Food & Drink

The Thrillist Awards: Philadelphia's Best Food & Drink of 2015

Published On 12/28/2015 Published On 12/28/2015

It's not like we can claim to stand by every new thing we've tried this year, but there are quite a few we can. Waiting in the opening day line for Big Gay Ice Cream's Salty Pimp is one. Pushing Southgate's Korean fried wings on all your friends until they've reached same level of obsession is another. Thanks to the burgeoning Philly food and drink scene, there are lots more memorable moments and new places to call our favorites. With that in mind, we bring you a list of the best things to hit Philly in 2015.

Blue Cross RiverRink

Best beer garden

Summerfest at Blue Cross RiverRink
Penn's Landing
Thanks in part to some interesting takes on the state's liquor laws, beer gardens were an explosive trend this year. At Summerfest, the warm-weather version of Winterfest, we loved that you could grab a cold one, eat some great food, and bust a move (or your ass) on roller skates all in the same place. Because, as we all know, the hardest thing about roller skating is staying hydrated while you do it.

Best place for a first date

26 North

Address and Info

Old City

We're big fans of Chef Mike Stollenwerk’s new Old City restaurant, and we think it's the perfect place to impress a first date. The food is great, the atmosphere is lively, and the prices are reasonable. It’s also BYOB, giving you the perfect opportunity to show off those sommelier skills (i.e., the label looked cool).

U-Bahn

Best bar

U-Bahn

Address and Info

Midtown Village

Located directly below its sister bar BrĂĽ, U-Bahn is a subterranean hangar. We still can't pinpoint the theme -- arcade games and bottle service aren't often paired together. When it's packed on the weekends, the place resembles a Tokyo subway station. That said, U-Bahn is a ton of fun with liquid courage in the mix.

Best restaurant

Helm

Address and Info

Kensington

What’s not to like about Helm? The newly-opened Kensington BYOB has quickly become one of the city's best restaurants with its bold, refreshingly simple (this is 'real food'), and constantly-changing new American menu. Kensington might be a little out of the way for some, but it’s worth the trip for a meal at Helm.

SouthGate Philly

Best bar food

Southgate

Address and Info

Graduate Hospital

While there are more than a few items at Southgate that we dream about, there’s one thing at this Korean brewpub that keeps us up at night: their addictive, should-be-classified-as-a-Schedule-II-drug Korean fried chicken wings. Tossed in soy garlic or spicy gochujang sauce, the chicken is crispy, spicy, and one of the best things we’ve eaten all year. Don’t be surprised if you end up ordering a second or third round.

The Olde Bar

Best happy hour

The Olde Bar

Address and Info

Old City

After Bookbinders historically shuttered in 2009, the building housing the 100-plus-year-old restaurant was empty until this year. James Beard award-winning chef Jose Garces stepped in and opened The Olde Bar with a reimagined throwback to the original space. Of all the things that the new Olde Bar does well, happy hour is at the top of our list: $1 oysters, $5 appetizers, beer and wine specials, and their surprisingly strong $6 Fish House punch (a bunch of rum, brandy and peach cordial will do that).

Best place to grab a glass of wine

Tredici Enoteca

Address and Info

Midtown Village

It’s only been a few weeks since this Midtown Village wine bar opened, but it quickly became one of the best places to go when you're looking to get a glass of red, white, or bubbly. Tredici Enoteca serves generous half and full pours of more than 20 wines, and food from the team behind Zavino, in case you aren’t coming here solely for a liquid meal.

DanDan

Best place to eat something spicy

DanDan

Address and Info

Rittenhouse

When you’re in the mood for something spicy, Rittenhouse newcomer DanDan is there to hit all the right hot notes. Inspired by the food you’ll get at Philly OG Han Dynasty (the owner, Han Chiang, is DanDan co-owner Cat Huang's brother), the restaurant's obvious staple is its namesake dan dan noodles. The dishes' (unofficial) spice scale ranges from medium to “worry about going to the bathroom the next day” hot, so don't forget the Pepto.

Founding Fathers

Best sports bar

Founding Fathers

Address and Info

Graduate Hospital

Given the dearth of decent sports bars in Philly, the opening of Founding Fathers last December was a pleasant surprise. It’s not the cheapest place, but if you want to watch the game in a slightly more adult atmosphere, drink good beer, and eat solid bar food, Founding Fathers is your spot.


Tired Hands Brewing Company

Best brewpub

Tired Hands Fermentaria

Address and Info

Ardmore

Both beer snobs and Bud-drinking folk rejoiced when Tired Hands Fermenteria, the recent expansion from the Ardmore brewing alchemists, opened back in April. While you could always get some crazy good beers from Tired Hands, the extra space expanded the brewery's production significantly and created a perfect space to enjoy the beers. It’s also right next to the train station in Ardmore, making for an easy trip back into the city.

Whetstone Tavern

Best burger

Whetstone Tavern

Address and Info

South Street

When it comes to getting a good burger in Philly, there are tons of options. And while that list is filled with old favorites, there’s one that you couldn’t get back when “Uptown Funk” was the song of the summer: Dad’s burger at Whetstone Tavern. Available as a single or double, the burger is made with a custom blend of LaFrieda beef and is topped with cheese, lettuce slaw, onion, and pickles on a Martin’s potato roll. It’s a great burger at regular menu price, and a steal if you can grab it during Whetstone’s late night happy hour.

Stargazy

Best cheap eats

Stargazy

Address and Info

East Passyunk

This East Passyunk pie shop gets the award for best place to grab a cheap bite. If you haven’t already had one of the British meat pies from Chef Sam Jacobson, run, don't walk, there -- the pies routinely sell out.

Barbacoa South Philly

Best tacos

South Philly Barbacoa

Address and Info

East Passyunk

For Philly taco fans, 2015 was a high point with the openings of Heffe, Buena Onda, Los Jimenez, and a half-dozen other taquerias serving up handheld deliciousness. Of all the openings, South Philly Barbacoa's new brick-and-mortar location was the highlight of our taco-filled year. At SPB, you can still get the barbacoa or pancita tacos, along with those homemade agua frescas and salsas, that you used to grab streetside. Except now you can sit while you eat. Gamechanger.

Spuntino of Philly

Best pizza

Spuntino

Address and Info

Northern Liberties

Good pizza isn’t exactly hard to come by in Philly, as much as former New Yorkers would like you to believe otherwise. The opening of Spuntino in Northern Libs put in a strong showing for the best wood-fired pizza in the city. To be fair, this is the second pizzeria from the Carollo family (the first is in Doylestown) but this Philly outpost nails it.

Flickr/Guian Bolisay

Best ice cream

Big Gay Ice Cream

Address and Info

South Street

Big Gay Ice Cream opened a Philly outpost this year, and it was a big deal -- like, people lost it. The hype report after being open for a few months? Worth it? Since it's on list list, we think you know the answer to that.

Sign up here for our daily Philly email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

After all of the eating and drinking in 2015, Dan McKay is done for the year... maybe month... maybe day... actually, forget it, when’s happy hour? You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @dannypageviews.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest Penn's Landing, Philadelphia, PA

This ice rink turned roller rink is the perfect Philly summer activity. Eat great food and grab a cold beer, but not during the actual roller blading part, that probably won't end too well.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
2. 26 North 26 N 3rd St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Seafood master Mike Stollenwerk brings full lunch and dinner menus of artful seafood plates to Old City with 26 North. Don't count out the lamb and vegetarian plates either, as every plate brings the same level of quality. The restaurant’s spacious floor and high celling provide a touch of elegance, which is a quirky contrast to its BYOB policy.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
3. U-Bahn 1320 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19107 (Market East)

Just one floor below the expansive beer-list and gravy-fry paradise that is Brü comes U-Bahn, inspired by German underground transit. The spot sports two bars and has the cuisine covered by Brü’s chef, which means the street food-inspired bar snacks will not disappoint. This is also a great place to catch some entertainment while you’re drinking and eating -- local DJs and musicians perform a couple times a week on the in-house stage.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
4. Helm 1305 N 5th St, Philadelphia, PA 19122 (Kensington)

Having just opened in March, Helm debuted at number 10 on Philadelphia Magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants list for 2016, and are already planning their second restaurant. The blackboard menu is ever-changing thanks to Helm’s promise to use only fresh, local and seasonal ingredients in their New American dishes. The BYOB policy adds to its relaxed, fun atmosphere.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
5. Southgate 1801 Lombard St, Philadelphia, PA 19146 (Rittenhouse)

This Korean gastropub serves up classic Korean dishes as well as fusion surprises. The must-try is the Korean fried chicken.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
6. The Olde Bar 125 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106 (Old City)

Jose Garces brought some much-needed life into the old stomping grounds of the locally loved Bookbinder’s, which closed during the not-great-economically year of 2009. Garces' reincarnation of the place is a nice polish to the original, and includes an open banquet room complete with dimly lit red booths, candles, and an oyster saloon serving snapper soup and fried belly clams. In addition to the nouveaux riche aperitif menu, the seafood-centric restaurant serves classics like dungeness crab, Maine lobster, and of course, champagne cocktails to pair.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
7. Tredici Enoteca 114 S 13th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107

With the food team behind Zavino and over 20 different half and full pour wines, it's safe to say Tredici Enoteca in Midtown Village serves up some seriously high quality eats and drinks. The knowledgeable staff is quick to help you find the perfect wine pairing for each order, from small plates to entrees. After devouring several shared plates, find room for meat, fish, and pasta entrees, all enjoyed in a sleek space adorned in white marble and large antique mirrors with white oak herringbone floors.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
8. DanDan 126 South 16th St, Philadelphia, PA 19102

Noodles and a happy hour starting at 4:30? Count us in!

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
9. Founding Fathers 1612 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19146

There are a whole bunch of tv's in this place, which are perfect for Sunday night football.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
10. Tired Hands Brewing Company 16 Ardmore Ave, Ardmore, PA 19003 (Main Line)

Possibly the coolest place on the Main Line, the Ardmore brewery continuously updates its beer menu with a little something for everybody, available in 8oz glasses for sampling, or pints for grown-ups. The brewers often dub their creations with creative names like the IPA Vienna Melt called Neutral Impulse From the Visual Cortex, or last winter’s flowery saison-inspired brew, the Truthbomb. Also, don’t call it a brewpub: it is a brewery and pub. Its pub fare includes artisan bread made on site and fresh selections of cheeses and charcuterie -- not a basket of frings.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
11. Whetstone Tavern 700 S 5th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147 (Society Hillqueen Village)

Queen Village's most delightfully polished brasserie hosts an airy space bedecked in white, pastels, and gold metallic accents, and lends itself to European-inspired dishes with just as much flair in presentation. Seared duck breast, rabbit tetrazzini, and even the house specialty Dad's Burger are just as pleasurable to look at as they are to eat -- but given their unbeatable taste and the the three classically trained chefs who prepare them, you probably won't be looking for too long.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
12. Stargazy 1838 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148

This cash only stop stays open until they run out of pies. Grab a traditional beef & onion pie as quickly as possible.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
13. South Philly Barbacoa 1703 S 11th St, Philadelphia, PA 19148

South Philly Barbacoa is a brick-and-mortar version of what use to be a beloved taco truck. They are cash only, and the must-try is the Barbacoa tacos.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
14. Spuntino Philly 701 N 2nd St, Philadelphia, PA 19123

The second pizza restaurant from the Carollo family serves up some serious wood fired pizza. Good quality pizza doesn't just come from New York, and Spuntino's is here to prove it.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
15. Big Gay Ice Cream 521 S Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19147 (Midtown Village)

This Philly outpost of the NYC famous ice cream shop brings the same flavors and vibe to Washington Square West.

Clickbait