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.
Best beer garden
Summerfest at Blue Cross RiverRink
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 NorthAddress and Info
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-BahnAddress and Info
Located directly below its sister bar Brü, 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.
HelmAddress and Info
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.
Best bar food
SouthgateAddress and Info
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.
Best happy hour
The Olde BarAddress and Info
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 EnotecaAddress and Info
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.
Best place to eat something spicy
DanDanAddress and Info
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.
Best sports bar
Founding FathersAddress and Info
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 FermentariaAddress and Info
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 TavernAddress and Info
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.
Best cheap eats
StargazyAddress and Info
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.
South Philly BarbacoaAddress and Info
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.
SpuntinoAddress and Info
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.
Best ice cream
Big Gay Ice CreamAddress and Info
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.
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1. Blue Cross RiverRink SummerfestPenn's Landing, Philadelphia
2. 26 North26 N 3rd St, Philadelphia
3. U-Bahn1320 Chestnut St, Philadelphia
4. Helm1305 N 5th St, Philadelphia
5. Southgate1801 Lombard St, Philadelphia
6. The Olde Bar125 Walnut St, Philadelphia
7. Tredici Enoteca114 S 13th St, Philadelphia
8. DanDan126 South 16th St, Philadelphia
9. Founding Fathers1612 South Street, Philadelphia
10. Tired Hands Brewing Company16 Ardmore Ave, Ardmore
11. Whetstone Tavern700 S 5th St, Philadelphia
12. Stargazy1838 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia
13. South Philly Barbacoa1703 S 11th St, Philadelphia
14. Spuntino Philly701 N 2nd St, Philadelphia
15. Big Gay Ice Cream521 S Broad St, Philadelphia
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.
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.
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.
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.
This Korean gastropub serves up classic Korean dishes as well as fusion surprises. The must-try is the Korean fried chicken.
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.
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.
Noodles and a happy hour starting at 4:30? Count us in!
There are a whole bunch of tv's in this place, which are perfect for Sunday night football.
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.
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.
This cash only stop stays open until they run out of pies. Grab a traditional beef & onion pie as quickly as possible.
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.
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.