Wondering where you should be eating in Philadelphia right now? You’re in the right place. The Infatuation Hit List is your guide to the city’s best new restaurants.
And when we say “best new restaurants,” we mean it. Because we’ve vetted every single one of these places - and we’ve also left off countless spots that simply aren’t as worthy of your time and paycheck.
The Hit List is our record of every restaurant that’s opened in the past year that we’d highly recommend you try. It’s also sorted chronologically, so you’ll find the newest spots at the top, and as you keep scrolling you’ll find the places that are on the older side - but are great enough that we still haven’t stopped talking about them.
New to The Hit List (as of 9/13/19): Forsythia and Vernick Fish
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We were very unhappy when Will BYOB, a French restaurant on East Passyunk, closed a few months back. But they already have a new place in Old City called Forsythia, which has quickly become a great neighborhood spot. Unlike Will, though, they’re not a BYOB - they have a long bar that’s constantly filled with people drinking cocktails or splitting a bottle from their great natural wine list. As far as the food goes, the menu is a la carte with mostly small plates like corn and ham hock beignets and mussels escabeche. For dessert, it’s necessary to order the two-tiered tower with a bunch of different sweets like raspberry macarons, coffee and coconut pots de creme, and more.
Vernick Fish is an enormous, gorgeous restaurant on the ground floor of the newest Comcast Tower that comes from the people behind Vernick Food & Drink. As the name suggests, the menu has a lot of seafood and raw dishes, like oysters, tartare, and sashimi. All of the raw stuff is good but make sure to get the excellent plate of fluke sashimi covered in a brown butter vinaigrette and shaved hazelnuts. The rest of the menu is made of up smaller dishes to share, like a tangy squid pad thai salad, and larger things like grilled branzino and a whole Dover sole. There’s even a small “not fish” section in case, for some reason, you came to a seafood restaurant but don’t want anything from the ocean.
K’far, the new all-day Israeli bakery from the people behind Zahav, is pretty. Almost too pretty, to the point where you might wonder if the food is any good or if all the gold piping and marble tabletops are just a ruse to lure people in. But fortunately, K’far backs up its boutique-hotel aesthetic with some really incredible pastries, grain bowls, and kubaneh toasts on thick, buttery bread. You’ll have to get there early, like before 11am, if you want to get a chocolate babka or walnut sticky bun before they sell out. Right now, they’re only open until 2pm, but once they roll out their dinner menu, you’ll be able to order things like Turkish stuffed eggplant and take full advantage of their huge bar.
Elwood is a meat-heavy Pennsylvania-Dutch-inspired spot on Girard in Fishtown. Eating here kind of feels like going on a second-grade field trip to the Constitution Center or Liberty Bell. Everything on the menu, from the ham potpie to the spelt dumplings for dessert, has a history lesson attached - lessons you’ll probably hear about from the chef or your server throughout the meal. Even the space itself, which has original paintings from the 1800s and antique silverware collected by the chef, makes you feel like you’re in a museum. The whole experience can feel a bit strange at first, but the food is so good that you’ll be happy you took a field trip out here.
Hiroki is the new, omakase-only spot from the people behind the Fishtown Italian restaurant Wm. Mulherin’s Sons, and it’s located around the corner in the alley behind it. The restaurant feels like you’re walking into a wine cellar - the barrel-shaped door leads into a small, dark room that’s almost entirely taken up by the sushi counter. There are a few tables as well, but you want to be at the counter, where where you’ll get everything piece-by-piece straight from the sushi chef. Every meal starts with a small tray of appetizers, and then moves through things like soy-marinated wagyu short rib and crispy tilefish, followed by about 12 pieces of sushi, a cup of miso soup, and a small dessert. By the end of the meal, you’ll start to think up reasons to justify coming back as soon as possible.
Remember Pizza Gutt? The place that sold 70 or so pies a night out of the back of a Spring Garden coffee shop? Well they finally opened their own shop in Kensington (where Lil Lina’s used to be), and in addition to serving their signature square-pan pizzas, they’re also making traditional, thin-crust circle ones. The place is constantly swamped with people, so you’ll have to get there at around 5pm and wait an hour or so if you want to get a pizza before they sell out (which they do every night by around 7pm). But it’s worth the wait, especially for the pan pizzas - they’re crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside, and just as good when heated up the next day.
Kalaya makes the best Thai food in Philly right now. We realize that’s a bold statement, but this Bella Vista BYOB has an incredible menu - filled with things like bright blue tapioca dumplings and spicy curries. You’ll also want to hang out often in the loud, busy dining room and bring a bunch of friends and bottles of wine. We’re not sure what Philly will look like ten years from now, but we’re pretty sure this place will still be here, and we’ll still be coming around often.
Olly is part casual sports bar, part restaurant that you’d go to with your parents. It’s located on the corner of South 4th in Queen Village and, on a nice night, they fill up the sidewalk with a ton of two-tops. The bar has a bunch of TVs, so instead of eating frozen mozzarella sticks while you watch the Eagles, you can order spice-rubbed wings with an herbed yogurt dipping sauce or English pea toast and burrata on sourdough toast. Come for brunch on the weekends and get peanut butter blintzes and potato and chard frittatas while you watch an English Premier League soccer game.
Angelo’s started as a small, neighborhood pizza spot over in Haddonfield, New Jersey until it disappeared a couple of years ago without a word on if it’d ever reopen. Now it’s back as a cash-only spot in Bella Vista, serving huge pies and hoagies. You should be ordering the “Upside Down Jawn” pizza - it’s thick and square, with a layer of cheese buried beneath a mountain of tomato sauce that produces something that falls between a Detroit-style pie and a lasagna. We like it so much we’ve even named it one of the top 10 pizzas in Philadelphia. If you aren’t in the mood for pizza, Angelo’s hoagies and cheesesteaks are great as well - including an Italian hoagie that’s roughly the size of a newborn baby.
Most steakhouses are huge, cavernous halls with two-story ceilings and tons of big round tables. Alpen Rose is not that. It’s a small, 15-table, all-wood room that looks like either the inside of a treasure chest or the personal library of a retired Harvard professor, and it’s full of expensive-looking paintings in ornate frames. Alpen Rose has a pretty standard steakhouse menu, divided between appetizers, sides, and dry-aged steaks. Red meat is definitely the focus here, and it’s all sliced tableside while you watch like a Golden Retriever who hasn’t eaten since breakfast. If you want something a little more interesting, the bone marrow toast and beef tongue are both solid options.
Ever since Beddia 1.0 on Girard closed last year to “reinvent itself,” everyone from your landlord to the mayor has been waiting for the second coming. It’s finally arrived in a Fishtown alley with a little green neon sign out front, and it’s much bigger than it used to be, with three high-ceilinged rooms painted all white and filled with minimal light-wood furniture. And it also has more than just pizza. Besides a few different pies (which, yes, are just as good as they’ve always been), there’s a long natural wine list, a few starters, and a daily selection of soft serve that you can - and should - take to-go, even if you’re not staying for a full meal.
Other than being kind of a tongue twister, Fiore Fine Foods is an all-day Italian place in Queen Village that does everything from morning pastries to brick-oven pizzas for lunch and swiss chard tortelli at night. It’s the kind of place - sort of like Hungry Pigeon - that you could show up to three times in the same day for three totally different experiences. You could stop by in the morning for a coffee and a cinnamon bun on your way to work, come back for a long lunch of wine and pizza with a friend, and then return yet again with a group for some more wine and pasta. At the end of the day, you probably wouldn’t even be sick of it, but you should take a few days off anyways - don’t want to scare the staff.
For a while, we chased the Neighborhood Ramen pop-ups around the city. It was like that on-and-off college relationship that’s never really satisfying - we’d finally find them, they’d hand us a perfect bowl of ramen with homemade broth and soy-soaked egg, and then we wouldn’t see them again for months. But unlike that boy from college who probably still lives with his mom and DJs part-time at middle school dances, Neighborhood Ramen grew up. Their permanent location in Queen Village is minimal, with about 15 tables, and they don’t do reservations or take-out. While that may ensure a pretty reliable line out the door during prime dinner hours, it makes for a fun place to eat really good ramen when you can snag a table.
We already have a lot of places to eat pasta in Philly. From old school red sauce spots that serve plates of spaghetti bolognese the size of newborns to upscale Italian restaurants where you’ll get seven pieces of farfalle topped with one single truffle shaving - the options are endless. But Cry Baby still somehow fills a void. It falls into a third category that we’re calling Nice Looking Places To Eat Pasta With Your Friends On A Tuesday, and it’s one of only a handful of places where you can show up without a reservation, sit down in a bright room, and order a plate of $12 cacio e pepe and a bottle of moderately-priced wine. The menu is short and simple, but everything on it - from the bruschetta to the larger shared plates - is exactly what you want from a casual weeknight dinner that you’ll actually remember days later.
There are a lot of weirdly cool things under the El - a dive bar with heavy metal night, a high-end event venue attached to a high school, and at least three hidden rooftops that are probably impossible to hear anyone on when a train goes by. Da-wa is also right under the El on Front Street, and this tiny, super casual 16-seat spot has some of the best sushi and ramen in Fishtown. If you want to do the $59 omakase, you’ll have to book ahead (and it’s not an easy reservation to get), but as far as omakase go, you won’t find higher quality fish for a better price anywhere.
Nunu is located next to Cheu Fishtown and the two share an outdoor space in the little alley between them. It’s also from the same people, but instead of the ramen and dumplings that Cheu and Bing Bing are known for, Nunu serves yakitori and katsu sandwiches. It’s smaller than it’s next door neighbor, and the dim red Blade Runner-esque lighting and secluded two-seater booths make it a really good first-date spot. Stop by for drinks and then stay for snacks if things go well.
Buk Chon is a Korean spot in Old City that serves a variety of classic dishes, from Korean fried chicken to bibimbap in a hot stone bowl, and it’s all delicious and pretty affordable. You can get a full dinner for about $25 per person, and it’s also BYOB with no corkage fee. The space is small, with a long open kitchen up front that empties into a room with high-ceilings and about six tables, and there’s a random flat-screen TV on the wall that we’re pretty sure isn’t plugged into anything, but we’ll just chalk it up to adding character to the place.
This is the new Filipino BYOB from the same people as Perla, but it feels a little different than the South Philly spot. For one, it’s about twice the size, which isn’t saying much considering Perla is the size of a divorcee’s closet. It also has a more sleek look, and an open kitchen setup. You’ll find similar food here, like the calves liver bistek and beef tendon chicharron, but in general Sarvida is serving a smaller menu of dishes that are pretty much all excellent.