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Philly’s Dining Experts Name Their Favorite New Restaurants of 2019

Thai food at Kalaya, seafood at Vernick Fish, and Israeli fare at K’Far were hits this year

ice platter with oysters
Vernick Fish
Ted Nghiem

For our end-of-year tradition, Eater Philly asked a group of food writers to weigh in on the local restaurant scene over the last year. They looked back on their favorite new restaurants, the tried-and-true standbys they return to again and again, the best dining neighborhoods, the biggest complaints, and more.

To kick things off, here’s question one: What were the top restaurant newcomers of 2019?

Alex Tewfik, food editor at Philadelphia magazine: Musi is an adorable restaurant. Sometimes the food is ugly, but it’s always, always so delicious. And the service is charming as hell. Hiroki blew my mind. I think about it every day. And Kalaya, man. Some of the most thoughtful, soulful food in all of Philly. Nok and My-Le are absolute rock stars.

Sarah Maiellano, food and travel writer for Eater, the Philadelphia Inquirer, James Beard Foundation, Edible Philly, and USA Today: Fiore, K’Far, Vernick Fish. One of my favorite meals this year was unexpected: Plough at the Lancaster Marriott. The chef, Ryan McQuillan, cooked in some great Philly restaurants and now has even closer access to so many excellent farms and ranches.

Adam Erace, national food and travel writer and cookbook author: Two — and they’re on the same block: Kalaya and Angelo’s. I think both typify the best things about Philly. They’re independent, familial, and feel very rooted in tradition, and eating food from each of them is an almost spiritual experience. I need a sandwich mash-up of Angelo’s chicken cutlet and Kalaya’s chicken curry sauce and wok-fried cabbage in 2020.

Allison Steele, reporter and former food writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer: Kalaya, Elwood, Liberty Kitchen, K’Far.

Regan Stephens, food and travel writer for Food & Wine, Fortune, and Lonely Planet: Kalaya! Also Merkaz and K’Far — not only are Camille’s pastries perfect, but so are the lunch salads. Stina in South Philly is magic. (I think about the borek and pide with great fondness.) And Beddia, Vernick Fish, Condesa, Angelo’s, and Emmy Squared. We lived near Emmy Squared in Brooklyn and I’m thrilled to be close again to the colony pizza, with pepperoni, pickled jalapeños, and honey. I haven’t eaten dinner at Jean-Georges yet, but the space is truly stunning.

Kae Lani Palmisano, Host of WHYY-TV’s Check, Please! Philly (airs January 9) and contributing food & travel editor for USA Today 10Best: I have to give some love to my mom’s bakery Bunnycakes, which turns 1 year old in the coming weeks. She designs custom cakes and cookies but she also runs Cookies & Sip cookie-decorating workshops. Think Painting with a Twist but instead of painting you’re learning how to expertly decorate cookies — and drinking wine while doing it.