Sure, Philadelphia is America’s birthplace and all, but once you get past the buses of tourists following in Nicolas Cage’s National Treasure footsteps, you’ll realize that the heart of the city is Rittenhouse Square.
Home to some of the city’s oldest mansions, best dog-watching spots, and more Wharton students than there are people waiting for selfies by the LOVE statue, it’s no surprise that there are also a lot of good restaurants around here. And whether you’re using the corporate card for the night, planning a post-work date, or meeting someone who specializes in breaking Illuminati codes, this guide will help you decide where to eat.
If you’re heading to Helium or the Prince for a show, stop by Abe Fisher beforehand for dinner. You can grab a drink at the bar and eat things like salmon roasted with pastrami spice and veal schnitzel tacos. Or if you come with a group, go for the tasting menu with the Montreal-style smoked short rib. And if you have don’t mind falling asleep during the movie or open mic, make sure to get the bacon egg cream for dessert.
Technically Trattoria Carina is in Fitler Square, and you’ll feel the shift as soon as you cross 20th street. It’s a little quieter and less flashy than most places around Rittenhouse, but the food and cocktails are both great, and they have a lot of outdoor seating. It’s a good option for a weeknight date, or really any time you want to spend the night drinking Negronis and eating spaghetti with clams.
For most people, Vernick is a special occasion restaurant. Reservations typically book up weeks in advance, and getting in sometimes feels like the plot from a future Mission Impossible sequel. But if you work or live nearby, you’ll know that it’s actually pretty easy to get a table if you show up early enough. Plus, most dishes on the menu are under $20. Start with the crab toast, and know that the small plates are actually pretty substantial. But if you really want to go all in, the 28-oz dry-aged steak is the right move.
If the weather is even somewhat nice, there will likely be a line for the coveted outdoor seating at Harper’s Garden. But even if you’re stuck inside, or it happens to be January, the food, which is mostly snacks, small plates, and sandwiches/toasts, is consistently delicious. They also have a late-night Happy Hour from 10pm-12am for when you want to hold on to your table outside for as long as possible.
When you want to impress a client or date, or you just want to get up, close, and personal with the a $120 cheesesteak, make a reservation at Barclay Prime. There’s no better place to eat steak in Philadelphia, and if you’re hoping to spot someone from Creed 3 or Rocky 8, this is definitely the place to do it.
If you don’t want to drop half your rent at Barclay Prime, but you’re still craving some quality meat, Butcher Bar is the place to go. It’s more casual than most of the nearby steakhouses, but you can still get some excellent steak and seafood here. If you end up roping up the entire tech team from your office, get “The Trough.” It’s a wooden slab piled high with chicken, sausage, ribs, burgers, bacon, fries, and pita perfect for those nights when you need to remember what it’s like to be at the top of the food chain.
Working in finance, law, or tech means long hours, lots of elevator rides, and probably more $14 salads than you can count. When you need a break from your routine, close your computer and walk over to DanDan. They have great lunch specials and their mapo tofu will be a big upgrade from kale salad you’ve already had twice this week. They’ve got a full bar and $5 Happy Hour food and drink specials, just in case you get out of the office before the sun goes down.
There are plenty of good date spots around Rittenhouse, but Friday Saturday Sunday might be our favorite. Most of the menu is sharable - make sure to get the carrot confit and dry-aged duck - and it’s always just the right amount of dark inside, which makes it feel a little special, especially if you end up here on a weeknight. Without a reservation, you might wait an hour or two for a table, but just grab a few drinks at the bar in the meantime.
When you’ve been put in charge of the next office outing, suggest The Love. If it’s your anniversary, suggest The Love. When your second cousins who you just started sending holiday cards to are in town, you get the idea. There’s a small cocktail bar upstairs overlooking the street if you show up early for your reservation, but the food is why you’re here. We really like the lobster spaghetti and Carolina trout, but the whole menu is worth a try.
Pub & Kitchen is the kind of spot you’ll want to stick around long after your plates have been cleared. Yes, they’ve got a short menu of consistently delicious entrees and snacks. But the always cool soundtrack, ample opportunities to people watch, and the built-in ice breaker of their mascot (it’s a Pabbit - part-pig, part rabbit) make P&K the go-to for first dates and catching up with buddies in Rittenhouse.
If you’re looking for a place to start a night out, Alma de Cuba on Walnut is a good choice. Try to get one of the cushy booths, and order a few ceviches. Or if you want something more substantial, get the skirt steak with black beans and tomato escabeche. They’ve also got a popular Happy Hour, complete with jazzy music and mojitos. And for the full trifecta, head across the street to Ashton Cigar Bar after dinner.
Parc is about as close as you can get to eating at a bistro in Paris without leaving the city. This place overlooks the east side of Rittenhouse Square and on a nice day, there’s nowhere better to spend a lazy afternoon enjoying some steak tartare and a bottle of rose. Their outdoor seating is dog friendly, so grab your pup and a friend, order the warm shrimp salad, and pretend you’re on vacation for a few hours.
There’s nothing wrong with routine. But after six consecutive weeks of ordering the same chicken tikka masala from your favorite take-out place, you need to mix things up. The prices might be a little higher at Veda, but when you see the lamb shank and wild mushroom korma approach your table, you’ll be glad you’re not eating out of to-go containers. They also do great tropical cocktails during Happy Hour, if you want to stop by for a drink and some goat cheese naan after work.
You might not guess from the outside, but Harp & Crown is enormous, so feel free to come with your friends, intramural kickball team, or entire office. The cocktails are strong, and we always love a place where you can bowl, eat good pizza, and finish things off with a whoopie pie.
Located inside The Rittenhouse Hotel, Lacroix is a little slice of old school Philadelphia opulence. Their brunch buffet includes oysters, foie gras s’mores, hand-carved salmon, and sausage bao buns, along with 20 other things you’ll never see served together at the same time again. It’s $75 per person, and great for anniversaries or visitors who are especially indecisive first thing in the morning.
This second Stock location serves a lot of the dishes we love from the original in Fishtown - 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.
When it comes to dining out as a group, everyone’s got an opinion. We get it, and have a full guide for such occasions. If you want to keep things simple though, Tinto is a solid option with plenty of different tapas to choose from, along with over 100 different wines. Head over during Happy Hour for $5 sangria and selected tapas at the bar on the main floor, or you can sit down for a full meal in the downstairs dining room.
When you realize that tickets for that off-broadway show at the Kimmel Center have sold out, but you’re already dressed up and ready for a night out, head to Audrey Claire. This Mediterranean spot is ideal for dates and the location on Spruce is far enough off the main drag that you won’t be competing with tons of tourists for seats. The menu changes regularly, but there’s almost always a grilled whole fish that you should order. Cash-only and BYOB, make sure to stop at the bottle shop across the street if you show up empty handed (or need somewhere to sit while you wait for a table).
The good: it’s your turn to plan date night. The less good: you completely forgot about this until the morning of. Luckily, you’re not too far from Southgate. They’ve got our favorite bibimbap in the neighborhood, and if you’ve reached the point in your relationship where you’re comfortable making a mess, order the bulgogi burger.
When the snow starts falling, an encyclopedic knowledge of the local bars that have fireplaces is pretty much invaluable. But The Dandelion really works any time of year. They’ve totally committed to the theme, and you’ll see this not only in design elements like tartan stools and silver trays brought out for tea service, but in a lengthy menu full of English staples like Sunday roast and rabbit pie. Bring your work friends, bring a date, or just bring yourself for a pint during Happy Hour.
The core concepts of Village Whiskey are fairly simple: great bourbon and great burgers. If they excelled in these areas alone, we’d be happy. But when you add in bar snacks like deviled eggs and cheese curds, an entire section of the menu dedicated to pickles, and Nutella milkshakes, we’re all in. It’s small, so expect to wait, and don’t be surprised when the male:female ratio is 2:1.