Everywhere You Need to Eat in Philly Right Now
From top-notch Italian fare and birria tacos to a restaurant that will transport you to the tropics.
You don’t need us to tell you that the past few years have been in a whirlwind. In Philadelphia, restaurants have contested with capacity restrictions, vaccine requirement changes, and more on top of the normal stresses of, you know, operating a restaurant in one of the best food cities in the country.
But even with all the hurdles, our favorite restaurants are evolving and keeping us fed—and the city is even enjoying a growth spurt of new restaurants that continue to flourish. From the return of high-end favorites to spots that are bringing a fresh POV and laidback concepts sprouted from family tradition, there are a ton of new dining spots to explore. So take a look at all the best restaurants in Philadelphia you should be eating at right now.
The gist: The grand return of Jose Garces’ finest dining restaurant at the Kimmel Center.
The food: After a long pandemic shutdown, Volvér is welcoming diners back with the same high-brow ambiance fitting for a pre-show meal. With the restaurant’s return also comes its new chef in residency initiative that puts a spotlight on rising chefs, particularly those who have been impacted by the pandemic, for six-week residencies. The current chef on the docket is Jezabel Careaga, whose menu includes empanadas, tamales, dulce de leche, and much more, but expect exciting new dishes from talented chefs as the program continues.
The gist: A Black- and Asian-operated takeout concept focused on family recipes.
The food: You can expect affordable meals that always hit the spot at Golden Dragon, whether you’re after fried egg over rice or a kimchi breakfast sandwich for breakfast, or your dinner cravings have you wanting handmade dumplings and sweet-and-sour chicken wings. No matter what you decide on, every meal is made with the mission to uplift local businesses and preserve the family recipes of the Golden Dragon team.
How to order: Call 215-921-4305. Cash only.
The gist: Too-good birria tacos have finally found a permanent home.
The food: After getting us hooked with pop-ups over the years, chef and owner Jennifer Zavala has finally blessed us with a brick-and-mortar location in South Philly. Juana Tamale offers birria tacos, tamales, ramen, and even vegan wings as menu mainstays, but always keep your eyes peeled for specials you’d never expect.
The gist: An Italian eatery that’s expansive in space and offerings.
The food: Figo serves up a little bit of everything you crave when it comes to Italian food, whether you’re dining in the large indoor and outdoor space or getting takeout. For now, pizza, pasta, hoagies, lots of wine, and even Italian soda are all in the mix, plus Figo is in the process of rolling out happy hour, late night, and brunch menus to boot—so it’s a go-to any time of the day.
Ocho Rios Parrilla
The gist: Friendly neighborhood spot for Caribbean recipes and cocktails.
The food: Expect all the best flavors from across the Caribbean islands at Ocho Rios Parrilla, which is named after the northern coast of Jamaica. Menu highlights include traditional oxtail stew in rich brown gravy, grilled salmon in Barbados BBQ or Jamaican jerk sauce, and curry shrimp sauteed with tri-color peppers in a coconut curry sauce. It’s even better with specialty house cocktails, from traditional Cuban mojitos to hibiscus tea margaritas.
How to book: Walk in
The gist: All-day Filipino restaurant that’s bringing new life to Reading Terminal from Kathy Mirano.
The food: If a trip to Reading Terminal is long overdue, make it your mission to visit the latest addition, Tambayan. The restaurant from market mainstay Kathy Mirano specializes in Filipino dishes like pancit stir fry, fried lumpia, and deep-fried purple sweet potato ube fries. For dessert, stock up on macarons (12 for $20) so you can try every flavor, including ube, mango, matcha, pineapple, and more.
How to book: Walk in
The gist: A menu that mingles Ethiopian and Middle Eastern fare with a market and cafe.
The food: You’ll always find something new to try at Salam Cafe, with a menu that features baba ghanoush, spicy beef stew with injera, hummus, falafel, and weekend veggie firfir. If you can’t decide which way to go, stop by for the Ethiopian and Mediterranean fusion special, which gets you three courses for $20. Even better, you can always swing by the other side of the restaurant and pick up some essentials from the market to take home.
How to book: Walk in
Middle Child Clubhouse
The gist:The grown-up version of Philly’s lunchtime favorite, now with a full dinner menu and bar.
The food:Middle Child is a luncheonette no more. The second location of Philly’s favorite sandwich shop has upped the offerings with breakfast, lunch, and dinner available at a 40-seat bar or 60-seat dining room. The menu ventures beyond the sandwich—though those are obviously still there—to include an eclectic mix of laidback plates, everything from veggie burgers to fried seafood. At the bar expect more irreverent charm, this time in the form of frozen negronis and chai tea Old Fashioneds.
The gist: A hybrid multi-purpose venue and restaurant serving fire-grilled Mexican fare from Stephen Starr.
The food: Stephen Starr’s latest Philly restaurant is finally open in Fishtown after an intended April 2020 opening was postponed, for obvious reasons. The space is a bookstore, music venue, and art gallery, but all of that takes a backseat to the killer food and drink options. A live-fire grill is the focal point of the Mexican-focused menu, serving up meat, seafood, and veggie tacos, along with some smaller plates like guacamole and ceviche. If you want to get fancy, for-the-table house specials include lobster puerto nuevo, adobo lamb shank, and more.
Rex At The Royal
The gist: This newly reopened Southern cuisine favorite gets a space upgrade and raw bar.
The food: Rex at the Royal is the amped-up return of Rex 1516, which was known for laidback-yet-luxurious Southern-inspired fare, amazing wings, and a killer burger. The new Rex at the Royal—which takes up the ground floor of the newly renovated Royal Theater Apartments—transforms Rex into a cavernous space featuring a bottle shop, a stage for live music, and a much larger bar and dining room. With the new space comes a new menu, keeping a few of the old favorites (you can still get that killer burger, but the wings, unfortunately, are gone for now) while adding a raw bar and more elevated mains to the mix.
The gist: Your new go-to for Vietnamese coffee and a chill cafe space.
The food: Càphê Roasters specializes in premium Vietnamese coffee roasting, sourcing largely from Vietnam as well as other Southeast and East Asian regions. To go with your coffee, the spot offers a cafe menu of banh mi sandwiches, including some with housemade Vietnamese sausage, as well as other bites like eight-spice wings, three-hour confit chicken, and fried mochi that the cafe has dubbed, Pillow Jawns.
The gist: Coastal Mediterranean fare with a view from Nicholas Elmi and Fia Berisha.
The food: Perched at the top of Ironworks at Pencoyd Landing high above its sister restaurant The Landing, Lark offers soaring views of the Schuylkill River and Manayunk. Lark is the high-end, dinnertime answer The Landing’s all-day cafe, offering a coastal Mediterranean menu of items like squid ink pasta with lobster, glazed duck breast, and butter roasted scallops. Expect a playful bar program of house cocktails and a curated wine list, plus zero-proof options.
Izakaya By Yanaga
The gist: Eclectic Japanese menu with unique sake and cocktail list.
The food: Sushi, ramen, gyoza, and other dishes all come together at one of the latest Fishtown concepts. The restaurant offers maki rolls, sashimi, and a menu of chirashi sushi that consists of fish over seasoned sushi rice with a variety of toppings, alongside starters, ramen, and a skewers menu with wagyu beef, octopus, and salmon. Down the line, you can expect the spot to open a 12-seat omakase offering for a more immersive option, but for now, ramen with pork belly can more than do the trick.
Hook & Master
The gist: Chicago-style pizza, plus thin-crust and Brooklyn-style options.
The food: Remember way back when the old Garces Trading Company restaurant on Locust Street (RIP) was one of the only places to get Chicago-style pizza in Philly? Well, Garces is back to his windy city roots with Hook & Master, a new pizza shop offering Chicago pan, thin-crust, and Brooklyn-style pizza. Try a little bit of everything but definitely don’t skip the 12-inch Chicago complete with thick mozzarella and a crust filled to the brim with your toppings.
The gist: A bakery, bottle shop, and pizzeria focused on naturally fermented bread.
The food: Think ultra-fresh pizzas that keep it simple and stunning, whether you’re going for a classic margherita or the crispy kale pie drizzled in chili oil. Complete your meal with small plates like fresh ricotta or marinated olives, or simply walk out with a country loaf and bottle of wine to your name.
The gist: Vietnamese fare with an emphasis on seafood and lesser-known street food dishes.
The food: Fish platters, king crab fried rice, and charbroiled seafood are all mouthwatering fixtures at Gabriella’s, which takes inspiration from Vietnamese street fare with the singular goal of feeling and tasting authentic. Chef Thanh Nguyen’s slate of tasty seafood dishes doesn’t stop there—don’t miss the whole branzino grilled in banana leaves, the wok-fried red snapper, or the crispy soft shell crab when you visit this BYOB for family-style dinner servings or Sunday brunch.
The gist: A Mexicali dining experience right next door to Union Transfer from the team behind Philly classics Kensington Quarters and Prohibition Taproom.
The food: The menu at La Chinesca takes inspo from Northern Mexico’s Baja region, featuring delectables including shrimp tostadas, fried peppers, and birria tacos alongside Chinese-American bites like egg rolls and fried wonton. Expect a seasonally changing menu served with craft cocktails and local brews.
La Llorona Cantina
The gist: A colorful cantina for laid-back Mexican fare.
The food: Snacks, tacos, and mezcal—La Llorona keeps its menu unfussy and to the point, which is why people love it so much. Whether you’re after braised beef tacos, a round of queso and warm tortillas, or a full-on carne asada, La Llorona does it in a way that feels fun and instantly relaxed. In addition to dinner, you can enjoy sampling agave nectars at the bar or visiting for weekend brunch.
The gist: A modern American restaurant that’s big on sustainability and local ingredients.
The food: River Twice is known for its James Beard-nominated chef Randy Rucker and its oft-shifting menu, designed to reflect the Mid-Atlantic region’s local ingredients and changing seasons. Go for the tasting menu for $85 per person to sample a little bit of everything inspiring the kitchen at that particular moment.
Suya Suya West African Grill
The gist: Grilled West African dishes marinated in Nigerian yaji peanut spice in a fast-casual setting.
The food: Named for the West African spice blend used on countless grilled meats, Suya Suya features flavorful dishes you can order by the bowl or in taco form, with your choice of plantains or cornbread to complete the meal. Choose between grilled chicken or steak, both options marinated with peanut spice, before trying to decide whether you want your base to be jollof rice or pasta.
The gist: Tibetan dishes offered in a warm, welcoming atmosphere.
The food: White Yak is one of few destinations for Tibetan food in Philadelphia, but here you can find a blend of warm momos served with beef broth and house spicy sauce, including chicken, vegetarian, fried dumpling, and other varieties. You might also be allured by classic Tibetan soups like Thenthuk, featuring hand-pulled noodles and fresh veggies.
Down North Pizza
The gist: Saucy square slices and comfort food come served with a community-driven mission.
The food: Down North Pizza is the project of childhood friends Muhammed Abdul-Hadi and chef Kurt Evans, offering up Detroit-style square pies alongside mango habanero wings, spicy crab fries, apple pie milkshakes, and more. Even better, Down North is on a mission to reduce recidivism rates by offering culinary career options for the formerly incarcerated.
The gist: A quick and casual pasta bar with extravagant taste from Marc Vetri.
The food: A cheaper alternative to the chef’s eponymous Italian destination, Fiorella is Vetri’s pasta-focused casual eatery in the Italian Market. The menu features rotating monthly antipasti like pork ribs and tuna crudo, as well as pasta specials like ricotta gnocchi with figs and goat cheese triangoli and sweet gelato to top off your meal.
How to book: Via website
The gist: A relaxed Israeli grill from the team behind Zahav.
The food: It’s all about skewers and other grill-worthy foods at Laser Wolf, which is modeled after a traditional Israeli skewer house. Outfit a variety of chicken, eggplant, tuna, and Bulgarian beef kabobs with branzino or ribs for the table, or scale back with hummus, fresh pita, grilled veggies, and fries with tahini ketchup.
The gist: A famous pizzeria in Philly and beyond from Joe Beddia.
The food: Perfect hand-tossed pizza is the obvious star here, with a small menu of red and white pies (plus a vegan option) that you can personalize with sides of basil, extra olive oil, anchovies, oregano—you name it. This all comes with a carefully curated menu of wines by the bottle and local brews.
The gist: All-day Lebanese fare made for sampling and sharing.
The food: Get a taste of the busy all-day cafe, market, and restaurant that recently rolled out new takeout, delivery, and garden dining options. Suraya became a quick local favorite thanks to its modern-day approach to family Lebanese recipes, serving tasting menus that sample a bit of everything: pita, baba ganoush, fried kibbeh, roasted lamb, grilled branzino, and dessert.
Kalaya Thai Kitchen
The gist: Southern Thai fare in the heart of South Philly.
The food: James-Beard-nominated Kalaya has become a must-visit destination in Philly since opening in 2019. The menu features stir-fry-centric entrees, like the Kang Pu Bai Cha Plu, with crabmeat curry, wild betel leaves, rice vermicelli, cucumber, cabbage, long beans, and jasmine rice, and smaller delectable apps like the gorgeous Shaw Muang, purple flower-shaped chicken dumplings.