Over the last couple of years, I flown back and forth to Philly a dozen times, maybe more. And there’s a good reason for that. No, it’ not a love of cheesesteak or an unusual obsession with shoofly pie. My special someone, E, is completing his MBA in Philadelphia.
When E started his MBA, I had never really been to Philly. The closest I got was Penn Relays in 2005 and like all track trips, most of my time was spent sitting in a stadium.
Admittedly, I didn’t have high expectations— I’ve always thought of myself as a New York or a Boston girl— but Philly has surprised me. It’s charming, comparatively affordable, and full of amazing food stops. While I am so excited to have E back in the same city as me when he graduates in May, there’s part of me that will miss our weekend adventures in Pennsylvania.
Philly’s food scene has been one of the biggest and best surprises. We’ve discovered dozens of gems, scattered amongst the brownstones, and skyscrapers.
Below are my top picks for fresh and flavorful food and drink if you happen to find yourself in Philadelphia. Life is too short to eat mediocre food, and drink bad coffee.
This no frills Israeli joint does one thing really well, and that thing is hummus. On any given day they offer 4 variations of hummus, served with pita from the wood fire oven, and pickled vegetables, and that’s it. Rarely do I find something so delicious that I want to lick the bowl. Dizengoff hummus is an exception.
Talula’s is another recent addition that I discovered through all-knowing Yelp. The food lives up to the impressive 4.5+ Yelp rating, and is inventive, and fresh. I had a combination of romesco-slathered carrots, buffalo cauliflower, and mushroom risotto. All were delicious, but the mushroom risotto was the shining star. Don’t be fooled by the homey digs, the food is good.
Set in a brownstone, Russet offers farm-to-table fare and a menu that changes with seasons. We’ve eaten here several times now and the food is hearty, and reliably good. It’s also BYOB, which means you can wash down your meal with a decent drop at a fraction of the cost.
Butcher & Singer.
If you like 1930s Hollywood glamor, and good steak, then Butcher and Singer is the restaurant for you. Set in an old bank, Butcher and Singer is the kind of place that makes you feels like you’ve made it. The service is good and the steak and cocktails even better, but don’t expect anything ultra-modern or inventive. Instead, raise your crystal martini glass to silver service, and mouthwateringly-good meat.
I first discovered La Colombe in NYC through a friend years ago, and it quickly became one of my favorites. The service is hit or miss at the Rittenhouse location, but the draft latte on-tap (now available in cans) is oh-so-delicious, particularly on a hot day.
Rival Bros on Spruce St is cool as hell. Even if you’re not in the mood for coffee the French bistro meets Ace Hotel space is worth a look. Good design and decent coffee makes Rival Bros another standout.
Located in an alleyway behind El Rey restaurant under a single red light, Ranstead Room’s cocktails are far better than it’s location. We’ve been here a couple of times, and always enjoyed inventive and delicious drinks. Hot tip: Go early to avoid a wait. The word is out about this speakeasy even though they don't have a website.
Charlie Was A Sinner.
This vintage-cool spot is another recent discovery that has won us over. We are yet to try the vegan small bites, but the cocktails are unique, and aromatic, and the space is ultra-cozy. We'll be back for more 'sinner' cocktails in the future.
Want more travel recommendations? Check out my travel page.