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Mar 13 2018

20 Must-Try Eateries For First-Time Visitors To Philadelphia

The Ultimate Dining List For The Philly First-Timer

Philadelphia’s abundance of craft restaurants, independent cafes and food-forward bars poses a delicious mealtime dilemma for every diner—especially first-time visitors. No matter how a newcomer chooses where to eat in Philly—pre-arrival research, an app, a stroll along a neighborhood food corridor—certain iconic spots serve as great culinary starting points.

These essentials of Philadelphia’s restaurant scene include fine-dining stalwarts, historic seafood houses, international standouts and classic sandwich joints. They’re places locals who’ve moved away dream of from afar and make a point of returning to each time they come home. Beloved for their unpretentious settings and unforgettable food, these spots are the backbone of the city’s dining scene.

It should be noted: Philadelphia’s eating-out must-dos aren’t all restaurants. In and beyond the city, the ever-expanding homegrown convenience store chain Wawa inspires fierce loyalty. And, with 26-and-counting outlets across the globe, Philly’s pioneering coffee roaster La Colombe has four city cafes that are essential stop-offs for perfect cappuccinos and draft lattes.

For sit-down spots, the following list is a great place to start (eating):

Food Hall & Market:
1. Chinatown Square –
A relative newcomer to Chinatown’s dining scene, this redeveloped food hall makes an ideal launching point for exploring the neighborhood’s eclectic edibles. On offer here: bao, poké, Cambodian skewers, Japanese street food, Thai rolled ice cream and even Mexican/Korean fusion. 1016-18 Race Street,
2. Reading Terminal Market – For 125 years, this indoor public market below a historic train shed has supplied shoppers with ingredients, cookware, gifts—and meals. Breakfast and lunchtime visitors choose from 30 different restaurants and quick-serve stands serving authentic Amish scrapple and eggs, lox and bagels, spicy jambalaya, pad Thai, gyros, crepes and more.
12th & Arch Streets, (215) 922-2317,

Casual Dining:
3. El Compadre –
Though it’s still called the Italian Market, the historic strip along South 9th Street from Christian Street past Washington Avenue now reflects the neighborhood’s multicultural makeup. This beloved Mexican restaurant is at its heart. Chef Cristina Martínez’s small, inexpensive menu focuses on intensely flavorful dishes like lamb barbacoa (on Saturdays and Sundays), pork rib guisado and chicken mole. 1149 S. 9th Street, (215) 694-3797
4. Han Dynasty – Creating mass cravings for Dan Dan noodles, Han Chiang’s Szechuan restaurant chain began in the suburbs and has since expanded to include three city locations (as well as a couple in New York City). Beyond the addictively spicy chili oil dishes, the must-tries include cumin lamb, pickled chili fish and mapo tofu. 123 Chestnut Street, (215) 922-1888;
3711 Market Street, (215) 222-3711; 4356 Main Street, Manayunk, (215) 508-2066;
5. The Olde Bar – Chef Jose Garces, another homegrown James Beard Award winner, had already made a deep imprint on Philly dining with Amada, Tinto, Village Whiskey and more when he revived classic Old City seafood spot Bookbinder’s. Hewing closely to the restaurant’s history, The Olde Bar serves raw bar specialties, crab cakes, steak Oscar and Fish House punch—with the handsome panache of a modern-day standard-bearer. 125 Walnut Street, (215) 253-3777,
6. Pat’s King of Steaks/Geno’s Steaks/ DiNic’s Roast Pork/John’s Roast Pork – Cheesesteak traditionalists will argue for one of the neon-lit Passyunk stalwarts, Pat’s or Geno’s (many visitors order one of each to conduct taste tests). Some say South Philly gem John’s Roast Pork is the spot. Yet the cheesesteak isn’t the only iconic Philly sandwich. The roast pork Italiano offers an arguably richer flavor profile, and John’s Roast Pork and DiNic’s in Reading Terminal Market do it up right. Pat’s, 1237 E. Passyunk Avenue,; Geno’s, 1219 S. 9th Street, (215) 389-0659,; DiNic’s, 51 N. 12th Street, (215) 923-6175,; John’s, 14 E. Snyder Avenue, (215) 463-1951,
7. Ralph’s – Southern Italian by way of South Philly cuisine (also known as red sauce, a.k.a. “gravy”) dominates the plate at a seminal neighborhood eatery. Owned by the same family for five generations, one of the oldest Italian restaurants in the country has a historic designation and atmospheric charm. 760 S. 9th Street, (215) 627-6011,
8. Sabrina’s/Sam’s Morning Glory Diner – Brunch in Philly is an honored custom, especially if it includes gigantic portions and creative cookery. Two South Philly-born stalwarts, Sabrina’s Café, and Sam’s Morning Glory Diner, regularly attract lines out their doors for their fun weekend menus of oversized pancakes, frittatas and more. Sabrina’s, 910 Christian Street, (215) 574-1599; 1804 Callowhill Street, (215) 636-9061; 227 N. 34th Street, (215) 222-1022,; Sam’s, 735 S. 10th Street, (215) 413-3999,
9. Tacconelli’s – Once a best-kept secret in the River Ward neighborhood of Port Richmond, this fifth-generation, cash-only pizzeria asks its guests to call ahead to reserve dough, limits those guests to three toppings per pie and allows them to bring-their-own beer and wine, but no liquor.
2604 E. Somerset Street, (215) 425-4983,

Sweets & Treats:
10. Franklin Fountain – The lines out the door all year long are a testament to the enduring popularity of this soda fountain that lovingly celebrates Philadelphia’s bygone days. Newer seasonal confections like Cape May sea salt caramel ice cream and vegan ice cream can be enjoyed alongside antique treats such as phosphate sodas. 116 Market Street, (215) 627-1899,
11. John’s Water Ice – As Philly as the Liberty Bell, water ice—elsewhere known as Italian ices—can be found all over town, but this Bella Vista landmark has been delighting customers since 1945. The all-natural recipe, available in lemon, cherry, chocolate and pineapple, sets a high-quality standard. 701 Christian Street, (215) 925-6955,

Upscale Dining:
12. Laurel –
One of the most coveted reservations in town can be found at a Passyunk boîte delicately, boldly blending French and American cuisines. Chef-owner Nicholas Elmi changes the tasting menu regularly, but diners are always assured a refined meal with surprising flourishes. 1617 E. Passyunk Avenue, (215) 271-8299,
13. Oyster House – Open since 1947, this convivial Center City seafoodery is famous for one of the best happy hours in town, the Buck-A-Shuck. Diners move on from there to distinctively timeless fare that embraces tradition (clams casino, snapper turtle soup, chicken salad with fried oysters) and trendier preparations alike. 1516 Sansom Street, (215) 567-7683,
14. Parc Brasserie – Stephen Starr won James Beard’s 2017 Outstanding Restaurateur award for a career transforming restaurants—20 in Philly, 16 from New York to Miami to Paris—into polished, stylish, comprehensive dining experiences. His first two, Old City’s Continental and Buddakan, remain as popular as ever, but Parc, Rittenhouse Square’s very own Parisian bistro and cafe, embodies modern Starr. 227 S. 18th Street, (215) 545-2262,
15. Vedge – Vegan food got its best booster in the dynamic team of chef Rich Landau and pastry chef Kate Jacoby. At their sophisticated townhouse bistro—widely considered the country’s best vegan restaurant—the couple creates plant-based dishes and desserts that are bold, rich and satisfying. Eaters of all persuasions come away impressed. 1221 Locust Street, (215) 320-7500,
16. Vernick – Without gimmicks or pretense, chef Greg Vernick (2017 James Beard awardee for Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic) has turned his eponymous Center City restaurant into a celebration of New American cooking. With smart cocktails, approachable but intriguing flavor combinations and many different toppings on toast, it’s the kind of place where one could eat nightly—if only there were tables available. 2031 Walnut Street, (267) 639-6644,
17. Vetri Cucina – With a studious passion for ingredients and preparation, veteran chef Marc Vetri redefined Italian cooking in Philly two decades ago with his Spruce Street enclave serving a nightly tasting menu. Today, Vetri remains an unparalleled personal experience for eaters looking for both romance and a wow factor. 1312 Spruce Street, (215) 732-3478,
18. Zahav – Of Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook’s local restaurant empire, this Israeli restaurant in Old City remains the crown jewel, beloved nationally for its modern spin on mezze and grilled meats. (Zahav’s the spot that earned Solomonov James Beard’s highest honor—Outstanding Chef—in 2017.) The duo’s other ventures, such as Federal Donuts, Goldie and Abe Fisher, are anything but chopped liver. 237 St. James Place, (215) 625-8800,

Upscale Dining & A Casual Twist:
19. Fork/High Street on Market – Since its opening in 1997, Old City’s Fork has managed to stay at the forefront of culinary innovation, offering diners delicate pastas and locally sourced seafood in a plush but not stuffy setting. Its more casual next-door sibling stays open all day to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with marvelous house-baked breads. Fork, 306 Market Street,
(215) 625-9425,; High Street on Market, 308 Market Street, (215) 625-0988,
20. Talula’s Garden/Talula’s Daily – Aimee Olexy’s vision for regional farm-to-table fare was first realized in her Kennett Square market/eatery Talula’s Table. Stephen Starr helped translate her vision writ large for this Washington Square venue. The Garden offers high-end dining; the Daily provides a casual eating experience. Both feature exquisite cooking, warm service and lots and lots of excellent cheese. 210 W. Washington Square, (215) 592-7787,;
208 W. Washington Square, (215) 592-6555,

VISIT PHILADELPHIA® is our name and our mission. As the region’s official tourism marketing agency, we build Greater Philadelphia’s image, drive visitation and boost the economy.

On Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website and blog, and, visitors can explore things to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages. Compelling photography and videos, interactive maps and detailed visitor information make the sites effective trip-planning tools. Along with Visit Philly social media channels, the online platforms communicate directly with consumers. Travelers can also call and stop into the Independence Visitor Center for additional information and tickets.

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Related Releases

Feb 15 2018

Philadelphia’s Fabulous Brunch Scene, Neighborhood By Neighborhood

Philly’s Many Great Brunch Spots Offer Classic-To-Global Meals

Philadelphia’s brunch scene has always been strong, thanks to beloved line-out-the-door spots such as Sam’s Morning Glory Diner, Sabrina’s and Honey’s Sit ’N Eat. But more and more, Philly’s brunch options have gone truly global. On the a.m. rise right now: sweet bao and kimchi Bloody Mary’s (Bing Bing Dim Sum), bologna eggs Benedict and Dutch baby pancakes (The Dutch), huevos rancheros and scrapple-stuffed tortas (Mission Taqueria), lobster frittatas (Fork) and vegan Monte Cristos (The Tasty). Here’s a look at some of the region’s best brunch options:

Center City East, Old City & Washington

Jan 30 2018

“Greased Pole” Doughnuts And More Fun Philly Foods For Super Bowl LII

Philadelphia Chefs Come Up With Clever Fare As the Philadelphia Eagles Head To The Big Show

In Philadelphia, the excitement for the Eagles’ trip to Super Bowl LII isn’t just palpable: It’s edible. The ultimate football turn of events has inspired the city’s chefs, cooks and bartenders to come up with clever, quirky—delicious—Birds-inspired food and drink.

Among the ever-growing list of Eagles fan fare are vegan pastry inspired by Broad Street’s greased poles (Dottie’s Donuts), all-green Bloody Mary cocktails (Pub & Kitchen), broccolini cheesesteaks (Rooster Soup Co.) and underdog everything, including soft pretzels (Philly Pretzel Factory) and mac-and-cheese (Mac Mart). Here are the details:

  • Bleeding
Jan 22 2018

Philadelphia Bakeries: More Delicious By The Dozen

A Guide To The Region’s Top Makers Of Bread, Buns, Cakes And Pastries

Philadelphia, a city of neighborhoods, is also a city of neighborhood bakeries. Cannoli from the 9th Street Italian Market’s Isgro’s and Termini Brothers, tomato pie from Manayunk’s Marchiano’s Bakery and pound cake from Port Richmond’s Stock’s Bakery are just some of the crumbs of Philly’s culinary makeup. Today, the city’s blocks also burst with modern French patisseries and boulangeries (J’aime French Bakery, Machine Shop), specialized bakeries (Dottie’s Donuts, ICI Macarons and Café and gluten- and allergen-free specialist Sweet Freedom Bakery) and artisans with modern ideas about heritage ingredients (High Street on Market, Lost Bread

Mar 16 2018

Those Famous Philly Flavors—Delicious And Deciphered

A Guide To The Philadelphia Region’s Legendary Foods

Philadelphia’s signature flavor is a dynamic mix of traditional recipes, new culinary inventions, well-known treats and obscure dishes—specialties that can be found everywhere—from corner stores to the fanciest restaurants. Among the region’s best-known foods are Italian water ice, Pennsylvania Dutch pretzels and the ever-popular cheesesteak. More local favorites include pork roll and scrapple, which are available here in the region and through services such as Taste of Philadelphia, one of many companies that ship Philly goodies across the United States.

Here are some of the sandwiches, snacks, meats and more that have left a lasting mark on the Pennsylvania palate:

Feb 26 2018

Indie Coffee Shops In Philadelphia Are Popular For Good Reason

Local Cafes & Bean Blenders Offer Smooth, Strong Alternative To Chain Operations

Independently owned-and-operated coffee shops have been part of Philadelphia culture since the 18th Century. Today, Philly cafes are known for their well-engineered espressos and meticulously roasted beans, hand pours and draft lattes. (Philadelphia is home to the original La Colombe, booming in its 24th year.) But these often busy, often tranquil neighborhood spots aren’t merely better caffeine sources. They’re also great places to sit back and relax into the vibrant, historic and undeniably friendly city. Here are some local favorites by neighborhood:

Big-Deal Roasters, Multiple Locations:

  • La Colombe – Inarguably the originator of Philly’s first wave of
Jan 23 2018

What's In The Neighborhood?


Beyond Philadelphia’s historic Friendship Arch at 10th and Arch Streets lives a thriving Asian neighborhood, settled in the mid-19th century by Cantonese immigrants. Stretching from Vine to Arch Streets between 9th and 12th Streets, Philly’s Chinatown is packed end-to-end with restaurants and stores that represent Hong Kong, Cantonese, Fujianese, Northern Sichuan and Taiwanese cultures, with a sprinkling of Korean, Thai, Malaysian, Burmese, Vietnamese and hipster thrown in for good measure. On any given day or night, Chinatown is active and authentic, popular for steaming platters of hand-stretched noodles, seasonal street festivals, a new food hall (

Jan 19 2018

Cheers: Where To Drink Wine In Philly

From State Stores To Local Pours

Philadelphia has long enjoyed a stellar reputation as a beer town. Today, the ever-adventurous, ever-culinary city also enjoys a serious—yet seriously fun—wine scene. Philly’s vino revolution began with restaurants such as Fork, Tria and Panorama that expanded their wine lists from offering conventional bottles to featuring fascinating new regions and varietals. It continued with the introduction of Philly Wine Week, which will celebrate its fifth year March 22-29, 2018, with dozens of wine-centric tastings and events citywide.

More recently, Pennsylvania, once the nation’s largest alcoholic beverage control (or ABC) state, has upped its game with new, improved Fine Wine &

Jan 3 2018

Taquerias And Taco Trucks Dot Philadelphia Neighborhoods

South Philly Leads The City’s Taco Craze

Philly’s turned into a bona fide taco town. Between the authentic, mom-and-pop taquerias of South Philly, tried-and-true tequila bars, roving food trucks and the newest crop of Mexican joints, there’s truly a taco for everyone and their hermano. Here’s where:

South Philly:

  • Blue Corn – Distinguished among its quick-serve counterparts on the 9th Street Italian Market, this family-owned and operated restaurant has genuine warmth and hospitality—not to mention a liquor license and incredible tacos made with a rotating lineup of specialty tortillas pressed on the premises. 940 S. 9th Street, (215) 925-1010, @bluecornrestaurant
  • El Compadre –
Nov 30 2017

The BYOB Restaurant: A Philly Phenomenon

Region Boasts 300-Plus Bring-Your-Own-Bottle Restaurants

Despite decades of popularity and expansion, one quintessential Philadelphia dining phenomenon continues to fly deliciously under the radar. It’s the BYOB, the bring-your-own-bottle restaurant—BYO, for short. Typically independently owned and operated, Philly’s BYOBs number into the three hundreds. Diners find them on dozens of corners in Center City, along avenues of renewed urban neighborhoods and tucked down rural roads. It’s a curious trend with an interesting backstory—and an even more interesting present.

Here’s a short explanation of how the BYOB scene came to be—and advice on navigating the landscape.

What Is A BYOB?:
A BYOB restaurant allows patrons to