After ambling past the LOVE sculpture, hammocking in Spruce Street Harbor Park and perhaps catching the last innings of a Phillies game, you’re probably searching for the best restaurants in Philly. Though the city’s historic landmarks and 99 museums often attract tourists, Philadelphia also holds one of the greatest food scenes in the U.S–and no, that does not just include Philly cheesesteaks.
Navigating the number of options can be challenging for tourists and locals alike, but I hope this list inspires you to try a hidden gem or city staple.
Khyber Pass Pub
Located in Old City Philadelphia, this New-Orleans-inspired bar was once a structure used for celebrating the Declaration of Independence’s 100th anniversary. Now, the pub holds 22 craft drafts according to the Khyber Pass Pub website, and has space for dancing and live music.
The first time I visited Khyber Pass Pub, I went with a friend who eats entirely plant-based. Now normally when we go out to dinner together, she chooses from the menu’s one vegan option or a protein-less salad. However, I was stunned by the number of plant-based options Khyber Pass Pub offers–vegan pulled pork sandwiches, a plant-based banana pudding, a yuba po-boy. But meat lovers need not fret; for every vegan option, Khyber Pass Pub also offers a fried shrimp po-boy, a chicken jambalaya, and a tavern burger.
Another pleasant surprise of Khyber Pass Pub was its affordable prices. I ordered the “half” size of the vegan fried chicken po-boy during my last visit. For $8 USD, I got a 6-inch sandwich packed with toppings that put any Wawa hoagie I’ve ever had to shame.
One of the most popular places on this list, Double Knot is a Japanese restaurant with more affordable sushi and sashimi than other restaurants in Philly. The restaurant holds both an upstairs cocktail lounge and a softly-lit downstairs sushi bar.
Try one of their specialty cocktails, the chef’s tasting menu, yellowtail sashimi or Japanese fried chicken. They also offer a variety of mochi flavors for dessert. Whether its date night or a weekend outing with friends, Double Knot brings a spirited atmosphere that can complement any celebration.
With 4.5 stars and over 1,000 Google reviews, Little Nonna’s serves reasonably-priced traditional Italian dishes. Run by acclaimed Philly chefs and businesswomen Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, Little Nonna’s is just one of the various Philly restaurants co-opened by the duo–others include Barbuzzo and Lolita.
Little Nonna’s menu is small but mighty. Try the classic spaghetti and meatballs or the pan seared gnocchi for dinner and cannolis stuffed with hazelnut ricotta for dessert. Though the indoor dining room sits only 40 guests, Little Nonna’s now has garden-patio seating fit with fairy lights, wood paneling and outdoor heaters.
Kalaya Thai Kitchen
Established only three years ago, Nok Suntaranon’s Kalaya Thai Kitchen serves Thai food inspired by Suntaranon’s childhood memories in her mother’s kitchen. Incidentally, the restaurant gets its name from Suntaranon’s mother, Kalaya. A year after Kalaya Thai Kitchen opened, Suntaranon expanded her business to include Kalaya Thai Market, a store a few blocks away from the restaurant that sells Thai ingredients and prepared dishes.
Suntaranon takes care to use fresh, seasonal ingredients in every dish. The restaurant’s Shaw Muang is served delicately with aesthetic attention–the dumplings’ purple dough is pinched to a flower shape and placed over a cucumber slice.
Look no further for your next Mediterranean dinner or brunch spot. Located on Baltimore Avenue in West Philadelphia, Aksum is a Black and locally owned restaurant that serves food with influences from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Aksum is also walking distance from University City and about a 15 minute drive from the Philadelphia Zoo (the first established zoo in the U.S.).
My favorite dinner item on the menu is probably the Medi Platter, which includes roasted garlic hummus, dolmas and tzatziki. For brunch, the curry tofu scramble and blueberry lemon pancakes are two of my favorites.
Searching for a festive atmosphere and quality tacos? Try El Vez, a restaurant a few blocks away from Philadelphia City Hall. With decor such as a rotating bike centered above the bar, golden pillars crimson walls and velvet booths, El Vez says it balances a “south-of-the-border celebration and a hot and flashy Las Vegas blowout.”
El Vez offers five kinds of guacamole (including one topped with lobster) and a collection of 14 margaritas. While my go-to order is the black bean enchiladas, a dish topped with a caramelized onion and dusting of chihuahua cheese, the taco tasting platter allows diners to try several taco varieties like chicken, steak and carnitas.
Since El Vez is one of the most popular restaurants in Philly, making a reservation in advance is definitely recommended.
From Baba Ghanouj to Moussaka, Sahara Grill prides itself on using the “highest quality ingredients” for its Lebanese cuisine. Every entree comes with pita bread, a side salad, rice and grilled vegetables, and all of the meat dishes are Halal. Some of my favorites are their Ayran, falafel and mixed grilled vegetables platter.
Located near Center City, Sahara Grill is celebrating over 20 years of business and is now on DoorDash.
Friday Saturday Sunday
While Friday Saturday Sunday is more expensive than the other restaurants in Philly on this list, its tasting menu is worth the splurge for a special occasion. With a focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients, the eight-course meal delivers simplistic dishes such as fish with pea greens, coconut and grilled leeks and spring vegetables with ricotta.
The restaurant decor features an elegant marble bar, cushioned leather chairs and windows flooding the dining room with natural light. And despite the restaurant’s name, Friday Saturday Sunday is open every day expect for Mondays and Tuesdays.
If you’re looking for restaurants in Philly with vegan options that everyone will love, try Bar Bombón. A plant-based Puerto Rican restaurant, Bar Bombón is located right next to Rittenhouse Square. Though the menu is on the smaller side, it holds dishes bursting with flavor such as the sweet plantains, blackened fajita tacos and tostones. On Saturdays and Sundays, Bar Bombón also has a brunch with offerings such as the breakfast egg torta and tempeh bacon.
Reading Terminal Market
Though Reading Terminal is not technically a restaurant, it is one of Philly’s most iconic establishments; its flashing red sign draws thousands to the produce stands and specialty restaurants. Celebrating its 130th anniversary next year, Reading Terminal holds over 80 merchants that sell a variety of goods, from crêpes, to Amish baked goods, to gyros. Bassetts Ice Cream, one of the most popular stands, first signed a lease with the market in 1892 and is still owned by the same family today, according to Reading Terminal’s website.
For your morning coffee or bakery needs (Sweet T’s and Termini are two of the best), or a quick bite before exploring the city, take a stool at Reading Terminal.