Planning a wedding? If you've got your eye on a large country club or hotel wedding, chances are you've enlisted a major caterer, or may even be locked into one depending on your venue of choice. But Philly's a town that loves its restaurants, and your big day can be made all the more special (and more uniquely Philly) by including favorite dishes from local restaurants you know and love. Here are some of our favorite ideas for restaurants (and a few food trucks) that can cater events large or small, indoors or outdoors, daytime or evening, meat-centric or vegan. And yes, you can even score a wedding "cake" made of Federal Donuts.
Note: As with all things wedding-related, it's a good idea to get in touch as early as possible — especially if you anticipate a large number of guests at your event — and consider the info below to be guidelines. Catering coordinators may be able to provide additional services or options on a case-by-case basis.
Don't have a venue in mind yet? Also check out our suggestions for restaurants that can host your wedding on-site.
The Catering Giants
Our purpose here is to focus on favorite local restaurants, not catering companies per se, but we'd be remiss to skip the catering divisions that have grown out of the Starr and Garces empires. Both feature signature dishes and packages from their portfolio of restaurants, so if you must have Village Whiskey burgers at your wedding, this is how to make it happen. (Bear in mind as well that most Starr and Garces restaurants can also host your event, either with private dining options or a full buyout, depending on how many people you're expecting.)
Garces exclusively handles the catering at many popular venues including the Kimmel Center, Cira Centre, and more, or you can book them for another venue that gives you an option to bring in your own. Full-service catering offers a huge menu of options, including tapas stations featuring favorites from Amada and Tinto, slider stations stocked with Village Whiskey burgers, taco stations from Distrito, and more. If you've got your eye on a venue without amenities like cooking facilities, you can even book the Distrito taco truck for a fun casual option. Official website.
Stephen Starr's catering arm has exclusive arrangements with many popular venues, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Rodin Museum, PAFA, and others, and offers a vast menu including favorite dishes from spots like Jones, Buddakan, the Continental, and more. Full-service catering is available, but for more low-key events, you can also choose from the quick-service catering menu of platters and packages available to be delivered to stock a buffet of your own design. Official website.
Best Daytime Options
Who says weddings have to be full-scale evening affairs? Increasingly, many couples opt for daytime weddings, either to save some money or just out of a true love of brunch. Here are a couple of great options to consider if breakfast or lunch foods will suit your reception.
High Street's reputation for top-notch baked goods and seasonal grain- and vegetable-focused fare is by now nationally known, so opting for a simple spread doesn't mean you can't still treat your guests to the very best. Think continental breakfast assortments featuring the restaurant's renowned pastries, or a lunch buffet of sandwiches, knockout breads, and a wide array of the restaurant's vegetable sides and salads that will impress even your food-snobbiest friends. If you are looking at an evening affair, the restaurant may also suggest additional options like roasts or steak. (Contact Fork & High Street's events coordinator to hash it out, as many different options are possible on a case-by-case basis.) Official website.
Brunch favorite Sabrina's can provide everything from trays of breakfast pastries or sandwiches to some of their most popular brunch items like stuffed french toast, tofu scrambles, and frittatas for a crowd. You've probably been here on countless brunch dates with your beloved, so why not also have Sabrina's feed you after you exchange vows? Official website.
Casual Feasts for a Crowd
For outdoor weddings and other more relaxed affairs, things like barbecue and whole animal roasts are tried and true (and delicious) ways to feed a crowd. Here are a few of our favorite local options:
Whether you're thinking reception, rehearsal dinner, or anything else that requires you to feed a figurative army, an abundant buffet of chef Erin O'Shea's barbecue is a fuss-free no-brainer of a solution. On the menu are smoked brisket, pulled pork, ribs, and chicken (with all the necessary accoutrements to build sandwiches), trays of all the must-have sides (mac and cheese, cornbread, collard greens, and many more), and pecan and key lime pies. Official website.
Cristina Martinez and Benjamin Miller of the acclaimed South Philly Barbacoa cart won't literally bring the cart to your wedding, but they will set up a truly impressive roast lamb feast to keep your taco-loving friends and family more than happy. Miller tells us that they've previously catered weddings and parties of up to 300 guests, and can offer menus that extend beyond the typical barbacoa menu they're best known for: They've done carnitas, seafood, and even once barbecued a whole cow for a big event. Martinez can also make your wedding cake and other desserts. Haven't nailed down a venue yet? They're the preferred caterer for Isaiah Zagar's Watkins St. warehouse space (Zagar is the mosaic artist behind Philly's Magic Gardens on South Street), which would make for a truly unique Philly experience. South Philly Barbacoa on Facebook.
Serving rarely seen (around these parts, anyway) Hawaiian and Filipino foods, one of Philly's favorite food carts is also a capable caterer. Stock your buffet with kahlua pork, pancit, all kinds of poke, and snacks like lumpia and Spam musubi for a special-occasion feast your guests are sure to remember. Official website.
If you or your partner shun meat and other animal products from your diet, it might feel like an uncomfortable fit to cater your biggest day with slabs of steak. Luckily, Philly is home to Miss Rachel's Pantry, a unique restaurant that's also a fully vegan catering company known for its ability to satisfy diners of all stripes. Check out a menu here for an idea of the food and available services (though if you have a theme or anything special in mind, chances are they can customize a menu to fit). They even make their own lovely vegan wedding cakes, and are certified kosher, too.
N.B.: Miss Rachel's is currently in the process of moving from 1732 W. Passyunk Ave. to a new, larger home at 1938 S. Chadwick St. Official website.
Best Cake Alternative
Maybe you've noticed that wedding cake is often kind of... bad. Or maybe you just want to rep Philly in an undeniably fun and unique way on your big day. Either way, you can opt for a multi-tiered doughnut arrangement courtesy of Federal Donuts, and we doubt anyone will miss the fondant.
You pick the assortment of flavors you want — the standard glaze flavors for weddings are dark chocolate, vanilla-lavender, or apollonia (cocoa, orange blossom, and clove), or you can drop by the store a couple of weeks before your event and choose from seasonal fancies on the menu at that time — and commit to an order of at least eight dozen donuts, beautifully arranged and decorated on a tiered tower. Send an email to get started on reserving a date and nailing down the details, and it pays to do it early: a minimum of two weeks advance notice is required, but they can only deliver a couple of "cakes" on any given day, so the schedule can fill up fast.