“If you’re from Philly and you’re listening to this, please know that the rest of the world looks at Philly and they’re jealous of your food. I promise. And if you’re not from Philly, and you’ve never been here and you’re thinking about coming somewhere to the East Coast, come to Philly and eat the food because the food. Is. Amazing.”
- Duff Goldman, Food Network
Its quite true, Philly has a foodie scene like no other. And its not just the tasty bites that make Philly's restaurant scene stand out, no restaurant stays on unless it has an atmosphere to contend. Long story short, Philly's restaurants have everything going for them.
Its also a constantly changing lineup with new restaurants popping up every month. For those who can't afford (both financially and physically) to eat out every night, that makes for a few restaurants too many. I can't keep up. In the last few months alone, our own little neighborhood of Fairmount has blown up with restaurants. So here's my list of must-go-to's in Philly right now.
1. Lemon Hill
Its a little gastropub only a few blocks from us that wouldn't really draw my attention if it wasn't for the names behind it. Its the brainchild of restaurant Supper and cocktail-haven Franklin Mortgage. Supper is gorgeous but the food was slightly lacking for Bill and I. Its supposed to be simple, country fare but for the price, it was a little too simple for us. That being said, if they got more creative, its obvious their chefs would create something worth noting. Franklin Mortgage, for those who know us, is our favorite bar EVER. Bill and I hate bars but I would go here every weekend if it was convenient. Not to spend too long raving, but its an ingenious stab at prohibition-era cocktails in speakeasy surroundings. So the mash-up of the two? Totally worth the four-block walk.
2. Route 6
Steven Starr's newest endeavor, this Broad St newbie is an ode to New England Crab Shacks and fish fries. I haven't heard much yet in terms of ratings but Starr is rarely wrong and tasty fish dishes get my mouth watering...
Speaking of Fish, here's Fish! What it lacks in creative nomenclature, it well makes up in its dishes. Owned by the king of seafood, Mike Stollenwerk, this seafood-specialty spot has been one of my favorite meals in Philly for a while. Recently, Fish picked up its bags and moved to a more prime-time location on 13th Street (home of our other favorite restaurant, Barbuzzo). The new digs come with a new menu and a glorious new look. While I loved the intimacy of the old Fish, I always thought it lacked atmosphere. The new spot makes sure that's not a problem with rustic, plank wood and crisp white upholstery.
Supposedly one of the best new restaurants in the city, this veggie-diet haven brings vegetarian cuisine out of the dark ages. I'm excited to try something so out of our ordinary, and so simply cute. Bring on the tofu!
It sounds like a 90's hip-hop group, but it is in fact a Spanish tapas bar from the 13th Street creators of Barbuzzo. They can really do no wrong, as far as I am concerned. I think they've outlasted the "fad" phase and can legitimately be called awesome. Every restaurant and shop they come up with has had my stamp of approval on it. And they seem to have the secret recipe for restaurant success, much like Steven Starr, which involves changing it up from time to time. Jamonera took over their former Indian-dazzler Bindi, not because Bindi was doing poorly, but simply to change up the 13th Street scene. Jamonera, I hope, will provide the mouth-watering plates of Barbuzzo with a Spanish-flair while offering yet another opulent dining atmosphere.
6. The Twisted Tale
So this is less a restaurant and more a bar AND it opened up months ago, but its still been heavily weighing on my list. This row-house is packed with Southern comfort (not the drink, although I'm sure its there too). Its a blues bar that offers live music 5-6 days of the week in an setting that combines Jimi Hendrix cool with whiskey-washed leather and brick walls. For Bill, they have quite the whiskey and bourbon collection. For me there's a plethora of bad but Oh-So-Good comfort food specials.
7. Federal Donuts
Here's a paradox for you: How can you put a restaurant on your top ten must-eat picks when you can't actually have anything on the menu. That's the issue I'm facing here. The local celebrity restaurateurs who opened Zahav (which is also on my list but won't actually put it up because I'm too embarrassed to say I haven't been) opened a hole-in-the-wall donut and fried chicken joint in South Philly. Normally this sounds like something a bit mundane for me, but these aren't any donuts and fried chicken. The chicken has been getting rave reviews and the donuts include choices such as "grapefruit-brown sugar" and "chocolate-spicy peanut". Sounds pretty fun to me.
8. Audrey Claire
I realize this shouldn't be on the list; I should have already gone. But there are just one too many restaurants here in Philly, which pushes some of the obvious staples into the "still-haven't-gone" pile. This is one of those cases. Hailed as one of the best restaurants in Philly, drive by any night of the week and you're sure to see a crowd who agrees. One of these days, Audrey Claire, one of these days....
9. Umai Umai
This little sushi spot is barely noticeable from the street, which is why after living here for nine months I only spotted it three months ago. Luckily, in the mean time, I've gotten into sushi and have been looking for fun places to go outside of Starr's Morimoto. This spot has nothing but rave reviews and is only a few blocks away- which is a win-win in my book.
10. A bunch of outdoor spots
(Top to bottom: Revolution House, Llama Tooth, The Corner, Frankford Hall)
That's not the name of a restaurant. It's just there are four spots in the city, some more bar than eatery, that boast some amazing outdoor spaces I've been dying to check out (when its not 30 degrees out, that is). The first is Old City's new Revolution House, a simple American-fare spot with an incredible roof deck. The deck looks out over bustling Market Street, which should provide ample entertainment. Then there's Llama Tooth, which may have the most ridiculous name ever. It also has probably one of the most coveted outdoor spaces in the city. Taking over a large lot on Spring Garden St, the outdoor space can probably fit 100 people under its cafe-lights. Then there's the famed Frankford Hall, which brought beer garden bliss to Northern Liberties this last summer. Bill will actually be checking it out tonight, although likely from its warmer interior. Finally, there's The Corner, a tiny spot that packs a punch. We had actually been there before when it was called Elixir, or something to that effect. Now, under new management, the spot has a new, more classic, look. New looks aside, they still sport an awesome little roof deck that proves to be an oasis in the middle of the city.
In a few days I'll break down some of my favorite spots in the city that deserve a revisit. Bon appetit!