FORK YEAH: Del Posto's 100-Layer Lasagne
“No matter what you order at Vernick, you can trust that it will be excellent,” said Irene Levy Baker, author of 100 Things To Do In Philadelphia Before You Die. “The team of managers and servers are quite knowledgeable and helpful while still respecting your privacy.”
You’ll never look at toast the same way after trying some of the flavor combos -- like broccoli & bacon jam or fromage blanc & kumquats -- on Vernick’s menu. Then, go beyond the bread and explore dishes that many local chefs call their favorites. “The upscale ingredients at Vernick make it a foodie’s dream,” said Michael Sultan, Chef/Owner of Revolution Taco. “You have to try the sea urchin and egg dish on their raw menu. It is out of this world.” Chef Marcie Turney loves the warm Parmesan custard with crispy baby artichokes, calling it “perfect on a cold rainy night.”
With a choose-your-own-adventure menu of small plates, toasts, vegetables, raw items, and large plates, dinner costs can range, but expect to pay $150-$250 for two.
When in doubt, trust the experts.
Jonathan Adams, co-owner of Rival Bros Coffee, loves Fork for “the level of service, attention to detail, and tableside flourishes.” For instance, “oysters being presented in a crystal bowl covered with a glass cloche makes for a dynamic and unforgettable dining experience,” he said.
“Ellen Yin and her team can always be counted on for warm hospitality and food that will make you say, ‘Wow,’” said Levy Baker says. Inquirer critic Craig LaBan recently elevated Fork to four bells, saying it “has matured into one of the most compellingly evolved special occasion dining experiences in Philadelphia today.”
Expect to pay about $200 for two, depending on how much you order and drink.
It’s always been about the wine at Panorama -- in part, thanks to setting the Guinness World Record as the World’s Largest Wine Bar -- but with a renovation and new chef, this 26-year-old standby makes for a memorable meal. Start with one of the 150 wines by the glass available or choose one of 29 wine flights. Executive Chef Matthew Gentile, an alum of LaCroix, Ela, and Parc, developed every dish on the menu to pair well with wine. Don’t miss the house-made pastas in full or half portions.
With a wine flight each, a duo can get out the door for less than $200.
Reviews of the newly opened New York City export (with other locations in Miami, Las Vegas, and The Hamptons) in Rittenhouse haven’t been flattering. Our experience, though, has been different. The location alone, overlooking Rittenhouse Square, sets a special-occasion tone. So does the sleek interior, glowy lighting, and well-trained service. This isn’t a white tablecloth-type of fancy place with soft music playing -- expect to speak a little louder or get closer to your dining partner, which may be just the excuse you needed. Many dishes are served under a white cloche, adding a touch of glamour to your meal. Underneath those domes are creamy polenta with truffled mushrooms, duck and foie gras ravioli, halibut en croute, veal tenderloin -- and of course, the restaurant’s iconic tomato & basil spaghetti.
A couple can take a tour of the menu for under $200, with wine.
One of the oldest Italian restaurants in the US in two converted townhouses in the Italian Market (complete with some mob history). White table cloths, old-school servers, and pasta with gravy (red sauce).
Location, location, location. Impress a date on the 19th floor of the Bellevue with views all around, a 19-foot Italian chandelier, and strands of pearls draped from the high ceilings down to the circular raw bar.
Reviews of Aqimero have been rough, but there’s no denying that dining in the Ritz-Carlton lobby with its soaring ceilings, marble pillars, plush seating, and flattering lighting is a luxurious way to spend an evening. Plus there’s a new Chef de Cuisine (Paulo Mendoza) in the house as of a couple months ago.
At $65 a person for four courses, plus a few extra bites from the kitchen, Ambra is one of Philly’s most affordable upscale spots. Southwark owners Chris D'Ambro and Marina De Oliveira serve a refined Italian menu in the intimate, 16-seat special occasion spot. Amuses-bouche and canapés -- and often, glasses of bubbly -- start appearing on the table as soon as you’re seated. Then, you’ll choose between two options for each course, that include antipasti (such as hand-pulled burrata or crudo), creative pastas (like smoked tortellini with concord grapes and shaved, cured egg yolk), fish or meat, and dessert. The menu is constantly changing with market availability and seasonality.
A thoughtful wine pairing can be included for just $35, making dinner for two come in at less than $250.
Center City has its share of steakhouses, but none transport diners to a different world quite like Butcher & Singer. Set in a former bank with soaring ceilings, columns, spacious tables, and leather booths, the space feels like it’s out of a movie starring Frank Sinatra or Cary Grant. The menu of throwback classics follows suit, featuring oysters Rockefeller, shrimp & crab Louie, a prime porterhouse for two, and baked Alaska. "I recently went to Butcher & Singer with some friends and their seafood towers were awesome,” said Brett Naylor, Executive Chef of Oyster House and partner of Mission Taqueria. “The variety of seafood followed by a perfectly cooked steak was definitely luxurious!”
Get gussied up, order a martini, and cheers to the good old days. Assuming you order steak and drinks, expect the bill to be in the $200-$300 range.
Try the New York Strip tasting with 6oz portions of three artisanal steaks and have a drink at the new rooftop bar, Assembly, after dinner. Also on the menu: caviar, oysters, foie gras, and A5 Wagyu.
Get the fanciest cheesesteak you can find in Philly. For $120, split the Barclay Prime Cheesesteak, made with wagyu ribeye, foie gras, and truffled cheese whiz on a fresh baked sesame roll, served with a half bottle of Champagne. You'll be amongst bookshelves circling the dining room, black and white checkered floors, zebra print rugs, and lime green accents.
One of Philadelphia’s most beautiful restaurants, the Prime Rib evokes a glam 1940s supper club with leopard print carpets, black leather chairs, a sunken dining room, rare beef, and cocktails in proper glassware.
“For me, Vetri just screams luxury,” said Chef Vince Joseph of Fine Palate. “Everyone is so warm and inviting. From the minute you’re seated, they begin to dazzle with a tour of the menu and the wine and cocktail program. Marc takes you on an adventure plate after plate.”
After a quick table-side chat with a friendly server, the team at Chef Marc Vetri’s intimate, 32-seat ristorante crafts a tasting menu based on each diner’s preferences and what’s in season. Then, Italian specialities -- usually including the signature dishes of spinach gnocchi, sweet onion crepe, and goat with polenta -- begin flowing from the kitchen. Opt for the thoughtful Italian wine pairing from the 2,500 bottle cellar. “The entire experience, from the service to the food combined with the romantic atmosphere of the dining room, makes this my go-to pick,” said Chad Williams, chef/owner of Friday Saturday Sunday.
Fair warning: At $155 per person, plus a beverage pairing at nearly the same price, dinner for two can easily run over $600.
Lacroix’s elevated, airy dining room overlooking Rittenhouse Square sets the mood for a luxurious, white tablecloth meal. When dinner starts with caviar service, you know you're settling in for an elegant experience. Dinner is a five-course tasting menu, starting with raw items, moving into delicate vegetables, and seafood, hearty meat dishes, and seasonal desserts. Brunch here is like nothing else in Philly: buffets as far as the eye can see with creative appetizers, salads, savory dishes, mini desserts, a chocolate fountain, a liquid nitrogen ice cream station, and -- of course -- a raw bar with all the caviar you desire.
Dinner goes for $105 per person, plus an optional $85 wine pairing, resulting in a meal for two totaling more than $400. Brunch runs about $200 for two, with mimosas or Bloodys.
Volvér is Chef Jose Garces at his most avant-garde. Situated inside the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, this 10-course dinner is the show. Volvér’s tasting menu takes inspiration from Garces’ international travels, seasonal ingredients, and modern cooking techniques. For example, the Pennsylvania breakfast staple scrapple takes an elegant turn when paired with braised duck, foie gras, plantain jus, brazil nut, and sherry. And get your camera ready: Every plate looks like a piece of modern art.
Expect to pay over $300 for the 10-course tasting for two, or over $500 with the wine pairing.
1. Vernick Food & Drink2031 Walnut St, Philadelphia
2. Fork306 Market St, Philadelphia
3. Panorama14 N Front St, Philadelphia
4. Scarpetta355 W 14th St, New York
5. Dante & Luigi's762 S 10th St, Philadelphia
6. XIX200 S Broad St, Philadelphia
7. Aqimero10 Avenue of the Arts, Philadelphia
8. Butcher and Singer1500 Walnut Street, Philadelphia
9. Ambra Restaurant705 S. 4th St., Philadelphia
10. Urban Farmer at the Logan1850 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia
11. Barclay Prime237 S 18th St, Philadelphia
12. The Prime Rib17th Street, Philadelphia
13. Lacroix at The Rittenhouse210 W Rittenhouse Sq, Philadelphia
14. Volvér300 S Broad St, Philadelphia
15. Vetri1312 Spruce St, Philadelphia
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.
Farm-to-table fare may sound cliche these days, but Fork has has been a pioneer of the food movement for since the late 1990s. The intimate restaurant breathed new life into Old City when it opened, and keeps the torch lit with American cuisine locally sourced from farmers located throughout the Delaware Valley. A woodland mural and dried branches in the dining room make for a woodsy yet elegant setting where the food is far too intricate to simply be foraged from the forest the decor nods to: vegetable-heavy starters like roasted carrots with bone marrow gremolata, precede housemade pastas and complex meat dishes like duck with persimmon and gingered rutabega.
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.
Scott Conant's Meatpacking Italian is a perpetually hip restaurant that serves knockout pastas to a ritzy crowd. The handmade pasta options range from ravioli to tagliatelle, but the signature dish is the least complicated: spaghetti with tomato and basil, which has a mind-blowing simplicity that keeps people coming back again and again. More than carb specialist, Scarpetta serves a multi-course tasting menu and vegetarian dishes sourced from local farms.
When a restaurant has been going strong since the 1930s , you know it's doing something right. Enter Dante & Luigi’s, the epitome of old-school, upscale Italian in Philadelphia (it's really been around since 1899 if you count previous names). They take gravy seriously here -- that's Italian-American for sauce, by the way -- which is spooned liberally onto the signature meatballs (of course). Antipasto like caprese salad or sauteed chicken liver are the way to begin a meal, which should progress to any of the pastas (the list is long, from baked manicotti to lasagna), before a finale of a meat, fish, or chicken main. The dining room, which got a 2013 renovation, is filled with white tablecloths, and is where mob boss-son Nicodemo Scarfo Jr. was shot on Halloween night in 1989 -- but that doesn't mean it wouldn't still make a great date night.
XIX Nineteen looms over the city from 19 stories up, high in the upper quarters of the regal Hyatt at the Bellevue. The American restaurant/bar/lounge is known for elegance, with a 19-foot-long chandelier and stained glass dome in the main dining room almost rivaling the main feature -- spectacular views. Did we mention the floor-to-ceiling windows? A modern menu gets international touches in dishes like Jerusalem artichoke puree, but you can keep it red-white-and-blue with Maine lobster or anything from the extensive raw bar. Raw oysters and city lights await.
Aqimero is bringing Latin-American flavor to the upscale -- if sometimes stiff -- Ritz-Carlton hotel. In the gigantic historic lobby, textured glass partitions and blue accents in the carpet hint at the sea, which is reflected in the seafood-heavy menu. Ocean eats are presented simply in a plate of grilled octopus, enveloped in cheese for shrimp quesadillas, and topped with turf fare in seared scallops with pork belly and snap peas. The so-called “Mexican beach campfire” whole-roasted snapper stands out on the menu, even though Philadelphia is far from any beach, Mexican or not. Guests can watch the staff chuck oysters, crack clams, and whip up ceviches behind the marble bar. Mexican mezcals take center stage at the bar (Narcissistic Noriega: mescal, tequila, rosemary, pineapple shrub, lime, ginger beer), but drinks are not limited to the smoky elixir (sake sangria: vodka, sake, lemon-basil, tequila, ginger ale).
With any Stephen Starr operation, you know what you’re getting: great service, flawless execution, and a serious price tag. Butcher & Singer is a throwback to the old Hollywood-style steak- and chophouses, so it’s a perfect place to impress a date or celebrate a milestone with a delicious dinner. Low lighting, high ceilings, and white table cloths give you a reason to dress up.
What was once a storage unit is now a stylish and tiny (we're talking just 16 seats) Italian tasting-menu-only hideaway. The idea for Ambra was born when chef Chris D’Ambro of neighboring restaurant Southwark took notice of the unused space and transformed it into a gourmand's gray-walled escape: sheer white cloth is draped over mounted lightboxes on one wall, a crude unfinished wooden palette obscures light from outside on another and rough stone slabs are visible from every vantage point. Four-course meals ($65) consist of an antipasti, primi, second and dolci, with two choices per course (plus, amuse bouche and canapés). Opt for the beverage pairing ($35) and each dish will find it’s flavor soulmate in a glass of wine.
The Philly outpost of this eco-conscious steakhouse and modern bistro features bright farm-to-table fare. The dining space, located just off Logan Square, is full of eclectic tchotchkes of Americana, and the warm, welcoming environment highlights the delicate flavors on the menu. Take the grits, which come directly from Castle Valley Mill in Doylestown and are coveted by local chefs for their pure flavor and great texture. And while we’d probably eat a bowl of just the grits, Urban Farmer tops theirs with a soft poached egg, shrimp, and pulled pork.
On the ground floor of the old Barclay building -- which was once the most famous hotel in the city and the site of the Abscam sting from American Hustle -- Barclay Prime is a high-end steakhouse, where options range from the petite 8oz filet to the dinosaur-sized PA Pride 50oz tomahawk rib eye. The first thing you need to do here is order the foie gras cheesesteak, because no other place has it. If for some reason you're not into delicious goose fat, dig into some Kobe sliders or another choice cut of steak.
The Prime Rib in Rittenhouse's Warwick Hotel combines red meat fantasies, formal service, and an upscale dining room that exudes 1940s-style Hollywood glamor. The meat plates seem as large as the budget it must have taken to design the breathtaking space. The namesake prime rib is the obvious way to go, large enough to feed three, but the entire surf and turf menu is worthy of the high prices (a happy hour prix fixe makes things slightly more affordable). Live piano and bass music helps transport you to another era, letting you feel for a night that you exist in a higher tax bracket.
Your milkshake brings some adventurous people to the yard when you're Rittenhouse Square French-staurant Lacroix, (located at the Rittenhouse Hotel), especially because said milkshake involves both foie gras and blood orange. If you thought that was interesting, it's also serving up the likes of suckling pig, Spanish octopus (it's got an accent), and sweetbreads, in addition to a build-your-own Bloody Mary station. Celebrated head chef Jon Cichon traveled to places like Portugal, Thailand, Japan, and even America to get inspiration for the flavors he's dishing out.
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.
From the moment you enter, you’re enveloped in the finest smells and offered the finest wines. Even when ordering, it takes care of most of the work for you by only offering a pricey prix-fixe tasting menu that’s custom-tailored to your personal tastes and desires.