Wondering where you should be eating in Philadelphia right now? You’re in the right place. The Infatuation Hit List is your guide to the city’s best new restaurants.
And when we say “best new restaurants,” we mean it. Because we’ve vetted every single one of these places - and we’ve also left off countless spots that simply aren’t as worthy of your time and paycheck.
The Hit List is our record of every restaurant that’s opened in the past year that we’d highly recommend you try. It’s also sorted chronologically, so you’ll find the newest spots at the top, and as you keep scrolling you’ll find the places that are on the older side - but are great enough that we still haven’t stopped talking about them.
New to The Hit List (as of 2/28/19): Cry Baby Pasta, Da-Wa, and Neighborhood Ramen
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Ever since Beddia 1.0 on Girard closed last year to “reinvent itself,” everyone from your landlord to the mayor has been waiting for the second coming. It’s finally arrived in a Fishtown alley with a little green neon sign out front, and it’s much bigger than it used to be, with three high-ceilinged rooms painted all white and filled with minimal light-wood furniture. And it also has more than just pizza. Besides a few different pies (which, yes, are just as good as they’ve always been), there’s a long natural wine list, a few starters, and a daily selection of soft serve that you can - and should - take to-go, even if you’re not staying for a full meal.
Most steakhouses are huge, cavernous halls with two-story ceilings and tons of big round tables. Alpen Rose is not that. It’s a small, 15-table, all-wood room that looks like either the inside of a treasure chest or the personal library of a retired Harvard professor, and it’s full of expensive-looking paintings in ornate frames. Alpen Rose has a pretty standard steakhouse menu, divided between appetizers, sides, and dry-aged steaks. Red meat is definitely the focus here, and it’s all sliced tableside while you watch like a Golden Retriever who hasn’t eaten since breakfast. If you want something a little more interesting, the bone marrow toast and beef tongue are both solid options.
Other than being kind of a tongue twister, Fiore Fine Foods is an all-day Italian place in Queen Village that does everything from morning pastries to brick-oven pizzas for lunch and swiss chard tortelli at night. It’s the kind of place - sort of like Hungry Pigeon - that you could show up to three times in the same day for three totally different experiences. You could stop by in the morning for a coffee and a cinnamon bun on your way to work, come back for a long lunch of wine and pizza with a friend, and then return yet again with a group for some more wine and pasta. At the end of the day, you probably wouldn’t even be sick of it, but you should take a few days off anyways - don’t want to scare the staff.
For a while, we chased the Neighborhood Ramen pop-ups around the city. It was like that on-and-off college relationship that’s never really satisfying - we’d finally find them, they’d hand us a perfect bowl of ramen with homemade broth and soy-soaked egg, and then we wouldn’t see them again for months. But unlike that boy from college who probably still lives with his mom and DJs part-time at middle school dances, Neighborhood Ramen grew up. Their permanent location in Queen Village is minimal, with about 15 tables, and they don’t do reservations or take-out. While that may ensure a pretty reliable line out the door during prime dinner hours, it makes for a fun place to eat really good ramen when you can snag a table.
We already have a lot of places to eat pasta in Philly. From old school red sauce spots that serve plates of spaghetti bolognese the size of newborns to upscale Italian restaurants where you’ll get seven pieces of farfalle topped with one single truffle shaving - the options are endless. But Cry Baby still somehow fills a void. It falls into a third category that we’re calling Nice Looking Places To Eat Pasta With Your Friends On A Tuesday, and it’s one of only a handful of places where you can show up without a reservation, sit down in a bright room, and order a plate of $12 cacio e pepe and a bottle of moderately-priced wine. The menu is short and simple, but everything on it - from the bruschetta to the larger shared plates - is exactly what you want from a casual weeknight dinner that you’ll actually remember days later.
There are a lot of weirdly cool things under the El - a dive bar with heavy metal night, a high-end event venue attached to a high school, and at least three hidden rooftops that are probably impossible to hear anyone on when a train goes by. Da-wa is also right under the El on Front Street, and this tiny, super casual 16-seat spot has some of the best sushi and ramen in Fishtown. If you want to do the $59 omakase, you’ll have to book ahead (and it’s not an easy reservation to get), but as far as omakase go, you won’t find higher quality fish for a better price anywhere.
Buk Chon is a Korean spot in Old City that serves a variety of classic dishes, from Korean fried chicken to bibimbap in a hot stone bowl, and it’s all delicious and pretty affordable. You can get a full dinner for about $25 per person, and it’s also BYOB with no corkage fee. The space is small, with a long open kitchen up front that empties into a room with high-ceilings and about six tables, and there’s a random flat-screen TV on the wall that we’re pretty sure isn’t plugged into anything, but we’ll just chalk it up to adding character to the place.
Nunu is located next to Cheu Fishtown and the two share an outdoor space in the little alley between them. It’s also from the same people, but instead of the ramen and dumplings that Cheu and Bing Bing are known for, Nunu serves yakitori and katsu sandwiches. It’s smaller than it’s next door neighbor, and the dim red Blade Runner-esque lighting and secluded two-seater booths make it a really good first-date spot. Stop by for drinks and then stay for snacks if things go well.
If you live or work in Fishtown, you’ve probably noticed that there are at least 10 coffee shops, but only one or two spots to grab an actual breakfast. Over Easy Breakfast Club is here to fix that, and while they’re only open Friday to Sunday, this small, bright spot makes weekend breakfasts much more enjoyable than when they only consisted of a croissant and coffee from Steap & Grind. Think biscuits and gravy, salmon BLT sandwiches, and something called a dinosaur egg - a bacon-wrapped whole avocado that you’ve probably seen somewhere at this point.
This is the new Filipino BYOB from the same people as Perla, but it feels a little different than the South Philly spot. For one, it’s about twice the size, which isn’t saying much considering Perla is the size of a divorcee’s closet. It also has a more sleek look, and an open kitchen setup. You’ll find similar food here, like the calves liver bistek and beef tendon chicharron, but in general Sarvida is serving a smaller menu of dishes that are pretty much all excellent.
Irwin’s is an indoor-outdoor bar in the Bok Building in South Philly. If you’re not familiar, it used to be a vocational school and now is a combination of art galleries, recording studios, and bars - so basically the same thing. With Irwin’s, the building now has a fully operational restaurant that won’t close as soon as it drops below 50 degrees (unlike the summer-only Bok Bar). Besides the full bar that has a long cocktail, beer, and wine list, they also have a full menu of mostly Mediterranean small and shared plates.
Like its other location in Kensington, the new Helm in Rittenhouse serves a menu that’s entirely small plates and they’re pretty much all solid. Unlike the original location, they have a liquor license. The new space is a small room on the second floor of a corner building in Rittenhouse that already feels lived-in even though it hasn’t been around long, and there’s a library wall that’s organized by color, which really appeals to our OCD tendencies. The most expensive thing on the menu here is only $18, so it’s a pretty reasonably priced date spot, and you should be ordering the beet polenta and the sweet potato gnudi.
If you need a good-looking spot to take a client for drinks, Spice Finch is the place to do it. It’s right near Rittenhouse Square and it’s big without feeling too corporate. If you just want to grab drinks (which is generally what we prefer to do here), the bar is the showpiece and gets pretty crowded most nights, but with at least 25 seats surrounding it on all sides, you can still usually find a spot. If you decide to stay for dinner, the crispy shabazi fries with spicy harissa aioli will not disappoint, and the dry-rubbed chicken is our favorite thing to split - as long as you’re cool with trying to take apart a whole bird.
Sandler’s on 9th is an all-day cafe in Washington Square West that is big, bright, and serves a bunch of twists on classic comfort food. We particularly like it for it’s breakfast, which happens every day starting at 7am and has things like salted caramel French toast and Norwegian smoked salmon Benedict. It’s also a good place for kids, so bring them if you have any or stay away if the sound of laughing children isn’t what you want to hear first thing in the morning.
Grad Hospital finally has some good restaurant options, and L’Anima is one of them. It’s a Roman BYOB from the people behind Melograno that serves things like pinsas (Roman-style pizzas) and seafood pastas, and it’s in the bottom of a new apartment complex off Washington that has a huge outdoor courtyard. The space is fun and colorful, with lime green chairs and bright orange tables, but everything about the food says classic Italian neighborhood spot.
The new Stock in Rittenhouse serves a lot of the dishes we love from their Fishtown location - like spicy peanut Noodles and banh mi sandwiches - but in a much more fast-casual space. You order at a counter here, and instead of just picking something off of a pre-destined menu, you can customize what you want in your bowl, from the protein to the spice level.
Philadelphia was begging for an outdoor space where you can drink during the day while still appearing to be a functioning member of society, and so we got Harper’s Garden. It’s nicer than a beer garden, but it’s not so nice that you’d feel weird getting drunk here with your coworkers in the middle of a work week. Plus, you’re surrounded by tons of plants, so it kind of feels like you’re hidden away from the rest of the city, even though the Comcast Center is only a few blocks away. They also have food here, like Moroccan lamb meatballs and sandwiches made with Lost Bread Co. bread, along with a great weekend brunch.
If a diner and a trendy Australian cafe had a baby, it would be Middle Child. It has the very casual vibe of a diner, but likely the same interior designer we imagine comes to the United States just to laugh at us for paying her to put subway tile on restaurant walls and call it “Australian.” Either way, Middle Child has some of the best breakfast sandwiches around, and you’ll probably wait at least 30 minutes for them on the weekend. It’s also a popular spot for Jefferson doctors and med students during the week, so if you want to grab a phoagie (an eggplant sandwich with avocado, bean sprouts, and something called pho sauce that we’d eat on anything), you’re going to need to time your visit for right before their shift change.