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 1/24/20): Via Locusta and Hello Vietnam.
There’s one pasta dish on the menu at Via Locusta that you’re supposed to eat with your hands. It could have been annoying and gimmicky, but the porcini and black truffle agnolotti that come with a cream-based dipping sauce are just too damn good to hate. The rest of the menu is just as good too, from fluffy focaccia with sweet and salty honey butter, to romanesco fritto in a pool of creamy goat cheese. And even though Via Locusta is run by the same team that brought us Double Knot, Giuseppe & Sons, Osteria, and about 15 other restaurants, this one feels different. It’s the kind of place where you want to hang out after work or bring a first date to - especially to have some cocktails and pasta at the black-and-gold bar.
The prequel to Hello Vietnam was a place called Nam Son Bakery - a South Philly spot with maybe the best banh mi sandwich in the city. When that closed in 2019, the owners opened Hello Vietnam in Northern Liberties with the same incredible banh mis on bread that’s baked in-house. But they now also have a full dinner service. The BYOB has a short but excellent menu that ranges from appetizers like grilled beef wrapped in grape leaves, broken rice plates, and huge bowls of pho for around $12. You could definitely come here for a weeknight date, but it would still work for your weekly “book club” meet up that’s really just an excuse to talk about the latest episode of Temptation Island.
You might think that the people behind Zahav have enough fast-casual places already - with locations of Dizengoff, Goldie, and Federal Donuts all over the city. But then they opened up a pita sandwich shop in Center City, and we regret thinking they could overdo it. Merkaz, like Dizengoff and Goldie, does Israeli street food. But instead of focusing on hummus or falafel, Merkaz serves breakfast every morning, with things like shakshuka and za’atar toast, and then moves on to pita sandwiches and Israeli sodas for lunch. They don’t really do dinner, but they stay open until 7pm, and you can get a whole roast cauliflower or chicken to take home. Because it’s in the middle of all the office buildings, lines get very long at lunchtime. Come around 2pm for a late lunch, though, and you’ll be able to get a crispy eggplant sabich or Jerusalem grill with chicken hearts in warm, fluffy pita in just a few minutes.
If you’ve ever tried to eat dinner near The Met before a show, then you know your options are pretty limited. But Cicala, a new Italian restaurant at the recently renovated Divine Lorraine Hotel, is a new pre-show option to add to your list. In the dining room, a bunch of crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling and occasionally flicker - we’re pretty sure this place is haunted. The menu here is, broken down into antipasti, pastas, and large entrees for the table to share. If you’re with a big group, definitely start by splitting the affettato misto, which comes with a big salumi plate and assorted vegetable salads. But no matter who you’re here with, you’ll want to get a couple pastas - especially the fazzoletti with lamb shoulder ragu and the maccheroni al ferro.
Everything about Le Caveau feels cool. It’s the wine bar you’ve always wanted in your neighborhood - where you can walk in unannounced on a Thursday night with a date and immediately impress them just by knowing it exists. The dark, moody spot sits right above another of our favorite places, The Good King Tavern, and is like it’s sophisticated, cigarette-smoking sister who only dates older Italian men. Their wine list is primarily made up of natural bottles and is divided between “France” and “Not France.” There’s also a short menu of bar snacks with things like a hot dog wrapped in a baguette and salted chocolate mousse. You could probably order enough food to make a full dinner, but you should be coming here more for the wine and to feel like you’re cooler than you actually are.
After being America’s favorite food for hundreds of years, Philadelphia finally figured out how to make pizza. And now we have more great pies than we know how to handle. Gigi is yet another addition to the growing number of Philly pizza shops, and it’s really good. This 12-seat spot connected to Olly in Queen Village makes Neapolitan pies, and they’re super light, thin, and crispy. Because they’re so thin, you can probably eat a whole one yourself, but you should share it just to save some room for dessert. There’s a cannoli dip served with cinnamon-sugar pizza crust that we haven’t stopped thinking about since we walked out the door.
Emmy Squared, a pizza place that started in New York, has a new location in Queen Village. They focus on crispy Detroit-style pan pizza, with options like a margarita with piles of creamy burrata and one with white barbeque sauce and Nashville hot chicken. Arguably the best thing on the menu, though, is the “Le Big Matt” burger. It’s a double patty with American cheese, pickles, and something called “sammy sauce,” and it’s already one of our favorite burgers in the entire city.
Condesa is the best Mexican place to open in Philadelphia in a long time. It’s located in the lobby of the new Pod hotel in Center City, but it doesn’t feel like you’re in a hotel when you’re in the restaurant. There’s a huge bar in the middle of the room along with a big space outside that has a bunch of pillowy lounge seating. Almost all of the dishes on the menu are made with house-ground masa from Mexico, from the lamb tacos to a chocolate masa cake. A very small portion of guacamole does costs $16 (save your money for the fluke ceviche tostada instead), but this is somewhere you need to check out.
You might not think a wine bar that’s above a grocery store would be a great spot. But Alimentari, which takes up the top floor of Di Bruno Bros, isn’t like the beer halls you’ll find inside of Whole Foods or Giant. It’s a real restaurant with many different types of charcuterie boards and a wine list that uses descriptions like “weirdly fantastic” and “best buds with pizza” to describe their options. While the focus is on wine and charcuterie, there are also some excellent small plates and square Roman pizza slices here that you should add on to your order. It’s essentially like having friends over for wine and cheese but getting someone else to do all the work and not having to do the dishes afterward.
June BYOB is a tiny French restaurant that took over the old Will BYOB space on East Passyunk. Like its former resident, it only has about 10 tables, most of which are two-tops filled with people splitting a bottle of wine from The Bottle Shop down the street. The menu is pretty short and split up between appetizers - like seared scallops in a grapefruit vinaigrette - and bigger plates like a roasted cod and a $42 trio of duck that’s especially excellent. Come here when you have something important to celebrate, like finding a hidden treasure map on the El.
We were very unhappy when Will BYOB, a French restaurant on East Passyunk, closed a few months back. But they already have a new place in Old City called Forsythia, which has quickly become a great neighborhood spot. Unlike Will, though, they’re not a BYOB - they have a long bar that’s constantly filled with people drinking cocktails or splitting a bottle from their great natural wine list. As far as the food goes, the menu is a la carte with mostly small plates like corn and ham hock beignets and mussels escabeche. For dessert, it’s necessary to order the two-tiered tower with a bunch of different sweets like raspberry macarons, coffee and coconut pots de creme, and more.
Vernick Fish is an enormous, gorgeous restaurant on the ground floor of the newest Comcast Tower that comes from the people behind Vernick Food & Drink. As the name suggests, the menu has a lot of seafood and raw dishes, like oysters, tartare, and sashimi. All of the raw stuff is good but make sure to get the excellent plate of fluke sashimi covered in a brown butter vinaigrette and shaved hazelnuts. The rest of the menu is made of up smaller dishes to share, like a tangy squid pad thai salad, and larger things like grilled branzino and a whole Dover sole. There’s even a small “not fish” section in case, for some reason, you came to a seafood restaurant but don’t want anything from the ocean.
When Messina opened right across the street from Palizzi Social Club, we were skeptical. Do we really need another members-only dining club in Philly? And is this one just going to be a rip-off of one of our favorite Italian places in the city? While, no, we probably didn’t need another members-only spot, this one is entirely different from Palizzi - in a good way. For one, the food isn’t Italian. It’s a mash-up of different cuisines, from honey-glazed wings and Spanish octopus to the best pierogies we’ve ever had. It also feels different inside. Instead of the old school portraits on the walls and the low-drop ceilings you’ll find at Palizzi, Messina feels more modern with a neon “Don’t Be A Dick” sign on display as soon as you walk through the door. Most importantly, though, it’s convinced us that there’s room for two excellent social clubs in the same neighborhood.
K’far, the new all-day Israeli bakery from the people behind Zahav, is pretty. Almost too pretty, to the point where you might wonder if the food is any good or if all the gold piping and marble tabletops are just a ruse to lure people in. But fortunately, K’far backs up its boutique-hotel aesthetic with some really incredible pastries, grain bowls, and kubaneh toasts on thick, buttery bread. You’ll have to get there early, like before 11am, if you want to get a chocolate babka or walnut sticky bun before they sell out. Right now, they’re only open until 2pm, but once they roll out their dinner menu, you’ll be able to order things like Turkish stuffed eggplant and take full advantage of their huge bar.
Elwood is a meat-heavy Pennsylvania-Dutch-inspired spot on Girard in Fishtown. Eating here kind of feels like going on a second-grade field trip to the Constitution Center or Liberty Bell. Everything on the menu, from the ham potpie to the spelt dumplings for dessert, has a history lesson attached - lessons you’ll probably hear about from the chef or your server throughout the meal. Even the space itself, which has original paintings from the 1800s and antique silverware collected by the chef, makes you feel like you’re in a museum. The whole experience can feel a bit strange at first, but the food is so good that you’ll be happy you took a field trip out here.
Hiroki is the new, omakase-only spot from the people behind the Fishtown Italian restaurant Wm. Mulherin’s Sons, and it’s located around the corner in the alley behind it. The restaurant feels like you’re walking into a wine cellar - the barrel-shaped door leads into a small, dark room that’s almost entirely taken up by the sushi counter. There are a few tables as well, but you want to be at the counter, where where you’ll get everything piece-by-piece straight from the sushi chef. Every meal starts with a small tray of appetizers, and then moves through things like soy-marinated wagyu short rib and crispy tilefish, followed by about 12 pieces of sushi, a cup of miso soup, and a small dessert. By the end of the meal, you’ll start to think up reasons to justify coming back as soon as possible.
Remember Pizza Gutt? The place that sold 70 or so pies a night out of the back of a Spring Garden coffee shop? Well they finally opened their own shop in Kensington (where Lil Lina’s used to be), and in addition to serving their signature square-pan pizzas, they’re also making traditional, thin-crust circle ones. The place is constantly swamped with people, so you’ll have to get there at around 5pm and wait an hour or so if you want to get a pizza before they sell out (which they do every night by around 7pm). But it’s worth the wait, especially for the pan pizzas - they’re crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside, and just as good when heated up the next day.
Kalaya makes the best Thai food in Philly right now. We realize that’s a bold statement, but this Bella Vista BYOB has an incredible menu - filled with things like bright blue tapioca dumplings and spicy curries. You’ll also want to hang out often in the loud, busy dining room and bring a bunch of friends and bottles of wine. We’re not sure what Philly will look like ten years from now, but we’re pretty sure this place will still be here, and we’ll still be coming around often.
Olly is part casual sports bar, part restaurant that you’d go to with your parents. It’s located on the corner of South 4th in Queen Village and, on a nice night, they fill up the sidewalk with a ton of two-tops. The bar has a bunch of TVs, so instead of eating frozen mozzarella sticks while you watch the Eagles, you can order spice-rubbed wings with an herbed yogurt dipping sauce or English pea toast and burrata on sourdough toast. Come for brunch on the weekends and get peanut butter blintzes and potato and chard frittatas while you watch an English Premier League soccer game.
Angelo’s started as a small, neighborhood pizza spot over in Haddonfield, New Jersey until it disappeared a couple of years ago without a word on if it’d ever reopen. Now it’s back as a cash-only spot in Bella Vista, serving huge pies and hoagies. You should be ordering the “Upside Down Jawn” pizza - it’s thick and square, with a layer of cheese buried beneath a mountain of tomato sauce that produces something that falls between a Detroit-style pie and a lasagna. We like it so much we’ve even named it one of the top 10 pizzas in Philadelphia. If you aren’t in the mood for pizza, Angelo’s hoagies and cheesesteaks are great as well - including an Italian hoagie that’s roughly the size of a newborn baby.
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.
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.
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.