Eat a Giant Polenta Feast On Your Table
All-day Italian bistro with an underground lounge
Michael Schulson isn’t finished making his mark on the Philly dining scene, this time taking the concept of Double Knot -- the all-day Japanese eatery with an upstairs cafe and downstairs restaurant -- and translating it to Italian fare with the help of Termini Brothers Bakery. You can take a seat in the luncheonette on the ground level for a sandwich or salad, but head downstairs for a sumptuous lounge area you might need to collapse post-dinner; the menu includes protein-heavy main courses like cheeks saltimbocca and salmon oreganata, and elevated takes on traditional Italian appetizers and pasta dishes.
Modern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fare designed for sharing
Whether you want a lot or just a little to eat, Spice Finch’s diverse menu of shareable small plates and highlighly stylized main courses will leave you fully satisfied… and contemplating a return visit to try all the stuff you missed the first time. Situated alongside the Warwick Hotel with ample seating for drinks at the bar, the new restaurant from Jennifer Carroll taps into her mastery of French cuisine for Mediterranean flavors prepared in grand surroundings. Any of the table entrees shows off these skills -- particularly the daily whole roasted fish -- but you can also taste that mastery in the lamb ribs, the addictive flatbread, and the six assorted spices you can add to any dish.
Modern French-American cuisine open for lunch and dinner
The folks who brought us White Dog debuted Louie Louie in U-City this year, boasting an ultra-stylish decor and French-influenced menu specials every day of the week, including Saturday’s market price lobster frites. The menu mixes elevated comfort food with more restrained, yet impeccably fresh, soup and salad options. Stand-out entrees include the escargot appetizer, finished with garlic mushroom and herbs, as well as the duck confit salad, complete with a port-cherry vinaigrette; for extra carbs but a similar culinary experience, try the duck confit on a burger instead. Louie Louie serves lunch as well, with many of the dinner options on offer alongside sandwiches like the blackened salmon and the fried calamari po’ boy.
Open-late taco spot with a weekend borracho brunch
Rosy’s Taco Bar is a welcome addition to the string of restaurants around this area of Walnut Street, drawing patrons in thanks to generous portions of lovingly crafted tacos, late hours (the shop stayed open till 2am every day during September), and an intriguing weekend brunch option. Now the shop still serves tacos every night until 1am, and was even one of the first places to hop on the Gritty love wagon with a margarita themed after the Flyers mascot. Stop in Saturday and Sunday between 11am and 3pm for a $30 “borracho brunch” that includes three drinks, an entree, and churros. The taco menu includes traditional and special options, the latter including a Korean-style short rib taco with Chipotle mayo and kimchi.
Small and stylish izakaya in red-on-red digs
Nunu’s founders promise that though the restaurant's Japanese fare might not be 100% traditionally authentic, they’re keeping it real with regard to to tasty, addictive cuisine in line with sister businesses Cheu Noodle Bar and Bing Bing Dim Sum. The menu is divided into yakitori by the skewer (which can also be tried out in a tasting menu), along with a smattering of diverse small plates (like grilled avocado and dan dan squash salad), katsu sandwiches, and curry plates. Nunu also goes all in with its sake options -- you've got a full range of styles to choose from, as well as 2-ounce flights for sampling -- and there's also a variety of cocktails and whisky highballs, if you're not in a sake mood. The intimate space only seats about 30 people, so it's easy to get cozy in one of the red circular benches under the red light, punctuated with yet more red neon signs.
Modern Filipino BYOB from the owner/chef of Perla
Lou Boquila opened Sarvida on Girard Avenue earlier this fall, to showcase his Filipino cooking skills in a small, relaxed BYOB setting. The food stays true to traditional Filipino dining, serving items like lumpiang with poori bread, or the whole roasted chicken lechon manok entree that's almost too beautiful to eat. The small venue helps Boquila keep the menu fresh, updating often with the most seasonal ingredients. Plus, unlike Perla, Sarvida serves a la carte items made up of small and large plates for sharing, all week long.
Spacious, lively Roman BYOB with colorful outdoor patio
L’Anima is a new addition to the ever-developing collection of condos and businesses popping up in the Graduate Hospital area closer to Broad Street. Situated on the ground floor of the Carpenter Square condo building at 17th & Carpenter, acting as one of the enclave’s only notable restaurants. L’Anima’s seafood-focused menu also features la pinsa -- a flatbread dish similar to pizza that actually predates it -- as well as seasonal pasta and antipasti dishes.
Neapolitan pizzas and seasonally curated pastas with hard-to-find ingredients
The pizza at Brigantessa is served in traditional Neapolitan style, meaning no pre-cut slices -- the kind of pizza that wants you to abandon all American habit and fork-and-knife your way along -- though your server will be happy to slice it up for you. The Regina pizza with Piennolo del Vesuvio is the must-have item, while gnocchi brushed with Calabrian chili oil is a must for lovers of all things hot and full of carbs. If you still think pizza bagels are exciting, elevate your tastes and head here for weekend brunch, where the drinks are bottomless and all pizzas can be breakfasty if you add an oozing egg.
All-day Japanese cafe and restaurant attached to Sampan
Double Knot is a dining destination for any time of day, opening at 7am to supply you with coffee, enduring the midday rush with build-your-own salad or rice bowls, and powering through into the evening to host a thriving bar scene. Walk past the bar, bookcases, and old mirrors, and enter the door in the back where you can enjoy an extravagant yet relatively affordable dinner menu ($55/person for a 10-course meal and dessert ain’t bad). Sushi, robatayaki meats, and other Japanese izakaya fare are served in this hidden sushi bar with an underground feel.
Cozy Mexican cantina with generous happy hour deals and a hidden speakeasy
Stephen Starr’s hidden taqueria on Chestnut Street mixes trendy kitsch with straightforward, delicious tacos. Guacamole should not be skipped, nor should happy hour: Come in during the week after work and you can get your favorite tacos for a buck each (one dollar!!!) and a strong margarita (or three) to wash them down. As if the cozy cantina couldn't get any better, there’s a “hidden” passage through the kitchen that'll take you to the Ranstead Room, Starr’s deliciously seductive speakeasy that serves stiff drinks and El Rey dishes.
Philly’s largest wine collection paired with traditional Italian fare
Panorama is yet another fine Italian establishment in Philadelphia that takes wine pairings very seriously, and luckily it’s stocked with plenty of options to try -- 120 on tap and 150 bottles -- and not all of them will leave you penniless (especially if you try a happy hour wine flight). Pastas are available in half and full sizes (perfect if you simply can’t choose between the burrata-filled pasta or the lamb shoulder agrodolce), and the antipasti dishes are perfectly portioned for those wine samples.
Varied Israeli food in a modern setting with can’t-miss hummus and tasting menus
Whether you opt for the restaurant’s signature lamb shoulder or keep it simple with the best assortment of hummus you’ll ever find in Philly, any dish at this Israeli mainstay is enough to see why it's such a long-running institution. In the spirit of exclusivity, try to snag a seat at the chef’s counter for a more tailored experience. If you don’t have a chance to drop Zahav money right now (it ain't exactly cheap), try chef Michael Solomonov’s more casual Sansom Street concepts, including fast-casual Israeli spot Dizengoff, Jewish restaurant Abe Fisher, falafel staple Goldie, and the quintessential fried chicken and donuts shop Federal Donuts.
Washington Square West
Farm-to-table specialities in a beautifully curated indoor-outdoor space
This farm-to-table spot has a brunch menu extensive enough to compete with most lengthy dinner menus, and all can be ordered with a side of grits and caramel sea butter. For dinner, you get the chance to truly splurge on locally sourced cheese and charcuterie boards, seasonal salads, and pastas, including the escargot and farfalle bowtie pasta, and sides like bacon Brussels sprouts.
Capacious dining room with eclectic new American dishes, pizza, and strong drinks
The gorgeous, expansive space of Harp & Crown features high ceilings, exposed brick, a wrap-around bar, tufted booths, and vintage portraits. The striking atmosphere (and hidden basement bowling alley) can be enough to lure you inside, but the selection of stiff drinks, small plates, and diverse entrees will keep you coming back for more -- not to mention an all-you-can eat (and generous drink) weekend brunch. Charcuterie and cheese plates go great alongside Spanish octopus and lamb meatballs, while the hanger steak and the farro pasta with spinach pesto is one of the most satisfying meals you'll get to try.
Long-running Spanish tapas spot with lounge seating and chef’s counter
Chef Jose Garces’ very first Philadelphia restaurant opened back in 2005, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. The menu embraces Spanish cuisine, offering small, sharable tapas plates and an alluring tasting menu if you want to try a bit of everything. If you’re new to tapas, you can’t go wrong with gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp), patatas bravas (spicy potatoes), or the lamb meatballs.