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.
Here, we ask the experts to reflect on the year in food and answer this tough question: What was your single best restaurant meal of 2019?
Allison Steele, reporter and former food writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer: Very tough call between the beautiful dinner I had with my father at Friday Saturday Sunday, where every bite is always perfect and extraordinary, and the feast in Pizzeria Beddia’s hoagie room, which is the stuff of dreams for an overeater like myself.
Sarah Maiellano, food and travel writer for Eater, the Philadelphia Inquirer, James Beard Foundation, Edible Philly, and USA Today: I went to Vetri for my husband’s 35th birthday, which is hard to beat, though tasting menus and wine pairings are rougher in my 30s than they were in my 20s.
Regan Stephens, food and travel writer for Food & Wine, Fortune, and Lonely Planet: It’s a tie! (Sorry.) We went to Kalaya for my husband’s birthday, and every dish is an absolute flavor bomb. And I know I said this last year, but we had another memorable meal at Friday Saturday Sunday. We took friends who were visiting from New York, and from the cocktails to the dessert, everything is just outstanding. I loved experiencing the restaurant through their eyes, and seeing the look on their faces when they tried dishes like morcilla creste di gallo and sweetbread katsu.
Kae Lani Palmisano, Host of WHYY-TV’s Check, Please! Philly (airs January 9) and contributing food & travel editor for USA Today 10Best: One of my top meals this year was a fennel-stuffed branzino at Vernick Food & Drink. It’s a whole branzino that has been flawlessly deboned (my theory is that Greg Vernick has found a purveyor that has access to a breed of boneless branzino). The fennel added a surprising herb-y sweetness to the fish. I can’t have branzino anywhere else now because Vernick set a new standard for me.