The 10 Most Exciting Dinner Spots In Philly Right Now
A night out at one of these places, whether it’s for a catch-up with a friend or an impressive date night, feels overwhelmingly of the moment.
For anyone wondering which sit-down restaurants are currently hot in Philadelphia, you have arrived at the right figurative Internet place. What does “hot” mean, you ask? We’re not talking about summer temperatures that have us standing in line for Rita’s. It’s safe to say that we put on relatively cute outfits to dine at each restaurant below (possibly even eye makeup and our “good cologne”). A night out at one of these places—whether it’s for a casual catch-up with a friend or an impressive date night—feels overwhelmingly of the current moment. Many of them are brand new, but we’ve also listed a couple of spots doing something noteworthy for the first time (like switching from tasting menu to a la carte, or setting up seating in the street).
And, as always, we wouldn’t be recommending any of these restaurants simply for having a memorable scene. We’ve been to each and every spot and loved the food they serve—so you can plan your dinner confidently.
When we’re looking to have a fun night out, we want our energy to be matched. It’s the reason we send the “what are you wearing?” text in the group chat. It’s also why we like going to a restaurant like LMNO that has nude photos on the wall, colorful bright pink lighting, and an atmosphere that makes us feel like we’ve been dropped into that one scene in every dating movie where friends get together for cocktails and talk about disaster dates. And since they have drinks like frozen spiced mango margaritas and top their coal-roasted oysters with roasted garlic aioli and a tangy tomatillo-chile sauce, this is somewhere that works for everything from a Happy Hour meetup to a full night of partying and eating tacos.
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For places like Via Locusta, some of the excitement begins with securing a reservation–you’ll probably need to make one weeks in advance. This Center City spot 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.
Middle Child Clubhouse is perfect for a night where we just want a simple burger that has a patty good enough to eat on its own and a crispy pile of fries (they have a $20 MidKid Meal that comes with a beer just for this occasion). And yet, it’s not just a place for burgers and Love City IPA—they also have mussels that are sprinkled with a peppery salami XO sauce and swim in a hot ham and green bean broth that we’d drink by the pitcher. With old-school diner booths, bar stools, and cafeteria tables all around, the night can easily turn into a party–waiters will even pour wine down your throat out of a porron pitcher if you want them to. They also have a four-to-five-course tasting menu for $70 called “Little Bit of Everything” that includes dishes like beef tartare and turnips, a celery root au gratin, and a strawberry dixie cup for dessert.
Fiorella is the kind of place that appreciates our urge to eat carbs every day of the week. Their handmade pastas come in massive shareable portions as large as Big Foot’s shoe size, so lean on the waiters to recommend how many dishes you should order (we usually go with four). Their bar (which is the only place you can sit inside) is the perfect location to watch the team prepare starters like their long strips of beef carpaccio—we’d carry it around with us all day so we could eat it on the go like a briny Fruit by the Foot. We also can’t get enough of their chicory salad which has a honey-like sweetness from the pears and comes with a creamy gorgonzola sauce. But it’s really the pasta that keeps us coming back. They have seven pasta dishes that range from a lemony, lobster-stuffed conchiglie to pumpernickel pappardelle with duck ragu that has sugary huckleberries sprinkled throughout. Both of those make for great dishes to try on their covered heated patio on cold nights.
With several hanging chandeliers, long booths, tall windows that open up to South Street, and a velvet rope at the door, Saweetie’s iconic tweet might’ve been referencing Rex PHL. Inside the former Royal Theater is now a restaurant with Low Country-inspired dishes like shrimp and grits and frogmore stew. We love this place for date nights where we break out a New Year’s Eve fit we never got to wear, but it’s also useful for when we want to eat their $20 burger or drink some bourbon on a Monday at the bar. Each week there’s live music, and they have an upstairs lounge filled with couches and TVs that can be reserved for a special night out with friends. Whichever night we go, we never leave without an order of their skillet mac and cheese that blends cooper sharp cheese, smoked provolone, and gruyere—it’s so cheesy and rich that it deserves its own headline show on their dining room stage.
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With a mezcal and tequila list as long as the line around the Rocky statue, and a kitchen that (unlike most places in the city) stays open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, this South Philly cantina is a place we go to for a celebratory round of margaritas, cochinita tacos, and Mexican street corn. Start your night off light with a shrimp and scallop aguachile verde which mixes refreshing cucumber and lime juice with spicy habanero peppers, and then move on to their juicy pan-seared branzino that comes topped with tomato sauce, olives, capers, and bell peppers. Eat it all at their bar, with neon pink Batman logos behind it, or on their covered outdoor streetery.
When Irwin’s first opened, the idea of having a meal inside any school after years of cafeteria frozen pizza and mystery meat gave us pause. Now, we can’t stop coming back for the Sicilian spot’s handmade pastas, whole fish that’s served with grilled lemons and salsa verde, and that signature view of the city from the 8th floor of South Philly’s Bok Building. The space is full of couches and retro and plastic chairs that we’re sure we’ve seen in Austin Powers, not to mention there’s plenty of bar space for nights when you just want to have a solo plate of bucatini with a mound of stewed monkfish and cherry tomatoes. If you’re looking for something heartier, go with their agrodolce chicken that comes with a sweet vinegary sauce made up of honey and orange blossoms.
This spot near Rittenhouse Square is known for their cocktails like smoked eggplant spritz (yes, there’s actual eggplant in it), and one called the Assassin’s Handbook that mixes cognac, Jamaican rum, mulled wine shrub, and habanero for a nice little burn. But when they recently started only serving an eight-course tasting menu, Friday Saturday Sunday became somewhere to drink fun cocktails, try plates of wild halibut with buttermilk dashi and turnips, and always get your money’s worth when you want to have a big night out. The $130-per-person lineup also includes an empanada and caviar starter, New York strip served with a sweet onion sauce and a sliver of cabbage, and earthy sweetbreads that are cooked with plantains, chanterelle mushrooms, and come topped with a poached egg.
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Queen Village’s Royal Sushi & Izakaya is a split experience. At the regular izakaya bar, you can sit down at a booth while episodes of Dragon Ball Z project on the walls and pay as little as $4 for a beer. And on the sushi side, you have to do Dennis Rodman-level box-outs just to secure a seat at the countertop. But we have no problem shelling out the cost of a SEPTA Key zone 2 monthly pass ($160) for their 17 piece omakase menu. As long they keep serving plates like the kaki roll that has Washington state Kumamoto oysters and toro, saba nigiri that’s layered with cured Japanese mackerel and topped with a toasty sesame sauce, and their chutoro caviar that’s a mix of fatty Spanish bluefin and osetra caviar, we’ll keep using dominant big-men tactics (minus the elbows) to eat here. And you should too.
Amma’s South Indian Cuisine is the type of spot where, in preparation for our meal, we eat light all day just so we can fill up on specials like mutton curry with spicy onion and tomato gravy, a creamy paneer butter masala, and stacks of warm parotta. Their dining room is always packed (they don’t take reservations), and it gets so loud in here that we suggest bringing those people that you can communicate with via side glances. For main entrees that are all $20, we didn’t expect to get vinyl record-sized plates like their spinach-tossed saag chicken that gets its maple taste from the fenugreek it’s cooked in or tender lamb in buttery cream sauce. But it’s one of our favorite Indian places in the city for that reason. We like it so much we even park on Chestnut Street just to eat here.