After weeks of bingeing the latest crime docuseries until 3am, becoming a personal photographer for random tourists at LOVE Park, and dodging extended warranty calls, sometimes your birthday week sneaks up faster than a Monday after a packed weekend. It’s even worse when you don’t have a reservation or any idea of where you want to sip some glasses of wine with a few friends. That’s where this guide comes in. We’ve put together a few spots where you can celebrate with some tacos, late-night desserts, and cocktails that look fancier than the new top you treated yourself to for the occasion.
When deciding where to bring a group of friends for a birthday, picking a place where shareable dishes make up the entire menu is a good place to start. Plus, with views that will make you feel like you’re on top of the city (or at least on The Iron Giant’s shoulder), both of those details make this South Philly Sicilian spot an easy choice for your birthday. They have handmade pastas like a spaghetti alle vongole that coats clams in parsley and a white wine sauce, citrusy agrodolce chicken that’s one of the best roast chickens we’ve ever had, and plenty of other dishes just as good as the view.
Butcher And Singer
When your new boss offers to take you and the team out for your birthday, you should immediately do two things. First, be glad that they’re trying to set a good first impression. Second, make a reservation at Butcher And Singer. The Walnut Street retro steakhouse is light on pretense, and if someone else is picking up the tab, the crab cake is the first thing you should get before heading to the steaks. It’s lemony, full of huge chunks of crab, and comes with a fennel slaw that adds a crunch to each bite when you mix them together. If you still have room for dessert afterwards, there’s no one doing baked Alaska better in Philadelphia.
Middle Child Clubhouse
Occasionally, you just want a birthday meal where you can bite into a thick burger, share a plate of fries with some friends, and argue over if a quick tap of the cue ball counts as a shot. That's exactly what you'll have with Middle Child Clubhouse. The Fishtown bar and neighborhood hangout spot serves everything from hearty chicken confit with a giardiniera slaw to a jumbo shrimp with a tangy bravas aioli and long shishito peppers—both of those make for excellent choices when it’s your balloon and gift emoji day. And if you spend the night celebrating with some wine on tap, you can always come back the next morning and be revived by a fluffy egg sandwich.
Primary Plant Based
If you’re looking for an affordable spot that’s casual enough for a lowkey birthday, head to Fishtown BYOB Primary Plant Based. The vegan spot is in a cozy and dimly-lit space that works well for splitting a bottle of wine and enjoying one of their entrees like kung pao brussels sprouts that are all around $20. Plus, they even have desserts like glazed apple fritters and a maduro banana split topped with crispy plantains, caramel, and salted peanuts that will distract you from your one off-key friend singing “The Happy Birthday Song.”
While Old City has a few Italian spots, like Spasso Italian Grill and Panorama, Positano Coast is one that sticks out. It’s a place where graduation parties, engagements, or date-night dinners are always going down, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s also an ideal spot to spend a birthday. On a sunny day, the big rooftop patio is where you should bring a group of friends and pass around some scallop crudo or squid ink pasta.
LMNO has it all: a neon-lit bar, black-and-white photography on the wall, and a crowded dining space that’s usually as full as the Parkway on Labor Day weekend. It’s basically a club with actually good food, better seating, and without you having to repeatedly say “what?” after mishearing the person next to you. The Fishtown Mexican spot has specifically two things we love: perfectly cooked oysters with a smoky taste and sweet pineapple and shrimp aguachile that has a slightly vinegary broth. Plus, for a more intimate birthday dinner, you can eat it all in their private listening room with a DJ-curated playlist.
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This Center City upscale spot has some of the best seafood dishes in the city—and because of that, it’s pretty tough to score a reservation. But if you’re successful, make sure you spend your night with a tray of oyster trays, hamachi crudo with slivers of grapefruit on top, and potato gnocchi tossed with juicy lobster, brown butter, and some nutty burgundy truffles.
Giuseppe & Sons
From the team behind Prunella, Alpen Rose, and Double Knot, Giuseppe & Sons serves up classic handmade pastas like spaghetti and clams in a white wine sauce, Sunday gravy with peppery meatballs and sausages, and ricotta tortelloni with lots of parmigiano. Outside of doughy strands of pasta, the menu is full of shareable plates like chicken parmigiana, grilled branzino with a lemony salsa verde, and a long wine list full of Italian reds and whites. The dining room feels massive and fancy, full of hanging chandeliers, leather booths, and plenty of long tables for you and your friends to fill up on carbs in every form.
Whether your birthday is on a “school night” or you prefer your friends to sing to you during Happy Hour, El Rey is the ideal place for an after-work birthday dinner. Bring your team and celebrate the only thing better than your birth: a few tacos under $5. Paired with $5 margaritas, dim lighting, and access to the Ranstead Room via an underground pathway through the kitchen, this is one of best places to celebrate turning 25 for the seventh time.
Trying to get into Assembly Saturday night is about as difficult as trying to get an apology out of that one friend who’s never wrong. And that’s because a) it has one of the more popular rooftops in the city, b) the interior looks like it could be the set of a Gossip Girl group hang scene c) the cocktails are great. The outdoor area has a long bar, velvety booths where can sit with your friends near a fire pit as they toast to you, and solid small plates like charred octopus salad, a classic margherita flatbread, and tuna poke with pickled papaya. But you’re really here to show off your new birthday outfit, take in one of the best views in town, and sip on a bunch of rose gold margaritas.
Yakitori Boy doesn’t just make this list because you can belt out the latest Doja Cat song somewhere outside of your shower. The Chinatown pub with a second-floor karaoke lounge also has a selection of roasted skewers, sushi rolls, and sweets like mango cheesecake that we just can’t get enough of. Also, try the crispy chicken cutlet. It has a curry sauce that’s so good that you’ll probably end up missing your “Kiss Me More” cue while trying to sop up the last drop.
photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO
La Llorona Cantina
We can’t think of a better way to spend our birthday than drinking hard-to-find mezcal and tequilas at La Llorona Cantina. This South Philly spot is also great because it’s a rowdy place that can transition you from a celebratory Happy Hour to a full-blown meal full of things like tender short rib tacos, queso fundido, and jumbo fired shrimp with smoky chipotle sauce. They stay open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, so this is somewhere to get a celebratory round of margaritas until the last second of your big day.
If Rogue was a choose-your-own-adventure book, there’s no scenario in which your night ends in a low-key way. With a DJ fist-pumping in the corner, diners creating an impromptu dance floor between the bar seats, and the staff saying “the party is just starting” between courses, make sure you take a group of friends here who would be down for a mini turn-up inside a Rittenhouse Square bistro. But it’s not all about the atmosphere here—they have some good food, like the striped bass dish that has a lemony beet puree, and a few cocktails, like the bourbon-based Thyme After Thyme, that won't disappoint.
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Some birthdays, you want the whole night to happen under one roof, which is exactly when Marrakesh comes in handy. This Moroccan place in Society Hill has a prix-fixe menu with things like spicy chicken in cumin sauce that’s ideal for big groups, and the seating setup lets you sit on pillows while you eat with a belly dancer performing in the background. Also, it’s BYOB, so come prepared.
Insomnia Cookies isn’t the only place to get late-night sweets in Philly. Open until midnight, this Chinatown spot is huge and the menu is full of crepes, waffles, pancakes, and plenty of mango-themed sweets. As a plus, they’ve got a huge upstairs lounge area big enough for your crew, which is perfect when everyone’s had a few drinks, or if it’s a weeknight and the whole group just wants dessert.