PHLGuide

The Toughest Reservations In Philly Right Now (And How To Get Them)

The busiest restaurants in town—and advice on how to get in.
The Toughest Reservations In Philly Right Now (And How To Get Them) image

photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO

It’s your birthday, a milestone date night, or you lasted until the end of your spin class and want to celebrate. The great news is that you live in a city with some of the finest restaurants in the country. The bad news is they’re always in constant demand. The spots on this list aren’t necessarily the best places to eat in town, but they are the hardest ones to get into—and we want you to know if they’re actually worthwhile. Below, you’ll find our verdicts on the busiest places in the city, along with some info that’ll help you get that table (or a prime spot on the sidewalk). Check back for regular updates.

THE SPOTS

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Japanese

Queen Village

$$$$Perfect For:Drinks & A Light BiteEating At The BarUnique Dining ExperienceSmall PlatesDrinking Good BeerEating At The Bar
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Verdict: There’s nothing like the omakase at Royal Sushi & Izakaya—at least that’s what you’ve heard. You don’t actually know anyone who’s had it, because it seems like nobody can get in. Turns out, the rumors about the Queen Village restaurant are true, and it’s the best in Philly. It’s 17 courses of life-altering seafood that rotate daily. Grab one of the eight seats at the bar, hear some anecdotes about Japanese fish, and await the caviar-topped oysters and bragging rights.   

How To Get In: Based on our entirely unscientific research, this is the single-hardest reservation to get in Philadelphia. Trying to get in feels more puzzling than an escape room—and it’s just as mentally exhausting. Open slots become available 30 days in advance, so we suggest setting an alarm (or 10) and signing up for the waitlist notifications. Alternatively, you could dine in the izakaya portion of the restaurant, get “lost” heading to the bathroom, and try to blend in.

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Verdict: Rittenhouse’s Her Place Supper Club has made a national name for itself with outstanding French-ish food in an unpretentious, casual setting—and it's easily one of the best restaurants in Philly. The charming spot is the first place that comes to mind when you want to have an unforgettable dinner party with friends (and a few strangers), surrounded by plates of pâté en croûte, mussel toast, and lots of rare wines.  

How To Get In: Reservations are released every other Sunday at 6pm, so start refreshing your screens at 5:58. They also post daily openings on their Instagram that you can message them to secure. So we suggest you treat their social media just like your new crush’s—stalk it and send a hopeful DM with lots of heart emojis.  

Verdict: Getting a reservation at Zahav feels like you’ve won the lottery, or at least Eagles season tickets. The Israeli spot in Old City has had nonstop hype since opening in 2008 thanks to its diverse and exquisite tasting menu (for under $100). From the creative haloumi and silky hummus to unbelievably tender pomegranate lamb shoulder, it’s all worth seeking out (and the whole city agrees). 

How To Get In: Reservations are dropped eight weeks ahead to-the-day at 11am in a rolling fashion. So if you want to have laffa bread and salatim on Christmas, check the website at 10:59am on 11/6/2024. Otherwise, see if your cousin who took Coding 101 can hack you a reservation. 

Verdict: Sure, you could find the best things on Friday Saturday Sunday’s menu (crudo, sweetbreads, and New York strip) at other places with better wait times. But do those places have a bar area that feels like a party scene in a sitcom and showstopping dishes? No. It's one of the best restaurants in America, which makes the New American restaurant in Rittenhouse is more popular than sunglasses during the summer.   

How To Get In: You can attempt to lock in a reservation on the first of the month at 10am. Or try claiming you’re Rihanna's distant relative. The bar seats are walk-in only, so you can try your luck there, have a drink, and think of an alternative celebrity if Rihanna doesn’t land you a table.

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Verdict: Any Philly restaurant within the vicinity of the Italian Market is a guaranteed lock to be popular, but especially the ones serving incredible pasta. With its charming antiques and the scent of marinara hitting you as soon as you walk in, Fiorella is designed to be the ultimate carb-fueled crowd pleaser. It’s not stuffy or fancy, and the dishes are well-executed, creative takes on Italian staples.   

How To Get In: Don’t let the vintage fixtures fool you—it’s not the old days when slipping a 20 to a server translates to a seat. Here, they open up reservations 30 days in advance while bar seats are held for walk-ins when available. Securing a walk-in spot might be as rare as winning Wonka’s golden ticket, but it’s worth the attempt (otherwise take a 4pm reservation, which is the only time they occasionally have open).

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Verdict: It’s not that you can’t get a reservation at Bella Vista’s Mawn. It’s that the Cambodian restaurant only has a handful of seats inside and it’s extremely well-liked, so it’s a simple issue of supply and demand. This means that if you’re desperate to taste inventive Southeast Asian dishes like soft shell shrimp and khao soi curry, you’ll usually have to eat at 4:30pm or 4:45pm. Expect incredible food, stellar service, and a dining room that can get as chatty and loud as a nightclub. 

How To Get In: If you’re free during the day, this BYOB is open for lunch on Thursday through Saturdays between 11am-2:30pm—and this may be your best bet. When it comes to dinner, they release reservations every 30 days. If you don’t find success there, you can always try to walk in with a few strangers, grab a table as the last guests are leaving, and exclaim “Finders Keepers!” when you sit down. 

The Lines

Verdict: Thanks to its epic cheesesteak and great pizza and hoagies, the line at Angelo’s is usually as long as the one at Disney World (and just as chaotic). You can try getting around it by calling ahead, but their phone lines are just as busy. But for a chance to eat from one of the best shops in town, it’s worth blocking off a Saturday morning and/or afternoon. 

How To Get In: We suggest treating a trip to Angelo’s like an Eagles tailgate—get there super early, dress appropriately for the weather, and bring a relentless mentality.

photo credit: GAB BONGHI

Verdict: Fishtown’s Middle Child Clubhouse has reservations for dinner service. The problem here is during the day, when you want the greatest breakfast in town and for that, you’ll have to wait. For fluffy egg sandwiches and buttermilk pancakes drenched in lemony honey syrup, plan to stand in line.

How To Get In: On the weekends, attempt to be the first person to walk into the restaurant. Or, you can take an “emergency” day off from work and stop by on a weekday (when it’s less crowded).

Verdict: This is the bagel place in Philadelphia right now, and the lengthy line out front backs that statement up. But the taste memory of your last onion bialy with housemade whitefish or Ramen Thing sandwich will get you through the 20 minute wait before you can claim your next one.

How To Get In: Avoid a Saturday or Sunday morning if you can. They're open as early as 7:30am on Wednesdays through Fridays and you'll find you can walk right in for an afternoon Bentl's Lentils sandwich on any of those days.

Verdict: One sure sign of great ice cream is an Apple-store release day-like line outside. And that’s exactly what you’ll see at Rittenhouse’s 1-900-ICE-CREAM. They have lots of toppings and standard options, but it’s when they get inventive with flavors—like lemon cream cookie and salted Sicilian pistachio—that they really get your (and the whole city’s) attention.    

How To Get In: The shop actually opens at 1pm daily and the crowds mostly come around 7pm and later—when people have finished dinner or had five drinks. So we recommend going early if you truly want a chance to taste the creamiest soft serve. Or you could bring a small child with you, tell them to look sad, and hope the masses take mercy on you (though we’ve tried it, and they won’t).  

Verdict: Our favorite chicken sandwich is in the Northeast, and judging by the daily crowds, it’s a citywide feeling. The halal food truck has sublimely crispy chicken tenders and sliders that are so good that people happily line up next to a gas station just to eat them. From the toasty brioche bun to the thick cut of juicy meat covered in a peppery seasoning, it’s a sandwich that you have to have.

How To Get In: The best time of day to head to Asad’s is between noon and 5pm on a weekday. Once the evening hits or when it’s the weekend, we suggest bringing a friend and having a car nearby so you can tag-team the line WWE style.

Verdict: If you drove by Kingston 11 on a weekend, you’d think the PPA was giving away “park anywhere” passes. The line in front of the Jamaican spot in Southwest Philly constantly wraps around the block. And that’s because it serves flawless honey jerk wings, jerk salmon rasta pasta, oxtails, and chicken stew.

How To Get In: To avoid the wait, we recommend calling and ordering ahead. But if you want to indulge in the full 2-hour wait experience by lining up, bring a book or load up a few episodes of The Bear on your tablet. 

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