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A spread of various Spanish tapas on a dinner table being eaten by diners.
Dinner at Oloroso.
Oloroso

The Most Underrated Restaurants in Philly

These 15 dining destinations are worthy of more praise, promotion, and patronage

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Dinner at Oloroso.
| Oloroso

During the end of the year, there’s a lot of great restaurants that often go ignored on “best of” lists. While countless regional and national media outlets put a spotlight on some of the same twenty or so places to eat that are downright outstanding — there are several dining spots that often fall within the cracks. There’s plenty of reasons why: A lack of consistent PR, a softer launch, location is somewhere that doesn’t generate enough buzz, not a part of a popular restaurant group, and/or they’re being outshined by a bigger named restaurant that serves similar cuisine.

While it’s great to celebrate restaurants who have triumphed in putting Philly on the map, here’s to recognizing these 15 underrated places that’s ensuring that the city remains there.

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Toast Cafe

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While there’s plenty of great soul food brunches in the city, how many of them have savory oxtail and grits? This West Philly gem is a Black woman-owned restaurant that serves brunch and lunch all day. Pro-Tip: Alongside their great oxtail and grits, don’t skip their vegan sweet potato French toast.

Stir Restaurant

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The Philadelphia Museum of Art is known for showcasing rare finds, but perhaps one of them is their magnificent restaurant inside. Stir is a standout not only for its fine dining, but the global themes that inspire it (such as their recent “Shape of Time” Korean menu by Chef Hoon Rhee). With an incredible Chef in Residency program that brought in the likes of talented chefs such as Kurt Evans, Sam Chen, Alison Fitzpatrick, Kyle Cuffie-Scott — it’s worth checking them out.

Butcher Bar

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Center City has several notable steakhouses, but Butcher Bar is beyond the confines of serving sizzling beef alone. Juicy burgers, fire-grilled chicken, succulent ribs, tasty sausages, and filling meatballs are all on the menu alongside great pasta, buttermilk biscuits, and a lively bar.

Rittenhouse has a lot of noteworthy restaurants, but not many of them can boast an incredible dinner, lunch, and brunch menu altogether. Wilder has an extensive raw bar (the snow crab claws and mussels escabeche are impeccable), pizza (try the “garlicky clam pie” and “sweet and spicy” immediately), pasta (creste alla scampi and mafaldine alla vodka are must-haves), with several impressive entrées (such as their spicy Calabrian hot chicken, braised wild boar shank, and roasted halibut) that might make you reconsider where you rank as the one of the “best of” on your personal list.

South Gate

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South Gate is more than an awesome happy hour spot, but a Korean-influenced restaurant with lots of flavor and surprise. Their bao buns (especially the bulgogi beef) are phenomenal, their ssam (served with rice, lettuce leaves, and sauce) is hearty, and their spicy pork ramen cannot be skipped. Come here for cuisine that truly embrace the spicy, sweet, salty, tangy and tart.

Pizzeria Salvy

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Pizza in this city can be hit or miss, but acclaimed Chef Marc Vetri’s Pizzeria Salvy (named after his beloved father, Sal) is definitely the former. Located in the Comcast Technology Center, this not-talked-about-enough-pizzeria is serving incredible 12-inch pizzas (such as the tasty Fiorella sausage & peppers pizza that includes sausage, roasted peppers, mozzarella, and pecorino) as well as specialty taglio slices, bountiful fresh salads, seasonal vegetables, and their legendary Sal’s meatballs (that includes tomato sauce and whipped Ricotta di Bufala).

Dolce Italian

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Grand Italian restaurants are all over Philly, but the elegance and intimacy of Dolce Italian is incomparable. Located inside of the W Hotel, this fine restaurant serves impressive house-made pastas (such as the garganelli bolognese that’s made with braised beef, veal, and pork ragu), Neapolitan pizzas (such as the primo amore that’s topped with burrata, cherry tomatoes, arugula, and parmigiano), and unforgettable entrées such as their lamb osso bucco, seafood cacciucco, and truffled spinach ricotta ravioli.

One of the best brunch spots in the city is in Midtown Village and it’s called Winkel. This popular restaurant doesn’t take reservations, but that hasn’t stopped diners from packing the place for their rich deep fried bread pudding French toast, hearty brisket hash, black kale, squash, and Swiss cheese omelettes, and savory fisherman’s pancake (that includes their smoked fish of the day, dill, and sour cream).

Oloroso

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Places serving tapas in this town are easy to find, but Oloroso is a masterclass in how more can actually be more. Chef Townsend Wentz is known for his super successful French restaurant Townsend and Italian byob A Mano, but his Spanish tapas spot deserves more recognition for its tasty steak empanadas, scallop brochettes, ham and cheese croquetas, chicken tagine, and so many other great options that will make you regret not visiting before reading this.

Grace & Proper

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This incredible neighborhood spot in Italian Market is an exceptional place for inventive sandwiches and bold cocktails. The Portuguese-influenced cuisine is creative, but casual — sophisticated, without being stuffy. Such comfort can be found while eating one of their Bifanas (a savory, garlicky, slow-roasted pork loin sandwich) and sipping from their EuroBar (which pours up a nice spritz, Greek rosé, and cocktail made with Luxardo Amaro Abano).

Fitz on 4th

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Vegan restaurants have been on the rise in Philly, but a lot of them don’t excel at the level of this Queen Village hotspot. Fitz on 4th takes vegan cuisine seriously — everything there is sourced from the finest ingredients and preparation (such as their Nonna meatballs made with a blend of pea protein and chickpeas, charred taos eggplant that’s served with unami citrus sauce, and nachos made with cheezy sauce, guac, sofrito, verde, and pico. topped with sour cream). Come here to rethink what meat-less and dairy-less dining can actually look (and surprisingly taste) like.

Southwark

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Being physically connected to a nationally-renowned restaurant like Ambra can be intimidating. But fortunately for Southwark, co-owners Chef Chris D’Ambro and Marina de Oliveira prove that two hot dining spots are better than one. Southwark is the cooler sibling to Ambra’s more elegant presentation. The Queen Village restaurant serves cheddar stuffed “hush puppies,” 26 ounce bone-in ribeyes, and dazzling cocktails with hilarious names (such as the “Mariah Carey can’t dance,” made with Reposado tequila, carrot juice, Galliano, lemon, and angostura) — convincing evidence that confirms that fancy and fun restaurants can co-exist (read: peacefully) on the same block.

The Twisted Tail

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South Street has many great places to eat, but The Twisted Tail deserves to be on the Mount Rushmore of great bars that also serve immaculate cuisine. Come here for one of the largest places to sip whiskey in town, but surprisingly stay for one of the city’s most exceptional spots for crispy fried chicken and succulent barbecue ribs.

Positano Coast by Aldo Lamberti

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While Old City is home to several James Beard award-winning restaurants and chefs, Positano Coast has been able to carve out a glowing reputation of its own without such distinction. It’s a Mediterranean restaurant that has one of the most exquisite al fresco dining areas in the region and has kept diners impressed with their noteworthy grigliata (an entrée that includes head-on shrimp, scallops, calamari, arugula, and rosemary pesto), chicken focaccia flatbreads, beef carpaccio, and unforgettable sea urchin linguine. It’s an ideal place for dinner parties and special occasions, with a happy hour that’s one of the best in town.

Apricot Stone

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Northern Liberties has quickly become one of the emerging culinary epicenters in Philly. But tucked within the new towering properties of this up-and-coming neighborhood is an outstanding byob that has been able to create a Mediterranean grill with signature Armenian flavor. Bring a bottle of your favorite wine and pair it with their tasty hummus plates, boreg, and lamb kebabs — or go all in with a guest by trying their filling “dinner for two” tasting menu that’s $85.

Toast Cafe

While there’s plenty of great soul food brunches in the city, how many of them have savory oxtail and grits? This West Philly gem is a Black woman-owned restaurant that serves brunch and lunch all day. Pro-Tip: Alongside their great oxtail and grits, don’t skip their vegan sweet potato French toast.

Stir Restaurant

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is known for showcasing rare finds, but perhaps one of them is their magnificent restaurant inside. Stir is a standout not only for its fine dining, but the global themes that inspire it (such as their recent “Shape of Time” Korean menu by Chef Hoon Rhee). With an incredible Chef in Residency program that brought in the likes of talented chefs such as Kurt Evans, Sam Chen, Alison Fitzpatrick, Kyle Cuffie-Scott — it’s worth checking them out.

Butcher Bar

Center City has several notable steakhouses, but Butcher Bar is beyond the confines of serving sizzling beef alone. Juicy burgers, fire-grilled chicken, succulent ribs, tasty sausages, and filling meatballs are all on the menu alongside great pasta, buttermilk biscuits, and a lively bar.

Wilder

Rittenhouse has a lot of noteworthy restaurants, but not many of them can boast an incredible dinner, lunch, and brunch menu altogether. Wilder has an extensive raw bar (the snow crab claws and mussels escabeche are impeccable), pizza (try the “garlicky clam pie” and “sweet and spicy” immediately), pasta (creste alla scampi and mafaldine alla vodka are must-haves), with several impressive entrées (such as their spicy Calabrian hot chicken, braised wild boar shank, and roasted halibut) that might make you reconsider where you rank as the one of the “best of” on your personal list.

South Gate

South Gate is more than an awesome happy hour spot, but a Korean-influenced restaurant with lots of flavor and surprise. Their bao buns (especially the bulgogi beef) are phenomenal, their ssam (served with rice, lettuce leaves, and sauce) is hearty, and their spicy pork ramen cannot be skipped. Come here for cuisine that truly embrace the spicy, sweet, salty, tangy and tart.

Pizzeria Salvy

Pizza in this city can be hit or miss, but acclaimed Chef Marc Vetri’s Pizzeria Salvy (named after his beloved father, Sal) is definitely the former. Located in the Comcast Technology Center, this not-talked-about-enough-pizzeria is serving incredible 12-inch pizzas (such as the tasty Fiorella sausage & peppers pizza that includes sausage, roasted peppers, mozzarella, and pecorino) as well as specialty taglio slices, bountiful fresh salads, seasonal vegetables, and their legendary Sal’s meatballs (that includes tomato sauce and whipped Ricotta di Bufala).

Dolce Italian

Grand Italian restaurants are all over Philly, but the elegance and intimacy of Dolce Italian is incomparable. Located inside of the W Hotel, this fine restaurant serves impressive house-made pastas (such as the garganelli bolognese that’s made with braised beef, veal, and pork ragu), Neapolitan pizzas (such as the primo amore that’s topped with burrata, cherry tomatoes, arugula, and parmigiano), and unforgettable entrées such as their lamb osso bucco, seafood cacciucco, and truffled spinach ricotta ravioli.

Winkel

One of the best brunch spots in the city is in Midtown Village and it’s called Winkel. This popular restaurant doesn’t take reservations, but that hasn’t stopped diners from packing the place for their rich deep fried bread pudding French toast, hearty brisket hash, black kale, squash, and Swiss cheese omelettes, and savory fisherman’s pancake (that includes their smoked fish of the day, dill, and sour cream).

Oloroso

Places serving tapas in this town are easy to find, but Oloroso is a masterclass in how more can actually be more. Chef Townsend Wentz is known for his super successful French restaurant Townsend and Italian byob A Mano, but his Spanish tapas spot deserves more recognition for its tasty steak empanadas, scallop brochettes, ham and cheese croquetas, chicken tagine, and so many other great options that will make you regret not visiting before reading this.

Grace & Proper

This incredible neighborhood spot in Italian Market is an exceptional place for inventive sandwiches and bold cocktails. The Portuguese-influenced cuisine is creative, but casual — sophisticated, without being stuffy. Such comfort can be found while eating one of their Bifanas (a savory, garlicky, slow-roasted pork loin sandwich) and sipping from their EuroBar (which pours up a nice spritz, Greek rosé, and cocktail made with Luxardo Amaro Abano).

Fitz on 4th

Vegan restaurants have been on the rise in Philly, but a lot of them don’t excel at the level of this Queen Village hotspot. Fitz on 4th takes vegan cuisine seriously — everything there is sourced from the finest ingredients and preparation (such as their Nonna meatballs made with a blend of pea protein and chickpeas, charred taos eggplant that’s served with unami citrus sauce, and nachos made with cheezy sauce, guac, sofrito, verde, and pico. topped with sour cream). Come here to rethink what meat-less and dairy-less dining can actually look (and surprisingly taste) like.

Southwark

Being physically connected to a nationally-renowned restaurant like Ambra can be intimidating. But fortunately for Southwark, co-owners Chef Chris D’Ambro and Marina de Oliveira prove that two hot dining spots are better than one. Southwark is the cooler sibling to Ambra’s more elegant presentation. The Queen Village restaurant serves cheddar stuffed “hush puppies,” 26 ounce bone-in ribeyes, and dazzling cocktails with hilarious names (such as the “Mariah Carey can’t dance,” made with Reposado tequila, carrot juice, Galliano, lemon, and angostura) — convincing evidence that confirms that fancy and fun restaurants can co-exist (read: peacefully) on the same block.

The Twisted Tail

South Street has many great places to eat, but The Twisted Tail deserves to be on the Mount Rushmore of great bars that also serve immaculate cuisine. Come here for one of the largest places to sip whiskey in town, but surprisingly stay for one of the city’s most exceptional spots for crispy fried chicken and succulent barbecue ribs.

Positano Coast by Aldo Lamberti

While Old City is home to several James Beard award-winning restaurants and chefs, Positano Coast has been able to carve out a glowing reputation of its own without such distinction. It’s a Mediterranean restaurant that has one of the most exquisite al fresco dining areas in the region and has kept diners impressed with their noteworthy grigliata (an entrée that includes head-on shrimp, scallops, calamari, arugula, and rosemary pesto), chicken focaccia flatbreads, beef carpaccio, and unforgettable sea urchin linguine. It’s an ideal place for dinner parties and special occasions, with a happy hour that’s one of the best in town.

Apricot Stone

Northern Liberties has quickly become one of the emerging culinary epicenters in Philly. But tucked within the new towering properties of this up-and-coming neighborhood is an outstanding byob that has been able to create a Mediterranean grill with signature Armenian flavor. Bring a bottle of your favorite wine and pair it with their tasty hummus plates, boreg, and lamb kebabs — or go all in with a guest by trying their filling “dinner for two” tasting menu that’s $85.

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