Philly’s food scene came alive over the weekend with restaurants and bars jumping to set up outdoor tables on sidewalks and patios as soon as they got the go-ahead from the city, after being limited to takeout only for three months during the coronavirus pandemic.
Outdoor dining, with social distancing and hygiene regulations, kicked off June 12. Officially, only restaurants with licenses for sidewalk or patio seating were able to offer outdoor dining immediately. Restaurants without a license can apply for a few different options, from sidewalk cafes to street closures. One option involves turning a curbside parking area into a small dining area, which the city is dubbing a “streetery.”
Even with tables spaced apart and a requirement to wear masks when not seated (which was definitely not followed by everyone), the atmosphere was jubilant. Philadelphians who opted to dine out seemed relieved to get back to restaurants — others are feeling far from ready.
Here’s what it looked like.
At Southern restaurant Booker’s in West Philly, a row of umbrella-covered sidewalk tables were filled during Sunday brunch.
On the same block, one table for six diners was set up outside soul food restaurant Amari’s, under a sign advertising Sunday jazz brunch.
Don Barriga Mexican Grill, in the former Rx at 45th and Spruce, had room on its University City sidewalk to set up a couple of tables.
Across from Eastern State Penitentiary in Fairmount, Fare spaced its tables out on raised platforms and the sidewalk.
Lebanese-French eatery Cafe La Maude in Northern Liberties drew a brunch crowd. Down the block, Honey’s Sit ‘N Eat, also a destination for brunch, had a handful of umbrella-covered tables set up outside.
Jerry’s Bar in Northern Liberties installed clear partitions between sidewalk tables and set up a curbside seating area.
In Old City across from the Liberty Bell, Michael Schulson’s Independence Beer Garden is still filled with greenery and picnic tables under string lights, though tables are now marked off for social distancing.
Nearby, Old City Beer Garden on Market Street reopened with its colorful umbrella-covered tables.
The restaurant-filled stretch of Market between Second and Third streets in Old City was bustling.
At Stephen Starr’s Continental at Second and Market, which kicked off the neighborhood’s transformation 25 years ago, yellow tables were carefully spaced out alongside the restaurant.
Another Stephen Starr spot, Talula’s Garden, is now open for socially distanced outdoor dining on Washington Square.
The tables at vegan cocktail lounge Charlie Was a Sinner in Midtown Village/the Gayborhood take over the sidewalk in front of the adult store next door.
On South Street, Jet Wine Garden, which debuted last summer in what had been a vacant lot next to Jet Wine Bar, is back for the summer season.
A block away, at 1620 South Street, a streetery is set up in front of brunch spot Miles Table, which is now selling ice cream in the evenings. Next door, French-Asian bakery A La Mousse has a cafe table for customers.
At South Philly classic Ralph’s, sidewalk tables stretch out in front of its neighbor Sarcone’s Bakery, another classic spot. On the other side of the century-old Italian restaurant, a few tables are set up in front of acclaimed Thai newcomer Kalaya.
Marc Vetri has room to spread out the tables at Fiorella in Bella Vista, near the Italian Market. His pasta restaurant opened just before the pandemic forced restaurants to close their dining rooms.
Just up the street from Fiorella, subterranean bar 12 Steps Down emerged into the sunlight with a row of umbrella-topped tables.
The opera-singing servers at the iconic Victor Cafe on 13th and Dickinson are done with their evening balcony performances for now. But takeout and outdoor dining are available.
Several spots along the East Passyunk Avenue restaurant and retail strip offered outdoor dining, including Southern brunch restaurant Flannel.
A chalkboard sign in front of the takeout window at River Twice, also on East Passyunk Avenue, asked for donations for the upcoming Everybody Eats event on June 19, in celebration of Juneteenth (another sign suggested customers stay a llama-width apart). Cooking for the Culture, a program highlighting black chefs in Philly, organized the first Everybody Eats in West Philly earlier this month, as a way to help out a neighborhood recovering from the looting that occurred during the first weekend of police brutality protests in response to the killing of George Floyd. The chefs and other volunteers gave out food, toiletries, and household items to 600 West Philly residents. River Twice is one of 17 restaurants around town collecting donations for the Juneteenth event in North Philly.