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Restaurant Experts Reveal Philly’s Biggest Dining Surprises of 2019

Hold on to your forks

pan in fire cooking
Hearthside in Collingswood, New Jersey
Michael Persico

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 returned to again and again, the best dining neighborhoods, the biggest complaints, and more.

The question today: What was the biggest dining surprise of 2019?

Allison Steele, reporter and former food writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer: It shouldn’t be surprising at this point, but it remains amazing to me how the bar continues to be raised in terms of the talent and creativity in Philly’s restaurant scene. As dining guests, we are being trained to expect greatness and it’s so exciting to watch it happen.

Alex Tewfik, food editor at Philadelphia magazine: It is absolutely shocking to me that there are people out there who care about David Portnoy’s Philly pizza opinions. Really bums me out.

Sarah Maiellano, food and travel writer for Eater, the Philadelphia Inquirer, James Beard Foundation, Edible Philly, and USA Today: Honestly, how good Jean-Georges was. I know I know, the bad reviews, but I had a seriously great meal with great wine, service, and views.

Regan Stephens, food and travel writer for Food & Wine, Fortune, and Lonely Planet: I haven’t had tequila since sophomore year of college for…reasons, but I felt like I needed to get a margarita at El Techo, because when in Rome. It was so stellar. And just like that, I love tequila again. Also, the porchetta sandwich I just ate from the newly opened Porcos on Washington Avenue in my neighborhood blew my mind. It’s herbed porchetta sliced to order, on homemade ciabatta, layered with pork crackling. We’re kind of in a restaurant desert over here, so it was a delightful surprise. And finally, Pizzeria Beddia has a salad with fish sauce vinaigrette, and yes, the pizza is excellent, but I was truly shocked that a salad is my favorite thing on that menu. I love that salad so much. (Joe, if you’re listening, can I have the recipe?)

Kae Lani Palmisano, Host of WHYY-TV’s Check, Please! Philly (airs January 9) and contributing food & travel editor for USA Today 10Best: I just moved back to South Jersey and they take dining seriously in these parts. All of our new neighbors introduced themselves by listing their favorite places to eat. I have found my people! My biggest dining surprise is the high concentration of quality food in Collingswood and Haddonfield. I haven’t explored too much of Haddonfield yet, but in Collingswood there’s Zeppoli, Indiya, Porch & Proper, and Hearthside, to name a few. I promise that it is worth taking the PATCO over. It’s 12 minutes to get from Eighth and Market to the Collingswood station, which is a lot faster than trying to find parking in Fishtown.

Adam Erace, national food and travel writer and cookbook author: Lots of surprises this year: how great it was to eat at Osteria recently after a decade away; that the perfect small plates (Judion beans!) are maybe even better than the pizza at Pizzeria Beddia; Capogiro closing; desserts at Fiore. I’m late to the party on Mighty Bread, but I just made it to the sweet little alleyway bakery two weeks ago and it’s going to be in heavy rotation moving forward. I’ve had Chris’ bread in the past, but always from Stargazy. It’s great seeing what he can do with his own kitchen. The mushroom toast is an umami tsunami. The other big surprise is that James’ Jim Burke is back in a fine-dining setting after years of catering, teaching, and corporate cheffing. In September he joined Mulherin’s in Fishtown, and eating his pasta again was literally emotional for me.