The restaurant scene in Philadelphia is constantly growing and changing, and lately, it seems like it’s better than ever. As we near the end of 2014, here’s a look at some of this year’s best new restaurants. From casual to upscale and from classic Pennsylvania recipes to modern culturally-inspired dishes, there’s something for everyone. If you haven’t been to these spots yet, you’ll definitely want to try them in the new year.
2025 Washington Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19146
Café Ynez is the newest Philly restaurant from the team behind Jet Wine Bar and REX 1516. Husband and wife Evan Malone and Jill Weber opened the diner-style BYOB in late March, focusing on items and recipes inspired by Mexico City. Executive Chef JC Pina (also of Jet Wine Bar and a Mexico City native) serves house-roasted rotisserie chicken (available half or whole), seasonal soups, salads, burritos, tacos and more. The menu of light, fresh dishes is served all day during the week, starting with pastries, omelettes and other breakfast dishes in the morning. The former warehouse turned vibrant casual eatery is only open for brunch on the weekends. While specialty drinks like horchata and Mexican spiced hot chocolate are plentiful, you can also bring your own tequila and other alcohol for cocktail mixing.
Related: Top Fall Salads In Philadelphia
Good Stuff Eatery
108 S. 18th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
The 18th Street Good Stuff Eatery is the fourth location of this upscale fast-casual burger joint started by “Top Chef” contestant Spike Mendelsohn and his family. The new Philadelphia spot is the first of the outposts to be located outside the Washington D.C. area, and it’s been receiving a warm welcome from the City of Brotherly Love. While husband and wife George Chin and Elaine Massock are helping run the Philly spot, Spike is still the culinary brains behind the operation. With a focus on “food so pure, you’ll think it’s Amish” (as the painted wall proclaims), the menu features handcrafted gourmet burgers, house-cut fries, hand-spun shakes with custard made in-house and fresh wedge salads with a side of Southern-style cornbread. You can also order any burger with a grilled chicken breast in place of the meat, or skip the bun and get your burger wrapped in lettuce.
Hai Street Kitchen & Co.
32 S. 18th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
The team behind Genji, one of University City’s sushi restaurants in the mid-80s, is back in Philadelphia with a new place and casual Japanese eating concept. Hai Street Kitchen & Co. is a counter-style spot comparable to the Chipotle model where guests customize their meals with their choices of proteins and vegetables. Pick from options like shrimp tempura, chicken katsu, flank steak and grilled Portobello mushroom, add four toppings like romaine, roasted beets, sautéed onion and carrot, and give it a flavor boost with a homemade sauce such as black pepper teriyaki or tomatillo salsa. Your creation is available as a sushi-style nori wrap, in a brown rice bowl or as a salad. Hai Street uses all-natural ingredients, so this is fast food you can feel good about eating. As of October, Hai Street also offers delivery service in partnership with city bike messengers.
102 S. 13th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Mamou opened in June in the spot formerly known as The Corner. Named after the town in Louisiana, the rebranded restaurant brings Cajun-style food inspired by the bayou to Midtown Village. Executive Chef Paul Martin grew up nearby the restaurant’s namesake, giving him plenty of tasty experience to draw upon when putting together his menu of cold and hot plates, vegetables, main entrees and classics such as gumbo and po’boys. A few highlights include oyster shots, crawfish fritters, barbecue shrimp, roasted pork and cornbread-stuffed eggplant. The upstairs of Mamou features a full whiskey and cocktail bar along with outdoor rooftop seating for 35 guests.
Society Hill Society
400 S. 2nd St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Society Hill Society opened in April, rejuvenating the spot formerly occupied by the Artful Dodger. The new Headhouse Square spot pays homage to the 200-year-plus Philadelphia tradition of corner taverns. From the décor to the craft cocktail list and menu of classic dishes, everything comes together to create an atmosphere that celebrates the rich American heritage of the region along with a few modern touches. Order from the a la carte menu, or opt for the multi-course supper featuring fresh ingredients from the Headhouse Farmers Market. The menu changes seasonally, but you can expect to see elements inspired by Pennsylvania traditions like Kennett Square mushrooms, pierogies, pork belly and even duck scrapple. Dinner is served daily with the addition of brunch available on Sundays.
1623 E. Passyunk Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19148
After honing his skills at popular restaurants such as The Fountain and Lacroix in Philadelphia and New York City’s A Voce and Morello Bistro, Chef Townsend Wentz has opened his first restaurant – the eponymous Townsend. Open for dinner Wednesday through Monday (closed Tuesdays), the romantic East Passyunk spot serves seasonal French cuisine that is ideal for wine pairing. (That’s where GM and Sommelier Lauren Harris steps in.) This fall’s menu highlights included pumpkin-lobster bisque, seared scallops, foie gras mousse with pear-ginger marmalade and entrees like rabbit pot-au-feu, roasted chicken and striped bass.
Michelle Hein is the social media editor for a women’s fashion company in Bucks County by day and a self-proclaimed food and drink fanatic by night and weekend. She enjoys attending wine classes, trying new recipes in the kitchen and going to old favorites and new restaurants alike in the Bucks County and Philadelphia area. If the writing gig doesn’t pan out, she constantly dreams of owning her own bakery…perhaps connected to the restaurant/bar that her lawyer husband would love to open.
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