PHLGuide

The Best Restaurants In Old City

Where to eat in Old City, whether it's your first time in Philly or you can trace your family back to a Betsy Ross House party.
The Best Restaurants In Old City image

Between the shopping, that cracked old bell, and a waterfront that people flock to when the temperature gets above 70 degrees, you're going to be in Old City at some point in your Philadelphia life. And after nearly rolling your ankle on the cobblestones and informing a tourist that National Treasure was mostly filmed in LA, you'll need a place to eat. (Maybe you're the tourist. Hi, we're sorry to burst your bubble. Welcome to Philly.)

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Max Grudzinski

Middle Eastern

Old City

$$$$Perfect For:Classic EstablishmentDate NightDining SoloDinner with the ParentsDrinking Good CocktailsDrinks & A Light Bite
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Zahav is technically in Society Hill, but considering it’s about 15 steps from the Old City border, we're including the Israeli fine dining spot here. You may or may not have heard this is one of the best restaurants in the whole city. The rumors are true—Zahav's silky tehina hummus, pomegranate-glazed lamb shoulder, fire-charred skewers, and endless salatim all demand bulldozing. By the end of the $75 tasting menu experience, you'll wonder if you'll ever be hungry again (it's a lot of food). Come for a once-a-year kind of special night. Reservations are tough, but there's a good chance you'll get a bar seat if you put your name when they open at 5pm.


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We consistently find ourselves suggesting this seasonal American restaurant for a fancy-ish dinner in Old City. The menu will make everyone feel seen. Your boring friend can eat something straightforward (but still well made) like crudo and ribeye with potato pavé. And you can go for something seasonal and unexpected, like cauliflower borscht or glazed celery root with a kick from aleppo pepper. Expect white tablecloths but no chance of getting mixed up and thinking you're at The Union League.

With its massive windows, low lighting, and a long U-shaped bar, this Japanese spot is always full of dates drinking sake and eating spicy crab rolls. You should be one of them—Tuna Bar serves the most consistent sushi in the neighborhood. And you can usually get in without a reservation. Come in the spring and you'll have a great view of the cherry blossom trees or a Ben Franklin impersonator.

This Spanish tapas bar has been around for a while, but is still one of the best places in Old City for a last-minute date or even just a drink after work with a few friends. There may be a wait on weekends, but stick it out for seafood paella with squid ink bomba rice and peppery grilled half chicken. You could easily spend an absurd amount of money here on larger plates. Prioritize the smaller snacks like seared scallops and lamb meatballs. These mostly cost less than $20 and they're better than the big boys, anyway.


There are a lot of casual sushi spots around the city, but none of them get as crowded as Kisso. It’s in a little orange room on the corner of North 4th and Race, the menu is straightforward, and everything is good. This would explain why, on a random Tuesday night, you’ll sometimes encounter a 30-minute wait. Once you're in, get the warm Alaskan king crab in a soybean wrap topped with creamy soy sauce, and some red snapper carpaccio that we crave regularly.

Buk Chon is a teensy Korean BYOB that makes great staples and you can almost always get a table. They serve a variety of classics, from Korean fried chicken to bibimbap and budae jigae. There's only one dish on the menu costs more than $20, which means you should be coming here the next time you're in Old City and don't want to overpay for a totally fine dinner among the masses.

Sassafras has good bar food and even better drinks. It looks like a living room of an old, expensive, and definitely haunted house, but in a romantic way. (Ghosts can be sexy, too.) Expect dim lighting, candles on all six tables, and a great burger with spicy dry rub. And if you're looking for a bit more of a scene, go upstairs to their fun vinyl listening bar.

You go to Fat Salmon when you want sushi topped with chaos (things like pineapple cilantro, pico de gallo, and broccoli pesto). That style isn't for everyone. But it does sort of work because of the high-quality fish. The pink and blue mood lighting in the dining room also might make you feel like you’re at a club in Miami, but not as rowdy and with fewer gold chains.


Han Dynasty has a bunch of locations, but the Old City original is still solid. 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 some of the city's best Sichuan food, and you can order a whole lot of it for about $25. Get the dan dan noodles.

Wine bars in hotels tend to be stuffy, and Panorama inside the Penn's View Hotel is no exception. But if you can get past the Main Line mansion energy, you'll eat pretty decent pasta. We like to come during Happy Hour (from 4:30-6pm on Tuesday through Friday, and Saturday from 3-4:30pm) when the small plates and pasta shockingly cost $6.

Meet the neighborhood's cheesesteak destination. Every sandwich comes with thick cuts of ribeye layered on their long rolls. Cheese options include american, whiz, mozzarella, and even blue (don't you dare). Go provolone so you can get that extra sharp flavor.

There aren’t many places in this city serving good cajun food, and more specifically, cajun food that’s available until 1am. But Khyber Pass Pub is here to answer your prayers on a night when you need a second dinner at 11pm (or maybe when you've just seen a show at Khyber's events venue upstairs). Other than the Khyber gumbo, which is meaty and just a little spicy, they also have good po’boys and vegetarian food. 


Tomo makes good sushi and they have an especially impressive selection of vegan rolls. But it's the ramen that makes this BYOB a standout in the neighborhood. The tonkotsu is the perfect cloudy soup for every cloudy day. The rich, creamy broth comes topped with bamboo shoots, scallions, red ginger, and some notably tender pork belly. The latter is what you'll be thinking about after you leave.

There are way better places to eat in the area, but this dark French spot still works if you want to drink a glass of wine and slurp some oysters. When it's nice outside, sit in their second-floor garden area.

The Franklin Fountain is a classic ice cream parlor and soda fountain that we think is worth visiting whether you're a tourist or you pay taxes to the city of Philadelphia every year. There's going to be a line, and you can't sit down anywhere inside inside. But they stay open until midnight and serve all of their ice cream in old-school Chinese takeout containers. Load up with brownie pieces and the works, unless you hate fun.

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