After a week of intense voting, today we announce the editors’ and readers’ choice winners of the ninth annual Eater Awards, celebrating the chefs, restaurants, and restaurateurs that made the biggest impact on all 24 Eater cities over the past 12 months.
Thank you to everyone who voted last week, and congratulations to the winners. Read on to learn more about this year’s best of the best. Editors’ choice winners will receive an illustrious tomato can trophy via FedEx, along with a full feature story on Eater Philly in the coming year.
Restaurant of the Year
The one restaurant everyone was talking about in 2018 was Suraya, an all-day destination spot in Fishtown (1528 Frankford Avenue). The Lebanese menu of flatbreads and sandwiches during the day and kebabs and whole grilled fish in the evenings is inspired by dishes siblings Nathalie Richan and Roland Kassis grew up with in Beirut — the restaurant is named after their grandmother. They own Suraya with Greg Root and chef Nick Kennedy of cocktail bar R&D (formerly Root). With attractive design both indoors and in the courtyard garden, shelves stocked with olive oils and spices for sale, creative cocktails, and an expertly executed Middle Eastern menu, it’s no wonder Suraya was an immediate hit.
Readers’ Choice Winner for Restaurant of the Year: Spice Finch
Chef of the Year
Cristina Martinez, South Philly Barbacoa
Cristina Martinez cooks the food she grew up with in Capulhuac, Mexico at South Philly Barbacoa, the nationally praised Italian Market taco shop she owns with her husband, chef Ben Miller. And while she’s no novice to the Philly food scene, having first gained attention selling her lamb barbacoa from a food cart in 2014, this has been a big year for Martinez. It started out with a spot on the list of James Beard Award semifinalists. David Chang paid a visit for his Netflix show Ugly Delicious. Over the summer, the couple relocated the restaurant from the snug space it had been sharing with El Compadre (which has since closed) to a bright corner spot on 9th and Ellsworth, where the line for barbacoa tacos and consomme has been known to stretch down the block. In September, a captivating episode of Chef’s Table told the story of how Martinez, an undocumented immigrant, opened the restaurant and, along with Miller, became an activist for immigrant rights. Good luck getting into South Philly Barbacoa now.
Readers’ Choice Winner for Chef of the Year: Jennifer Carroll and Billy Riddle of Spice Finch
Restaurant Design of the Year
Rohe Creative, known for many of the most interesting restaurant designs in Philly (like Cheu Fishtown, Bud & Marilyn’s, and Michael Schulson’s Harp & Crown and Double Knot), transformed the restaurant space at the Hilton-owned Inn at Penn in University City into a colorful French bistro with a curved bar and a lounge filled with plush seating. The look at Louie Louie (3611 Walnut Street) is Art Nouveau, with black-and-white checkerboard marble floors, reclaimed subway tiles on the walls, leather banquettes, rich, bright fabrics, and antique brass. Louie Louie owners Marty and Sydney Grims, father and daughter restaurateurs, also have White Dog Cafe right around the corner — Rohe Creative worked on White Dog’s recent expansion as well.
Readers’ Choice Winner for Restaurant Design of the Year: Louie Louie
Casual Restaurant of the Year
Casual, counter-service eateries continue to enhance the Philly food scene, with new options popping up all the time. Narrowing it down to one standout for the sake of the Eater Awards wasn’t easy, but the winner is an excellent new addition offering a type of food that Philly definitely isn’t known for: barbecue. Michael Strauss, co-owner of Taproom on 19th, started his barbecue business as a roving operation, popping up with his smoker at parties and festivals. Early this year, he debuted the brick-and-mortar Mike’s BBQ in South Philly (1703 S. 11th Street), where his brisket, ribs, and pulled pork are known to sell out daily. Don’t miss the brisket cheesesteak with “whiz” made from Cooper Sharp cheese.
Readers’ Choice Winner for Casual Restaurant of the Year: Stock
Restaurant Empire Builders of the Year
Michael Schulson and Nina Tinari
All of the nominees in the Restaurant Empire Builder of the Year category are crucial to Philly’s food scene, but in 2018 the restaurateurs who made the biggest moves were Michael Schulson and his wife, Nina Tinari. Their Schulson Collective already included several popular Philly spots: Harp & Crown, Double Knot, Sampan, Independence Beer Garden. Early this year, they added Osteria and DK Sushi, a fast-casual offshoot of Double Knot in the Franklin’s Table food hall. Last month, they debuted the buzzy Giuseppe & Sons, a collaboration with the Termini bakery family that includes a luncheonette on street level and a sexy Italian restaurant below ground. Up next for Schulson Collective is a steakhouse on 13th Street, next to Double Knot, and a project just off Rittenhouse Square.