by Tara Nurin - 221 Reviews - 105 List
We've scoured the Philadelphia area and now we're ready to name our Top 10 Restaurants for 2009. Some are new and some are classic spots. Click through and see if you agree, but note that our Top 10 is randomly listed and not necessarily in our order of preference. (Photo courtesy of Valanni)
Updated: December 10, 2009
Fresh off his designation as Iron Chef, Jose Garces is inarguably Philly's current culinary golden child. Then, as if that weren't enough, he made the city even prouder by opening his fifth wildly successful local concept restaurant at around the same time. Needless to say, the city is collectively swooning over this miniature (read: impossible to get seats) Prohibition taproom that feeds its patrons what's being called the best burger in the city and helps them wash it down with glasses filled with the aromatic amber liquid that gives Village Whiskey its name.
The geniuses behind nationally acclaimed Zahav have made Philadelphia foodies crazy with anticipation for their fourth venture together, this one a Texas pit-barbeque stop, complete with the requisite bourbon and rye list. Since it opened in November, executives and creative types have been spotted around town with pork juice squeezing out from their lips and horrifyingly yelling ?Mooooooore? during important client meetings.
Maybe it's the yellow Lamborghini that's perpetually parked out front. Maybe it's the Stephen Starr magic. Or maybe it's the attention to detail that makes this a perfectly authenticated recreation of a French experience. Whatever it is, it's pulsating with an energy that draws the well-heeled professional set to hobnob at the bar or at a prime sidewalk table at this Rittenhouse bistro that's deliciously bursting with snob appeal.
Although it's 11 years old at this point, Vetri made our list because, well, there's only one Vetri. When Mario Batali christened this South Philly gem as possibly the best Italian restaurant on the East Coast, he was only telling Philadelphians what they already knew. It's still hard to get a table at this intimate trattoria, but once a reservation is scored, 5,000 bottles of wine and the mesmerizing cooking ability of Marc Vetri awaits.
This grandiose former bank made the press salivate for almost a year as owners kept promising their opening was just around the corner. It finally debuted with what could have legitimately been hailed as the party of the year and hasn't slowed down when it comes to serving Southeast Pennsylvania's bold face names. It has been hampered by the recession and by the near-simultaneous openings of two unrelated steakhouses of equal caliber but the team behind the project is trying to circumvent that by publicizing eye-poppingly cut-rate deals on food and spirits.
Diminutive Chef de Cuisine Jen Carroll made a big splash on Top Chef, lasting until one of the final episodes. Throughout the series, the local press followed her televised escapades closely and foodies from around the region followed the advice of owner Eric Ripert (who, having worked for Joel Robuchon and as chef at New York's Le Bernadin, is a celebrity chef in his own right) by accepting his public invitation to watch the taped episodes of the show every week from his dining room.
A decade-long chapter closed for one of Old City's signature restaurants when its founding chef packed up and promised to leave town. But then owner Ellen Yin announced that his replacement would be the Main Line's Terence Feury, and a renewed furor ensued. He brought seasonal fare that's cooked to highlight the flavor of the individual ingredients, while bartenders continued to mix up specialty drinks that attract a more mature and local fanbase then many of Fork's Market Street neighbors.
It doesn't matter if you're gay or straight, a corporate captain or a boho artist: you love Valanni. And now that chef Evan Turney's cocktail-happy rowhouse restaurant has doubled in size, there's more of it to love. Sure, there are tons of culinary stalwarts in this town that engender rabid loyalty, but there are few that guarantee to draw such a sparkly mist from the eye and such a wistful, longing whisper of ?I love Valanni,? from the lips of fans whenever its name is mentioned.
This cozy BYOB has turned New York Times writers in to fans and has been knighted by local food critics as the best French bistro in the city. It's run by a former executive chef of Le Bec-Fin, his former sous chef, and his wife, who helped run operations at lauded Gallic establishments Bistro St. Tropez and Brasserie Perrier. Their impressive CVs, plus the fact that they're native Frenchmen, help assure Francophiles that everything here is delicieux.