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 1/22/19): Buk Chon Korean Cuisine and Laos Cafe
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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.
If you’re anywhere near Center City, going all the way down to West Passyunk for a casual weeknight dinner may seem like it’s not worth the trouble, but you should do it at least once to go to Laos Cafe. Everything at this tiny spot is homemade, from the noodle soup to the beef jerky, and pretty much everything we’ve eaten here has been solid. There are some Thai dishes on the menu, but the more traditional Laotian food is what this place does best - namely, things like the laab moo and beef laap. It’s also BYOB, so you can bring a few friends and reminisce over that one time you got your dad’s car stuck on the lawn of your quad in college while sharing a plate of Yoshi wings and a bottle of Chianti.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cadence is a new BYOB that’s across the street from the ACME on Girard and pretty easy to miss, but it’s one of our favorite openings from the past year. The space is small and looks like a boutique that would sell expensive ceramics that may or may have not been made by a nine-year-old in his art class, but the dim lighting and small tables make it a good spot for a date or last-minute seance. They change their menu up often, but if you happen to get the chance to order the roast duck, do it. It’s one of the best things we’ve eaten in recent memory, as are the herb dumplings.