Along with the rest of the culinary scene, hotel dining has come a long way in Philadelphia’s latest restaurant renaissance. If tourists and visitors want to check out what’s hot in Philly food and drink, they might not need to go any further than the front door.
For those of us who live here, consider this a list of seven spots it’s safe to have friends book — even if you don’t have time to show them around every night, they’ll end up with a good meal.
Why It’s Hot: While the historic hotel next door channels Colonial America, it’s 1930s France you’ll find at this classic bistro from chef Al Paris and brothers Robert and Benjamin Bynum. Opened in January 2014, the red leather- and brass-filled restaurant and bar have since been joined by a sultry downstairs jazz cafe, which hosts live music each weekend.
Don’t-Miss Dishes: Escargot with Pernod butter ($12), French onion soup ($8)
Locals Know: Throughout the month of August, fried oysters with house rémoulade are on special for $8 per four-piece order.
8229 Germantown Ave.; 215-242-6200
Why It’s Hot: Market Street east of City Hall is no longer a badlands, and with this spring launch finally has a spot that represents the zeitgeist of the city’s restaurant scene. 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 prices follow suit, with only a few luxe steaks going higher than $30.
Don’t-Miss Dishes: Pea pierogi in brown butter ($10), housemade charcuterie plate ($10)
Locals Know: “Bourbon Master” Brian Bevilacqua oversees a huge whiskey list, and you can even buy your own barrel of aging spirits to tap whenever you stop by. Sip them in the hidden tasting room, where Bevilacqua also holds weekly classes on brown-spirit lore.
1200 Market St.; 215-231-7300
Why It’s Hot: Chef Caitlin Mateo makes good use of her rooftop garden on the top of this 25-story hotel, keeping the menu as fresh and local-focused as any other in Rittenhouse. She’s also into creating vegan and vegetarian dishes that carnivores would enjoy. And the bar fills up with Philly natives catching a post-work deal during daily 4-6 PM happy hour.
Don’t-Miss Dishes: Truffle popcorn ($4), kale Caesar salad ($9), Lancaster duck toast ($12)
Locals Know: Mateo’s drinks counterpart, lead bartender Chauncey Scates, also makes use of the fresh rooftop herbs in her cocktails.
121 S. 17th St.; 215-563-5008
Why It’s Hot: Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran own four restaurants and three other boutique businesses in the Midtown Village neighborhood, so it’s overnight guests’ great luck that they took over the long-vacant space in the hotel’s ground floor with this adorably kitschy, grandma’s living room-style Italian. Best seat is on a bench in the outdoor garden, which is full of greenery and sparkles, thanks to strings of lights beneath the covered trellis roof.
Don’t-Miss Dishes: “B+V+P” meatballs stuffed with fontina ($11), house-pulled straciatella mozzarella ($10), shrimp and linguine ($16)
Locals Know: On Sundays, $24 gets you a big bowl of pasta doused with four-hour San Marzano gravy and a side platter of the meatballs and fennel sausage that simmered in the pot to give the sauce its rich flavor.
1234 Locust St.; 215-546-2100
Why It’s Hot: Stylish since it opened three years ago, the bistro and sister cocktail bar in the posh extended-stay residences recently recaptured serious food cred, thanks to a partnership with Eli Kulp and Ellen Yin’s High Street Restaurant Group. Kulp’s revamped menus — charcoal-grill dishes on one side and interesting raw seafood preparations on the other — are some of the most exciting in the city.
Don’t-Miss Dishes: Grilled prawns ($7 each), charcoal scallops ($16), scallop ceviche ($12), shrimp Louis salad ($21)
Locals Know: The wine lists here are worth exploring, with lots of unique vintages and little-known producers to choose from. Pair your pour with oysters — during 4-6 PM daily happy hour at a.bar, select varieties go for $1.50 each.
135 S. 18th St.; 215-825-7030
Why It’s Hot: Jose Andres alum Jorge Chicas took over this bi-level tavern across from Independence Mall at the beginning of the year, and has been slowly introducing upgrades to the menu of American classics — the best dishes are when touches of his native El Salvador sneak in. The outdoor seating along the sidewalk is a great place to ponder the history of our nation, with a great drink in hand.
Don’t-Miss Dishes: Chimichurri skirt steak ($24), yucca fries ($8), hummus and htipiti dip ($8)
Locals Know: Stratus Lounge, on the roof of the hotel, offers even more sipping fun, with an indoor-outdoor bar serving barrel-aged cocktails and fresh-squeezed juice creations.
433 Chestnut St.; 215-923-2267
Why It’s Hot: Chef Justin Perdue landed in Philadelphia by way of Chicago this spring, and his deft touch makes this dining room in the haute Rittenhouse hotel worth visiting, even if the open layout precludes intimate dining. Spread out in a luxurious circular corner booth or pull up a high-backed stool at the mahogany bar, and let the servers' “flight attendant” ascots amuse you while you enjoy the food.
Don’t-Miss Dishes: Foie gras crème brûlée ($17), stone-ground polenta with soft egg ($12)
Locals Know: Afternoon tea can be a midday escape in the middle of the city, when $35 brings a glass of bubbly plus egg-salad sandwiches, house-baked scones, chocolates and a soothing cup of hot, steeped tea.
120 S. 17th St.; 215-569-8300