Somehow, another year of Philadelphia restaurant openings is in the books, and 2019 was the year of the instant cult classic. Long-standing favorites emerged in new and unexpected ways, more powerful than ever, while other openings harkened a return to the traditional. Of course, this is still the Philly food scene, and as such, the year also brought the obligatory helping of beautiful restaurants offering fresh takes on underrepresented cuisines. Whether you were grabbing a slice, sampling new beer, or hustling to get that coveted reservation, there was plenty to try in Philly this year. Take a look at our picks for our best new restaurant openings of 2019. MORE:Check out the 12 new restaurants we named best in the nation this year.
Queen Village Family-friendly pasta and wine bar with a hip twist From the wreckage of Bridget Foy’s, the decades-old South Street mainstay that suffered a major fire in 2017, opened Cry Baby Pasta, an Italian concept from the Bridget Foy’s team as they continue renovating and repairing the famous space. The restaurant serves made-from-scratch pasta and bread, including a small bruschetta menu and spaghetti for as low as $12. Reasonable prices run throughout the menu, but larger dishes, like the branzino with clams, will (surprise surprise) cost more. All pastas can also be made gluten free.
Fishtown Modern, intimate Japanese omakase tasting HIROKI opened this past spring, featuring an Omakase-only menu from one of the top sushi chefs in Philly, backed by the team behind Wm. Mulherin’s Sons and Method Co. What exactly does omakase dining mean? Derived from a Japanese phrase, “I’ll leave it up to you,” omakase is your consent to let the chef do all the deciding. No need to mull over a menu -- all you have to do is sit back, relax, and let the goods flow to you. At HIROKI, with just 26 seats, expect a multi-course nigari tasting and an international wine list.
Italian Market Beloved South Jersey pizza shop reimagined for the Italian Market It’s been a long time coming for Angelo’s Pizzeria, the long-awaited shop that traveled from its original Haddonfield location to the heart of South Philly’s Italian Market, inhabiting the old Sarcone’s Deli. Since its January opening, Angelo’s has been serving thick square (and many other style) pizza and cheesesteaks until inventory sells out for the day -- which typically happens earlier than later, so head there early to get a taste for yourself.
Midtown Village Intimate steakhouse exuding classic elegance Michael Schulson’s restaurant empire continues to make a mark all over Center City, with the intimate, lush Alpen Rose steakhouse finding a home on the busy 13th Street corridor, next door to another Schulson creation, Double Knot. Stop in for classics like shrimp cocktail, dry-aged beef, and stuffed lobster. Stay for the nostalgic dessert menu of baked Alaska and strawberry rhubarb pie.
Fishtown Hole-in-the-wall sushi and ramen with a cult following With just 16 seats right near the entrance of the Girard MFL stop on Front Street, Da-Wa has quickly become one of the most coveted foodie destinations in Fishtown, despite the no-thrills venue and pricier dishes. For $59, you can opt for the chef’s omakase menu (if you make an appointment beforehand), or go with ramen (including vegan options) and sides that include Korean dumplings and pork bao buns.
Rittenhouse All-day Israeli cafe and restaurant Mike Solomonov and Steve Cook are keeping the empire growing. The latest iteration is K’Far, an Israeli bakery and restaurant open all day. The daytime eatery serves Jerusalem-style bagel sandwiches (which are much longer and filling than your typical U.S. bagel), as well as babka, pistachio sticky buns, sweet cheese, and a no-nonsense cocktail menu. After the initial breakfast and lunch offerings at opening, K’Far launched an equally delicious dinner menu of shareable plates including the ultra-savory beef cheek t’bit for two.
Rittenhouse Italian cafe and wine bar above Di Bruno Bros. The owners behind Philly powerhouse brand Di Bruno Bros. have opened a cafe and bar of their own, right above the vendor’s current corner food market on 18th & Chestnut. The place is casual yet still a bit upscale, serving al taglio Roman-style pizza, espresso, wine, and iterations of the quality cheese and meat for which Di Bruno’s is known. There’s even a complete mozzarella bar and cheese cave menu, so how is any Formaggio lover to resist?
Fishtown Nationally celebrated pies in a refreshed, Nordic setting The best pizza in America made a must-needed return this year with the second iteration of Pizzeria Beddia, the newer, bigger, taking-reservations-and-everything version of its original standing-room-only outpost. Here, the pies somehow taste even better and, surprisingly, the standout is Beddia’s take on white pizza topped with Swiss chard, fresh cream, and garlic. Owner and pizza master Joe Beddia isn’t holding anything back this time: Carefully curated wine, pies, and small bites outfit a menu that gets right to the point.
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Marielle Mondon is a writer from Philadelphia. Follow her on Twitter @MarielleMondon.