From award-winning restaurants in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, to world class eateries in smaller towns, Pennsylvania has no shortage of amazing places to eat.
We’re lucky in Pennsylvania that two metropolises on either end of the state are home to unparalleled food scenes. Sure, one end of the commonwealth may be best known for cheesesteaks, and the opposite end for pierogies, but there is so much more for your tastebuds to discover.
While the bulk of award-winning restaurants can be found in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, we’re featuring restaurants throughout the state. This means that among New York Times-recognized restaurants like Gabriella’s Vietnam in Philly and Apteka in Pittsburgh, you’ll also find restaurants that haven’t garnered national attention (yet!) but are still considered the best in their communities.
We hope you’re hungry!
Pittsburgh has many fantastic restaurants, but we chose to showcase 40 North on Pittsburgh’s North Side because the restaurant has only been open for a little over a year but it came out swinging with consistently stellar reviews. At first glance, the menu seems lifted from Eastern Europe, with classics like borscht and khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread). But the menu expands beyond any one cuisine, as you can also order a falafel entrée made with honey beets or the restaurant’s take on a smash burger. The cocktails on the extensive drink menu are also creative — like the Lava Girl, made with rum, aleppo chili syrup, pineapple, lime juice, and bitters. The chef, Bethany Zozula, was named a James Beard Award semifinalist last year.
Apteka, located in Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood, serves Eastern European food with flair. Immediately after The New York Times listed the restaurant on its 2022 list of the 50 best restaurants in the US, diners patiently waited hours for tables. In the warmer months, the restaurant’s patio is open in a beautiful, flower-filled garden. The menu (all vegan, though you may not actually notice) changes with the seasons, but you can always order a number of Polish specialties. This includes Pittsburgh’s famous pierogies.
Also, for a few weeks each year, Apteka’s regular menu closes and Crapteka takes over, offering offbeat burgers and fries that may also require somewhat of a wait. No matter what you’re eating at Apteka, even if you have to wait, it’s worth it.
When you first walk into Chengdu Gourmet in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill Neighborhood, it may seem like any other small Chinese restaurant. There’s a homey feeling, and more often than not, fresh beans piled on a back table for staff to snap when they have some downtime. But Chengdu Gourmet, a Szechuan restaurant headed by five-time James Beard Award Semifinalist Chef Wei Zhu, is special.
The Szechuan cuisine is what you want to order here (though Americanized options are also available). We recommend the mapo tofu, tofu and pork warmed in a spicy sauce, which you can also order vegetarian, as well as the crispy pickled cucumbers, which sound exceedingly simple but are anything but.
Most of the restaurants on our list are in or around big cities, but the owners of Native brought the big city to tiny Honesdale in Northeastern PA. At this spot, the food — as you might expect — is usually made with native or local ingredients from nearby farms or artisans. The menu is designed for you to share dishes with your tablemates, whether you’re ordering creative toasts, side dishes, small plates, or large plates. Current offerings include house-made ravioli, grilled trout, house-made gnocchi with wild boar, charred kale, and much more.
We hope you aren’t too far from the Northeastern corner of the state, because once you view the Native menu, you’re going to wish you were in the Poconos — and not because of the heart-shopped tubs.
Pennsylvania isn’t necessary renowned for its Mexican food, but Mexico Lindo stands up as an authentic Mexican restaurant in the Lehigh Valley. The storefront of the restaurant is unassuming, but that’s how you know you’ve found a hidden gem, right? Prepare to order Mexican classics like enchiladas, burritos, tacos, and tortas.
Of course, if you want to eat Tex-Mex and get cheese on your tacos, no one will stop you. And there have been other rather non-traditional items on the menu as well, like elote (grilled street corn) dusted with crushed Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
In order to reserve a table at Talula’s Table in Kennett Square, you typically have to reserve it one year out, because the restaurant only serves two parties each evening. To some people, that’s much too long to wait. To others — like me — having to beat other callers at 7:00 a.m. to book a restaurant table a year in advance sounds like a way to make your morning more interesting. (If anything, the popularity of the restaurant means that it is clearly good, right?)
In the evening, Talula’s serves an eight-course chef’s tasting menu to those who are lucky enough to score seats. The menu is seasonal, changing every four to six weeks. During the day, Talula’s operates as a small café and specialty market, selling food items from around the world. So if you’re not up to trying to get what may be “the toughest reservation in the US,” you can at least stop by the market for lunch.
Mechanicsburg, near the state capital of Harrisburg, is home to an authentic Greek restaurant serving traditional favorites like gyro, spanakopita, and moussaka. Hellenic Kouzina, which means “Greek kitchen,” also has a full coffee bar. Greek food — especially gyros — is pretty popular in Pa., but it’s rare that our gyro restaurants are focused solely on Greek cuisine.
The patio, open during the warmer months, even has a fountain for you to enjoy while you eat your meal. Consider making a stop on your next visit to the Harrisburg region.
This Lancaster restaurant serves quality Italian food, including wood-fired pizzas, made with locally sourced ingredients. LUCA’s bar is also inspired by Italy, with numerous Italian wines, Italian cocktails, and Amaro (Italian liqueur). Like many of the restaurants on our list, LUCA’s chef Taylor Mason was a James Beard Award semifinalist. You can even watch a short film about Mason and learn more about the vision for LUCA.
And good news for anyone tired of long waits but craving LUCA’s food! You can make reservations online.
Given its history of Italian immigration, Pennsylvania has a healthy number of Italian restaurants. Hower, some stand out more than others, such as Andiario, which relies on local Pennsylvania food to craft its fixed dinner menus. Accordingly, the seasonal menu changes each week, though “there will always be pasta!”
With just 24 seats — and a growing reputation given the restaurant’s inclusion on the Times’s 2022 list of best restaurants — it’s necessary to make a reservation at Andiario. Currently, the restaurant books on a month-by-month basis; you can reserve a table on the Andiario website.
Charcoal BYOB has been a fixture of Yardley since 1995, when Tony Plescha opened it as Charcoal Steaks N’ Things. Tony’s sons, Mark and Eric, grew to love cooking, and eventually wanted to get in on the family business too. They took over dinner service, and added creative New American dishes that necessitated a name change. During dinner, your meal will be made with local and seasonal ingredients, whether you’re ordering Yardley Hot Chicken, pumpkin and coffee gemelli, or broccoli beignets.
Tony still reigns over breakfast and lunch, which offers classic breakfast eats as well as soups and sandwiches (including cheesesteaks). Reserve a table at Charcoal BYOB by phone or online.
At Gabriella’s Vietnam, Chef Thanh Nguyen brings years of experience to her role — she spent much of her life cooking for her family in Vietnam. Now, she’s cooking for Philadelphians so that they can experience Vietnamese food just as it would be served in Vietnam. And the food is gaining notoriety: Gabriella’s Vietnam was recently named as one of the best restaurants in the US by The New York Times.
The menu includes classic street food dishes (like Bánh Bèo Chén, or water fern dumplings), chef’s menu entrees (like Bò Lúc Lắc, or shaken beef) as well as Lẩu, or hot pot. Because of the unsurprising popularity of Gabriella’s, we recommend making a reservation online.
Vedge, as the website clearly states, is a vegetable restaurant. This does mean that meat is not served, but it doesn’t mean that dishes are served incomplete. Instead, Vedge is a high-end restaurant in Center City that seems to exist to force you to rethink vegetables—and once you do, to force you to enjoy yourself so much that you can’t stop ordering more delectable small plates. The rest of the country has noticed; owners Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby are both James Beard Award semifinalists.
At Vedge, the dishes you can currently order include spicy dan dan noodles, a cheesy fondue surprisingly made with rutabaga, a grilled lions mane mushroom dish, and eggplant braciole. Make a reservation online.
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