The Day-Off Lunch Guide
16 great places to get a weekday meal when you don’t have to work.
On a few rare occasions, you get a weekday off from work. And whether it’s a national holiday or you’re one meeting away from going full Office Space on a fax machine, a list of places to get a great lunch when you need a mid-week break is crucial. In this guide, you’ll find brunch spots, a taqueria, a prime hoagie shop, and some of the best restaurants in town (that will definitely be easier to get into during the daytime). Here are the 16 best places for a magical weekday lunch.
photo credit: GAB BONGHI
If you know only two things about Kalaya in Fishtown, it's probably that it’s the best Thai restaurant in Philly, and that the walk-in wait time on a busy night is about the length of a Marvel movie. Even if you do get a reservation for dinner, they serve an entirely different menu during the day, so stopping by during lunchtime is a no-brainer. Try dishes like the poached shrimp and lotus root salad, short rib soup swimming with lemongrass, and let the view of 14-foot palm trees spark a fantasy about never going back to the office again.
Dinner reservations are almost impossible to get at this Fishtown restaurant, and their epic weekend brunch is just as crowded. But when we come here during the week, there are plenty of open tables, a quick cafe line, and it (sort of) feels like you could be there all day and they wouldn’t kick you out. 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.
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As soon as you walk through the door of this Northern Liberties West African spot, you’re met with the scent of steaming jollof rice, plantains fresh out of the pot, buttery cornbread muffins, and the sound of chicken sizzling on the grill. It’s a sensation that we can’t put a price on, but they have, and it’s notably affordable (the bowls are $13 or under and each comes with a side). The comfortable counter-service restaurant is great for grabbing a quick meal in between reaching the next level on God of War or streaming a show you’ve been saving for a day off.
Middle Child Clubhouse
Usually, when we want a little fun and games midday, we have to settle for a grab-and-go sandwich while we play Sims in our cubicles. But on our day off, our Tuesdays through Fridays can be spent shooting pool while eating a juicy cheeseburger from Middle Child Clubhouse in Fishtown. This all-day spot serves breakfast sandwiches with short rib and pillowy eggs, waffled chocolate french toast, and stacked club sandwiches for lunch. No matter what you order, each bite will make you happier than finding all the hidden words in the day's puzzle.
Surrounded by places requiring reservations or hour-plus waits, Huda is something that Rittenhouse needed: somewhere to grab a sandwich between saving the world at the office or window shopping on Walnut Street. But the location isn’t the only reason we keep telling everyone about this place—all eight sandwiches, served on housemade milk buns, have us murmuring “hoo-dah” in our sleep. We typically go for the grilled swordfish topped with a spicy kimchi tartar sauce, and we always pair it with an order of fries that comes with a choice of southwest, dijonaise, sour cream and onion sauce, or that delicious kimchi tartar.
photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO
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.
photo credit: PHOTO CREDIT: FOUR SEASONS
JG Skyhigh (on the 60th floor of the Four Seasons) has a lot of things going for it, but there’s one standout: the best views in the entire city. Sure, they serve dishes like osetra caviar with a chive creme fraiche, yellowfin tuna tartare, and pepper-crusted salmon, but that’s not what a day free of meetings that could have been emails should be about. Head to the 360-degree jaw-dropper for a few glasses of day-time wine that are as good as the sunsets. It’s our go-to spot when we really need a day that makes us feel like we’re Philly royalty.
Parc is a special place, partially because it’s slowly fused into Rittenhouse Square’s permanent architecture, but also because you can pull it out of your back pocket for pretty much any situation–including weekday lunch. It’s a classic French bistro with things we love like steak frites, french onion soup, and a juicy burger. They also have some of the best sidewalk seating in the city, so when you skip work on a nice day, you can eat something great while watching people walk dogs that look like them or head to meetings that have nothing to do with you.
photo credit: Nicole Guglielmo
DAWA Sushi and Ramen Bar
There are a lot of weird, cool things under the El: a dive bar with a heavy metal night, a high-end event venue attached to a high school, and at least three hidden rooftops. Dawa is also right under the El on Front Street, and this tiny, casual spot has some of the best food you can find in Fishtown. It’s a casual place to grab a lunch full of miso soup, otoro fatty tuna, king salmon rolls, and forget that a life of deadlines exists.
LUHV Vegan Deli
Open daily, this vegan deli at Reading Terminal Market has sandwich staples like tuna salad made of chickpeas, and corned beef reubens that make us wonder why everything isn’t made out of seitan. Plus, since it’s a deli, you can order vegan cheese, meat, and “tuna” and “chicken” salads by the pound and head back to your sweats and the couch with something to get you through the night.
Ocean Harbor is one of the best and most convenient places to have dim sum in Chinatown. It’s open from 10am-9pm every day of the week, which means you can eat wonton soup and fried seafood rolls for brunch, lunch, and dinner. Though it’s super efficient, it can get crowded at night, so it’s better to come in the daytime. Pick a number, wait a few minutes, and then spend the next hour or so grabbing whatever you want off of the carts as they speed by.
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 by Rittenhouse Square. 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.
photo credit: Del Frisco’s Grille
Del Frisco's Grille
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. Del Frisco’s Grille in Center City is the place where you’re going to want to make that happen–and you’ll feel like a partner at a law firm or an off-season Phillie while doing it. The crowd here generally consists of out-of-towners wanting a ribeye after making it through PHL and executives talking about their IRAs over cheesesteak eggrolls, but you’re basically retired for the day anyway, so you’ll fit right in.
photo credit: Gab Bonghi
Liberty Kitchen PHL
For your hoagie cravings in Fishtown, there’s nowhere better than Liberty Kitchen. The Front Street deli and market makes their sandwiches with a bunch of local products, like bread from Carangi Bakery and relish from Brine Street Picklery. They also do things like tomato pie, mac and cheese, and a vegetarian hoagie filled with marinated eggplant, provolone, and roasted red peppers, so you can take your weekday picnic to go.
photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO
This quaint Mexican restaurant near Snyder Station makes the best tortas in Philly, but we also love the tacos de alambre–they combine juicy spiced chicken, crisp red and green peppers, chihuahua cheese, bacon, and fried onions. If you head there in the afternoon, you’ll find a handful of people staring at the menu on the colorful chalkboard trying to decide between the birria or al pastor tacos (spoiler alert: get both). They’re both under $15, which is not bad considering you’re getting paid for the day and haven’t answered a single Slack.
photo credit: MILKBOY
Maybe you don’t really have the day off. Perhaps you said that you had to work from home because you’re getting some piece of furniture delivered to your apartment. That’s perfectly understandable–sometimes you just need a new office for the day. When that’s the case, head to MilkBoy in Headhouse Square. You can hang out here pretty much all day, listen to good music, and when you decide it’s time for lunch, they have plenty of $15 specials like chicken fajitas and chicken parm hoagies.