Philadelphia is associated with some very crappy foods. Cheesesteaks? Pretzels? Tastycakes? This is one of the great food cities in America, and it deserves better. These ten places prove that, I think.
It's a happy fact that one of the best modern Italian restaurants in the country should land in Philadelphia, home of some of the best old-school ones. Vetri's pastas are the star of the show, but not a single item -- not one morel, not one meatball -- lacks some shimmer of greatness.
This Amish diner in the Reading Terminal Market is without question my favorite lunch counter in America. Every single thing, from meat loaf to grilled cheese, is sublime, but not as much as the apple turnover with fresh cream than ends every meal here. Just a classic.
All old-school Italian restaurants have pretty much the same menu, and the atmosphere is pretty much the same, too. But Dante & Luigi's somehow seems...different. The feeling is warmer, the room seems somehow older, and the food somehow blurs the line between Italian and Italian-American.
John's simply cannot be improved. The whole experience -- the dingy room, the camped-out South Philly locals, the dripping pork and soaked bread, the plastic forks and Styrofoam juice cups and bottle of Schmidt's -- deserves to be enshrined in the Smithsonian.
Michael Solomonov's heroic attempt to bring Israeli flavors to high-end American restaurant cooking has been a smashing success. Hummus and pita are the beginning of the experience here, not the end.
Pub & Kitchen is theoretically just a gastropub. Except that it isn't. The food is ambitious, intelligent, and much more demanding than it should be. The place is a stealth fine-dining restaurant. Anyone who thinks this is pub food should have their head examined.
Bibou has managed quite a feat: they have somehow conquered Philadelphia -- and South Philly at that! -- with a barely modernized traditional French cookery that has been pronounced dead for years. But this is no wannabistro: it's a legit restaurant, run by young cooks with something to prove, and have they ever delivered.
I suppose, theoretically, that it's possible that there could be a better sandwich place than Paesano's. But maybe there couldn't. There are by my count at least eight sandwiches here unmatched for genius anywhere. They are all gutbombs, though, some plan on multiple visits.
Hip, casual, and creative, this Philadelphia restaurant is, as its name suggests, vegetarian, but not in the stuffy, unpleasant, nasty way that many diners associate with the term. It's so fun, and the food so flavorful, that you could forget you're not eating meat.
It may seem strange that a donut shop should be famous for fried chicken, but then it's also strange that a superstar Israeli-American chef would excel so in southern vernacular cuisine. And yet Michael Solomonov has.