Early fall has welcomed jewel box tasting menu destinations, a couple of long-awaited projects from familiar names and some instant neighborhood classics. Whether you're in the market for a new happy-hour hang, a taste of chef-driven Filipino fare or a dimly lit den of Japanese dining, here's a look at the hottest tables in town.
Must-order: At this glitzy hotel restaurant and bar the usual seafood plateau suspects of shrimp, oysters, clams and lobster are accompanied by a selection of ceviches, kicky Peruvian cocktail sauce and a charred tomatillo mignonette.
Insider tip: Aqimero’s bar has a solid lineup of sushi and ceviche, plus a wide range of mezcal, making it a choice spot to learn the finer points of each pour.
Must-order: The kitchen here has a sense of humor, meaning you'll find all sorts of fun takes on bar bites: sour cream and onion wings, pretzel monkey bread with cheese sauce and sloppy joe poutine.
Insider tip: Vegetarians might be thrown by the name of this newcomer, but with options like wood-fired cauliflower steaks, eggplant parm sandwiches with burrata and Gouda mac 'n' cheese, meat-free folks have plenty to get excited about.
Must-order: A streamlined selection of Cypriot platters, kebabs and salads make this sunny spot a lovely addition to the neighborhood. Don’t sleep on the drinks list; you’ll find everything from frothy coffee frappes to fresh almond milk and pressed apricot juice.
Insider tip: This is an ideal place to take advantage of Philly’s fondness for BYOB. The menu lends itself to grazing, so working your way through multiple courses and bottles is an ideal (and affordable) way to dine.
Must-order: Anyone who has tried Nick Elmi’s cooking knows that there are no misses on the menu. At his new wine and cocktail bar, plates like housemade basket cheese with cherry miso and clams with locally cured guanciale are designed with menu exploration in mind.
Insider tip: Wine director Heather Sharp has assembled a gorgeous list of international wines with a heavy focus on elegant, Austrian beauties.
Must-order: Creative starters are the stars of the show at this Graduate Hospital corner. Highlights include a miniature take on chicken and waffles that comes by way of poussin with scallion and soy syrup over buckwheat waffles. And don't miss the petite duck confit–filled pierogies.
Insider tip: The drinks here are hardly an afterthought. With a solid lineup of cocktails, eclectic wine and beer menus, Lou Bird’s has some serious potential for happy hour and late-night libations.
Must-order: The whole menu here is a filled with playful takes on Mexican classics, but if you’re coming in with a crowd, check out the trio of platos grande, large-format sharable dishes like Middle Eastern–accented lamb barbacoa, mariscos Veracuzana or bright red cochonita pibil.
Insider tip: Just like its downstairs neighbor, Oyster House, Mission does happy hour right — think cervezas and tacos for $3 and house margs for $6.
Must-order: Philadelphia’s first foray into modern Filipino cuisine quickly made its way from a tasting menu only–model to a more approachable à la carte experience. Now you can build your own meal with plates like Berkshire lechon, duck breast adobo and pancit noodles with prawns.
Insider tip: On Sundays, Perla hosts a more informal, family-style dinner called kamayan, where you can dig into meals laid out on bright-green banana leaves.
Must-order: A deceptively simple dish of spaghetti with tomato-basil sauce is Scarpetta’s signature. Really, though, all of the handmade pastas here are glorious.
Insider tip: Each outpost of this high-end Italian mini-chain has a handful of its own dishes. Here in Philly, that means fresh ceviches, including yellowtail with ginger oil and fluke with sunchokes and citrus.
Must-order: With a four-course, $65 prix fixe, the seasonal menu offers two choices for each section of the meal. Fall means squid-ink spaghetti with oyster cream, hand-pulled burrata with flowering herbs and a lamb breast with hazelnut caponata.
Insider tip: Sixteen seats and brief abbreviated (Thursday–Sunday) hours means that snagging a table here isn’t easy. Your best bet? Book in advance!
Must-order: Real-deal izakaya fare means that curious Philadelphians now have access to a menu that includes everything from adventurous plates like natto and monkfish liver to more familiar Japanese go-tos, like karaage chicken wings and grilled yakitori skewers.
Insider tip: Late-night diners will be thrilled to know that the kitchen here is open until 1 AM every day of the week, serving until last call.