Birthdays are different for everyone. Some people will micromanage every detail of an entire weekend, and others will request to crawl into a hole with the lights off and have Enya playing on loop until the day is over. No matter how you choose to celebrate another lap around the sun, you and your friends have to eat at some point. Here’s where to go.
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Whether your birthday’s on a “school night” or you prefer the song “Happy Birthday” to be sung during Happy Hour, El Rey is the ideal place for an after-work birthday dinner. Bring your team and celebrate the only thing better than your birth: dollar tacos. Paired with $4 margaritas, dim lighting, and access to the Ranstead Room via an underground pathway through the kitchen, this is one of best places to celebrate turning 25 for the seventh time.
Porta is huge, with two different dining areas fit for any size group, and they make really great pizza, which if always one of the top 15 things you want to eat on your birthday. Come here for a late dinner and get a few pizzas to split. We like the 14 ½ topped with hot soppressata, but they also have vegan and vegetarian options if that’s more your style. Then stick around - they clear the tables and chairs and transform one of the dining areas into a sweaty dance party on weekend nights.
From shrimp and grits and fried green tomatoes and the bourbon-heavy cocktail menu, Rex 1516 is the closest you can get to the French Quarter without leaving Philly. If you’re trying to get especially wild on a Tuesday, get a round of “Citywide Specials” for the table. For $17, you’ll each get a specialty burger, served with a beer and a shot of Jim Beam. Considering you’re with stumbling distance of at least five other bars, there’s nothing stopping you from living out your Mardi Gras fever dream on a Philly budget.
Frankford Hall has ping pong and foosball, and you can order giant plates of schnitzel or sausages to your table. But really you’re here for the German beers, which are available by the liter at multiple bars around the patio. If you need a last-minute spot to get a bunch of people together, this is it.
This Mexican BYOB in South Philly doesn’t look like a whole lot, but they serve some of our favorite (and cheapest) tacos and quesadillas. Come armed with cash and tequila (or anything else you’d like to mix with the Mexican Cokes). You’ll all probably spend less than you thought possible for dinner, which is an added bonus considering how close you are to the bars along East Passyunk.
When your new boss offers to take you and the team out for your birthday, you should immediately do two things. First, be glad that they’re still trying to make a good first impression. Second, call in a reservation at Butcher & Singer. It’s a retro steakhouse that’s light on pretense, and if someone else is picking up the tab, the seafood tower is the first thing you should get. If you still have room for dessert afterwards, there’s no one doing baked Alaska better in Philadelphia.
Kanella Grill isn’t huge, but they’ll happily push tables together to fit your big group, and for less than $40 a person, you’ll be fed a family-style Greek feast. They’ve got lots of options for anyone with dietary restrictions, and whenever you’re low on pita, more seems to magically appear on the table. It’s BYOB, so grab some ouzo or wine at the store and blow the candles out on the baklava this year.
JJ Thai checks all the necessary boxes for somewhere to eat before a night out in Rittenhouse. You can get a lot of hearty Thai food without spending a ton, they take reservations, it’s a BYOB, and it’s right on Chestnut, so you don’t even need a car to get to your first bar stop of the night.
There are times when a night of celebrating gets away from you, and what you thought might be a casual dinner snowballs into your friends planning an all-night dance-off at the Dolphin Tavern. It’s a good thing you already made reservations at Ristorante Pesto, because you’re going to need to put something substantial in your stomach beforehand. The eggplant rollatini and seafood pasta should both be on your table, along with as many bottles of wine as your group feels the need to bring.
If you were the kid that had Phillies-themed birthday parties growing up, Chickie’s & Pete’s is meant for you. The beer comes in towers and the wings are hot and messy as hell. For a sports bar, they’ve got an excellent lobster roll and the crab fries are addictive, but if you’ve been to a stadium, airport, or the boardwalk, you probably knew that already. No dress code, but you’re on your own if you roll up wearing a Cowboy’s jersey.
Look, we get it. You’re popular. Popular enough that most restaurants just can’t handle your birthday guest list. Luckily, Urban Village is enormous, and full of plenty of long tables to fill with your friends. Order a bunch of pizzas and wings and if you’re lucky enough to be there on a Thursday, be ready for one of the fiercest games of quizzo in the city. Heads up: there’s a limit on team sizes, so choose wisely.
Some birthdays, you want to eat somewhere before going to a show, to dance, or to just go sit in someone’s backyard and drink too much. Other times, you want the whole night to happen under one roof, which is exactly when Marrakesh comes in handy. This Moroccan place in Society Hill has a prix-fixe menu that’s ideal for big groups, and the seating setup let’s you sit on pillows while you eat with a belly dancer performing in the background. Also, it’s BYOB, so come prepared.
South Philly Tap Room is the kind of neighborhood bar where every birthday night should start. The draft list has something for everyone, the drinks are strong, and we’ve got a soft spot for their three-cheese grilled cheese, served with tomato soup. Stop by for a few rounds and some food before heading out into East Passyunk.
Our favorite spot to bring a group on Baltimore Ave. is Vientiane Café, a Laotian BYOB that serves big portions and never seems to mind when you open that third (or fifth) bottle of wine.They’ve got plenty of noodle and curry dishes, but the Lao specialties, like the BBQ Cornish game hen and the pan-seared tilapia wraps, are our favorites. It’s not exactly sprawling in size and they are cash only, so call ahead for reservations and hit the ATM before you go.
You’re a simple person with simple needs. And when it comes to your birthday, all you’re looking for is a fun space that’s big enough for a group and access to margaritas by the pitcher. Cantina dos Segundos is good for both of these things. Get a few orders of nachos and try out as many tequilas as you want (they keep over 100 varieties on hand). Afterwards, head a few doors down to North Bowl for a few frames and some tater tots, which may become your new favorite nightcap.
Open until midnight, this Chinatown spot is huge and the menu is full of crepes, waffles, pancakes, and plenty of mango-themed sweets. As a plus, they’ve got a big upstairs lounge area to seat a crew, which is perfect when everyone’s had a few drinks, or if it’s a weeknight and the whole group just wants dessert.