PHLGuide

The Hit List: New Philadelphia Restaurants To Try Right Now

We checked out these new restaurants and loved them.
This is a momo spread at Nepali Momo Kitchen.

photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO

When new restaurants open, we check them out. This means that we subject our stomachs and social lives to the good, the bad, and more often than not, the perfectly fine. But every once in a while, a new restaurant makes us feel like a Shore bro at a tank top sale. When that happens, we add it here, to The Hit List. 

The Hit List is where you’ll find all of the best new restaurants in Philly. As long as it opened within the past several months and we’re still talking about it, it’s on this guide. The latest addition might be a glam Center City spot where we saw Jalen Hurts on a date, or it might be a lunch counter where a few dollars will get you a meal that’ll rattle around in your brain like a loose penny in a dryer.

Keep tabs on the Hit List and you'll always know just which new restaurants you should be eating at right now.

​​New to the Hit List (4/5): Kampar

THE SPOTS

photo credit: NEAL SANTOS

Malaysian

Bella Vista

$$$$Perfect For:Date NightSmall PlatesSpecial OccasionsUnique Dining ExperienceVegetarians
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When Saté Kampar was in East Passyunk, it was a coffee shop-restaurant hybrid that served well-seasoned meat and rice dishes. This iteration of the Malaysian restaurant still offers fragrant nasi lemak and tender beef rendang, now in a home just off South Street. They upgraded to a bi-level space (a kongsi upstairs with a bar and a la carte menu, and a kopitiam-style restaurant downstairs with a tasting menu from chefs in residency). The upstairs a la carte menu features a flavorful crêpe-wrapped, curry-forward burger, and a coconut cream soaked rice that’s pleasantly crunchy from its peanut and fried anchovy topper. It’s a place where friends can kill time with Vietnamese gin drinks and dishes drenched in sweet sambal that they’ll eagerly come back for tomorrow.  

Despite the name, Amy’s Pastelillos in Fishtown isn’t entirely about the deep-fried meat pies—everything the Puerto Rican shop makes is pretty great. From the excellent sides like pickled yuca to the various bowls (go for the Vegano) and loaded sweet and spicy tostones nachos, it’s all going to make you feel like you’ve been doing this meal thing all wrong. Of course, all of the pastelillos are fantastic, but it’s the sweet and tender guava pork that has Philly lining up. They're only open from 11am to 3pm, Wednesday to Saturday, so plan ahead to leave with something you’ll be talking about tomorrow. 

Philly has fewer places to get momo than Dollar Dog nights, but this isn’t our favorite place by default. It’s because these crisp-edged, doughy pouches are packed with the perfect combination of flavor and spice. The Spring Garden corner spot has a few tables for ordering the Himalayan veggie chili “hotter than hot,” while the rest is counter space for ordering takeout. It has a massive lineup of momo—we’re talking over 30—including fantastic vegetarian options. The must haves are the tandoori (either shrimp or chicken), which are smoky and delicious. Whether you walk-in for a casual dinner with friends or take a few to go, you’ll be muttering "momo" in your sleep by tomorrow.

This Black-owned brewery in University City has a relatively small beer menu, including a malty Nubian ale non-beer-drinkers might even chug. But no brewery in Philly serves better food. Stay at the front bar near the TVs and HBCU plaques and order some Liberian jollof rice. Or head to the back area with communal tables and a menu by Liberty Kitchen. You can drink Two Locals’ beer regardless of whether you’re parking it with a hoagie or listing the top five Martin episodes while the game is on. Do both.

CookNSolo spots follow the Three Little Bears model: Zahav is the fancy place, Laser Wolf is the trendy grill, and the new Dizengoff in Center City is a comfortable mix of both. The main perk: they serve Zahav and Laser Wolf hits a la carte, like za’atar roasted chicken and juicy dorade. Also, the scene is fun. People drink gin and swallow silky hummus like the world is ending, or at least like it's Friday even when it's a Monday. If you're having trouble getting a reservation, show up for a drink at the bar and get on the waitlist.

Similar to the South Philly location, Headhouse Square’s Tamalex serves great Mexican food in a space that’s casual enough to walk in with a few friends. But this new spot has the bonus of a bar and live music. (More difference: there's no all-day service or Honduran specialties here.) Come for smoky al pastor tacos, Modelo on tap, an impressive variety of mezcal and tequila, and Happy Hour until 7pm. There’s probably going to be a soccer game on TV, and someone might even start playing the piano next to a tequila bottle shaped like a shotgun.

photo credit: GAB BONGHI

Once a roaming pop-up, Paffuto is now the Bella Vista cafe of our dreams. And by that, we mean a place where we can eat bodega-esque mortadella breakfast sandwiches on griddled kaiser rolls, work on our laptops, and watch as our productivity levels lose the battle against puffy, cream-filled maritozzi. While Italian sandwiches and pastries are about as common in this area as shoppers lugging two-wheeled carts, Paffuto stands out for its panzerotti—including a very good breakfast version with scrambled egg and melty cooper sharp.

We had a surprisingly strong reaction to this Olde Richmond tavern serving turkey clubs and Guinness—it's hard not to have fun here after trying to guess the mystery wine, gossiping with strangers at the bar, and eating their simple-seeming, excellent food. Everything about the British pub is understated but confident. Order a tall green salad dressed with a slick of dijon vinaigrette, the aforementioned turkey club, thick fries, and the vanilla ice cream with creme de menthe on top for dessert. Even if you don't live nearby, you'll want this to be your neighborhood spot.

photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO

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Philadelphians love tomato pie and sandwiches. This is an established fact, like gravity itself or the usefulness of aluminum foil when you don't have Tupperware. So, by the transitive property, you'll also love Fiore, an Italian cafe that just moved from Queen Village to Kensington. Although the new location closes at 3pm, Fiore's menu is exciting and varied enough to warrant multiple visits in one week for breakfast sandwiches, bubbly tomato pie, and a fried chicken sandwich that's so thick, it looks like it never missed a chest day in the gym.

Walking up to the bright blue exterior of Royal Tavern feels a little like meeting up with an ex you don't despise. There’s all this anticipation, and, after one negroni, the groove just comes back. The 2.0 version of this Queen Village standby still serves food until 1am—great news for Philly—including their famous burger with smoked gouda, bacon, and pickled long hots, vegan options, and wings that are crispier than we remember. But the next time we’re a little drunk and hungry at midnight, it’s Royal Tavern’s smoked beef round sandwich that we’ll be tracking down.

The bagels or bialys at Cleo in West Philly have as much puff as Gritty's midsection. We’re not the only ones who've noticed. People are lining up for the small shop's lightly toasted onion-poppy bialys and signature sandwiches. Our favorite is The Ramen Thing, which layers slices of marinated egg, pickled ginger, bamboo, togarashi mayo, nori crisps, and scallions on a bagel or bialy of your choice. The sandwich has all the classic, salty-sweet-umami punches that make a brothy bowl of ramen great, except you can hold this thing in your hand.

We’ve tried to think of another restaurant that combines yellowtail with an uni soy sauce, shots with chefs, and Miguel sing-a-longs with dinner. We can’t. This 17-course, $185 omakase in the back of Izakaya Fishtown has an eight-seat chef’s counter where you’ll spend the night eating crab, hamachi with roasted scallion and foie gras, and fatty salmon. Head here for a special occasion.

This is a food spread from Kampar in Philly.

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