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Philadelphia’s 10 Hottest Restaurants

By Danya Henninger
March 3, 2014
Photo by: Vanessa Beahn

It’s time for our quarterly roundup of the hippest, best-loved, most-talked-about and ultimately delicious new dining rooms in Philadelphia. Bookmark this page and refer back as we round the corner and spring fever begins to take hold. Ready to go out to eat? Don’t miss these 10 hottest restaurants in Philadelphia.

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Laurel

    Why It's Hot: Reservations at this East Passyunk BYO were scarce even before Nicholas Elmi walked away with the title of Top Chef this season - the dining room seats but 26 people - but now they’re darn near impossible.

    Must Order: Foie gras and cocoa terrine ($20); ricotta gnocchi ($14).

    Insider Tip: Follow Elmi on Twitter and you might be able to score a table on short notice when he tweets a (rare) cancellation.

    1617 E. Passyunk Ave.; 215-271-8299

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Le Chéri

    Why It's Hot: For years, Pierre Calmels’ French cooking has packed the out-of-the-way BYO Bibou; now he and wife (and front-of-the-house doyenne) Charlotte are having extra fun with this liquor-licensed bistro on Rittenhouse Square.

    Must Order: Steak tartare ($13); raviole cream cheese ($12); quenelle ($26).

    Insider Tip: While the dining room books up fast, 14 seats in the windowed bar area are always kept free for walk-ins.

    251 S. 18th St.; 215-546-7700

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    The Fat Ham

    Why It's Hot: Kevin Sbraga’s eponymous original on Broad is now running as smooth as silk, and even more proof of this Top Chef season 7 winner’s restaurateur chops are on display at this tiny West Philly eatery with a menu of creative, Southern-inspired plates.

    Must Order: Southern hummus ($6); hot chicken ($13); country-fried lobster tail ($16).

    Insider Tip: On select Friday and Saturday nights, the first 20-30 people to come in after 10 PM can score a free off-the-menu fried-chicken biscuit.

    3131 Walnut St.; 215-735-1914

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Taqueria Feliz

    Why It's Hot: Cantina Feliz and La Calaca Feliz’s Brian Sirhal and Tim Spinner have handed the reins of their new Manayunk kitchen to Lucio Palazzo, and his menu mixes authentic Mexican fare with the best of Cal-Mex fusion, both of which complement the colorful atmosphere.

    Must Order: Tacos al suadero ($11); nachos ($10); lamb barbacoa ($19).

    Insider Tip: Though they’re not on the regular menu, Palazzo has a reliable connect for chapulines, so if you’ve been wanting to expand your horizons, be sure to ask whether cricket tacos are on special.

    4410 Main St.; 267-331-5874

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Osteria Moorestown

    Why It's Hot: You might not believe it possible to transport the authenticity, charm and soul of an expansive Italian mid-city favorite to a New Jersey mall, but if anyone could do it, the Vetri folks could... and did.

    Must Order: Mortadella pizza ($21); wood-grilled octopus ($17); spaghettini with lobster ($36)

    Insider Tip: Thanks to NJ liquor laws, wines are much more affordable here than at the North Broad original. There’s even a three-hour daily happy hour, Monday-Friday.

    400 Rte. 38, Moorestown Mall, Moorestown, NJ; 856-316-4427

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    High Street on Market

    Why It's Hot: From the cleverest breakfast pastries in Philly to loaded lunch sandwiches to locally inspired, inventive dinner dishes, chef Eli Kulp, proprietor Ellen Yin and their team at Fork’s next-door sister is aiming for the high fences, and for the most part, knocking it out of the park.

    Must Order: Red-eye Danish ($5.50); beet-cured salmon ($9); potted shrimps ($9.50); crispy broccoli ($5)

    Insider Tip: Every Tuesday starting at 9 PM, you can score a changing, multicourse “friends and family” feast for just $25.

    308 Market St.; 215-625-0988

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Rosa Blanca

    Why It's Hot: The all-day, late-night Cuban diner Jose Garces opened to replace Chifa offers visitors to the Historic District the best of all worlds, from morning pastries to quick and counter-ordered sandwiches, tropical cocktails and hearty, sit-down stews.

    Must Order: Empanada de jamón ($3); Cubano ($9); ropa vieja ($19)

    Insider Tip: Whatever time of day you visit, don’t miss the housemade juices - where else in town can you get a glass of fresh-squeezed guanabana nectar?

    707 Chestnut St.; 215-925-5555

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    The Good King Tavern

    Why It's Hot: Côte d'Azur native Bernard Gigri and daughter Chloe have created a cozy brasserie that makes a tucked-away corner off South Street seem like the south of France, and chef Paul Lyons’ food plays a starring role in the transformation.

    Must Order: Socca (chickpea pancake) ($7); escargot ($7); steak frites ($15)

    Insider Tip: Cocktails are as well done here as at some of the fanciest bars in town, except they’re $4-$5 less, on average. Bartenders are also willing to craft something custom to suit your mood, and it’s wise to take advantage.

    614 S. Seventh St.; 215-625-3700

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Sancho Pistola’s

    Why It's Hot: Joined by chef Adan Trinidad, Jose Pistola’s partners Casey Parker and Joe Gunn have given Fishtown its first modern Mexican, where the food is good enough to spark the party and the tequila, mezcal and killer craft beer selection are plenty to keep it going.

    Must Order: Spicy tuna guac ($14); red tail bass tacos ($12); mole meatball buns ($7)

    Insider Tip: Saturday and Sunday brunch brings the best deal in the house - $30 for app, entree, side and bottomless margaritas and mimosas.

    19 W. Girard Ave.; 267-324-3530

  • Photo by: Danya Henninger

    Avance

    Why It's Hot: Chef Justin Bogle and partner Chris Scarduzio have revitalized the former Le Bec Fin into a modern destination dining room with a downstairs bar that’s upscale but neighborhood-friendly (if your ‘hood happens to be Rittenhouse).

    Must Order: Border Springs lamb burger ($18); arctic char ($17); dry-aged duck ($37)

    Insider Tip: Whether you go à la carte or opt for one of the two tasting menu choices, ask about cocktail pairings - they can be as exciting as the food.

    1523 Walnut St.; 215-405-0700

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Places Mentioned

Taqueria Feliz

Mexican • Manayunk

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Laurel

French • East Passyunk Crossing

Food- Decor- Service- CostVE
 
 
 
High Street on Market

New American • Old City

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Le Chéri

French • Rittenhouse Square

Food- Decor- Service- CostE
 
 
 
The Good King Tavern

French • Bella Vista

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
The Fat Ham

Southern American • University City

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Avance

New American • Rittenhouse Square

Food- Decor- Service- CostVE
 
 
 
Rosa Blanca

Cuban • Washington Square West

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Osteria

Italian • Moorestown

Food- Decor- Service- CostE
 
 
 
 
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