Where To Eat Crudo, Ceviche, & Aguachile In PhillyWhen nothing less than ocean-fresh will do.
Whether you want something light before heading for heavier mains, or the weather has spiked to heat that only cacti can thrive in, from time to time you crave something tasty and refreshing. Philly has a wide range of taquerias, oyster bars, and fine dining restaurants serving up crudos, ceviches, and aguachiles that we just can’t get enough of. Here are 10 places marinating shrimp, scallops, and fish gorgeously.
Friday Saturday Sunday is one of the best restaurants in Philadelphia. They’re so good, in fact, that we think they could negotiate a peace deal between the PPA and the rest of the city if they wanted to. But for the sake of this guide, we’ll focus on their unforgettable crudo on their $155 tasting menu. Sometimes it’s cured arctic char served with crispy bits of nori, and sometimes it’s halibut swimming in citrusy lobster butter. Like almost everything in the charming Rittenhouse restaurant, each version of crudo is going to be one of the best bites you’ve had all month, and it’s good enough to make you forget about that $30 PPA ticket (almost).
The dishes at Center City’s Vernick Fish are great—after all, seafood is their love language. They usually have three crudo options (and occasionally a ceviche) and they’re all excellent. And by excellent, we mean that we talked about the sea bream in a salty white soy brown butter so much that our friends changed it to our contact name in their phones. You can expect the fish to be fresh, for it to be topped with creative, seasonal ingredients like sweet Asian pear, and to join the staff’s seafood obsession agenda after one bite.
Going to Rittenhouse’s My Loup and not getting the seafood plateau would be like going to Aruba and skipping the beach: joyless, regrettable, and frankly, stupid. At the buzzy, intimate French restaurant, you’ll likely hear Fleetwood Mac coming out of the speakers and see endless trays of mussels, pickled shrimp, oysters, and crudo whizzing by. The ingredients change about as often as Mr. Rogers changed his sweater, so one week you might have scallops on a bed of apple glaze and the next covered in buttermilk and peas. No matter how it’s prepared, it’s about as satisfying as that island vacation when you actually hit the sand.
The aguachiles at East Passyunk’s El Chingon have become a part of our weekly routine. We’ve started making excuses to go there—like we can only perfect our parallel parking on their street. Inside the vibrant, plant-filled BYO you’ll see a long bar and plenty of tables topped with citrusy bowls of chile ancho-cured beef tenderloin, thinly sliced scallops and calamari, or smoked shrimp. Each order has lots of cilantro, some version of chiltepin (oil, raw, or smoked), offers a refreshing bite, and has just the right amount of heat.
This Point Breeze Mexican restaurant has an aguachile bar, so you know they mean seafood-tossed-in-chili-peppers-business. And no matter where you sit in the bright, cozy, restaurant, you’ll have a great view of red snapper mixed with cilantro and shrimp being drizzled in lime juice. Our favorite here is the La Paz—it’s a beautiful blend of mahi mahi and shrimp in a tomato-lime broth. You’ll get the unmistakable scent of earthy serrano peppers along with a great crunch from the oven-fresh tostadas. We could happily eat this small plate every day.
Having a satisfying meal is great, but when it includes incredible cuts of hamachi, salmon, and bigeye tuna, it’s even better. At Midtown Village’s Pearl & Mary Oyster Bar, they have a menu full of dishes that let you know their specialty is seafood (if their name didn’t give that away). Their crudos blend flavors like toasty sesame, shisho, chili, and sweet sherry to balance out the heat. The fish is always perfectly sliced and has an ideal blend of acidity and sweetness. And since they have one of the better Happy Hours in town, you can grab a $7 daily crudo, pair it with a $6 wine, and forget about the day of passive-aggressive emails for less than fifteen bucks.
No matter the season, you’ll always find about four crudos on Kensington Quarters’ menu. And that shouldn't come as a surprise, since the large Fishtown restaurant has about as much seafood on hand as a scene from The Little Mermaid. They have some fun with juicy salmon, a fennel and mint salsa verde, and grapefruit, or you can try bass on a bed of buttermilk, tarragon oil, and tea-pickled pear. They’re flavorful dishes that work at a table on the sunny back patio, or inside, next to a life preserver, on a date you’ve already decided isn’t going anywhere.
We can’t describe the sheer joy that comes with eating amazing seafood on a sunny day with a cold margarita in hand but we’ll try. At Fishtown’s LMNO they have a lineup of aguachiles and cóctels that are as exciting as dinner in the neon-lit clubstaurant. The verde aguachile—packed with shrimp, scallops, crab, melon, onion, and avocado—is an absolute must-order. And that’s because they’re not serving up seafood in a measly, bland pool of citrus water. The blend of tanginess, saltiness, and sweetness from the melon jolts your senses in the first bite. It’s a texture party of tender seafood and crunch from the peppers and tostadas that works well for a group dinner or a night when you want DJ-level music without paying a cover for it.
Kensington’s Cantina La Martina mastered two things: incredible tamales and aguachiles. Shrimp, red onion, cilantro, and cucumber get drenched in an earthy macha salsa sauce. It has just the right amount of pepperiness and salt, plus they top it with slices of creamy avocado, fresh cucumber, and radish for a satisfying crunch. Order one for the table, the tamale trio, and a margarita to counter the subtle burn that lingers after each bite.
Nemi is a small Mexican restaurant in Port Richmond that doesn’t shy away from their love of margaritas and ceviche. They have four on the menu, all have bold flavors, and drench seafood in a generous amount of sauce. Their salmon tiradito is one of our favorites. It’s bursting with sweetness from the passion fruit and mango puree, there are large, tender chunks of salmon, and the dish gets finished with serrano peppers, onions, and avocado. The combination is perfectly balanced (and won’t leave you internally panicking from the heat of the peppers). Grab a few for your group, then do the same with the piña margaritas.