After a bit of a lull at the beginning of the year, restaurant openings are picking up again in Philadelphia. From the city’s first high-end ticketed dining venue to a Mexico City-themed rotisserie cafe, these six new spots provide the perfect excuse to head out for a bite and a sip.
Now open in the Kimmel Center, the 16th venture from Jose Garces is both a return to where it all started for the Iron Chef and something entirely new.
Advance tickets are required to dine in the luxe, 34-seat atelier, with a floor that juts out over the sidewalk in a glassed-in pseudo-patio. Garces himself has promised to join the show in the open kitchen several nights each month; when he’s not there, chef de cuisine Natalie Maronski is more than capable of running the multicourse tasting menu. Seats run $75-$175, depending on what day at time you reserve.
Bar Volvér is the drop-in sister establishment next door: a cocktail, champagne and caviar lounge serving theatergoers and anyone strolling the Avenue of the Arts - there’s a door to enter directly off the street, and the atmosphere, while high-end, is welcoming.
300 S. Broad St.; 215-670-2303
Reed Barrow refused to be rushed as he set up this craft cocktail bar and American heritage restaurant in the former Artful Dodger, and his careful attention to detail paid off. Both decor and comestibles take the best of traditional classics and update them with modern touches.
Chef Jun Fuentes is a Garces Group alum, and you can tell how much energy he’s poured into his first solo menu, a concise, often-changing list of bar snacks, small plates and entrees that runs $4-$32 (with most on the lower end of that scale). A crack bar team uses Paul McDonald’s cocktail list as a starting point to create just what you’re looking to sip on any given evening.
400 S. Second St.; 267-273-1434
Chef Alex Capasso gained acclaim for his Collingswood BYO, but always pined for a place in the city, so when the former C19 space opened up, he acted immediately. Old friend Michael Franco heeded the call to leave Per Se and return home to help launch the new endeavor, located just steps from the Philly social hub of Rittenhouse Square.
Rustic decor, relaxed bartenders and simple plate presentations belie underpinnings of haute cuisine and service - both partners worked at Le Bec-Fin. A cheese cart will complement a menu of a dozen creative dishes that top out at $25, along with eight craft beers on tap, a growing wine selection and affordable craft cocktails.
267 S. 19th St.; 267-702-0059
Though the neighborhood is quickly developing, restaurants are still not a strong point of Graduate Hospital’s southern edge. To provide members of their “innovators' gym” NextFab Studio with a dependable eating option, the husband-wife team behind Rex 1516 took it upon themselves to launch this bright and cheery coffeehouse themed around Mexico City.
Open breakfast through dinner, the cafe serves espresso, drip and Mexican specialty coffees, but also a full complement of ultra-affordable Mex-inspired dishes, from ensaladas to burritos to cemitas. Plus - and it’s a major plus - there’s house-roasted rotisserie chicken. Everything’s available to grab and go or enjoy in 28 dining-room seats.
2025 Washington Ave.; 215-278-7579
As a top hotel in the center of a big East Coast city, you’d expect the Loews Philadelphia to have a restaurant worth talking about. Thanks to a big renovation, it finally does. Instead of hewing to some corporate vision of what it should be, the new lounge and dining room channel the current Philly food zeitgeist.
Chef Tom Harkins works with seasonal ingredients in the open kitchen, turning out breakfast, lunch and dinner menus that would feel at home in any independent eatery, and priced accordingly, with only a few luxe steaks going higher than $30. Whiskey plays a big role on the drink list - you can even add your own barrel to the bank of house-aging casks.
1200 Market St.; 215-231-7300
Chip Roman - chef-owner at Blackfish, Mica, Tradestone Cafe and Ela - now has his first Center City restaurant. After a quick revamp of Tietra in the Aria Condominiums, the contemporary American is serving drinks and dinner daily over two floors clad in warm wood, gold hues and white subway tile.
Plates are composed with Roman’s signature flourish, but food is priced to make the central location as appealing as possible, with small plates from $5 and entrees topping out at $26, save a dry-aged Berkshire pork chop for two. Beer is in bottle and cans only, but the short list does include several crafts, and wines and cocktails start at $10 per glass.
231 S. 15th St.; 267-687-2237