It's Worth Getting Sloppy For This Grilled Cheese Taco
Roast Pork Bao
Bing Bing Dim SumAddress and Info
The guys behind Cheu Noodle Bar give Philly’s insiders-only sandwich an Asian treatment in the form of bao at their East Passyunk outpost. Nearly too big to hoist with chopsticks, the bottom of the bun is pan-fried to a crispy, golden brown, while the top stays doughy and chewy. Inside you’ll find the makings of a roast pork sandwich, complete with sharp provolone and long hots. The flavors in this bao somehow remind us of a hot, buttery pretzel, and for any Philadelphian, that’s a good thing.
Rye Bread with Pastrami-Smoked Salmon
Essen BakeryAddress and Info
The trick to Chef/Owner Tova du Plessis’s savory, pillow-soft rye bread is baking pickle juice and mustard into the dough itself, so you can focus on Essen’s pepper-crusted, pastrami-smoked salmon with scallion cream cheese and pickled green tomatoes on top of it.
Mission TaqueriaAddress and Info
One of the year’s hottest openings, Mission Taqueria steps up the city’s already strong taco game with made-to-order corn tortillas using fresh ground masa. You can’t go wrong here where flavor combos are thoughtful and creative, but our favorite is braised goat with creamy feta and black currants.
PanoramaAddress and Info
Don’t mistake Panorama’s “Share” menu for a list of appetizers. Buckle up for a whole-table affair with beef carpaccio the size of a small pizza. A warm bone marrow vinaigrette boosts the richness, while dots of arugula arancini add warmth and a touch of bitterness to the rich, tender meat. After more than 25 years in business, the restaurant was recently redesigned and is benefiting from a menu revamp by Executive Chef Matthew Gentile (formerly of Lacroix, Ela, and Parc). Try one of 30 wine flights or 120 wines by the glass -- all this from the wine program which earned a Guinness World Record.
Trippa alla Romana
AmisAddress and Info
Washington Square West
Yes, it’s tripe stew, and no, it’s not gross -- at least not team Vetri’s version at Amis. The soul-warming tomato stew with crusty bread for sopping always makes us think this is the food of our ancestors, whether we’re Italian or not. Pro tip: It’s not on the menu, but ask for salted butter semifreddo for dessert.
Warm Parmesan Custard, Caramelized Baby Artichokes
Vernick Food & DrinkAddress and Info
Chef Marcie Turney loves the warm parmesan custard with crispy baby artichokes from Chef Greg Vernick at Vernick Food & Drink. “I ate at Vernick twice in the last month and had to order this dish the second visit. It was perfect on a cold rainy night,” Turney says. “The custard is rich and super smooth and it’s topped with crispy shaved baby artichokes and sea salt. You know a dish is good when you are making plans to come back to have it again.”
ROOT restaurant + wine barAddress and Info
ROOT’s warm anchovy dip is served fondue-style in a custom ramekin over a tea light to keep it warm and smooth. Made with Sicilian anchovies, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and butter, it’s salty, silky, and indulgent, but dipping raw seasonal vegetables (such as fennel, apple, radish, and cauliflower) in it keeps things light and crisp. A close runner-up at this new spot: the Fried Chickpeas covered in crispy herbs and moroccan spice.
Ofrenda de los Dioses
Blue CornAddress and Info
Slightly under-the-radar in the Italian Market, Blue Corn has earned a loyal following for its authentic Mexican food. Ofrenda de los Dioses is a shareable appetizer of tortillas layered with huitlacoche (aka corn fungus, corn mushrooms, Mexican truffle) and Oaxaca cheese, covered with green poblano cream sauce.
Roasted Chicken Wings
P Square LoungeAddress and Info
You might not expect chicken wings to be the best thing on an Italian menu full of housemade pasta and brick oven pizzas. Those dishes are also worth ordering, but the wings are massive, garlic-herb marinated, and roasted in P Square’s brick oven -- a nice change from the fried, spicebomb variety.
Toro Scallion and Spicy Tuna Rolls
Double KnotAddress and Info
Arthur Etchells of Manatawny Still Works used to “joke that the best sushi in Philadelphia can be found at the airport” because you can take a flight to Los Angeles and there's a Michelin-starred sushi spot close to the airport. “But now,” he says, “there's Kevin Yanaga's amazing sushi at Double Knot. It's so fresh and the specially prepared rice really makes it stand out.”
South Philly BarbacoaAddress and Info
South Philly Barbacoa is deservedly known nationwide for its lamb tacos. Drippings from that meat dream, along with chickpeas and rice, create the Consomé. It’s perfect on a cool day -- the savory, clear broth will cure what ails you.
Apple Cider Fritter
High Street on MarketAddress and Info
High Street combines a heavily spiced doughnut dough, Pennsylvania apple cider, and roasted apples to create its Apple Cider Fritter. Usually only available on weekends, they’re served hot and covered in sugar.
Salted Caramel Budino
BarbuzzoAddress and Info
It’s no secret: Everyone knows this dessert is the best. Chef Marcie Turney’s Budino involves a chocolate cookie crust, topped with a caramelly pudding, covered in vanilla bean caramel sauce. It’s buttery and rich, with enough salty flavor to cut through the sweetness.
Knead BagelryAddress and Info
Knead bakes creative bagel flavors, including fennel seed and lavender. Our favorite is the Togarashi, which in Japanese refers to chili pepper. The spice helps cut through doughy bagel and Knead’s extra flavorful, almost-briny cream cheese.
Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Pomegranate & Chickpeas
ZahavAddress and Info
Locals and food critics coast-to-coast call out Zahav’s lamb shoulder as one of the top restaurant dishes in America. We agree. Only available as the main course in the Mesibah prix fixe menu, chefs brine a whole lamb shoulder, smoke it over hardwood, and then “braise it in pomegranate molasses until the meat is tender enough to eat with a spoon,” according to chef/owner Michael Solomonov. And carb-lovers, rejoice: the hefty main is served with a dome of Persian wedding rice -- crunchy on the outside, steamy and soft on the inside. Fair warning: Getting a reservation is a feat and you’ll still want to call to request the lamb shoulder in advance (despite our frequent griping about these policies, it’s worth it).
Poké BowlAddress and Info
A perfect lunch or dinner, Poké Bowl is endlessly customizable. Be healthy with a kale base, or take our advice and get the sticky white rice. Top it with three or five proteins -- raw or cooked fish, including octopus -- in your choice of marinade, and add crunchy fruits and veggies, plus a spicy aioli dressing. Each bowl is made carefully and garnished with an orchid. Charming.
Shish Kabob PalaceAddress and Info
The appetizer that makes a trip to the Northeast worth the drive. Khachapuri hails from the country of Georgia and is served at Shish Kabob Palace, which focuses on staple dishes from Uzbek (Middle Eastern), Bukharian (Sephardic Jewish), and Russian cultures. Essentially a cheese-filled hand pie, a mozzarella and cottage cheese mixture oozes from the warm, buttery, flaky pastry. Bring your own beer, wine, or liquor, and stick around for meat and fish kabobs.
Hungry PigeonAddress and Info
Hungry Pigeon’s giant brick of fried potatoes makes brunch worth the calories. Order it on the egg & cheese sandwich (unhinge your jaw), the breakfast salad, with eggs any style, or go simple: as a side with ketchup for $3.
Bar VolvérAddress and Info
With a newly expanded menu of small and large plates, Bar Volvér has never been more inviting for those who aren’t up for an 8-12 course tasting menu. But, one thing hasn’t changed: the paper-thin slices of Andalusian cured pork loin -- made from pigs raised on a diet of acorns. Get one of the fancy cocktails or, our favorite, a glass of Albariño, to pair with the savory charcuterie. While you’re there, try our new favorite drink: the Sage It Ain’t So with rye, La Colombe rum, cacao, walnut bitters, and sage.
Fruity Pebbles French Toast
The Blue DuckAddress and Info
So much about this restaurant is surprising. The fact that there is a place serving good food (and brunch!) in Northeast Philadelphia, that the neighborhood has embraced it, and the Fruity Pebbles French Toast. It’s literally just French toast coated in Fruity Pebbles, but the look and taste evokes childhood sensibilities for the whole table. Fresh whipped cream is a nice upgrade from the way mom used to make it.
Crispy Cheese Curds
Bud & Marilyn'sAddress and Info
Bud & Marilyn’s cheese curds are good at any time, but are so satisfying after a night out (and a couple cocktails). Order a basketful of the Wisconsin cheddar fried in an airy batter served with burnt scallion ranch and salsa.
Isgro PastriesAddress and Info
Bring a box of Isgro cookies to a party and instantly become everyone’s favorite person. Almond paste and pine nuts make Pignoli cookies chewy, slightly crunchy, and savory-sweet. Ricotta cookies are extra light, buttery, and topped with a lemon icing. Other favorites in the cookie case are filled and topped with jelly, jimmies (err, sprinkles), nuts, and sugar -- and, of course, you can’t go wrong with the cannolis.
DiBruno Bros.Address and Info
Cheese or sweets for dessert… decisions, decisions. The baked Lemon Ricotta at DiBruno Bros. solves this conundrum by doing both. Many describe it as similar to cheesecake thanks to its creamy sweetness (from buffalo milk ricotta), light lemon tartness, and crust created during the baking process. Serve it in slices, like a cake.
Cheu Noodle BarAddress and Info
Washington Square West
For guys who claim to know “nothing about authentic Asian cuisine,” Cheu’s owners make a mean bowl of ramen -- with a twist. Along with a traditional sesame red chile broth and springy, thin noodles, this bowl includes slices of tender brisket, a massive matzo ball, and kimchi. Combining “Jewish penicillin” with spicy ramen broth: genius.
PHS Garden South StreetAddress and Info
South Street West
Yes, it’s a frozen daiquiri, but hear us out! This isn’t the syrupy, technicolor sugar bomb that your mom orders at TGI Fridays. The Khyber Pass Pub team took a traditional lime daiquiri (the kind Hemingway would approve of), blended it with ice, and sold it for a reasonable $7. In the city’s most beautiful outdoor drinking space of 2016, this summer sipper was the perfect antidote to toasty days. Pray that this pop-up garden opens again in 2017.
Pizzeria VetriAddress and Info
Spring Garden & Rittenhouse
Vetri’s white pizza with long slices of prosciutto crudo, bufala mozzarella, parmigiano, and an olive oil drizzle makes the office pizza party a treat. The 650º wood-fired oven creates a perfectly blistered crust.
Escargots a la Bourguignonne
Bistrot La MinetteAddress and Info
This charmer has everything you want in a French bistro, starting with perfectly cooked escargot. Each is served floating in garlic herb butter in its own ramekin with a round, crunchy crouton on top. A little pricey at $15, but it gets you nine of the special Burgundian snails.
1. Bing Bing Dim Sum1648 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia
2. Essen BakeryEast Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia
3. Mission Taqueria1516 Sansom St, Philadelphia
4. Panorama14 N Front St, Philadelphia
5. Amis412 S 13th St, Philadelphia
6. Vernick Food & Drink2031 Walnut St, Philadelphia
7. ROOT restaurant + wine bar1206 Frankford Ave, Philadelphia
8. Blue Corn Restaurant940 S.9th St, Philadelphia
9. P_Square Lounge9315 Old Bustleton Ave, Philadelphia
10. Double Knot120 S 13th St, Philadelphia
11. South Philly Barbacoa1703 S 11th St, Philadelphia
12. High Street on Market308 Market St, Philadelphia
13. Barbuzzo110 S 13th St, Philadelphia
14. Knead Bagels725 Walnut St, Philadelphia
15. Zahav237 St. James Pl, Philadelphia
16. Poke Bowl958 N 2nd St, Philadelphia
17. Shish Kabob Palace1683 Grant Ave, Philadelphia
18. The Hungry Pigeon743 S 4th St, Philadelphia
19. Volvér300 S Broad St, Philadelphia
20. Blue Duck Sandwich Company2859 Holme Ave, Philadelphia
21. Bud & Marilyn’s1234 Locust St, Philadelphia
22. Isgro Pastries1009 Christian St, Philadelphia
23. Di Bruno Bros.930 S 9th St, Philadelphia
24. CHeU noodle bar255 S 10th St, Philadelphia
25. Pizzeria Vetri1939 Callowhill St, Philadelphia
26. Bistrot La Minette623 S 6th St, Philadelphia
While there's something suspect about Asian cuisine curated by two Philly boys, Bing Bing Dim Sum is certainly having no trouble maintaining a crowd. The secret to their success, the owners claim, is that rather than focusing on the cultural authenticity of their dishes, they have created a menu inspired by classic Asian entrees -- but readjusted to fit their own local taste. Bing Bing serves everything from classic soup dumplings and pork bao to things like spicy cilantro lamb dumplings and fun-guy lo mein (fungi like mushrooms, get it?). The restaurant offers a number of house wines and a full draft beer list in addition to a remarkably creative cocktail menu, and plenty of happy hour deals. You can order pitchers of drinks like "Left My Wallet In El Segundo," (bourbon, lemongrass, triple sec, hibiscus lemonade), while devouring semi- authentic noodle bowls, seated beside a series of floor-to-ceiling cartoon murals. If you thought there was no such thing as Philly style Dim Sum, you thought wrong.
East Passayunk knows Italian bakeries and French bakeries, but it finally got a Jewish one in Essen Bagel, named for the Yiddish word for "food" and "to eat," naturally. The pastry chef, who studied in Israel before going to culinary school, wants to keep her offerings list limited, to focus on quality. Her lineup is traditional and carb-laden, from apple-honey cakes and poppyseed cakes to challahs and rugelach, but sometimes veers into the playful with items like a Za'atar swirled croissant. French-press Elixir coffee can wash down loaves at any of the small tables in the nook of a bakery.
Mission Taqueria is injecting energy into Philadelphia's Mexican food scene from its expansive Sansom Street space, which was formerly occupied by longtime inhabitant Nodding Head Brewing Co. Gone is the dark wood and American tavern-feel, replaced with stark white paint and pops of bright color. The menu features gourmet takes on traditional tacos (sliced veal tongue and pickled mustard seed mayo), updated vegetarian tlayudas (large corn discs topped with beans, cheese, and instead of meat, pasilla pepper, watercress, roasted tomatoes, and corn labneh) and house-made tortilla chips with intriguing salsas. At the mosaic-backed bar, blue steel stools serve as landing pads for below-the-border cocktails like El Diablo (reposado, cassis, ginger, lime, soda) and pineapple daiquiris, as well as a frozen margarita number with watermelon, cucumber, and serrano chile. The brunch program offers a requisite huevos rancheros, the taco lineup, and chilaquiles.
Home to the world's largest wine dispensary, Panorama is an upscale North-Italian eatery, tucked away in the heart of Philadelphia's Old City. The menu is stocked with handmade pastas, fresh vegetables, and thick cut local meats, most or which are served encased in cheese or alongside stacks of herb-dusted house focaccia bread. The whole place practically oozes old-school Italian charm with candle chandeliers dangling from the ceilings, large Tuscan doors, and vintage upholstery lining the seat cushions. Certified sommeliers guide patrons through the Restaurant's ridiculously extensive wine list while the hungry guests salivate over hand rolled ricotta gnocchi with broccoli rabe pesto, or braised leg of lamb with spicy salsa verde. Full of dark wood and low chatter over rich, sauce-coated plates, the whole place is a romantic ode to classic Italian dining.
There's something about Italian trattoria's that made them ideal date spots, and it's especially the case when a James Beard Award-winning chef is in charge. Marc Vetri's Roman-inspired plates emphasize the satisfying simplicity of Roman fare in the rusticly outfitted 70-seat Amis in Washington Square West. The room tends to buzz, which covers up groans you may illicit you sample the dishes ferried from the open kitchen, from long-stemmed fried artichokes to pork & fennel pollen sausage over peperonata. Even if you're not with a date, a selection of Italian beers, whites, reds, and cocktails like negronis can be sipped solo at the zinc-topped bar.
While Vernick Food & Drink is an upscale American eatery with a complex, innovative menu, the chef's standout mainstay is (drum roll, please)...toast. But this is not burnt wonder bread with I Can't Believe It's Not Butter -- this is toast 2.0. Vernick's chefs have created a number of spreads and mashes to dollop onto fresh baked sourdough, using everything from charred eggplant with chanterelles and broccoli-bacon jam to Bayonne ham with whipped brie and Maryland crab, all of which can be enjoyed at the bar alongside one of the numerous creative house cocktails. Beyond the sought-after collection of toasts, there are raw oysters, small plates, and plenty of meat and fish entrees, most of which are roasted in a wood-fired oven. The tables are built of thick, weathered wood, the waiters wear suspenders and bowties, and the whole place is engulfed in a warm yellow light.
One of several crowd-pleasing restaurants on Fishtown's Frankfort Ave, Root seduces diners with an adventurous, 24-bottle deep wine list and European-inflected small plates. Chef Nick Kennedy, whose resume includes New York kitchens like Del Posto and Jean-Georges, puts out plates of creamy French goat cheese, seasoned toast with Italian mozzarella, and spice-rubbed lamb chops, all of which are thoughtfully paired with drinks by a knowledgeable staff.
The Italian Market is predictably filled with flavors from the boot -- obvious in the stands and storefronts hawking spices, fish, and meat to sidewalk shoppers -- but it's also incubating a growing roster of Mexican restaurants. Among the most elevated is Blue Corn, which deviates from the taco stand format with high-end, carefully plated Mexico City-style plates. A casual awning and dropped ceilings in the dining room betray the finesse of the food: blue chips and tortillas are made from corn grown in the proprietors' native Puebla, whole branzino is blanketed in green poblano cream, and chilis are stuffed with meat and fruit before drizzled in walnut-cream sauce and pomegranate beads. Tortas, flautas and tacos make for quicker meals that can easily be bar bites that go with an affordable list of tangy cocktails like jalapeño margaritas.
Northeast Philadelphia often gets critically overlooked when it comes to the dining and drinking scene -- not without reason -- but out of the desert rises some hope in P_Square Lounge, the outdoor cocktail and terrace dining component to Italian restaurant Macaroni's. It doesn't hurt that the space is visually spectacular, with glass walls surrounded by greenery looking in on an illuminated granite-topped island bar making for an ideal date-night stop. A selection of expected bar bites like brick-oven pizzas and burgers are available, sure, but the real winners are the Italian-inflected Mediterranean small plates that lean oceanic— fitting in a breezy, outdoor/indoor space. Grilled Spanish octopus, Chilean sea bass with corn salsa, and nduja-spiked mussels exceed bar food expectations.
Double Knot is a dining destination for any time of day, opening early in the morning to supply you with coffee, enduring the midday rush for build-your-own salad or rice bowls, and powering into the evening with a thriving bar scene. Walk past the bar, bookcases, and old mirrors, and enter the door in the back where a hidden sushi bar awaits. The extravagant yet relatively affordable menu features sushi, robatayaki meats, and other Japanese izakaya fare.
At South Philly Barbacoa, chef Cristina Martinez's tacos typically sell out before sun down. The authentic Mexican joint ran, at first, out of Martinez's one bedroom apartment, graduating later to a taco cart, and eventually coming to inhabit the brick and mortar space it occupies now. Martinez's famous slow roasted lamb tacos bring crowds of local Mexican immigrants and native taco connoisseurs, alike, flocking to her tiny restaurant, often waiting hours for a chance to sit and savor her famous homestyle Mexican cooking. The restaurant's narrow interior is painted a sunny yellow, with bright floral cloths spread across each of the tables, all of which are typically topped with stacks of tortas on white plates. Customers will most likely engage in conversation with Martinez and her husband while enjoying their food -- the chefs treat the space something like their own living room -- and patrons are welcome to bring their own coronas while they scarf down handmade flour tortillas and bowls of consumee'. In spite of a major lack of space, a rather limited menu, and a remarkably small staff, the food served at South Philly Barbacoa has managed to make quite the name for itself.
You’ve never had bread quite like the ancient grains, roasted potato, or anadama on grill at High Street on Market. The New American haunt in Old City centers its menu on local grains, which High Street refines and finesses at the crack of dawn each day into the stuff of sandwiches, pastries, and pastas that bedeck the breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus. For lunch, it is sinful to miss out on the smoky and briny pastrami on rye, dressed with cabbage slaw, Russian dressing, and Gulden’s mustard. Opt for the pastas at dinner; they’re decidedly un-Italian and, therefore, entirely unforgettable.
Barbuzzo is a Mediterranean haven built of beautiful re-purposed Mid-Atlantic woods -- floor boards from Maryland dock pilings, refurbished church pews from a West Philly church, tabletops cut from local dam wood. White-washed brick walls meet a marble-topped bar, which leads into an open kitchen almost as narrow as the restaurant itself, but the space constraints certainly have no bearing on the quality of the food. The restaurant offers everything from small plates -- heirloom pumpkin and mushrooms over polenta with sage brown butter -- to pizzas and pastas -- slow-roasted pear pizza with sweet gorgonzola, prosciutto, and toasted walnuts -- and of course, meatier entrees like the house ground short rib and pork meatballs with pickled peppers and fresh oregano. The cocktail menu is equally inventive and just as exhaustive, and then there's dessert...
If there is such a thing as an avant-garde bagel, Knead Bagels is the place to find it. The non-traditional Philly bagelry is in the business of remastering a timeless classic: the bagel and cream cheese. This means lavender bagels with vanilla honey cream cheese, or fennel seed and sea salt bagels with roasted tomato cream cheese, or Capsicum bagels (Japanese chile) piled with 12-hour brisket, coffee barbecue sauce, and picked onions. And if attempting to decide whether scallion lime cream cheese would pair well with black sesame stumps you, the bakers are like gluten mixologists -- they'll know exactly what you knead (sorry).
The interior of this modern Israeli restaurant is designed to resemble Jerusalem's network of hidden courtyards, with floors and walls built of gold limestone and tables hand-carved in dark wood. Zahav's food is equally reminiscent of the promised land: fresh laffa bread is baked to order in a wood-fired oven and lamb skewers are roasted over hardwood charcoal. The menu's true star is its hummus, a silky spread in which the key ingredients, chickpeas and tahini, share the flavor spotlight equally and aren't overshadowed by garlic, lemon, or olive oil -- though those three ingredients are surely present. The lengthy wine list includes a full section for wines with Israeli or Palestinian origins, and house cocktails incorporate Mediterranean notes like za'atar and pumpernickel-infused whiskey.
The poke parade hit L.A. before it swept NYC before it landed in Philly with Northern Liberties' Poke Bowl, the first restaurant in the city to focus on the Hawaiian rice or salad bowls filled with marinated fish. The fast-casual counter integrates Asian and Middle Eastern flavors, letting you customize your bowls cafeteria-style. First, pick a base, which can be rice (white or brown), mixed greens, or kale salad. Next, pick a seafood, from tuna to octopus. Finally, get that sauce and pile on those toppings (caviar, jalapeños, and a flower blossom, please).
Palaces aren't often found in strip malls, but Shish Kabab Palace is. The Russian and Uzbekistani fare at this low-key stop emphasizes the Bukharia region, meaning lots of skewered meats, hearty soups, dumplings and cold eggplant and potato salads. The namesake dish cannot be passed upon, with ground lamb cylinders grilled over coal before they're served on metal rods and topped with raw, thinly sliced onions. Almost everything on the menu will bust your gut: rustic rice is cut with cilantro and bits of veal, mushroom sprinkled potatoes are decadently oily, and lamb broth soup sports a host of meaty dumplings. And when you can BYOB (vodka, obviously), it's almost like the USSR never fell.
A quaint corner restaurant on Fabric Row, The Hungry Pigeon serves a daily-changing menu of food as comforting as its cozy, brick-lined interior. Expect original plates like house-made ricotta gnocchi, actual pigeon (which often sells out at dinner), and a simple grass-fed cheddar cheeseburger. The all-day spot also serves fresh pastries and breakfast sandwiches in the morning, like buttermilk biscuits and banana bread sticky buns. Tell us you don't feel warm and fuzzy already.
Located in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Volvér provides a certain culinary artistry of its own. Its cocktails are inarguably imaginative, making use of everything from pink peppercorn and beet sugar to basil and nectarine shrubs. The drink menu has separate sections for seasonal cocktails, and for the variety of house-crafted and classic drinks served at the wide, circular bar year round. The seating beyond the bar itself is dark and plush, organized around small round tables, while expansive murals cover most of the available wall space. The chefs prepare a number of small plates and upscale snacks -- American caviar, foie gras and eclectic charcuterie -- as quick, light fare for theatre-goers en route to their chosen performances.
This New American 40-seater in Northeast Philadelphia serves up a menu of creative burger and sandwich combos, like the B.B.B.L.T has 10 pieces of 1732 bacon, bacon mayonnaise, and your standard lettuce and tomato on brioche. Designed with counter and table seating -- including a large, 8-person farm table -- the space is bright and airy, yet homey enough to consider bringing your entire crew in for a casual BYOB Sunday brunch.
In spite of all of the rising and falling trends in restaurant culture -- pressed juice, fermented veggies, rainbow bagels -- Bud & Marilyn's is a restaurant with a very simple mission: good food and good drinks. Named after owner Marcie Blaine Turney's own grandparents, the Houston locale offers an immediate sense of old school hospitality. The dining room is styled to resemble a classic Midwestern diner, complete with vinyl booth seating, warm lights, and a retro red neon sign hung above the front door, and the menu is filled with simple, well-prepared comfort food to complete the picture. Rather than bone soup or aged beets as appetizers, Bud & Marilyn's serves plates of pork and pickles, stacks of buttermilk pretzel rolls, and plain old cheese and cracker spreads (no need to pronounce charcuterie to the waiter). For main courses, they serve everything from pork belly buns and fried chicken to meatloaf and pierogies, and of course, a variety of marvelously indulgent deserts. There's a time and a place for posh, instragrammable meals, but at Bud & Marilyn's, it's all about great food, served in a place that feels like home.
The enduring appeal of baked sweets is evidenced by Isgro Pastries longevity, serving the Italian Market community the sugary stuff since 1904. You could name practically any of their wares, and make a legitimate argument that it's the best iteration in the city. Their award-winning cannoli, almost artfully butterfly-like in shape, are true to the 'hood cultural roots. Most impressive, though, is the bakery's ability to take even the simplest treat and make it irresistible: here, butter cookies knock those tin-packaged things out of the water and pignolo are pieces of pine-nut-topped and almond-flavored paradise.
Di Bruno Bros. is synonymous with the Italian Market in this town (and fancy cheese, for that matter), but what has become a wildly successful gourmet market with locations all over the city was born from humble origins. This original location was a modest grocery stop on S. 9th St when Joe and Danny Di Bruno opened in 1939 with nothing more than elementary school educations. The expansion of chain supermarkets in 1965 threatened business and prompted them to differentiate by focusing on artisanal cheeses and meats — making pilgrimages to Europe to discover only the finest. Today, the name is known all over the city and country, with this historic storefront and their larger Rittenhouse branch appealing as much to tourists as to locals. So, walk up to the counter and let the cheese connoisseurs lead you through a stinky tasting, ask for a pound of prosciutto, and buy a bottle of fancy olive oil, because you only live once.
Owned by the Philly boys behind Bing Bing Dim Sum, CheU serves traditional Asian noodle dishes with plenty of added Philadelphia flavor. Rather than attempting to recreate authentic Asian cuisine, the restaurant makes classic ramen and soba bowls local, adding brisket, pork shoulder, and matzo balls to the typical miso broth, rice-noodle combo. The space itself is narrow with low-hanging paper lamps, and the eclectic noodle soups are meant to be eaten at stools along the bar. While the wood-paneled bar is primarily for noodles, the place has excellent happy hour deals on wine, beer, sake, and its collection of creative house cocktails.
According to Pizzeria Vetri, authentic pizza-making is something of a lost art. At this popular Philly spot, pizza artists spend three days mixing each batch of pizza dough from rich whole-grain flour, only adding fresh local cheese and house red sauce right before shoveling the pies into their wood-fired oven. In the interest of paying homage to the delicacy of pizza prep, the restaurant has an open kitchen, where guests can watch the chefs toss mozzarella lovingly onto their homemade wheels of dough. In addition to the expertly constructed pies, Pizzeria Vetri serves a full list of craft beers and a selection of wines on tap. Decked with white string lights and cedar wood panels, the place is in the business of making pizza great again. The pizza-making outpost of acclaimed local chef Marc Vetri slings enormous calzones, wood-fired pizzas, and bottled cocktails for two.
Bistrot La Minette is just about the closest thing to Paris one can find in the heart of Philly. The authentic French bistro is filled with red plush seating, lengthy rows of tables, each just inches from the next, and handsome unobtrusive waiters in button-up vests balancing trays of fois gras and red wine. The menu is built around fresh local ingredients, and traditional French flavors, offering everything from mustard-braised rabbit and white wine-roasted chicken to escargot in herb butter and tarte tatin (ridiculously delicious upside-down caramelized apple cake). The wine, beer, and spirits lists are curated with the same Francophile dedication, because a French meal is never complete without a glass of French wine.