2023 will go down in history as the year Philadelphia cemented itself as an undeniable dining destination in America. After dominating this year’s James Beard Foundation Awards with three major wins, new restaurants in the city have gone on to garner even more national recognition and universal acclaim — offering everything from avant-garde French cuisine to a perfected West Philly cheesesteak. To celebrate, Eater’s annual Eater Awards are here again this year, showcasing five favorite restaurants, hotspots, and chefs that made the city such an exceptional place to dine in 2023.
Best New Restaurant
Rittenhouse Square (and arguably Philly) wasn’t ready for the French Canadian love story that is My Loup — the nationally-acclaimed restaurant from the genius minds of chef/owner couple Alex Kemp and Amanda Shulman. Inside this intimate bistro, diners are served memorable raw bar plateaus, beef tongue on focaccia, crispy soft shell crab, and more of the kind of ambitious entrées that diners want to post on social media. Its exquisite vibes are less pretentious and more maximalist — the kind of culinary escapism that’s been missing from the food scene since the pandemic. It’s the kind of hotspot Philly didn’t know it needed until it came right on time.
Best New Bar
Philly had a lot of great bars open this year, but Vinyl is something special. More than just a place that’s pouring fun cocktails (such as the “Let the Devil In” that includes Grey Goose Vodka, tangerine, za’atar lime, and ginger beer, or the “I Knew You Were Trouble” that includes Tiki Lovers rum, Ancho Reyes chili, pineapple cinnamon, lime, and mint), they have an inclusive live music scene that’s already brought out the talented likes of John Legend, Kingsley, and American Salvage. This is the kind of bar you want to dress up for — a spot where it’s cool to party, sip, and mingle lavishly. Cheers to the return of the fancy Philly barspot.
Best New Dish
Jim’s West Cheesesteak
When the original Jim’s Steaks in West Philly was sold to new co-owner Cortez Johnson, it became Jim’s West — and controversy immediately followed. But once the legal battle dust settled, the culinary reinvention of the shop’s once-beloved cheesesteak began. The Jim’s West cheesesteak is the taste of Philly at its best: a sizzling serving of seasoned chopped ribeye, fried onions/peppers on a legendary Amoroso’s roll with wiz cheese or sharp provolone. Since Jim’s West’s grand opening in September, long lines for this outstanding cheesesteak have been as consistent as its positive reviews. In a city that’s known for this local delicacy, it might just be the best cheesesteak out right now.
The Lucky Well Incubator
During a time when the dining scene has faced unfortunate closings, unity and hope can be found in this shared kitchen incubator at 10th and Spring Garden streets. Created by Chef Chad Rosenthal, the Lucky Well Incubator is an inspiring collaboration of diverse chefs from various communities who are serving cuisine from around the world. At this eclectic venue, diners can currently try Navajo tacos from Chef Marcos Espinoza, Italian from Chef Rob Miskell, barbecue from Chef Scott Sumsky, and street-style Vietnamese from Chef Jacob Trinh. If there was a place to support the future of the city’s restaurant talent and cultivate mentorship, this would be it.
Chef of the Year
Montana Houston of Restaurant Aleksandar
It’s not easy to make a name for yourself as a young Black chef in Philly, let alone thrive in the highly competitive Rittenhouse Square — but executive chef Montana Houston of Restaurant Aleksander has been defying the challenges. The 27-year-old wunderkind has been able to impress diners from across the region with his individual take on contemporary European cuisine. Whether it’s his remix of the classic chicken schnitzel with Calabrian chili and fermented hot honey, or the extra flare he gives to crispy Brussels sprouts by adding shishito peppers, toasted almonds, and lemon marmalade, Houston excels at applying his flavorful approach to every dish. Alongside his equally impressive Chef de Cuisine Ja’mir Wimberly Cole, Houston is proving that the future of Philly’s fine dining scene is bright.