The Fancy Dinner Guide

Philly restaurants for birthdays, anniversaries, or eating agnolotti that received more care in its upbringing than you did.
The Fancy Dinner Guide image

photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO

Sure, Philadelphians love wearing Embiid jerseys on dates and eating soft pretzels for dinner. But sometimes a birthday, anniversary, or divorce calls for a formal celebration. Below you'll find 15 restaurants for a big deal meal. Some are more precious than others, with chefs wielding truffles and servers folding napkins with ninja-like speed. Others have the unique Philadelphian ability to make you feel like a princess for 90 minutes without any phony fireworks. No matter the situation—whether your boss is paying or your sugar daddy just croaked and his estate is paying—here are the city’s over-the-top, memorable meals that are worth their price tags.


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Queen Village

$$$$Perfect For:Drinks & A Light BiteEating At The BarUnique Dining Experience
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At $300 a person, Royal Sushi Omakase is the most expensive sushi omakase experience in Philly. It’s also the best. The Queen Village spot, located in the back of the restaurant's Izakaya, serves 17 courses of technically flawless fish. You might eat buttery Spanish bluefin tuna topped with osetra and non-nigiri dishes like lightly fried icefish in a salty broth that normally goes with agedashi tofu. If you like a certain sake, the servers will write down your preferences for next time. You won’t get this level of technique or service anywhere else in town. Good luck getting in.

What makes this French place on East Passyunk the highest-rated restaurant in Philly? Well, it’s a chameleon. The mirror-lined space is polished enough for a special night, but it’ll also make your rich uncle feel cool for wearing expensive jeans and Ferragamo sneakers on a Thursday. Dishes are original and surprising, like mussels hiding under shiso leaves, and monkfish in a jet-black lobster veloute that we want to dip grilled cheese into. Go for the six-course, $98 carte blanche tasting. It'll let you give up decision-making for the first time all week.

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This Fishtown Thai spot is one of the most in-demand restaurants in Philly. So, having any meal here is a record-scratch moment. But Kalaya isn't just busy, the Southern Thai curries, dumplings, and laab consistently hit. Yes, there are glam, $95 river prawns on the menu and giant palm trees in the middle of the dining room, but you won’t see anyone here wearing furs or jewels. Instead, friends and dates celebrate promotions or birthdays by dunking chive cakes into soy sauce and chipping away at towers of shaved ice.

photo credit: Rachel Lerro



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Of all the Philly restaurants serving pasta, Vetri owns the championship trophy. It’s located in a historic townhouse with original wood floors and Venetian chandeliers, similar to what you’ve imagined while fantasizing about Philly real estate. At $165 per person (plus more for wine pairings), the four-course menu can range from corzetti with pistachio tarragon pesto and briny clam conservato to spinach gnocchi or a juicy steak. Between the attentive service, which makes it seem like there’s no world outside of the restaurant, and the decadent, butter-rich food, that $800 bill will feel as tolerable as an $800 bill can possibly feel.

Vernick Fish is on the ground floor of the Comcast Center, but the dining room belongs in a Versace Home catalog. You could show up wearing a full tuxedo or your work outfit and you wouldn’t feel out of place. As long as you're down to eat a lot of seafood and potentially spend hundreds of dollars on good wine, you're in for a special night. Save Vernick Fish for an anniversary or treat it like an upscale oyster bar where you can meet a few colleagues after work.



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Sure, you can host a dinner party at your place, but then you’d have to shop, chop, and shell out for enough wine to keep the night going. So book a table at Her Place instead. This Rittenhouse supper club is the perfect place to hang out with friends and strangers over an epic four-course, $90 tasting menu. You may struggle to get a reservation (they drop at 6pm every other Sunday), but it’s worth the hassle. This is the only place in Philly where you can eat sour cream and onion sweetbreads with caviar, lobster ravioli, or brown butter profiteroles while singing pop anthems with the chefs plating it all.

Sushi Suite is the sort of high-energy spot for people who'd like to eat seafood that dressed up for New Year’s Eve or party with chefs who drink sake with you. The sushi omakase in the back of Izakaya Fishtown has an eight-seat counter where you’ll get 17 courses of nigiri and composed fish dishes, including things like hamachi with roasted scallion and foie gras or juicy crab with deep sea seaweed. It costs $185 per person, which is roughly the price of a Spirit Airlines ticket. But instead of stale pretzels and no legroom, you’ll get a private party atmosphere and leave with a story to tell.

Say hello to one of the few steakhouses in the city that's worth your time and money. That's partly because of the scene: it's inside an old Center City bank looks straight out of The Great Gatsby. But also because of their stuffed hashbrowns and thick cut, thoroughly marbled Delmonico steaks. The servers wear tuxedos and say things like, “I dream of this tuna tartare on my days off.” It’s all a bit over the top—seafood towers, bone-in filets, and all—but still works if you lean into the gaudiness.

This two-story Rittenhouse spot has a formal dining room upstairs where they only offer an eight-course tasting menu for $165. The atmosphere is sophisticated without any stuffiness, maybe because everyone inside is thrilled to be there. Couples on dates laugh like they’re creating the audio for a sitcom laugh track. Beef tartare, grilled quail with coco bread, and crudo with caviar inspire genuine moans from tables. When your meal ends, walk downstairs to the bar, drink a few well-made cocktails, and keep the big-budget night going.

At Jean-Georges, you eat way above William Penn's head. This French spot on the 59th floor of the Four Seasons has panoramic views of the city and a six-course “land and sea” tasting menu. All the food, from wagyu beef tenderloin and black bass with a sweet and sour vegetable jus, is skillfully cooked and seasoned. If you want to spend a night at a restaurant where your purse has a seat, this is it.

A night at this Old City Israeli restaurant is worth the two-month wait for a reservation. Even if you end up sitting on a corner stool at the bar listening to someone say NFTs aren’t dead, Zahav's fluffy laffa bread, salatim, pomegranate-glazed lamb shoulder, and swordfish with earthy kale tzatziki will steal your attention. This $75 five-course meal comes with a ton of food for the price. They also have a $45 wine pairing featuring interesting wine from Middle Eastern producers. 

Lacroix on Rittenhouse Square has all the trappings of a fancy *ss restaurant: sommeliers dying to tell you about vine temperatures, more bookshelves than a public library branch, French mother sauces and Japanese cooking techniques, and chandeliers with both candles and bulb lighting. It's admittedly stiff, but the food often makes up for the snooze. You’re going to encounter matsutake mushroom, pine oil, tournedos rossini, American wagyu, and bordelaise. You'll also feel your bank account getting slimmer as the night goes on. But if you want Fancy with a capital F, you’ll be pleased. 

When you first sit down at River Twice in East Passyunk, you’ll notice that your table has a built-in utensil drawer. This is a restaurant that's all about details. The four-course, $75 tasting menu changes every single night, often incorporating ingredient combinations you won’t see elsewhere in the city. We’re talking about things like littleneck clam tartlets with sweet pea tapenade or charcoal-grilled soft-shell crab with crab fat sofrito. A little fussy? Sure. But always interesting. Bring someone who likes food media Youtube.

Fishtown’s Pizzeria Beddia makes some of the nation's best pizza—but the place also has an exclusive tasting menu experience in the back. For $75 per person, you and five friends can have a curated two-hour meal that shows off the menu's standouts, a few signature cocktails, a private bar, some Warhol prints, and a bunch of extra stuff you can't get on the normal menu. The hoagies, like the Italian packed with a rainbow of cured meats, will have you convincing everyone in your phone contacts to buy the most expensive sandwich of their lives. 

East Passyunk’s Townsend does the white tablecloth thing. But, unlike some other high-end spots serving $95 tasting menus, Townsend feels fancy and intimate at the same time. Lights are low. There are more candles here than there were on the set of Hocus Pocus. Contrasting textures are always thoughtful, like in a dish of escargot swimming in a sweet potato, apple, and hazelnut chai cream.

You like Fork. Your boss likes Fork. Your neighbor, whom you’ve never spoken to but always wave to when walking your dog, likes Fork. The American restaurant in Old City serves reliably good, people-pleasing dishes—and you can always get in. Come with a big group for a birthday, or to celebrate any other reason you and your friends get together these days. Expect a seasonal American menu with things like squash-and-apple soup and a big steak for two.

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