minted al fresco dining, luxe suburban retreats, or a cool escape from the most touristy areas, the city is serving up plenty of new spots to try. The season would likewise not be complete with a visit to a few of Philly’s quintessential restaurants, whether you’re craving Old World Italian, late-night tacos, or 10 courses of sushi. Check out the best new places from the last few months — or skip down to Philly’s best restaurants overall, all outlined below.
Upscale French restaurant with wraparound bar on the Main Line
There’s yet another new reason to head out to Ardmore, if Tired Hands Brewing and Ardmore Music Hall weren’t enough, with the new Bercy restaurant in the building that formerly housed Primavera. The new space trades old-world Italian for luxe, ultra-chic French design and a menu to match — think cheese plates, steak frites, raw bar items, and enough “vin du verre” to make you fluent in French.
Indoor-outdoor eatery with seasonal plates and expansive bar menu
One of Philly’s newest outdoor dining options has already garnered a lot of traction since opening in May. The space’s biggest sell is its ambiance, boasting a 100-seat veranda on one of Center City’s busier intersections. Harper’s Garden is powered by FMC Hospitality, the company behind other popular outdoor concepts such as Morgan’s Pier and the traveling pop-up beer garden Parks on Tap. The influence shows: twinkly lights, budding greenery, a late-night happy hour, and seasonal flatbreads and salads from a kitchen led by Chef Ben Moore make the place feel like one very permanent, summer-y pop-up.
CHEZ BEN & M. BROWN
Joint cocktail bar and French bistro in the Franklin Hotel
The joint concept of Chez Ben and M. Brown mingles contemporary takes on classic French cuisine, including a wide aperitif selection, with the swanky M. Brown aged spirits bar, which specializes in cocktails spanning outside of France — Japanese whisky, for example, is available in abundance. The two concepts are in an open space that flow into one another, making it a perfect single stop for before dinner drinks at M. Brown before an extravagant meal at Chez Ben, or reverse.
REDCREST FRIED CHICKEN
Casual, all-day fried chicken spot with hearty, comfort food sides
For many of us, there is no greater gift than fried chicken, and chef Adam Volk’s new outpost in South Philly just keeps on giving. You can opt for buttermilk or the spicier curry fried chicken in quarter, half, full pound, or popcorn editions, and there’s no shortage of savory side options to sweeten the deal. Biscuits, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, and corn pudding are all on the menu, and the chicken is also available in jumbo wing or sandwich form with a couple more preparation options in the mix. Save room for soft serve and floats for dessert.
12,000-foot cafe/market/restaurant offering Middle Eastern fare
Phase one of Suraya launched late last year with its all-day cafe, and phase two — the full-blown restaurant slated to seat about 120 — will open this spring. As the full concept rolls out, it’s already garnered buzz in Fishtown and beyond, thanks to its Lebanese specialties (including imported beer) and expert owners Greg Root and Nick Kennedy from another great restaurant on the same street, Root, as well as Nathalie Richan. The market and cafe portion is beautifully designed, and we can expect another immaculate space once the restaurant phase is complete.
Stephen Starr and Aimee Olexy’s upscale American dining room on the park
The vacant shell that once housed Seraphina’s has been given new life after Stephen Starr and Aimee Olexy joined forces to open The Love., serving upscale American fare in an approachable, swanky space gleaming with natural sunlight. The menu has numerous starters that aren’t to be missed, but if you’re going to settle on just one (and you’re not lactose intolerant), don’t skip the cheese plate, because The Love. certainly doesn’t skimp: eight cheeses (all American) dolled up with the appropriate berries, spreads, and bread. Brunch is an enviable option here too, with shrimp and grits, truffle scrambled eggs, and other dishes served Saturdays and Sundays.
Post-apocalypse-themed bar and restaurant with a virtual reality lounge
Mad Rex is getting a lot of attention for a lot of different reasons. Firstly, it’s the only restaurant in town (or anywhere else we can think of) that has an overarching post-apocalyptic theme, meaning its appropriately outfitted with barbed wire, cargo nets, a helicopter model, graffiti, axes, bats, and fake guns to create quite a spectacle. Secondly, off the dining area is a set of virtual reality lounges where you can take a $2-a-minute journey through the experience of your choice, complete with VR goggles. The space sits on the corner of Frankford Avenue, just across from SugarHouse Casino, where it really does look like the end of the world. Eats aren’t technically the big draw here, but you can expect plenty of bar food standbys, like flatbreads, salads, and higher-end menu items including steak and seafood cooked with Himalayan salt.
Neapolitan pies (both savory and sweet) at an outpost of the Asbury Park original
There’s nothing wrong with another option for Naples-inspired pizza in Philly — especially when the ovens themselves are imported from Naples and the mozzarella is made in-house daily. Porta opened last December after success in its original Asbury Park location, opening up shop on Chestnut Street to bring Italian food for every meal of the day — and who doesn’t need a little breakfast pasta once in a while? At dinner you’ll find vegan and vegetarian pies (as well as meat options), including seasonal specialties.
Classic Spanish, wood-oven fare with oloroso and sherry choices
Todd Wentz, the man behind upscale French restaurant Townsend and cozy Italian BYOB A Mano now has a third Philly concept to call home, this time with Spanish tapas as the focus. The wood oven in the kitchen lends itself to specialties like shrimp with squid ink brioche, charred eggplant, and other grilled fare on a menu heavy on seafood. For a true experience, though, venture to the oloroso and sherry options (help is available if you don’t know where to start).
Peruvian classics heavy on seafood and imported brandy
It’s not easy to find authentic Peruvian food in the city, which is why the opening of Vista Peru has been such a welcome addition to Old City. Ceviche and causas dominate much of the smaller plates, while the arroz (rice) menu is focused on seafood and veggie options. Notable specialties are the seafood and lobster paella and the Pisco Bar, outfitted with cocktails made with imported Pisco Porton.
Neapolitan pizzas and seasonally curated pastas with hard-to-find ingredients
The pizza at Brigantessa is served in traditional Neapolitan style, meaning no pre-cut slices — the kind of pizza that wants you to abandon all American habit and fork-and-knife your way along — though your server will be happy to slice it up for you. The Regina pizza with Piennolo del Vesuvio is the must-have item, while gnocchi brushed with Calabrian chili oil is a must for lovers of all things hot and full of carbs. If you still think pizza bagels are exciting, elevate your tastes and head here for weekend brunch, where the drinks are bottomless and all pizzas can be breakfasty if you add an oozing egg.
All-day Japanese cafe and restaurant attached to Sampan
Double Knot is a dining destination for any time of day, opening at 7am to supply you with coffee, enduring the midday rush with build-your-own salad or rice bowls, and powering through into the evening to host a thriving bar scene. Walk past the bar, bookcases, and old mirrors, and enter the door in the back where you can enjoy an extravagant yet relatively affordable dinner menu ($55/person for a 10-course meal and dessert ain’t bad). Sushi, robatayaki meats, and other Japanese izakaya fare are served in this hidden sushi bar with an underground feel.
Cozy Mexican cantina with generous happy hour deals and a hidden speakeasy
Stephen Starr’s hidden taqueria on Chestnut Street mixes trendy kitsch with straightforward, delicious tacos. Guacamole should not be skipped, nor should happy hour: Come in during the week after work and you can get your favorite tacos for a buck each (one dollar!!!) and a strong margarita (or three) to wash them down. As if the cozy cantina couldn’t get any better, there’s a “hidden” passage through the kitchen that’ll take you to the Ranstead Room, Starr’s deliciously seductive speakeasy that serves stiff drinks and El Rey dishes.
Philly’s largest wine collection paired with traditional Italian fare
Panorama is yet another fine Italian establishment in Philadelphia that takes wine pairings very seriously, and luckily it’s stocked with plenty of options to try — 120 on tap and 150 bottles — and not all of them will leave you penniless (especially if you try a happy hour wine flight). Pastas are available in half and full sizes (perfect if you simply can’t choose between the burrata-filled pasta or the lamb shoulder agrodolce), and the antipasti dishes are perfectly portioned for those wine samples.
Varied Israeli food in a modern setting with can’t-miss hummus and tasting menus
Whether you opt for the restaurant’s signature lamb shoulder or keep it simple with the best assortment of hummus you’ll ever find in Philly, any dish at this Israeli mainstay is enough to see why it’s such a long-running institution. In the spirit of exclusivity, try to snag a seat at the chef’s counter for a more tailored experience. If you don’t have a chance to drop Zahav money right now (it ain’t exactly cheap), try chef Michael Solomonov’s more casual Sansom Street concepts, including fast-casual Israeli spot Dizengoff, Jewish restaurant Abe Fisher, falafel staple Goldie, and the quintessential fried chicken and donuts shop Federal Donuts.
WASHINGTON SQUARE WEST
Farm-to-table specialities in a beautifully curated indoor-outdoor space
This farm-to-table spot has a brunch menu extensive enough to compete with most lengthy dinner menus, and all can be ordered with a side of grits and caramel sea butter. For dinner, you get the chance to truly splurge on locally sourced cheese and charcuterie boards, seasonal salads, and pastas, including the escargot and farfalle bowtie pasta, and sides like bacon Brussels sprouts.
HARP & CROWN
Capacious dining room with eclectic new American dishes, pizza, and strong drinks
The gorgeous, expansive space of Harp & Crown features high ceilings, exposed brick, a wrap-around bar, tufted booths, and vintage portraits. The striking atmosphere (and hidden basement bowling alley) can be enough to lure you inside, but the selection of stiff drinks, small plates, and diverse entrees will keep you coming back for more — not to mention an all-you-can eat (and generous drink) weekend brunch. Charcuterie and cheese plates go great alongside Spanish octopus and lamb meatballs, while the hanger steak and the farro pasta with spinach pesto is one of the most satisfying meals you’ll get to try.
Long-running Spanish tapas spot with lounge seating and chef’s counter
Chef Jose Garces’ very first Philadelphia restaurant opened back in 2005, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. The menu embraces Spanish cuisine, offering small, sharable tapas plates and an alluring tasting menu if you want to try a bit of everything. If you’re new to tapas, you can’t go wrong with gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp), patatas bravas (spicy potatoes), or the lamb meatballs.