Philly’s Best New Dishes Of 2023
photo credit: Nicole Guglielmo
You may measure your year in Super Bowl losses or Barbenheimer outfits, but we’ll remember 2023 by the dishes that made us regret not finding leftover crumbs in our bras. Some are from the Best New Restaurants of 2023, and others are new creations from places we’ve loved long before Wawa had pizza. Out of all the restaurant meals we ate this year, these are the 12 new dishes that stood out the most.
Laurel’s Parisian gnocchi is our alligator at the Phillies game: it provides comfort, it’s a bit surprising, and we want to take it wherever we go even though we shouldn't. To be fair, we like just about everything at this East Passyunk restaurant that ditched its tasting-menu-only concept in 2023 (hello 9.3 rating). But there’s something special about Laurel's firm-but-doughy gnocchi. It’s served in a bog of chicken jus that’s rich and onion-forward enough to work as the base for all soups until the end of time. Think of the dish as chicken and dumplings’ fancy French cousin that’s always controlling the playlist at the party.
The team visited Kalaya's new spot in Fishtown so many times this year, we could list several servers as emergency contacts. And while most of the menu could’ve made this Best New Dishes list, it's the garlicky chive squares we ordered every time without fail. They're crispy on the outside with a velvety center. Dip yours in the accompanying sweet soy-based sauce, and you'll have a combo on par with the Cowboys and booing.
Olivia’s Big Pancake
You know those slow, sustained eye-contact moments in a rom-com? That's how we look at Middle Child Clubhouse's new malted buttermilk pancakes with a syrup moat. They're made with whole-grain flour milled by Lost Bread, and then drenched in sweet citrus syrup with a pat of smiley-face-shaped butter on top. If you're splitting this, order it as a double for another $5 and then stare at Princess Diana rocking Eagles gear. You can go back to blinking afterwards.
Head-On Soft Shell Shrimp
Philly may not have game pieces in front of the municipal building anymore, but the city still has its love of BYOBs. And while we appreciate everything on this Bella Vista Cambodian restaurant’s menu, the soft-shell shrimp is now the lens through which we view every other Philly shrimp dish. You'll vacuum them up in one chomp, crackly shell and all. Bird's eye chilis give each bite a kick, and the Thai basil and fish sauce caramel balances sweet with salty. If you order just one round for the table, know that you're going to need another.
Caesar salads can be as memorable as junk mail. But this Bella Vista Filipino restaurant serves one we’ll never forget. As soon as you see Tabachoy's napa cabbage and mustard green salad—topped with cured duck yolk, toasty bits of shallot, scallion, and sesame—you’ll know you’re in for serious crunch. The team tosses everything in a creamy caesar made with fermented fish paste. It's not overdressed, it's not underdressed, it's just, well, dressed—and therefore deserves a Philadelphia historical landmark sign.
Making a remember-it-for-months sandwich that doesn’t end in -oagie or -ánh mì is an accomplishment in this town. But that’s what this Olde Richmond bar with very good pub food has done. In their turkey club, two slices of toasted, airy bread carry hefty cuts of turkey, crispy bacon, lettuce, and mayo. It’s the kind of thing you take one bite of and feel like you’ve won the sandwich Powerball. And since you’re already in a bar, you might as well have one of their weirdly good Long Island iced teas to celebrate your victory. (Live a little, the world is ending.)
Shiprock is a pop-up with a long-term residency at The Lucky Well Incubator on Spring Garden. Their savory Navajo taco layers chili beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickled red onions, and sour cream on a soft, airy fry bread. Besides being spicy, creamy, and just a bit tangy, this is potentially the most loaded taco you’ll ever eat. Order one of these and a crisp beer, and you'll need to be reminded that the outside world does in fact exist.
This Mexican Passyunk Ave. restaurant has a few cemitas on the menu, but we particularly love the birria version. It has strips of beef and cheese waterfalling out of a warm, golden housemade bun. As soon as yours hits the table, you'll smell the sweet and smoky aroma of consomme. If you're anything like us, it'll take you about 30 seconds to demolish it. Consider this a real Houdini trick fueled by buttery bread and broth-filled dunks.
This West Philly Ethiopian restaurant is the kind of relaxing place to avoid the realities of emails and missing your BSL stop. The big windows let in the sunshine, there are plants galore, and no one is going to rush you through your doro wot. In Doro Bet's rendition of this Ethiopian classic, chicken falls off the bone and into a spicy stew of berbere, onions, and tangy ayib cheese. It has all of the warming elements you’d expect from a stew, which is perfect because we’re considering moving into Doro Bet through December.
We’re fans of any sandwich that challenges the laws of physics while somehow still tasting great. The Ramen Thing at West Philly’s Cleo Bagels does just that. An airy bagel of your choice gets stacked with a marinated egg, pickled ginger, bamboo, togarashi mayo, nori crisps, and scallions. It stays as intact as a cartoon character’s hair, with sliced boiled eggs holding everything together sans side spillage. Each bite is slightly sweet, salty, and full of the umami punch that makes a bowl of ramen so good. Except you can hold this thing in your hand or maybe even shove an extra in a backpack for later.
If you ever saw something like a bowl of Fruity Pebbles or a birthday cake and thought, “That would be great as a biscuit.” Roxborough’s The Biscuit Lady is for you. The menu here spans from sweet treats like peach cobbler to overstuffed breakfast sandwiches. But it’s the Uptown Girl that will make your regular BEC look boring as hell. Here, bacon, egg, and cheese exist on the same giant biscuit as melty, creamy peanut butter and strawberry jam. Just trust us. It's a gorgeous, salty-sweet breakfast monstrosity. We’ll take three, please.
Philly isn’t Nashville. We don’t have as many country singers and we don’t say things like, “Bless your heart.” But, somehow, hot chicken places keep popping up. One of our favorites this year was Germantown’s Hot Clucks. Their hot chicken sandwich comes on a brioche bun that works like a cushion for the crispy fried meat, tangy pickles, melted cheese, and orange pepper sauce. The combination of crunch, creaminess, and spice makes this thing worth standing in a line as long as Germantown Ave. just to secure one.