Every once in a great while, you get a random day off from work. Maybe the rest of your team is at a conference in Chicago so you don’t have to go into the office, or maybe you’re living out some Ferris Bueller-esque fantasy you’ve had since you were 15. Whatever the reason, you should be making the most of your day off by sitting down to a great lunch. In this guide, you’ll find a bunch of places where you can get something way better than the soggy wrap you usually pick up from the bodega near your office, and, as an added bonus, they should all be easier to get into during the day.
You’ve been wanting to come here for a while, but it’s expensive, and you haven’t had an occasion special enough to justify bringing a date and dropping $125 on the omakase. That’s what days off are for. Morimoto serves lunch during the week, and it’s both cheaper than an all-out dinner here (the omakase drops to $65) and feels way more casual, even though it’s still located in the same dark, futuristic basement.
You might’ve stopped by here on a weekday for a quick takeout sandwich, but Res Ipsa is better when you have some time to sit down. Their lunch menu is short, with a few sandwiches, soups, and salads, but everything on it is excellent. Whatever you order, a side of roasted potatoes is absolutely required.
Maybe you don’t really have the day off. Maybe you said that you had to work from home because you’re getting some piece of furniture delivered to your apartment and the delivery window they gave you just happened to be from 9 to 5. That’s perfectly understandable, sometimes you just need a new office for the day. When that’s the case, head to Milkboy on South Street. You can hang out here pretty much all day, listen to good music, and when you decide it’s time for lunch, you can order a Jim’s cheesesteak right from your seat. They’ll run over and grab it from the kitchen so that you don’t have to give up your table to wait in line.
If you’ve tried going to South Philly Barbacoa on the weekend, you know that the lines usually stretch around the block, which makes it considerably more stressful than it needs to be. So the next time you have the day off, come here before noon and you shouldn’t have to wait more than 10 minutes for some of the best barbacoa and porcino tacos you’ll ever eat. You might even manage to get a table, so you can take your time instead of shoveling the tacos into your mouth while standing on a street corner like you would on the weekend.
Most weekdays, sitting down for a two-hour lunch with a burger and a glass of wine might be looked down upon as “frivolous behavior” by your boss, but today, you’re in charge. Head to Royal Boucherie, order the burger, maybe some oysters, and definitely a glass or four of wine. Actually, on second thought, if you’re going to get four glasses, it’s probably more economical to just get an entire bottle. This is your day, do with it what you please.
You can go to Hungry Pigeon for almost any occasion, and even though their lunch menu is somewhat shorter than what they offer in the morning or at night, everything on it - from the pit beef sandwich with horseradish sauce to the rigatoni salad - is perfect. Also, most places shut down between lunch and dinner for a few hours, but if you decide to wake up on the later side and shift all your meals accordingly, you can head here later in the afternoon when they have their “after school” menu, which includes a pretty great PB&J.
Suraya is another place that you could show up any day, at any time, for any occasion and it would work perfectly. But dinner reservations are almost impossible to get, and their weekend brunch is just as crowded. That’s why you should come here on a day off during the week. It’s usually pretty quiet, and they have things like Lebanese flatbreads and kebab sandwiches that are good for either sharing or eating alone while you give yourself errand paralysis by thinking about all the things you were going to check off your to-do list today.
Nothing says “seize the day” like ordering a tray-full of smoked, pulled, and grilled meat just for yourself. And this small barbecue spot in South Philly is one of the best places in the city to make that happen. They do pulled pork sandwiches and some very impressive gouda mac and cheese, but our favorite thing here is the 14-hour brisket, either plain or covered in their Carolina barbecue sauce.
Walking into a fancy steakhouse alone in the middle of the day and ordering the biggest steak on the menu is certainly a power move. And one that we fully endorse. Butcher & Singer is the place in Philly where you’re going to want to make that happen and you’ll feel like a partner at a law firm or an out-of-season Eagles player doing it. The 1920’s bank setting means that the lunch crowd here generally consists of executives and retirees cashing in their social security checks on a $55 porterhouse, but you’re basically retired for the day anyway, so you’ll fit right in.
Normally you’d come here with a few coworkers after a particularly long Thursday and take full advantage of their Happy Hour. But it’s also a completely functional lunch spot as well. And besides all the normal favorites, they do a “Oaxacan Express” lunch during the day, which means you can get a bowl of soup, a taco of your choice, and an agua fresca for just $15. Not bad considering you’re getting your full salary for the day, even though you’re not opening your laptop.
You could come here any time of the year and be perfectly happy splitting a flatbread or some lamb meatballs with a few friends. But Harper’s Garden should really be reserved for one of the first nice days of spring, when you look at the weather on your phone and immediately realize you’re calling in sick to spend the day eating and drinking outside. Most of their seating is on a front patio with tons of greenery, and when it’s nice outside, there aren’t many places we’d rather use a vacation day.
You went into work for about an hour before learning that you and your entire department are being let go. After sending an enraged email to the CEO and kicking a bunch of inanimate statues that are worth more than your yearly salary, you need a place to eat, drink, and decompress. Go to The Love. The space is inherently mood-boosting - probably because it feels like you’ve jumped straight into a West Elm catalogue, and they have things like pasta, fried chicken and alcohol to help you get over the hurt.
If the only time you go to Fishtown is for dinner or drinks after the sun goes down, exploring it on a Summer Friday or Winter Friday (or Fall Friday) is a good place to start. And Front Street Cafe is where you should kick the day off. Order a griddled cheese, or a tostada grain bowl if you’re trying to keep it healthy, and then head down the street to Evil Genius (the brewery opens at 2pm on Fridays) for a few beers.
With the help of a few fake relatives and a questionable doctor’s note, you and your friends all managed to get out of work on the same day. You’re going to want to meet at Tredici Enoteca and split as many of their small plates as possible. Specifically, the Moroccan spice ribs and the fried goat cheese should make an appearance. Add in a bottle of wine, and a pasta or two, and you’re on your way to a very successful day off.