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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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The BYOB Restaurant: A Philly Phenomenon
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
A Wave Of Authentic Taquerias & Roving Trucks Make Philly A Bona Fide Taco Town
Little by little, Philly’s turned into a bona fide taco town. Between the mom-and-pop taquerias of South Philly, tried-and-true tequila bars, a roving pack of lunch trucks and the newest crop of gringo-owned joints, there’s truly a taco for everyone and their hermano. Here’s where the hungry masses can get their tacos on:
- Fishtown’s divey Loco Pez found its inspiration in L.A.’s fusion-y taco trucks, and the result is a mix-and-match selection of fun—and sometimes unexpected—flavors. Classic preparations like al pastor and cochinita pibil share menu space with unconventional choices, like vegan-friendly seitan and spinach, and soy
Poke Makes A Splash In The Home Of The Soft Pretzel
The Hawaiian poké craze has hit Philly in a major way, and no wonder: Raw fish over rice with vegetables, sauce and assorted fun toppings makes for a healthy and satisfying meal. While Japanese sashimi and Italian crudo continue to be widely popular, restaurant goers are also enthusiastically embracing fresh seafood in many new (to the region) ways, whether it’s a traditional dish of Philippino kinilaw or a completely unorthodox Mexican-Japanese mashup tuna taco.
Here are just some of the delicious ways to experience uncooked fish in Philly:
- Bubble tea meets sushi at the aptly named Bubblefish. The
When It Comes To Vegan Dining, The Home Of The Cheesesteak Proudly Vedges Out
It’s a curious thing that a city so renowned for its cheesesteaks and roast pork sandwiches could also foster one of the nation’s most robust vegan food scenes. Upscale diners can find delight in the shared plates at Vedge or the coursed and the home-style elegance of Miss Rachel’s Pantry, while those seeking a quick bite can swing by Blackbird Pizza for fare that is more traditionally Philadelphian. Factor in some coffee shops, bars and even a diner, and vegan eaters will see—and taste—that the city’s offerings have something for every palate, day or night.
Here’s a look at some
Cheesesteak 101: A Primer On The Who, What, Where And Whiz Of South Philly Cheesesteaks
Here in Philly, cheesesteaks are a civic icon, a tourist draw and a cultural obsession. Often imitated around the world, the cheesesteak is rarely duplicated successfully outside of Philadelphia. So what is an authentic cheesesteak and where did it come from? Here’s the lowdown on this region’s favorite sandwich.
What Is A Cheesesteak?:
A cheesesteak is a long, crusty roll filled with thinly sliced sautéed rib-eye beef and melted cheese. Generally, the cheese of choice is Cheez Whiz®, but American and provolone are common substitutions. The art of cheesesteak preparation lies in the balance of flavors, textures
Fall For Philly Restaurants
It’s official: Two of Philly’s recent openings—Wm. Mulherin’s Sons and South Philly Barbacoa—made Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurants list, marking 2016 as a banner year for the local restaurant scene. There’s more yet to come this fall, with a thrilling lineup of globally inspired newcomers, including Philly’s first poke shop (Poke Bowl), a boldly imaginative taqueria (Mission), Filipino fine dining (Perla) and Latin American street food (La Mula Terca). Here are just a few highlights for the season’s must-try list:
Center City East:
- Taking up residence in a cozy
Philly Pizza Pleases Every Palate
Philadelphia’s gained some serious pizza cred in recent years. Not only is this city home to a pizza museum and restaurant (Pizza Brain), an artisan pizza truck (Pitruco) and, according to Bon Appétit, America’s very best pizza (Pizzeria Beddia), but it’s also a proving ground for the idea that this traditional food can be reinvented in infinite ways. Whether it’s a straightforward but studious Neapolitan round, a floppy tri-corner slice with cheese to spare or a newfangled pie laden with unexpected but carefully sourced ingredients, there is absolutely a pizza for every eater’s predilection. Here’s...
Craft Distilleries Revive Pennsylvania's Pre-Prohibition Tradition
In just over four years, the number of craft distilleries in the Philadelphia region has increased by more than a dozen, helping to restore Pennsylvania to its once-prominent place in the national distilling conversation. Until Prohibition wiped out the state’s industry, Pennsylvania housed the country’s densest cluster of homespun and commercial whiskey producers, beginning with some of the country’s earliest settlers.
In 2011, Pennsylvania’s government passed reforms that allowed distillers to offer tours, samples and onsite sales. These new laws opened up the craft to would-be distillers who now proudly produce and sell small-batch spirits in Philadelphia. In a sign...
Beer Trail Highlights The Craft Brewing Tradition In Philadelphia, America's Best Beer-Drinking City
One hundred years ago, Philadelphia was known as the greatest brewing city in the Western Hemisphere, or the “Cradle of American Libation,” according to food critic Craig LaBan of The Philadelphia Inquirer. In fact, Philadelphia taverns were, arguably, the true birthplace of the American Revolution.
In the mid-19th through the early 20th centuries, more than 90 breweries operated in Philadelphia proper, and another 100 operated in the city’s environs. One area northwest of Philly, located on the banks of the Schuylkill River near the Girard Avenue Bridge, became known as Brewerytown. As Brewerytown grew, area producers of German-style...
A Robust Selection Of Wineries Entice Visitors To Philadelphia's Countryside
With geography, climate and growing conditions that mirror those of the Bordeaux Region in France, southeastern Pennsylvania continues to emerge as a major force in America’s wine industry. In fact, Pennsylvania wines as a whole are making steady gains in quality, quantity and recognition.
The Commonwealth ranks seventh in the nation for number of wineries—more than 220—and produces more than one million gallons of wine per year. Pennsylvania vintners have won awards at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, International Women’s Wine Competition, San Diego International Wine Competition, International Eastern Wine Competition, Florida State Fair International Wine Competition, Finger Lakes...