Taste Test: How to Cool Down a Spicy Mouth
Regional American BYOB with a four-course tasting menu
Three seasoned restaurateurs from High Street opened Cadence in the old Modo Mio spot last February, intriguing visitors with its $65 tasting menu and BYOB status that makes for a high-end, skip-nothing dining experience at a fraction of the cost of similar-caliber food venues. Any two visits to Cadence are likely to be different from the last, as the restaurant continually swaps out items for a hyper-seasonal selection of dishes, all leaning toward regional American fare. In step with a growing trend throughout the city, Cadence also offers a non-alcoholic drink list to balance out the guests who aren’t imbibing.
Lebanese all-day market and restaurant in eclectic atmosphere
Suraya dipped its toes into the Philly dining scene last year as a daytime bakery and market before launching as a full dining establishment last May. The addition of dinner service brings some of the best Lebanese dishes to ever make it to the US, with small plates of lamb, various kebabs, fish, and variations on kibbeh serving as the core aspects of the experience. The space easily raises comparisons to Michael Solomonov’s Zahav, which paved the way for the several new Middle Eastern-inspired concepts that have found a place in Philly this year.
Modern Mediterranean fare in an upscale hotel setting
Spice Finch is this year’s other Middle Eastern restaurant of note that no doubt owes some success to the legacy of Zahav. The modern space sits adjacent to the Warwick Hotel, sporting a wrap-around bar and flowing interior that could double as a place to watch the game or a place to have one of the most extravagant meals in the city. The Mediterranean-inspired menu has a mix of small plates and larger, shareable dishes to choose from like the can’t-miss lamb ribs, and a handful of sauces you can try with the restaurant’s addictive bread. The whole roasted seasonal fish (subject to the catch of the day) is a decadent way to round out your experience.
Corner tavern reinventing the long history of elevated pub fare
Pineville already earned a good reputation in Bucks County, where its first location opened way back in 1742. The current owners, Father and son Andrew and Drew Abruzzese, set out to build the suburban tavern's urban equivalent, with a corner space outfitted to replicate the vintage corner pubs common to Philadelphia in the early 20th century. The food has had some upgrades since that era, thankfully. In addition to a new brunch menu full of sweet and savory morning-after survival food (plus a timed bottomless brunch cocktail bar), Pineville offers weekly specials -- Wednesdays is $25 steak night, for example -- and other pub meals that make for the perfect mix of hearty-yet-elevated comfort food. All this comes with a lengthy and lovely wine and cocktail list, plus a long list of (mostly) local brews.
Fast-casual fried chicken spot with incredible variety
Passyunk got a new gem in its crown this year with Adam Volk’s Redcrest, which takes inspiration from spots like Shake Shack by offering irresistible-yet-casual meals made quickly with quality ingredients. Though fried chicken is obviously the name of the game at Redcrest, there's a ton of variety on offer: you can choose a whole, half, or quarter chicken, pick from the menu of sandwiches, or go boneless. Then there are the sides that make it even more worthwhile: we're talking mashed potatoes, collard greens with bacon, fries, and corn pudding.
Expansive French-American multi-level venue on the Main Line
This new French joint took over the massive space long held by Primavera, breathing new life into a corner of the suburb that’s bustling with new concepts. Not far from Tired Hands Fermentaria or the new Ripplewood whiskey bar, the Bercy offers upscale dining in an attempt to recreate the most tantalizing dishes you might find in Paris; perfectly seasoned steak frites, expertly prepared escargot, and an expansive raw bar (oysters, lobster cocktail) all set the scene. Head to the space on Mondays and you can opt for the chef’s own prix fixe tasting menu.
Beloved New Jersey pizzeria in airy, reinvented Center City space
The pizzeria beloved in Asbury Park and Jersey City finally found a home in Philadelphia this year, bringing artisanal pizza and other dishes to a former furniture space in Center City. Porta Philadelphia lacks nothing when it comes to space -- the entire restaurant includes three floors of drinking and dining space, making for an airy and cheerful setting to down the spot’s signature slices, including three vegan pie options, or try that fried mozzarella grilled cheese. If you’re not in the mood for pizza, Porta has other items to offer as well, including a $20 filet mignon, a seasoned $35 branzino, and a few other protein-focused main courses.
Maryland seafood paired with a piano bar in boisterous, fun atmosphere
What’s not to love about a piano bar that has bottomless seafood on the menu? Nauti Mermaid is a welcome breath of fresh air in Old City, heavy in kitsch and heavier still in crab legs. Since its opening in July, the establishment has amassed a dedicated following that keeps the atmosphere lively, particularly on weekends when Jolly’s Dueling Piano Bar upstairs gets going. The rest of the week, you can expect reasonably priced dishes inspired by the Maryland shore, including steamed crabs, oysters, and a $17 bottomless brunch.
Sprawling Italian bistro created in collaboration with Termini Bros
The newest restaurant from Michael Schulson and Nina Tinari opened just under the wire to make the 2018 cut, opening its doors for the first time during the week after Thanksgiving. Next door to one of Schulson’s other restaurants, Harp & Crown, Giuseppe & Sons is a project created in collaboration with Termini Brothers Bakery, resulting in a very Italian-American menu, laid out in a similar style to yet another one of Schulson’s restaurants, Double Knot. During the day you can stop in for lunch on the ground level, but head downstairs for dinner service that includes lounge areas and tufted booths in a warmly lit setting. The dinner menu has elevated takes on stromboli, mozzarella, braised octopus, and other appetizers, as well as smaller pasta plates and protein-heavy main courses.