Today we announce the winners of the 2016 Eater Awards, honoring and awarding the chefs and restaurants that seriously made a city-wide impression this year.
Earlier this month, all across the Eater universe, editorial teams named five nominees in five different categories. Ours were: Chef of the Year, Philly's Most Stunning Restaurant, Philly's Pastry Chef of the Year, Restaurant of the Year, and Local Distillery of the Year.
Below are Philly's winners for 2016. Read all about them, and read about the rest of the country here.
Chef of the Year
Few chefs are able to pull off the impossible with as much grace and conviction as Konstantinos Pitsillides, the man behind Philly's favorite Cypriot restaurants. His original restaurant on a bustling corner in Washington Square West was one of Philly's BYOB greats, a true nod to an underrepresented cuisine — big flavors, not too fussy, bright and exciting. But then it closed. A year later, he reopened in sleepy Queen Village with a full bar, a wood-fired grill, and a new name: Kanella South. Within just a few months, it became the destination restaurant that it is today, one that landed on Eater critic Bill Addison's Best New Restaurants in America 2016 list. But Pitsillides didn't stop there. After Kanella South won the city over, he returned to his old stomping grounds in WashWest to open Kanella Grill — a BYOB focusing on Cypriot street food. Only open for about four months, Kanella South's casual sister has already found its groove, garnered rave reviews from the critics, and further solidified Pitsillides's place in Philly's buzzing dining scene.
Chef of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: Nicholas Elmi
Restaurant of the Year
Wm. Mulherin’s Sons
The folks behind Wm. Mulherin's Sons should publish a manual on how to open a restaurant in 2016. Everything they've done, from hiring the right kitchen talent (Chris Painter is an absolute animal when it comes to Italian cooking) to turning an over-a-century-old defunct whiskey bottling plant into a sprawling work of art, has resulted in something spectacular, whether it's the sinfully simple homemade pasta, the picture-perfect cocktails or the sensational wine list. Through and through, Wm. Mulherin's is an impressive beast — Fishtown, and the city at large, should be proud to call it their own.
Restaurant of the Year Readers’ Choice: Saté Kampar
Pastry Chef of the Year
Tova du Plessis, Essen Bakery
Who could imagine that such a tiny Jewish bakery in South Philly could make the splash it did in such a big city? Tova du Plessis, a pastry-alum of some of the city's finest kitchens, finally took the leap and opened her own shop in South Philly called Essen Bakery. And the little thing on Passyunk has been turning out Jewish baked goods worth traveling for from far and wide, each with their own little twist. Chocolate babka gets a bump of nuttiness from sesame halva; black and white cookies are spiked with orange zest, and croissants are always better when dusted with za'atar spice.
Restaurant of the Year Readers’ Choice: Jessica Stern (Bakeshop on 20th)
Restaurant Design of the Year
Harp & Crown
Michael Schulson wants jaws on the floor when guests walk into his restaurants; that's a very deliberate choice. We've seen it before with his Midtown Village izakaya Double Knot, and then he went and did it again inside his Center City newcomer Harp & Crown, a majestic, vintage dining room full of tufted leather, sky-high ceilings, and a wraparound bar, plus a basement cocktail lair complete with its own bowling alley. Take a tour here, and see it for yourself.
Restaurant of the Year Readers’ Choice: ROOT
Local Distillery of the Year
In a city now teeming with local distilleries, many of them popping up within the last year or two, it's difficult to claim one better than the rest — they're all relatively young. The team behind Rowhouse Spirits, however, made a real case for themselves this year. Not only are they brewing some pretty fantastic product out of a small operation in Kensington, but they've diversified their lineup past the typical gin-rum-whiskey troupe. Try the caraway-heavy "Nordic Akvavit", or the amaro-esque "Bear Trap" blended with 19 different herbs and spices, or how about a liquor made of Philadelphia-roasted ReAnimator coffee ("Le Couer Noir")? All are delightful and delicious options but, more importantly, they’re a real testament to the way things are moving within Philadelphia's craft spirits scene.