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The 26 Best Restaurants for First

Jun 19, 2023

Looking for a special destination for your next food-cation?

Whatever you’re hoping to get into your belly, Philadelphia’s got it, from national award winners to Old World classics to great cheesesteaks. The city’s abundance of singular restaurants, eclectic cafes and food-forward bars poses a delicious mealtime dilemma for every diner: Where to eat tonight?

For every newcomer and first-time visitor, Philly offers a trove of must-try essential eateries serving upscale multi-course masterpieces, heaping sandwiches, satisfying desserts and much more.

At a glance, Philly has:

Can you try them all? We’ve got your starting point checklist right here.

Most Philadelphians have a favorite spot for hoagies, one for cheesesteaks and one for a slice. For some, all three exist at one place: Angelo’s Pizzeria South Philly. Cheesesteaks are served oozing from a seeded roll piled with fine-sliced steak and a gooey choice of cheese. And Angelo’s hoagies are just as immaculate (try the three prosciutto-based specials). But the draw is the award-winning pizza on fermented house-made dough, served in traditional East Coast-style round pies or thick-crust Sicilian-style square.

Where: Angelo's Pizzeria South Philly, 736 S. 9th Street

Once a well-kept secret in the River Ward neighborhood of Port Richmond, Original Tacconelli’s Pizzeria (the “original” part is important, trust us) is a fifth-generation, cash-only pizzeria where guests are tasked to call ahead to reserve their limited dough allotment and curb their order to three toppings per pizza. Tacconelli’s amazing pies are served up in the shop’s old-school dining room where guests are permitted to bring their own beer and wine (but no liquor).

Where: Original Tacconelli’s Pizzeria, 2604 E. Somerset Street

Ask a dozen Philadelphians who has the best cheesesteak and you’ll get a dozen different answers so, for first-time visitors, it’s best to stick to the classics. Try the original and most famous at Pat’s King of Steaks or from their long-time cross-corner rival Geno’s Steaks. (Order one of each for a steak taste test!). Or eat like a local by checking out two of the shops regularly topping local best-of lists: Roxborough’s Dalessandro’s Steaks or South Philly gem John’s Roast Pork (don’t let the name fool you).

Where: Pat's King of Steaks, 1237 E. Passyunk Avenue


Geno's Steaks, 1219 S. 9th Street

No frills, no pretenses, Anthony Bourdain-approved. Feeding South Philly with the motto “do one thing only, and do it well,” Phở 75 is a simple, cash-only Vietnamese pho restaurant located in an unassuming strip mall off Washington Avenue. (Look for the building with big yellow awning that says Phở 75 “at least six times,” per the restaurant’s official site.) The noodle and soup shop promises quick service and heaping bowls of steaming pho that’s the self-proclaimed “hangover cure from heaven,” though it’s just as tasty when you’re feeling in prime health, too.

Where: Phở 75, 1122 Washington Avenue

For 130 years, Reading Terminal Market — one of the nation’s oldest and largest public markets — has offered hungry locals and weary travelers a smorgasbord of fresh and family-owned dining choices from restaurants and bakeries to ice creameries and delis, both sit-down and on-the-go. The bustling food hall offers over 80 vendors serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner for every taste and from every cuisine, including hoagies, cheesesteaks, Cajun fare, Italian dishes, Middle Eastern favorites, sushi, Filipino classics and of course plenty of traditional Pennsylvania Dutch (Amish) specialties. Overwhelmed? Start with our guide on the best things to eat at the market.

Where: Reading Terminal Market, 1136 Arch Street

The perfect warm-weather treat, water ice (pronounced locally as “wooder ice”) is a simple combination of fruit or syrup with finely shaved ice. It’s as quintessentially Philly as the cheesesteak — and most Philadelphians will agree that the iconic spot to grab a Dixie cup full is John’s Water Ice in Bella Vista. Delighting customers since 1947, John’s offers its ice in lemon, cherry, chocolate and pineapple flavors. Go next level and mix with vanilla, chocolate, strawberry or butter pecan ice cream for a refreshing gelati.

Where: John's Water Ice, 701 Christian Street

Lines out the door all year long (even in winter) are a testament to the enduring popularity of Franklin Fountain, a turn-of-the-century ice cream parlor where bowtie-wearing staff sling old-timey classics alongside newer confections, including vegan options. Ice cream is served in over a dozen rotating flavors including standards like vanilla bean, chocolate and Franklin mint chip and creative options like vegan Hydrox, caramelized banana and teaberry gum. Don’t miss the soda counter offering ice cream sodas, phosphates, egg creams and milkshakes or the menu of fantastic sundaes and splits.

Where: Franklin Fountain, 116 Market Street

Xiao long bao steamed soup dumplings were first brought to America two decades ago by Shizhou Da — a fifth-generation descendent of the chushi who created the original in China — and opened Shanghai-style Dim Sum Garden in Chinatown with the new dish front and center on the menu. Today, Shizhou runs this casual joint with her daughter Sally serving must-try selections including spicy pork soup dumplings, traditional shrimp or crab meat dumplings, steamed vegetable buns and much more.

Where: Dim Sum Garden, 1020 Race Street

Another feather in the hospitality cap of 2023 James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurateur Ellen Yin (see Fork, below), Washington Square West’s High Street Philly (actually on South 9th Street) is a daily three-meal spot specializing in baked-in-house daily artisan breads (some of the best in the city). Lunch and dinner menus feature items like sandwiches, handmade pastas, inventive pizzas and salads, while breakfast options include fresh pastries and plenty of innovative baked goods along with a well-apportioned coffee bar.

Where: High Street Philly, 101 S. 9th Street

Joe Beddia and his pies took the nation by storm in 2015 when Pizzeria Beddia was named Bon Appétit’s Best Pizza in America and again in 2019 when Time proclaimed it one of the World’s Greatest Places. The Fishtown landmark serves up traditional 16-inch pies with a crispy crust in a minimalist space located down a nondescript ally. For a special night out, reserve Beddia’s “Hoagie Room,” where your party is treated to a five-course, two-hour private pizza and hoagie omakase experience you will not forget.

Where: Pizzeria Beddia, 1313 N. Lee Street

One cannot simply visit one of America’s greatest Italian heritage cities and not sit down to a grande pasto at America’s oldest Italian restaurant. Open since 1900, Ralph’s is a fourth-generation family trattoria specializing in old-school basics like spaghetti and meatballs in red gravy, chicken parmigiana, sausage and peppers, and shrimp scampi (with plenty left over for a doggie bag). Don’t take our word for it: Just ask the numerous celebrities spotted here over the years, from Frank Sinatra to Taylor Swift.

Where: Ralph's Italian Restaurant, 760 S. 9th Street

James Beard Award Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic winner and immigration activist Cristina Martínez’s popular Mexican eatery South Philly Barbacoa may look unassuming from the outside, but the food within is anything but. This culinary gem located off Philadelphia’s Italian Market serves up a small, inexpensive menu focusing on intensely flavorful dishes like lamb barbacoa, pancita tripe taco and horchata. For a just-as-tasty experience, stop three doors down at comida corrida offshoot Casa Mexico.

Where: South Philly Barbacoa, 1140 S. 9th Street


Casa Mexico, 1134 S. 9th Street

There are just three people in the world who are both James Beard Award winners and Iron Chefs — and one works right here in Philadelphia. Amada, the first of what is now 14 Philly restaurants under the eye of chef Jose Garces, invokes traditional Spanish tapas bar mixed with a hip European meets Bohemian vibe. The menu features more than 60 tapas, both traditional and modern small plates. Have a seat in the dining room and dine on lantern-lit tables while flamenco-influenced electronica fills the room. A Main Line outpost in Wayne opened in 2023.

Where: Amada, 217-219 Chestnut Street


Amada Radnor, 555 E. Lancaster Avenue, Wayne

In 2023, restaurateur Ellen Yin took home the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurateur in America, thanks to a portfolio that includes her sleek concept Fork. Located in Philadelphia’s historic Old City neighborhood, the stylish and sophisticated New American bistro has been dazzling taste buds since the 1990s. Fork’s finely inventive offerings are served off a traditional menu (which changes frequently to showcase the region’s finest produce, seafood and meat), or as a choose-your-own fixed-menu multi-course meal.

Where: Fork, 306 Market Street

For the second time in just five years, Philadelphia is home to the James Beard Award winner for Outstanding Restaurant. Joining Zahav (see below) in 2023 is Fitler Square eatery Friday Saturday Sunday from husband-and-wife Chef Chad Williams and Hanna Williams. The Black-owned fine-dining eatery features an elegant, seasonally inspired eight-course prix fixe tasting menu served in their luxurious-yet-intimate upstairs dining room. While indulgent culinary classics are the draw, don’t sleep on the expansive, rave-worthy cocktail list replete with excellently prepared (and named!) concoctions.

Where: Friday Saturday Sunday, 261 S. 21st Street

When Amanda Shulman was a student at the University of Pennsylvania, she threw elaborate dinner parties for her classmates. That’s the vibe at Her Place Supper Club, her Rittenhouse Square restaurant serving a family-style fixed-price tasting menu. Her Place features an ever-changing menu and a well-crafted wine and cocktail program served up in an intimate dining space with a buzzy electric vibe. Your meal isn’t complete until you’re handed a warm sourdough chocolate chip cookie, often from Shulman herself.

Where: Her Place Supper Club, 1740 Sansom Street

Occupying the top floors of the 60-story Comcast Technology Center (the tallest building in the U.S. outside New York and Chicago), Jean-Georges is not just the highest restaurant in the city, but also one of its most outstanding. The eponymous fine-dining spot (inside the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia) from Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten offers curated four-, six- and eight-course tasting menus. The only thing topping your meal are the sweeping panoramic views out 40-foot windows 1,121 feet above the city.

Where: Jean-Georges Philadelphia, 1 N. 19th Street

Talk about a trophy case. Not only was Kalaya named Esquire’s Best New Restaurant in America when it opened in 2020, but chef/owner Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon walked away from the 2023 James Beard Awards bestowed with the title Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic. It was from her mother that Suntaranon learned to craft the authentic southern Thai dishes served up at the restaurant she named in her honor, chock full of her signature crowd-pleasing spicy curries.

Where: Kalaya, 4 W. Palmer Street

If you go looking for the Eiffel Tower, we’d understand. The new Michelin travel guide anointed Philadelphia “the Frenchest American city,” and nowhere does that come more alive than at authentic French bistro Parc. Enjoy délicieux escargot, steak frites and beef bourguignon in a variety of ambiances in which to dine. Savor the sophisticated energy of a bustling brasserie in the formal dining room. Meet up in the casual front room clad in hand-laid Parisian tile. Or dine alfresco in gorgeous awning-covered sidewalk seating overlooking iconic Rittenhouse Square.

Where: Parc, 227 S. 18th Street

Are you in the mood for a full sit-down upscale Japanese meal or a swanky sushi prix-fixe experience? Both are at your service at seven-time James Beard Award nominee Jesse Ito’s unassuming Royal Sushi and Izakaya. The casual first-come, first-served Royal Izakaya side offers an inventive a la carte menu of sushi, sashimi, soups, salads, bao buns and plenty of sake. Or kick your night up a notch at Royal Sushi with an eight-seat, 17-piece nigirizushi and temaki omakase for $230 (by reservation only, two seatings per night).

Where: Royal Sushi & Izakaya, 780 S. 2nd Street

An upscale, Charleston-inspired joint from veteran restaurateurs (and brothers) Robert and Ben Bynum, SOUTH Restaurant & Jazz Club, just north of City Hall, serves up some of the best elevated Southern, Cajun and soul food in Philly. The casual menu offers fare like freshly shucked oysters, fried green tomatoes and shrimp remoulade, oxtail and grits, buttermilk fried chicken, and vegan jambalaya along with good old-fashioned hospitality and an extensive wine program. Dinner is just half the show, with live jazz grooving six nights a week.

Where: SOUTH Restaurant & Jazz Club, 600 N. Broad Street

A 12,000-square-foot restaurant, bar, garden patio, market and café, Fishtown’s Suraya is less eating spot and more Middle East dining complex. Celebrating the flavors of the Levant — Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Israel, Iraq and particularly Lebanon — Suraya offers a menu of aromatic items like man’oushe flatbreads, baba ganoush, taboulé, ful mudammas and heaping plates of hummus. Do not leave before partaking in dessert: James Matty and his cache of Middle Eastern-inflected French pastries and sweets picked up a James Beard Award nomination for Outstanding Pastry Chef.

Where: Suraya, 1528 Frankford Avenue

Even in a city famous for cheesesteaks, you should still eat your vegetables — and upscale vegetarian eatery Vedge has you covered. James Beard Award-nominated chef-owner-partners Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby opened Vedge purposely eschewing reliance on meat substitutes, putting vegetables front and center. Their constantly changing menu of seasonal ingredients features mostly “medium plates” (somewhere between tapas and entrees) for dinner and a fun selection of happy hour snacks at their bar alongside excellent cocktails. Be sure to peruse the scrumptious dessert menu full of genius dairy-free workarounds.

Where: Vedge, 1221 Locust Street

Where are you eating in a month? If your answer is Rittenhouse Square’s Vernick Food & Drink, start planning now as James Beard Award Best Chef winner Greg Vernick’s upscale dinner spot takes reservations four weeks out and fills up quick. Spring for the six-course tasting menu served in Vernick Wine’s “jewel-box” dining room, or choose an à la carte adventure from the casual seasonal menu. If you’re feeling particularly fishy, visit sister spot Vernick Fish, a modern fresh seafood restaurant street level at the Comcast Technology Center.

Where: Vernick Food & Drink, 2031 Walnut Street


Vernick Fish, 1 N. 19th Street

James Beard Award-winning chef Marc Vetri knows what the people want, and exactly how to give it to them. Inside its intimate Center City townhouse (formerly home to the world-famous Le Bec-Fin), Vetri Cucina has elevated Italian food to an art form, with a new way to experience it: Vetri’s fixed quattro piatti four-course menu with options within each, the restaurant’s sole offering. For a more inexpensive (and more flexible) menu with the same quality cuisine, stroll a mile south to Marc Vetri’s intimate pasta bar Fiorella.

Where: Vetri Cucina, 1312 Spruce Street


Fiorella Pasta, 817 Christian Street

Chef-owner Michael Solomonov’s modern Israeli eatery Zahav single-handedly elevated Philadelphia’s food scene (though, admittedly, it was already pretty high) when the spot was honored with the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant in 2019. A James Beard winner for Best Chef himself, Solomonov’s Society Hill café serves authentic Middle Eastern cuisine family style off a five-course tasting menu with optional beverage pairing. Missed that hard-to-get monthly reservation? Aim for the spot’s 50-seat patio (for walk-ins only) or check out Zahav’s little sister misada Laser Wolf, a Kensington skewer house named a Best New Restaurant in America by GQ in 2020.

Where: Zahav, 237 Saint James Place


Laser Wolf, 1301 N. Howard Street

The only way to fully experience Philly? Stay over.

Book the Visit Philly Overnight Package and get free hotel parking and choose-your-own-adventure perks, including tickets to Disney100: The Exhibition at The Franklin Institute.

Or maybe you’d prefer to buy two Philly hotel nights and get a third night for free? Then book the new Visit Philly 3-Day Stay package.

Which will you choose?

The quintessential, gotta-have-it-while-you’re-here dishes that you can only get in P...

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