PHLGuide

The Best Restaurants In Center City

All the best restaurants in Rittenhouse, Midtown Village, Logan Square, and beyond.

There are only a few reasons we all make the trek to Center City–to act out some scenes from Trading Places, use our Mitchell & Ness gift card, and grab some really good food at the nearly endless amount of restaurants. While we don’t have a code that gets you $25 off on a Jerome Brown jersey, we have put together a list of the best places in Rittenhouse, Midtown Village, Logan Square, and beyond. The lineup includes an amazing sandwich shop, a few tapas spots with wine lists longer than Broad St., and places where you can get incredible bowls of pasta. These 32 spots have you covered for every occasion, whether you’re just looking for a quick BEC or want to spend the cost of some Wells Fargo floor seats on a dry-aged steak for your birthday.

THE SPOTS

Surrounded by places that all require reservations or hour-plus waits, Huda is something that Rittenhouse needed: somewhere to run in and grab a sandwich between saving the world at the office or window shopping on Walnut Street. But the location isn’t the only reason we keep telling everyone about this place—all eight sandwiches, served on homemade milk buns, have us murmuring “Hoo-dah” in our sleep. We typically go for the grilled swordfish topped with a spicy kimchi tartar sauce, and we always pair it with an order of fries that comes with a choice of southwest, dijonaise, sour cream and onion sauce, and that same kimchi tartar.

Middle Child has some of the best breakfast sandwiches around, and you’ll probably wait at least 30 minutes on the weekend if you come here. It’s also a popular spot for Jefferson doctors and med students during the week, so if you want to grab a phoagie (an eggplant sandwich with avocado, bean sprouts, and something called pho sauce that we’d eat on anything), you’re going to need to time your visit for right before their shift change.

Amada is a little Spanish tapas bar in Old City from the people behind Distrito and Volver, and it’s been around for a while. It’s still as good as ever, and you should come here for a date or just an after-work Happy Hour drink with some coworkers. There’s usually a wait, especially on the weekend, but it’s worth it for the dishes that range from grilled asparagus with truffles to a whole suckling pig. It’s also easy to spend a pretty absurd amount of money here, but you don’t have to. They have lots of small plates that are relatively inexpensive, but all really good, like the beef short rib flatbread and lamb meatballs.

Butcher & Singer is one of the many steakhouses near Rittenhouse Square, but unlike all the others within a five-block radius that look more like dining rooms at expensive retirement homes than anything else, Butcher & Singer feels like a clubhouse straight out of The Great Gatsby. Before the bone-in filets and seafood towers, there was a bank here, and it still feels like you could walk into Butcher & Singer and ask for $100 in pennies without anyone batting an eye. The servers wear tuxedos and use phrases like “excite your palate” to describe the tuna tartare. It’s all a bit over-the-top, but it’s what makes Butcher & Singer one of the more unique restaurants in the city.

DanDan is a good weekday lunch or post-work spot if you happen to work nearby in Rittenhouse, and they also have a reasonably priced Happy Hour (which unfortunately ends at 6pm). But if you’re able to get a seat at the bar before then and don’t mind rubbing elbows (literally) with other Center City diners, we’d advise ordering one of each of the dan dan noodles, the dry-seasoned chicken wings, and the spicy crispy cucumbers.

The Stock in Rittenhouse serves a lot of the dishes we love from their Fishtown location—like spicy peanut noodles and bánh mì 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.

If you’ve ever seen Mad Men and wished your work life was all drinking and smoking cigarettes and having “creative meetings” that are really just more drinking, you should be hanging out at Bud & Marilyn’s. It’s perfectly retro, with wood-paneled walls and black-and-white dial TVs, and you can eat all of the buttery comfort food you want—like crispy cheese curds and fried chicken—without any of the obvious cons of living in the 1960s. Plus, their weekend brunch includes some of the best breakfast cocktails we’ve found in Center City, and the caramelized apple french toast is exactly what your Sunday needs to distract you from the impending workweek.

The Best Brunch Spots In Philadelphia guide image

PHL Guide

The Best Brunch Spots In Philadelphia

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—like multiple pasta dishes and big fish entrees—is why you’re here.

There are so many Italian BYOBs in Philly, and you can go to pretty much any of them and get a solid plate of pasta or chicken parm. And while Mercato is no exception—it’s a classic Italian neighborhood place that serves things like crab fra diavlo and sausage and broccoli rabe rigatoni—they have much more sidewalk seating than your average BYO. Plus, they also have windows that open all the way up so that the entire 30-seat room becomes an open-air restaurant.

Sometimes you just want to pretend like you’re an important businessman and exchange business cards with people like you’re Patrick Bateman in American Psycho—except maybe without the whole serial killer situation. When that’s the case, you want to go to Del Frisco’s. It’s in the old Packard building, which is so big it’s basically like having a meal inside of 30th Street Station, and the crowd here is generally lots of people in suits one-upping each other over a few porterhouses. Along with the traditional options, there are some cheesesteak dumplings that are delicious, and you should end every meal with the butter cake.

Parc is a special place, partially because we think it’s slowly fused into Rittenhouse Square’s permanent architecture, and also because you can pull it out of your back pocket for pretty much any situation. It’s a classic French bistro with a classic French bistro menu (think steak tartare and beef bourguignon), and while none of their food comes with table-side magic tricks, everything is fresh and delicious. They also have some of the best sidewalk seating in the city, so if you’re in the mood to watch people walking their dogs who look just like them, this is the place to be.

Via Locusta is where you can get mounds of pasta, warm focaccia, charred octopus, and a grilled swordfish steak while being surrounded by long mirrors, white subway tiling, and round marble tables. And since they have covered outdoor seating, you can also have a glass of wine while watching the action on Locust street and enjoying one of our favorites: the bucatini. The sauce is made with piave cheese and leek so it’s light, creamy, sweet, and has a strong oniony taste to it. They also have a Happy Hour from 4-6pm that features a lineup of $8 spritzes that come in orange, elderflower, and amrao-infused flavors, along with small plates like eggplant fritto for $6.

Double Knot is a Japanese spot in Midtown Village, and it’s really two restaurants in one. There’s an all-day cafe on the main floor that you could watch on a time-lapse and never catch a moment when it’s not busy. And while it’s usually packed with people eating rice and noodle bowls and working on laptops, at 5pm the lights go down and it turns into more of a bar scene, but with a slightly different menu than what you’ll find at the izakaya below, which is really where you want to be.

This Mexican spot in Midtown Village is huge and kind of looks like the inside of the Please Touch museum, with brightly colored walls and a bicycle hanging from the ceiling. So it’s probably not the best idea for a casual weeknight dinner with a friend, but it’s definitely worthwhile for certain situations—like Happy Hour margaritas or a 30th birthday dinner.

Sampan is a Pan-Asian restaurant in Midtown Village, and while the large, loungey, and very purple space may feel a little outdated, the food here is still good. We’re especially into the small plates, like the chicken katsu bao and kobe hot dog, which are all $6 or less during Happy Hour. And if you’re not into the vibe inside, you can get the whole Happy Hour menu out back at the Graffiti Bar, which is a lot less purple.

The best part about Ocean Prime is how accessible it is. You almost never have to make a reservation here, so if you’ve had a particularly bad day at work that will only be made better by consuming an entire steak by yourself, you should just grab a seat at the Ocean Prime bar. In addition to being one of the best-looking bars in the area, it also has one of the better cocktail menus—with things like a whiskey clover with honey water and rum punch with chocolate bitters.

Oloroso looks like a tapas place, and the way the menu is set up—with small plates and charcuterie dominating the menu—it seems like it should be a tapas place, but it definitely doesn’t feel like a tapas place. The service is more formal and you'll find well-dressed people on special occasion dates or client dinners. So it’s probably not the best place to show up unannounced with a few friends and get a little loud, but the small plates (especially the charred eggplant) are worth a visit next time you’re looking for a spot to take your boss in Midtown Village.

Vedge is a restaurant in Midtown Village that does things with vegetables you’ve definitely never seen before. Things that will make you question everything you think you know about carrots, tomatoes, and mushrooms. It’s a creative powerhouse that has been topping “best restaurant” lists around the country since it opened in 2011, and everything it makes is entirely vegan. But being vegan isn’t what sets Vedge apart. What sets Vedge apart is the fact that they use being vegan as a fun little challenge for themselves to make things more interesting. Kind of like when you were little and got too good at jumping rope so you decided to add a second rope into the mix—just to see if you could do it. And, let us tell you, Vedge can double dutch better than any other place around.

Veda is an upscale spot in Rittenhouse that serves some of our favorite Indian food in the city. The Calcutta pork ribs are thick, grilled, and juicy with a chutney glaze, and the lamb roganjosh is meaty and rich, though it’s worth asking for a little extra heat (the default is a lot tamer than you’d expect). But their goat cheese-stuffed naan is truly special and should be the first thing you order when you come here.

For many 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 $25, and the small plates are actually pretty substantial.

If you’re passionate about food and restaurants, there is almost no place in Philadelphia we can recommend more than Vetri. At $150 per person, including more for wine pairings, a meal for two here will inevitably cost several hundreds of dollars. Definitely save it for a landmark birthday, or the anniversary of an Eagles’ Super Bowl win. But when you do make it to Vetri, you’ll walk out feeling like that $500-$800 bill (just close your eyes and sign it) was somehow worth it for the impressive show you were just a part of.

A.bar is the companion bar to A.kitchen, and it serves similar food as A.kitchen, but in a less formal space. On any given night, it’s filled with a combination of first dates and people who work in the area stopping by for a quick meal with a couple of coworkers, but we also like it for a solo meal on the weekend after a long day of shopping in Rittenhouse. The menu is pretty solid all around, but the oysters are a standout.

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. And the bar has snacks like deviled eggs and cheese curds, an entire section of the menu dedicated to pickles, and Nutella milkshakes, so we’re all in.

When you want to impress a client or date, or you just want to get up, close, and personal with 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.

When it’s 2am and you want broiled oysters, salt and pepper wings, duck bao buns, or huge plates of noodles, David’s is your answer. This place is open until 3am almost every day of the week (except Tuesdays), which means it has you covered for dinner, second dinner, and dinner after a few drinks. Be prepared for this place to get slammed when the bars close.

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PHL Guide

The Best Restaurants In Chinatown

The half-moon-shaped mandoo dumplings at Seorabol Center City are deep-fried, packed with spicy kimchi and beef, and come with a sweet-salty-gently-spicy house dipping broth. The golden dumplings are so undeniably good that you’ll hit their buy 10 meals online and get one free promo faster than your snooze button on Monday morning.

12 Dumplings In Philly To Try Right Now guide image

PHL Guide

12 Dumplings In Philly To Try Right Now

Going for what you want, especially at breakfast time, can make all the difference between starting your day with another bowl of dry granola or a stack of something fluffy and buttery. And for us, an order of brown sugar ricotta Kubaneh toast from K’Far is more satisfying than finding a parking spot on Chestnut Street during our first trip around the block. Whether we’re stopping by the Israeli bakery and breakfast/lunch spot to dine-in or pick up, the scent of the sweet ricotta and warm blueberries is so unforgettable that we’d probably circle around 10 times just to get our hands on a few orders.

Friday Saturday Sunday is a small, two-story restaurant in Rittenhouse and at a glance, it’s just like all of the other contemporary American spots in the city. You’ll see at least one crudo on the menu, along with some pastas and a roasted chicken, and it has the same beige color scheme and plates that look like they’re handmade, but are actually from Crate & Barrel. But unlike most other places with similar menus, each dish at Friday Saturday Sunday is so perfectly executed that you’ll want to erase every other beef tartare and charred octopus you’ve ever eaten from your memory. Kind of like Matt Damon’s situation in The Bourne Identity, but ideally without the whole forgetting about your family and friends thing.

Talula’s Garden in Washington Square West is the kind of restaurant that serves delicious food and has a great patio, but it’s nothing revolutionary. And yet we find ourselves here often, especially sitting outside. They have a large, split-level brick patio covered in vines and string lights, and it’s the biggest reason that Talula’s is always more crowded in the summer. On any night over 65 degrees, it’s tough to get a table out here—but if you call ahead, you can make it happen.

Unlike their sister Rittenhouse restaurant, Vernick Fish would never be described as “cozy” or “quaint.” It’s on the ground floor of the newest Comcast Tower and the dining room looks like it belongs in a Versace Home catalog. Regardless, you could just as easily show up wearing jeans and a sweatshirt as you could in a full tuxedo and you wouldn’t feel out of place. If you’re down to eat a lot of seafood, Vernick Fish is the most enjoyable fancy restaurant in the city. It might not seem like the kind of place you can have a relaxing meal with a few friends, but that’s exactly what makes Vernick Fish so great. You could save it for an anniversary, treat it like an oyster bar where you can meet a few colleagues after work, or use it as the common ground for a double date with your in-laws.

If we made a flowchart on whether or not you should go to Harper’s Garden, it would have one simple question: Is it nice outside? If the answer is no, then there are a bunch of other places we’d recommend instead. But if the answer is yes, if the sun is shining and the temperature is 70 or above, then there’s only one place you should be going for a post-work glass of wine and a few small plates. And that place is Harper’s Garden.

Even though it just looks like another fancy Rittenhouse spot reserved for a rich aunt’s birthday, Spice Finch is actually the kind of place you can go for a casual weeknight dinner when you’re okay with spending a little extra money, drinking a $15 cocktail, and eating some really good Mediterranean food. The food here might surprise you as well. It’s just as expensive as any other special occasion spot in Rittenhouse, which is another reason we initially put it in the “only use in case of emergencies” box, but it’s mostly very good and gets better with every course. 

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