Yes, Philly is rich with cheesesteak and pizza options. But there’s far more to the city’s food and drink scene than that.
When in Philadelphia, the options are endless, from visiting museums and the zoo, to art galleries and dinners on the Delaware River. No one can deny that the City of Brotherly Love has a lot to offer visitors, including excellent food and drink establishments.
Yes, Philly is the home of the cheesesteak, and its pizza is among the best in the country. But there’s a lot more to Philly’s food and drink scene than that. Here are some of the most delectable destinations in Philadelphia:
Ralph’s Italian Restaurant is the oldest Italian restaurant in the country, having opened in 1900, and is located just beyond the Italian Market in South Philadelphia. Ralph’s serves old-school Italian-American fare in generous portions. The gravy (tomato sauce) is so good you can buy a jar to take home, the wine list is extensive with plenty of Italian red, and the atmosphere is casual and friendly.
Another great place for dinner is Gabriella’s Vietnam, which was 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.
For a creative, Mid-Atlantic seasonal menu in a bright and friendly setting, try Talula’s Garden. From farm-to-table ingredients to a menu with fun takes on regional classics like miso-accented mushroom soup and lemon brulee spatchcock chicken, to the indoor-outdoor restaurant space, Talula’s Garden is a breath of fresh air in the heart of Philadelphia. Looking for a snack? Try the cheese bar, with a “maitre fromager” sourcing dairy treats, and wash them down with Mid-Atlantic craft beers on tap.
Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon, 55, first became a chef at the age of 48, yet she recently won a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic. Suntaranon is the culinary master behind Philadelphia’s Kalaya, a restaurant specializing in Southern Thai cuisine, which Suntaranon grew up eating in Thailand. Kalaya first opened in South Philly 2019. Its move to the Fishtown neighborhood three years later cemented Kalaya’s reputation as a Philly culinary institution.
Pat’s King of Steaks (the originator of the Philly cheesesteak) and Geno’s Steaks are located across the street from each other in South Philly. What’s also famous, besides their legendary cheesesteaks, is the two restaurants’ rivalry. As such, they appeared on the Food Network’s “Food Feuds,” which pitted the two restaurants against each other to actually crown a winner. Spoiler alert: Pat’s won.
Further northwest in the Roxborough neighborhood, you’ll find two more cheesesteak spots with well-earned stellar reputations: D’allesandro’s and Chubby’s. If you don’t mind a longer wait, D’Allesandro’s is definitely worth it. If you’re in a rush (and you want fries with your steak), Chubby’s is probably more your speed.
We could fill several stories going on and on about Philadelphia’s excellent pizza scene, whether it’s the venerable Tacconelli’s, with its unassuming space and tried and true pies in Port Richmond, or Joe Beddia’s more stylish Fishtown spot, Pizzeria Beddia, with its seasonal, locally-sourced twists on traditional pies and deep wine list. You can’t go wrong at either spot.
Newcomer CJ and D’s Trenton Tomato Pies shows its Central Jersey roots in South Philly, serving excellent, thin-crust pies out of Cartesian Brewing. Angelo’s in South Philly, and Fishtown’s Circles and Squares and O.G. Pizza consistently deliver as well, in both square and round pie varieties.
If you’re looking for fast, casual dining, GiGi’s and Big R food truck is the spot for you. Serving Caribbean and classic American soul food, this establishment was the winner of the first ever Philly Vendy Awards. Boasting the largest platters in the city at an affordable price, GiGi and Big R’s food truck is a West Philly favorite for good reason.
Another great place for southern inspired cuisine with coastal influences is Rex at the Royal located near Rittenhouse Square. They are known for their crab fondue, which was voted Best of Philly 2022 in Philadelphia Magazine, but other menu items such as the braised oxtail and fried green tomatoes are sure to make your mouth water. Rex at the Royal’s cocktails are expressions of “locality through migration,” using international and local ingredients to craft outstanding drinks. The space has a dark and moody ambience, and with live music each week, it gives the restaurant an upscale jazz lounge feel.
Vegan and vegetarian
As Pennsylvania’s biggest city, diverse and eclectic Philly is a champion of veg-friendly food like at Bar Bombón. At this lively bar and restaurant near Rittenhouse Square, you can order plant-based tamales, tacos, jackfruit “pork,” and more. The cocktails are also a treat, especially the margaritas (of course), which you can get for less during Bar Bombón’s weekday happy hour.
LUHV Vegan Deli is another great restaurant because it offers a quintessential Philly experience with a vegan twist: grabbing a bagel sandwich or a hoagie at Reading Terminal Market. Everything at this deli — the chicken salad (made with chick’n), the reuben sandwich (made with seitan), the lox (made with golden beets) — is 100% vegan. Non-meat eaters don’t have to wander the market with stomachs growling, while omnivores can try something new. LUHV also has vegan bistros not far from the city in Ambler and Hatboro.
Whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian, or just a fan of fine dining, you need to check out Vedge, the highly-acclaimed farm-to-table vegan restaurant in the heart of Philadelphia. Offering a market-inspired menu that changes seasonally, some of Vedge’s classics include their portobello carpaccio and spicy Persian cucumbers with peanuts and fried tofu. Make a meal out of Vedge’s shareable small plates, and be sure to check out the drinks menu for an extensive list of natural wines, plus craft beers and signature cocktails.
Behind an unassuming door in an alley off 20th Street near Ranstead Street in Center City lies one of the best hidden bars in the city, the Ranstead Room. This dimly lit and cozy bar offers an inventive cocktail menu, which may include, for instance, a pickle-brine-based mule or a creative but classic old fashioned.
Triple Bottom Brewing in Philadelphia is “a craft brewery with a social mission,” and that’s reflected in its name: the business’ “triple bottom line” is “beer, people, and planet.” The Philly taproom has lovely natural light and serves beers that are both accessible to craft beer newbies and beers that are more creative for beer lovers looking for something new. As for food, the taproom serves a handful of meals and snacks, including nachos and cheese steak pasties.
Càphê Roasters is the only Vietnamese specialty coffee roaster in Philadelphia. Co-owned by Vietnamese American Thu Pham and non-profit CEO Raymond John, they source coffee from Vietnam and other Southeast and East Asian regions. Càphê Roasters has a cafe on site with coffee, tea, and specialty drinks plus dishes such as smoked mushroom shakshuka, bánh mì sandwiches, and egg sandwiches.