Philadelphia Restaurants: 5 Places to Get a Fantastic Meal

Philadelphia Restaurants: 5 Places to Get a Fantastic Meal

A primer on the most highly acclaimed restaurants in the ‘City of Brotherly Love’.

Philadelphia is the origin of some of America’s most popular everyday food such as hoagies, soft pretzels, and scrapples. It is also credited as the place where soda was invented, as well as the home of popular sweet treats such as Italian ice, Irish potato candies, and the ubiquitous Tastykakes.

But perhaps, the most iconic food attributed to this historic city in Pennsylvania is the Philly Cheesesteak, said to be invented by the Olivieri brothers in their 1930 restaurant ‘Pat’s King of Steaks’ that still stands proudly today. Incongruously, their fiercest business competitor stands just across their store. The colorful neon-lit ‘Geno’s Steak’ shop has been Pat’s chief rival since it’s establishment in 1966.

Philadelphia cuisine though is not just about submarine sandwiches and sweet treats. The city’s multi-ethnic demography led to the founding of numerous excellent restaurants from various cultural backgrounds. You can enjoy American, Italian, French, Japanese, Chinese, and other international gastronomy in Philly’s popular dining zones such as Rittenhouse Square, Old City, and Chinatown. Here is a list of legendary gourmet restaurants in the city that offers a unique and memorable dining experience:

1. M Restaurant

Perhaps the most romantic and definitely the most historic place to have a meal in Philadelphia, M Restaurant is situated in the 18th century Morris House, a National Historic Landmark. It is the same building that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams used to meet with the other Founding Fathers to plot America’s independence from the British colonizers. Designed in classic Georgian colonial architecture, it boasts of having a beautiful formal garden now used for al fresco dining and special events.

M Restaurant serves delectable modern American cuisine. Their most popular entrees include the braised short ribs served with red cabbage kimchi and sautéed collard greens, the seared bass with ratatouille, and the pan-fried quail with a side of cranberry celery root puree and turnips. They also offer a 4-course Chef’s tasting menu for a US $55. It’s a gastronomic adventure worth every penny.

M Restaurant also serves small plate specials during happy hours to pair with their wines, beers, and signature cocktails. Among their best sellers for small plates are the chicken wings, the fried oxtail, and the shrimp popcorn. You may also opt to enjoy your drinks with their delicious cheese platters served with crackers and accouterments. M Restaurant is often referred to as a ‘hidden gem’ in Washington Square. Discover it for yourself.

Address: 231 S 8th St, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA
Phone: (215) 625-6666

2. Vetri

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“handmade bread made with house milled flour. What a great way to start an amazing meal #Vetri #housemilledflour #oliveoil #vetrifamily #bestbreadintown”

This highly acclaimed Italian restaurant that opened in Philly in 1998 was so successful that they were able to have five spin-off ristorantes. Though, its native Philadelphian chef-owner and his business partner will always call Vetri as their flagship store. It has, however, shifted from the traditional a la carte restaurant setup to a modern Chef’s Tasting Menu format. This move was made with the objective of offering a unique gastronomic experience to its diners.

Your epicurean journey will start with a selection of scrumptious stuzzichini (Italian hors d’ oeuvres). This works as a precursor to a delightful 6-course tasting that is personalized according to your preferences and dietary restrictions. Your special meal will have the usual progression of a traditional Italian banquet, which consists of antipasti (first course), primi (pasta or risotto dish), secondi (meat and/or fish dish) and dolce (dessert). Relish your food more by pairing it with an exquisite wine that you can choose from the more than 2,500 bottles curated by Vetri’s chief sommelier.

The menu may vary from time to time according to the availability of some fresh seasonal ingredients. There are all-time favorite Vetri signature dishes though that you can always enjoy such as the sweet onion crepe with truffle fondue, spinach gnocchi with brown butter, roasted guinea hen, and salt-baked branzino. To complete your meal on a high note, there’s the chocolate polenta soufflé, coffee panna cotta, and other options.

Address: 1312 Spruce St, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA
Phone: (215) 732-3478

3. Lacroix Restaurant

Located on the second floor of the Rittenhouse Hotel, the upscale Lacroix Restaurant offers an excellent view of the vast and beautifully landscaped Rittenhouse Square. Likewise rated as one of the Philadelphia restaurants with the best décor and service, it offers a remarkable dining experience. They serve a delightful array of international dishes as well as a tasting menu package with kitchen seating. For a little extra, you can also avail of their famed ‘chef’s table’ for a meal of a lifetime.

Lacroix is a full-service restaurant that starts with a mouth-watering breakfast buffet and a la carte menu. Among their most popular dishes for lunch includes the braised lamb shank with polenta, maitake mushroom and gremolata, veal cannelloni with a side of Brussels sprout and parmesan herbed potato, and the Rittenhouse cheesesteak. Any of these main dishes can be paired with their raw bar choices as well as a scrumptious selection of soups and salads.

Besides the premium Chef’s tasting menu, they also serve a four-course dinner wherein you can enjoy delicious chef’s creations such as foie gras or oxtail for starters, followed by white truffle gnocchi or Nantucket scallops and other options. The meal will be highlighted with an entrée of venison, guinea hen, rabbit, or beef short rib. For a finisher, you can relish a profiterole or a coffee soufflé. Your dinner can be more enjoyable with a glass or two of their premium wines or cocktails.

Address: 210 W Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA
Phone: (215) 790-2533

4. Morimoto

As the first restaurant opened by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto in America, Morimoto Philadelphia serves as his flagship among his eight other restaurants including four in the mainland, one in Hawaii, two in India, and one in Tokyo. The latter is already a recipient of a Michelin Star. Known for its unique Japanese-Western fusion cuisine and ultra-creative food presentation, this restaurant is considered as one of the best places to get a 5-star meal in America. Its sleek ultra-modern interiors provide an apt backdrop for the chef’s unique culinary range.

To have the ultimate dining experience here, we recommend that you try the Omakase, a Chef’s choice multi-course tasting menu. This will enable you to capture the crux of Chef Morimoto’s cuisine. But if you opt for a la carte meals, some of their most notable dishes that you should try include the surf ‘n’ turf of Kobe sirloin and hamachi ribbons and the roasted duck breast served with confit rice and duck egg. Other must-try hot dishes include the spicy king crab and the rock shrimp tempura.

In the tradition of Japanese culinary arts, Morimoto also serves noodles, sashimi, and sushi rolls, as well as a selection of meticulously prepared cold dishes. They also have a raw bar wherein you can enjoy oysters and king crabs in three kinds of special dipping sauces. The restaurant also has an array of beverages that pairs well with their dishes including each course in their Omakase.

Address: 723 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA
Phone: (215) 413-9070

5. Amada

This is the first of the more than a dozen restaurants owned and operated by another Iron Chef, Jose Garces. Amada brings you not only the authentic flavors of Andalucía, Spain, but also the warm and rustic ambiance of typical Spanish diners complete with an array of dangling perfectly aged jamons. You can enjoy slices of this prized cured meat, which includes the world-renowned jamon iberico and jamon serrano, with superb Spanish wine and cheese. They also offer a mixed platter, so you can sample each of these sought-after hams for a mere US $16 per order.

Dining in a Spanish restaurant would not be complete without sampling their traditional tapas or small platters. Among the most popular tapas in Amada includes the croquetas de jamon (ham croquets), the gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp), and the piquillos rellenos (crab-stuffed peppers). They also have delectable grilled specialties served with garlic, lemon, and parsley such as lamb chops, wagyu beef, lobster, scallops, and a lot more. Other entrée options include impeccably cooked fish and meat dishes such as black cod, Tasmanian sea trout, chicken breast, or pork belly as the main ingredient.

Amada also offers a Chef’s selection tasting menu (La Mesa de Jose) that gives you a broad appreciation of traditional Andalusian flavors for $55. They likewise have a special tasting set for an additional price of $10, wherein you can enjoy some extra off-menu dishes as well. You may also opt to indulge in their house specialties such as the lobster paella and the cochinillo asado or roasted suckling pig that you can order whole or half for the entire family to enjoy.

Address: 217-219 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA
Phone: (215) 625-2450

Philadelphia is the city of many firsts in the USA, like the first library, the first hospital, the first zoo, and the first stock exchange. It was purely coincidental, though, that the three chef-owners that we featured in this article opened their respective first restaurants in America in this city, namely, Chef Vetri, Chef Morimoto, and Chef Garces. This fact was not factored in our selection process.

Our criteria were based on the overall dining experience that these restaurants have to offer. It involves the quality and taste of their food and the extent of their menu, the general décor and environment, and the professionalism and affability of their service. We also considered the reviews and accolades they received from food critics, diners, rating agencies, and the media. So all in all, we believe that these restaurants are definitely among the best of the city, especially if you want to impress a date, a client or celebrate life’s special occasions.

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