Where To Eat Near The Liberty BellAll the best restaurants near that big, cracked bell in Old City.
If you’re ever near 5th and Market, you'll probably see a line forming around the corner that’s long enough to make you think they’re giving away concert tickets to whichever big act is playing at The Fillmore. But really it’s just a slew of people trying to take selfies with one of the oldest bells in the country. Although we’re sure some of them are actually looking for those hidden bifocals in the bricks at Independence Hall because they watched National Treasure too many times.
While Old City is a fun place to hang out for lots of reasons, The Liberty Bell is its biggest draw. But after you take your selfie, you’re probably going to be hungry. That’s why we put together a list of the top places to eat and drink in the area, whether you’re a tourist or looking to avoid them.
Zahav is in Society Hill, but considering it’s about 15 steps from the Old City border (we may or may not have measured), we thought it was fair to include it here. It’s also one of the best places to have dinner in the whole city, so if you’re even remotely near Zahav, it’s worth including it in the conversation. However, the upscale Israeli spot is notoriously tough to get a reservation at, so if you’re trying to grab dinner here, you’re probably looking at a pretty long wait unless you can get a bar seat right when they open at 5pm.
La Scala’s was probably an upscale place at some point, but now it’s more of an Italian diner, with mirrored walls and TVs that are usually playing whatever game is on. Their menu is pretty much what you would expect from a classic Italian place, and your best bet is to stick with the pizzas and pastas, which are all delightfully great. Use LaScala’s when you’re in the area and need a spot for a weeknight dinner, or when you’re wandering around Old City on a Sunday night looking for a place to watch the Eagles game.
Apparently back in the 1700s when most of Old City was built, rooftops weren’t quite as hot a commodity as powdered wigs were, so you won’t find too many of them in the area. One of the only exceptions is Revolution House, a second-floor “rooftop” that’s basically just an elevated dining room, but it’s the best place in the area to hang out with a few beers and some bar snacks when the weather is in that 10-degree range that’s actually pleasant. The views aren’t exactly panoramic, but that really just means there won’t be a ton of tourists asking you to take their picture.
There are better places to eat than Buddakan, but if you find yourself here for a 21st birthday or a bachelor party for your friend who probably shouldn’t be getting married, you can make it worthwhile. Their rock shrimp bao buns are great, and you can’t go wrong with most of the dim sum section of the menu. You’ll probably pay too much for everything you eat here, but it’s a bachelor party and it’s not about you. Good luck trying to skip the line at Noto later.
Amada is a small Spanish tapas bar in Old City from the people behind Distrito and Volver. It’s been around for a while, but is still one of the best places in Old City for a last-minute date or even just an after-work Happy Hour drink with some coworkers. There’s usually a wait, especially on the weekend, but it’s worth it for things like grilled asparagus with truffles and a whole suckling pig. It’s also easy to spend a pretty absurd amount of money here, but you shouldn’t do that. And you don’t have to. They have lots of small plates that are relatively inexpensive, but all really good, like the beef short rib flatbread and lamb meatballs.
If you ask 100 random Philadelphians what their favorite special occasion spot is, we guarantee an overwhelming majority will say Fork. That’s because it’s a people pleaser with a straightforward, but excellent American menu, and it’s a great place to go with a big group. The space in Old City has white tablecloths and definitely feels upscale, but you won’t feel like you’re at a stuffy steakhouse or, worse, The Union League. It also has a Sunday brunch with some perfect maple french toast and a steak and eggs dish that will make you want to eat breakfast for every meal (if you don’t already).
Han Dynasty has a bunch of locations, but the Old City original is still the best one. It’s in an old, ornate building that has a long bar where you can sit and watch whatever sports happen to be on. It also has our favorite Sichuan food in the city, and you can order a whole lot of it for about $25. Their dan dan noodles are our favorite thing here (even though they’re pretty spicy), but if you can’t handle the heat, there are about 50 other things on the menu that you can get instead.
High Street is first and foremost a bakery. This place makes some of the best bread in the city, and it’s featured in lots of their dishes—from a BEC on a poppy kaiser roll to a crispy, melty grilled cheese on fluffy roasted potato bread. On weekday mornings, walk in and you’ll see a counter covered in homemade pastries and huge chocolate chunk cookies. For lunch, the pastries are replaced with sourdough and focaccia, and the menu switches to a list of sandwiches, like an incredible duck cubano, and salads that will make you wish High Street catered all your company lunch meetings. At dinner, the lights dim and it turns into a good spot for dates, with shareable cheese plates, delicious bowls of seafood pasta, and a braised short rib gnocchi that makes us as happy as when we’re watching Timothee Chalamet on the red carpet.
While we think it’s a little overrated, Royal Boucherie is still a solid place to meet up with some friends or a date for a glass of wine and some oysters. They also have a good (if overpriced) burger, and when it’s nice out, you can hang out on the roof and get subtly drunk while shoveling their entire raw bar into your mouth. The menu is French-leaning, and the dark tavern interior looks like somewhere you’d meet your cohorts after successfully robbing a bank together.
Sassafras is a small, romantic bar in Old City that has good bar food and even better drinks. It looks kind of like the living room of an old, expensive house that’s also definitely haunted, and the lighting is always dim, with candles on all six of the tables. The menu is heavy on appetizers and pretty basic, but they have some great burgers, which you can even get with ostrich meat, although the bison is better.
Lucha Cartel is the kind of place where you want to bring your college friends when they’re in town and you’re trying to show them just how easy it is to eat and get tipsy in Philly on almost no money. Almost every item on their menu is $5 during Happy Hour (including the margaritas, which are deceptively strong), and they even have a porch out front with large, picnic-style tables that will work just fine for you and your senior year housemates. Just know that if you spend over $20 per person, you’ve done something wrong.
If you’re coming to a place called Talula’s Garden, you’re going to want to sit outside. They have a large, split-level brick patio covered in vines and string lights, and it’s the biggest reason that Talula’s is always more crowded in the summer. The menu has a little bit of everything—soups, salads, and pastas, as well as mains like pan-roasted salmon and beef short rib with a creamy parmesan polenta. Everything here is well-executed, like the roasted chicken with a truffle and tarragon sauce that’s so tasty you’ll want the leftovers even if there are just two spoonfuls left.
Nick’s is a sports bar that’s just like all the other sports bars in Old City, except for a few small differences. For one, they have a huge fish tank behind the bar. We’re not totally sure how they got that passed by the city inspector, but if you find yourself here during a game that you’re not particularly interested in, you can just do what we do and create fake lives and names for all of the fish. They also have way above average bar food—like a signature roast beef sandwich and a burger with bacon cooked into the patty.
Franklin Fountain’s ice cream comes in Chinese takeout containers, and that’s only the second-best thing about this spot. They also just make seriously good ice cream, with flavors like Hydrox and cherry butter almond.