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Trending Flavors For Philadelphia's Dining Scene
Philadelphia’s Kitchens Are Attracting Big-Name Chefs, Producing Homemade Meats, Going Southern Style & More In 2013
Philadelphia’s restaurants are poised to cook up a whole new menu of deliciousness in the coming year. With increased attention from national press and an influx of talent from other cities swooping in to join the scene, local eateries are becoming ever more cosmopolitan, seeking inspiration from influences as varied as Southern and Japanese cuisines while still maintaining the region’s rootsy culinary identity. Meanwhile, chefs are going deeper into DIY to make their own charcuterie and spirits and working to elevate vegan eating to the next level of sophistication. In all, these trends should make for a very tasty twelve months ahead.
It was only a matter of time, really, before out-of-town chefs caught on to the top-notch dining scene in Philadelphia, bolstered equally by Philly’s own big-time restaurateurs like Stephen Starr, Jose Garces and Marc Vetri, along with the concentrated talents of bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) chef-owners who have elevated the region’s collective palate with inventive cooking. Add in Philly’s high quality of life and (still) affordable real estate and the result is an influx of chef imports planning to set up shop in the area. Already in 2012, New Yorkers Kim and Joe Carroll opened Fette Sau barbecue, while a Berwyn native who worked in London, New York and Washington, DC debuted Brit-inspired bistro The Mildred. There was also the reinvention of Le Bec-Fin by French Laundry vet Nicolas Fanucci. In 2013, Noord, a Dutch BYO from Chicago chef Joncarl Lachman, is slated to open on Tasker Avenue in East Passyunk. Also in Passyunk, one-time local chef Chris Lee will be developing a new concept where Salt and Pepper currently stands. Lee returns to the city after a highly touted stint in New York. Finally, Peter Serpico, of New York’s Momofuku fame, will be opening up an eponymously named eatery on South Street with the help of Stephen Starr.
Nothing wrong with plattering up Parma ham and Spanish lomo, but the latest trend in Philly kitchens is do-it-yourself (DIY) sausages, terrines and pâtés. Meat eaters have already pounced on the German-style Wursthaus Schmitz in the Reading Terminal Market, a spinoff of South Street’s Brauhaus Schmitz, offering the restaurant’s acclaimed homemade sausages, salads, pretzels and sandwiches such as the Bavarian, complete with bauernwurst, horseradish mayo, Bavarian coleslaw and crispy fried onions. Fishtown’s French bistro The Pickled Heron smokes its own Armagnac sausages and bacon and cures its own duck prosciutto. At the newly opened Red Owl Tavern in the Hotel Monaco Philadelphia, the meaty offerings include a signature charcuterie plate, sausages and pickled lamb’s tongue. Meanwhile, at the Rittenhouse Tavern, one of the hottest menu items is chef Nicholas Elmi’s inventive terrine board.
Because not everyone indulges in charcuterie, a new vegan renaissance, inspired by last year’s openings of fine dining mecca Vedge and fast foodery HipCityVeg, is making it even easier to eat deliciously in Philadelphia without animal products. Miss Rachel’s Pantry’s serves up a weekend farmhouse table prix-fixe meal, along with private parties for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Vegan Tree offers easygoing, eclectic fare, including stir-fries and smoothies. In 2013, more chefs at mainstream restaurants and gastropubs will develop their own vegan creations as demand continues to grow.
2013 may well be the year of the noodle. After decades of a relatively ramen-free existence, Philly’s got a whole slew of new Japanese style joints: The past several months have seen the opening of Nom Nom Ramen in Rittenhouse Square, Market 16 Noodle Bar and Ramen Bar in University City, Hiro Ramen House in Washington Square and Terakawa Ramen in Chinatown. Each brings its own distinctive spins on the trend, offering quick and inexpensive eats to aspiring slurpers.
Southern Swing & Third-Wave Barbecue
The Mid-Atlantic region is poised for some deep-fried crunch with a spate of new Southern-style eateries. On the heels of 2012’s stylish Rex 1516, which offers contemporary spins on classics such as savory shrimp-stuffed beignets, pork chops over rosemary grits and curried collard greens, come two more openings with sub-Mason-Dixon influences. The muffaletta-starved masses are welcoming a second location of Beck’s Cajun Café, a Reading Terminal Market gem, in 30th Street Station, and the Reading Terminal Market has likewise prepared for the arrival of Ms. Tootsie’s soul food stand, serving up chicken and waffles, candied yams and mac and cheese. Add in a swirl of fried chicken and biscuit dinners on menus around the city and the Southern trend seems to be catching on as surely as a pot of beans to a ham hock.
In the meantime, the local fervor for pit-smoked meats has been steadily growing for a decade now, with the first major wave coming in the early aughts (Sweet Lucy’s, Tommy Gunn’s), the second in 2009 (Percy Street Barbecue, Smokin’ Betty’s). Now, the third wave of barbecue joints brings a decidedly sophisticated, artisan sensibility to the picnic table. The Fishtown branch of Brooklyn’s hipster hangout Fette Sau serves up meat by the pound, along with German potato salad and half-sour pickles. Nearby, Bubba’s Texas BBQ is one Texan’s vision of a carnivorous heaven: custom smoker-cooked brisket, wings, ribs and bacon mac and cheese. At the tiny but cheerful Blue Belly BBQ in Bella Vista, the emphasis is on international selections: Korean beef, jerk chicken and Mexican lamb barbacoa, in addition to á la cart meats and sides. Next up to open is Rubb BBQ in Manayunk.
Locally Made Spirits
With so many inspired bartenders making craft cocktails in the area, Philly deserves some original spirits to call its own, and the local distilling industry, with established favorites like Bluecoat gin, Vieux Carre absinthe and Snap liqueur, is seeing a boom. The latest entrees to the bar are Art in the Age’s Sage liqueur, Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey (the first rye whiskey to be produced in Pennsylvania since Prohibition) and Pollyodd’s ’cellos (lemon, lime, orange and chocolate). Pollyodd even hopes to open its own retail outlet on Passyunk Avenue in 2013.
- Fette Sau, 1208 Frankford Avenue, (215) 391-4888, fettesauphilly.com
- The Mildred, 824 S. 8th Street, (267) 687-1600, the-mildred.com
- Le Bec-Fin, 1523 Walnut Street, (215) 567-1000, lebecfin.com
- Noord, 1046 Tasker Street
- Salt and Pepper, 1623 E. Passyunk Avenue, (215) 238-1920, saltandpepperphilly.com
- Serpico, 604 South Street
- Wursthaus Schmitz, Reading Terminal Market, 1100 Filbert Street, brauhausschmitz.com
- Brauhaus Schmitz, 718 South Street, (267) 909-8814, brauhausschmitz.com
- The Pickled Heron, 2218 Frankford Avenue, (215) 634-5666, thepickledheron.com
- Red Owl Tavern, 433 Chestnut Street, (215) 923-2267, redowltavern.com
- Rittenhouse Tavern, 251 S. 18th Street, (215) 732-2412, rittenhousetavern.com
- Vedge, 1221 Locust Street, (215) 320-7500, vedgerestaurant.com
- HipCityVeg, 127 S. 18th Street, (215) 278-7605, hipcityveg.com
- Miss Rachel’s Pantry, 1732 W. Passyunk Avenue, (215) 798-0053, missrachelspantry.com
- Vegan Tree, 742 South Street, (215) 454-2898
- Nom Nom Ramen, 20 S. 18th Street, (215) 988-0898, nomnomramen.com
- Market 16 Noodle Bar, 34th & Market Streets, drexelcampusdining.com
- Ramen Bar, 4040 Locust Street, (215) 243-9999, ramenbarphilly.com
- Hiro Ramen, 1102 Chestnut Street, (215) 939-5558, hiroramen.com
- Terakawa Ramen, 204 N. 9th Street, (267) 687-1355, terakawaramenphilly.com
Southern Swing & Third-Wave Barbecue:
- Rex 1516, 1516 South Street, (267) 319-1366, rex1516.com
- Beck’s Cajun Café, Reading Terminal Market, 12th & Arch Streets, (215) 592-0505; 2955 Market Street, (215) 382-2800, beckscajuncafe.com
- Ms. Tootsies, Reading Terminal Market, 12th & Arch Streets, kevenparker.net
- Sweet Lucy’s, 7500 State Road, (215) 333-9663, sweetlucys.com
- Tommy Gunn’s, 4901 Ridge Avenue, (215) 508-1030, tommygunns.net
- Percy Street Barbecue, 900 South Street, (215) 625-8510; 17th Street & John F. Kennedy Boulevard, (215) 964-9014, percystreet.com
- Smokin’ Betty’s, 116 S. 11th Street, (215) 922-6500, smokinbettys.com
- Fette Sau, 1208 Frankford Avenue, (215) 391-4888, fettesauphilly.com
- Bubba’s Texas BBQ, 19 W. Girard Avenue, (267) 324-3530, bubbastexasbbq.net
- Blue Belly Barbecue, 600 Catherine Street, (215) 238-0615, bluebellybbq.com
- Rubb BBQ, 4311 Main Street, (215) 482-9800, rubbphilly.com
Locally Made Spirits:
- Bluecoat, philadelphiadistilling.com
- Vieux Carre, philadelphiadistilling.com
- Snap, artintheage.com
- Pollyodd, 1908 E. Passyunk Avenue
- Art in the Age, artintheage.com
- Dad’s Hat, dadshatrye.com
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Every Day Is A Good Day To Shop At Farmers' Markets In Philly
Surrounded by richly fertile farmland and home to innovative urban growing projects, Philadelphia is a market-goer’s dream. Year-round and seasonally, open-air stalls dot the city and countryside, from the bustling indoor Reading Terminal Market to the gingham-clothed tables of the Phoenixville Market, collectively connecting consumers to freshly grown and produced food every day of the week. With many accepting electronic payments, Philly’s growing roster of farmers’ markets has made eating fresh, local food an easy way of life.
Here are just some of the places to find seasonal goodies while supporting area farms:
- The only farmers’ market
Many Philly-Area Eateries Make Vegans, Vegetarians & Gluten-Free Diners Feel Right At Home
There’s no doubt that Americans are increasingly health conscious. Current studies, including the Vegetarian Resource Group’s Harris Poll, suggest that there are now some eight million vegetarians in the United States and one million vegans. Veg-loving visitors to Philly have plenty of options from which to choose, from upscale white tablecloth restaurants offering inventive vegetable creations to casual spots serving raw foods. There’s also plenty of great gluten-free goodies.
Here are some health-minded eateries worth checking out:
- Vegetable lovers head to Bucks County, where Mike Jackson’s Blue Sage Vegetarian Grille turns out creative, big-portioned vegetarian food (no
Southern, Soul & Caribbean Food Satisfy Philly Diners
Nothing’s more satisfying than a plate of down-home eats, and thankfully, Philly’s dining scene is rich in catfish, jerk chicken and macaroni and cheese. Whether it’s a gourmet spin on turkey wings, a zesty bowl of jambalaya or a slice of sweet-potato pie, hearty goodness abounds at the region’s soul, southern, Cajun, Cuban and Caribbean eateries. Caribbean Cuisine Week (April 13-15, 2016) celebrates island flavors while raising funds for 700 high school athletes from Jamaica, Grenada, St. Vincent, the Bahamas, and Trinidad and Tobago participating in the Penn Relays.
Here’s a look of some of the mouthwatering delights sure to...
Experience A Taste Of That Famous Philly Flavor
Philadelphia’s flavor is a dynamic mix of traditional ethnic recipes and new culinary inventions, well-known treats and obscure dishes, and these specialties can be found everywhere from the corner store to the fanciest kitchens of haute restaurants. Among the region’s signature foods are national favorites like Italian water ice, Pennsylvania Dutch pretzels and the ever-popular cheesesteak. Other local favorites include pork roll and scrapple, which are available here in the region and through services like Taste of Philadelphia, one of many companies that will ship Philly goodies throughout the United States. Philadelphians are loyal to their edible heritage, and here...
It's Always Sunny-Side Up In Philadelphia
Weekends were made for brunching—chatting with friends, digging into a stack of syrupy pancakes, lingering over a cup of a coffee and/or a Bloody Mary. No one knows this better than Philadelphians, who have a wide array of fantastic brunch options to choose from every Saturday and Sunday. Whether the craving is for a prix-fixe menu offering foie gras and lobster (Lacroix), an Aussie-inspired brekkie platter (Ants Pants Café) or fresh granola and locally grown berries (Talula’s Daily), Philadelphia foodies have plenty of go-to spots for a late-morning or early-afternoon meal. Here’s a look at some of the region’s best...
Philly's Coffee Scene Is Hot & Strong
The wave of coffee enthusiasm is clearly here to stay in Greater Philadelphia. The region’s coffee scene has been percolating for years now: Cafes roast their own signature beans, baristas specialize in perfectly engineered espressos and coffeehouses use supreme La Marzocco machines. From an Australian flat white to a Chemex-brewed cuppa, the possibilities for delicious caffeinating are endless. Here’s a look at some of the local favorites:
Signature Beans & Brews:
- Patrons can catch a whiff of caramelizing beans in the upstairs roastery at Chestnut Hill Coffee Company. Downstairs, the coffee bar turns out well-pulled shots and elaborate swirls
What's In The Northern Liberties Neighborhood?
Once considered Philadelphia’s favorite up-and-coming neighborhood, Northern Liberties has officially arrived, evidenced by the international restaurants, respected gastropubs and trendy boutiques—all this while maintaining the artistic vibe that made it so cool in the first place.
The warehouses that populate the former manufacturing district found new life as condos, galleries, stores and restaurants, and along with newly designed buildings, the area enjoys a pleasant mix of older functional and modern design. Two shopping/dining/art/entertainment plazas helped make Northern Liberties an accessible and thriving area: Liberties Walk and The Piazza at Schmidts.
The neighborhood lies north of Old City, and its borders...
What's In the Callowhill Neighborhood?
Dubbed the “Loft District” by real estate developers and “The Eraser ’Hood” by locals referencing the once-dark landscape that inspired former resident David Lynch’s cult classic Eraserhead, Callowhill is something in between these two extremes. The stylish-yet-still-transforming neighborhood attracts both young professionals who enjoy its high-end condos and close proximity to Center City and artists looking for affordable-yet-expansive studio and gallery spaces. It’s a formerly industrial neighborhood that charms with a rich stock of large, urban buildings, remnants of cobblestone streets, edgy rock clubs, emerging galleries and the kind of hidden cultural gems that intrigue visitors and residents alike.
Philly Tastes Like Fried Chicken (Sandwiches)
Historically, Philadelphia has been associated with long roll lunches—cheesesteaks and hoagies and roast pork—but these days, there’s another sandwich crowing for attention: fried chicken. And Philly-area kitchens are turning out this sandwich in all forms: with hot sauce and blue cheese, melted cheese and aioli, slaw and pickles and loads of other variations. Here are a few of the zestiest versions currently ruling the roost:
Chicken City In Philly:
- Some of the most creative sandwiches around emerge from the strip-mall eatery The Blue Duck in Northeast Philadelphia. The delectable fried chicken includes ranch red cabbage slaw, spicy pickles and
New On Philly's Hotel Restaurant Scene
In the decades since acclaimed classical French Chef Jean-Marie Lacroix opened his eponymous restaurant in a four-star hotel across the street from Center City’s Swann Fountain, the Philadelphia hotel dining scene has emerged a foodie force. Today, Lacroix, now flourishing in The Rittenhouse hotel, remains a destination dining spot. But so do newcomers to the scene: locally focused Urban Farmer Steakhouse at The Logan and culinary-kitschy Bud & Marilyn’s at boutique operation The Independent Hotel, along with springtime productions by eminent steakhouse Ruth’s Chris, destined for the Sonesta Philadelphia, and acclaimed Chef Richard Sandoval’s Aqimero at The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia.