When it comes to eating in Philadelphia, most of the country thinks of one thing: cheesesteaks. And that’s a tragedy. The City of Brotherly Love happens to be one of the finest and most underrated restaurant towns in America, and we’re ranking the 15 best.
Philly might have a reputation for casual eating thanks to cheesesteak shops like Pat’s and Gino’s and burger joints like PYT, but there’s certainly a bustling upscale dining scene throughout the city and folks across the country are starting to take notice.
Over the years, Philadelphia has developed a culinary personality of its own, one that sets its culinary scene apart from the rest of the country. While there’s always room for the super-upscale restaurants like Vetri or the dearly departed Le Bec Fin, the best restaurants in Philadelphia have a homey and laid-back vibe, even if the prices don’t reflect it.
Chefs there take pride in their work but aren’t in your face about it, and because of exorbitantly expensive liquor licenses and lenient BYOB laws, Philadelphia very well might have the most BYOB restaurants in the country, where diners are allowed to bring their own wine or beer to a restaurant. Restaurants ranging from mom-and-pop shops to the most upscale establishments allow you to bring your own, helping to alleviate the sticker shock that usually complements a wine list.
In order to compile our ranking of Philadelphia’s best restaurants, we looked at not only the amount of buzz these restaurants are getting, but the level of critical appraisal, classic status, reliability to deliver a world-class meal, creative ingenuity of the cuisine, and quality of the overall dining experience. We first consulted our rankings of the 101 Best Restaurants in America, the 50 Best Casual Restaurants in America, America’s Best Steakhouses, and The 101 Best Burgers in America. We also supplemented our list with pre-existing rankings in both print and online from some of Las Vegas’s leading authorities, including City Paper, Philly Mag, Philly Style Mag, Visit Philly, and Phoodie. So read on for the 15 best restaurants in Philadelphia.
15) Han Dynasty
Chef Han Chang has taken over Philly with his unique brand of Szechuan cooking, and he’s brash in both his super-spicy cuisine and his tableside manner. Szechuan cuisine, with its aggressive use of face-numbing Szechuan peppercorns, isn’t for everyone, but if you’re into it you’ll love Han Dynasty which has three locations in the city and one in New York. Make sure you try the Dan Dan Noodles, and if you can take the heat don’t miss Dry Pot-Style entrées.
Open since 1997, Ellen Yin’s seasonal bistro is still going strong, and was reinvigorated by the arrival of chef Eli Kulp in 2012. Fork was one of the first restaurants in the area to orient their menu around showcasing local ingredients from the greater Delaware Valley and the menu changes daily and is always exciting and inventive. Expect dishes like spruce-smoked yellow beets with poached oysters, horseradish, and green juniper; handmade chickpea “postage stamp” pasta with sesame, raw artichoke, and lamb ragu; and grilled lobster with polenta, dandelion amaro, and chichories, and a wine list that showcases small, lesser-known producers.
Want more great Philadelphia content? Find it here. For more great restaurant coverage in other cities, check out our rankings of the best restaurants in New York, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Austin, New Orleans, and San Francisco.