Notable new restaurants open all the time in Philadelphia — and as the city continues to fight the pandemic, there are more places than ever to try. Each spot on this list offers an extremely good mix of indoor, outdoor, and takeout options, though if you’re dining indoors, wearing a mask and getting vaccinated protects both you and the restaurant staff serving you. Be patient as changing times and nearly two years of ups and downs have been tough on restaurants and their staff — and don’t forget to tip well.
Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; the latest data about the delta variant indicates that it may pose a low-to-moderate risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.
Philadelphia, PA 19144
Salam Cafe in Germantown has a little bit of everything: Mediterranean platters with hummus and falafel; spicy chicken Ethiopian stew and spongy injera; coffee drinks and smoothies; and even a small market of essentials if you’re running low on home goods. You’ll be happy with whatever you get (tubes of toothpaste included) but you can’t go wrong with the lamb platter, spicy beef stew, and the chicken kabobs. Bonus: There’s Ethiopian firfir for breakfast on the weekends.
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
The latest restaurant from Laurel’s Nick Elmi and Fia Berisha is right next door to The Landing Kitchen, the all-day cafe that Elmi and Berisha opened at the Ironworks waterfront in Bala Cynwyd earlier this year. Lark is the Landing Kitchen’s dinnertime complement: with a swank rooftop, sea urchin deviled eggs, glazed duck breast, and a robust cocktail list, it’s a pretty destination fit for the nighttime crowd.
Banh mi sandwiches at the new Vietnamese coffee shop in Kensington, Càphê Roasters, are made with house-made chả lụa Vietnamese sausage from chef Jacob Trinh — what’s not to love? Trinh and Thu Pham, the shop’s owner, make strong coffee, thoughtful lattes, and sweetened condensed milk drinks to accompany the breakfast and lunch menu, and those who prefer to brew at home can still pick up Pham’s beans, which are sourced from farmers around Asia.
Owned by the folks behind Jet Wine Bar, and with Alexis Tellez as executive chef, Sor Ynez offers fresh Mexican cuisine with a focus on sustainability. Try the “alt pastor,” a spit-roasted cauliflower alternative to al pastor that can be ordered on a taco, burrito, or torta, or root vegetable ceviche. Plus: vegan churros with oat milk champurrado are a great after-dinner treat.
Izakaya By Yanaga
Philadelphia, PA 19125
Another great dining destination comes to — where else? — Fishtown. Izakaya by Yanaga arrived on Frankford Avenue by way of Kevin Yanaga, an alum of Double Knot, Pod, and Morimoto, where he is delivering his take on sushi, ramen, sashimi, gyoza, and a range of hot and cold dishes. For now, the experience at Izakaya by Yanaga is a full service restaurant of appetizers, sashimi, and mains, though later on, Yanaga will build out a special omakase tasting menu space with 12 seats. Don’t wait, though: walk-ins to the already bustling spot are available now.
Stephen Starr’s new hybrid bookstore-restaurant-music venue-art gallery has been in the works for a long time: the pandemic pushed back its April 2020 open date until over a year later. This October, the wait is over — Baja dishes like tostadas, aguachiles, and adobado tacos are all served up in the restaurant’s main dining room, centered around a live fire grill. Not satisfied with ceviche and whole roasted snapper? Check out the bookstore and vinyl listening room for a change of pace.
Hook & Master
Just when you thought Philly had no room for another pizza place, Jose Garces’s Hook & Master opened on N. 2nd Street. The concept is multilayered: It’s a pizzeria with Chicago and Brooklyn-style pies from chef Steven Seibel. It’s a nautical-themed tiki bar with daiquiris and surf-inspired cocktails from Shannon Mustipher. There are fresh seafood small plates. And there’s a takeout window for pies to-go. Walking around the neighborhood and can’t seem to find it? Just look for the giant black-and-white octopus mural.
Middle Child Clubhouse
With Middle Child sandwiches as popular as they are, the anticipation for Matt Cahn’s second Middle Child outpost in Philly was palpable. A full-service restaurant, with a fun cocktail menu, small plates, and big chicken Milanese and burgers, Middle Child Clubhouse is all that Middle Child in Washington Square West is and more. Play a game of pool while enjoying an enormous sandwich and a local beer: what more could you want?
SUYA SUYA West African Grill
For flavors found in Nigerian cuisine, Suya Suya West African Grill — the latest fast-casual spot to open in Philly — can’t be missed. Brought to you by restaurateur Dera Nd-Ezuma, Suya Suya’s mix-and-match bowls can be paired with jollof rice and sides of plantains, and all the grilled meats are done in a perfectly piquant peanut spice. Even better: you can select your heat level if you want to go even spicier.
Philadelphia, PA 19123
At La Chinesca on Spring Garden Street, Northern Baja cuisine melds with Chinese-American dishes to make something unique to Philly. Baby corn elote, fried peppers and cilantro, and mushroom tacos are all menu standouts, plus the cocktails are very refreshing. The colorful and comfortable outdoor space will make you feel like you’re on a vacation in some sunny faraway place, too. Reservations can be made on Resy.
Hop Sing Laundromat
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Hop Sing Laundromat — the Chinatown speakeasy run by a mysterious owner known only as Lê — closed in March 2020 as the coronavirus spread, and has remained closed as a measure to protect its staff ever since. In September, Lê announced that he’d be reopening the dimly lit bar at limited capacity and the wait for the interesting and elegant cocktails (as well as Lê’s outsized personality) was worth it. Just remember: All guests must bring a proof of vaccination card and ID, and it’s cash only.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
There are countless reasons to stop by Reading Terminal Market (and no, you don’t have to be a tourist to go) but with the addition of Tambayan, the Filipino restaurant run by chef and owner Kathy Mirano, there’s another reason to hit up the bustling 12th Street market. Tambayan is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, for Filipino dishes like longanisa sausage fried rice, lumpia spring rolls, ube fries, and Mirano’s amazing pandesal rolls. Don’t forget to try the macarons in flavors like ube, matcha, and mango — they’re unlike any macaron you’ve ever tasted.
After being closed since March 2020, Jose Garces’s fine dining establishment Volvér at the Kimmel Center is open again with a new focus: For 12 months, Volvér will host seven guest chefs, starting in October with Poi Dog founder Kiki Aranita, who will cook dishes from her Hawaii roots. The program highlights minority chefs who have been impacted by the pandemic in some way, and diners will have the chance to donate to each chef at the end of every meal to help raise money for their next venture, with the Garces Foundation contributing a matching donation. Reservations can be made online.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
It was Chloe Grigri’s dream for years to open an intimate bar à vins, inspired by wine bars around France where diners snack on charcuterie and drink good wine. When she finally took the plunge to open Le Caveau upstairs from her French tavern The Good King in October of 2019, it was bustling for only six months before the pandemic shutdown. To our good fortune, Le Caveau is open again after staying closed for over a year. Celebrate this très cool date night spot by drinking natural wine and ordering the French hot dog, which comes served on half a baguette.