A VISITORS GUIDE TO DINING IN PHILLY
So who knew Philly was a great foodie destination? No? well me neither until I started doing my research and delving into the food scene in a little more depth than a superfluous flutter! Infact there are more than several award winning establishments and it was evident the folk of Philadelphia love their food! In the interests of research, here are a few of my personal favourite hangouts as recommended by no other than the locals themselves on all things dining in Philly…
A Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurant by James Beard nominated Chefs, husband and wife team, Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby. Vedge offers an exciting dining in Philly experience, celebrating the vegetable, inspired by seasonal veggies since 2011. Housed in the historic Tiger Building in the city centre of Philadelphia, the elegant brownstone home is an intimate setting for inventive vegetable cooking.
The Bar features natural wines, plenty of craft beers and a creative cocktail list, all selected to compliment the wide range of tastes through the dinner and dessert menus.
The menu is split into sections such as Vedge Bar, Dirt List and The Grill, we chose a couple of items from each to share. Vedge is most definitely a place for the concept of ‘small plate’ dining. I recommend the white chocolate cheesecake with Wasabi ice-cream, what? It definitely works! Rumour has it, Vedge is the USA’s best vegetarian restaurant and I can honestly say I know why!
Be-lavie Tip: Booking essential
Vedge 1221 Locust St, Philadelphia 19107 Tel. +1 215-320-7500 Website
Zahav opened back in 2008 and is a modern Israeli restaurant that brings the authentic flavors of Israel’s cultural heritage to dining in Philly.
Zahav means “Gold” in Hebrew and is a reference to Jerusalem, which has been a cultural crossroads for thousands of years. The design of the restaurant echoes the hidden courtyards of Jerusalem, with golden limestone floors and walls, hand-carved tables, and soaring ceilings.
The soul of Zahav is the laffa bread, baked to order in their wood fired Taboon; the creamy and nutty hummus will transport you to Jerusalem together with the sizzling skewers of meat grilled over hardwood charcoal. Zahav offers a small plates menu that encourages guests to sample the large variety of cultural influences from the cuisine of Israel, Eastern Europe to North Africa and from Persia to the Eastern Mediterranean.
To try a bit of everything we picked the ‘ A Taste of Zahav’ taster menu, which is called Tayim and includes, Salatim (six daily vegetable salads) and Hummus with zaffa, two mezze, one, one al Ha’esh (grilled over coals) and dessert , which comes out at great value for money but be warned its a lot of food!! Excellent vegetarian options available too.
One of my favourite small plate cuisines to date and one not to be missed. I recommend booking a table as there currently is a 60 day wait time (testament to how good it it). We just showed up and waited two hours to be seated at the bar counter, which was an incredible experience.
Be-lavie Tip: Booking really is essential and well in advance (up to 60 days prior attendance) to guarantee a table.
237 St James Place, Philadelphia 19106. Tel. +1 215-625-8800 Website
DIM SUM GARDEN
A local recommendation meant I made a beeline for Dim Sum Garden. It’s situated in the heart of China Town and no other than the 5th generation of the original chef who created the first Xiao Long bao in China. Chef Shizhou Da has over 30 years of experience making fresh traditional homemade Shanghai style Dim Sum. Trust me, you’ll be in for a treat at Dim Sum garden.
An open kitchen, which allows you to see the skill of the chefs making the intricate dim sum, a variety of Dim Sum and hot tea, all served up by Chef Shizohou Da, her daughter Sally, and their incredible team.
The restaurant opened in 2013 and is literally buzzing, we didn’t book a table and managed to bag a table opposite the open kitchen at around 9 pm. Who would’ve thought Dining in Philly would’ve included Dim Sum?!
Be-lavie Tip: Just to note, Dim Sum garden is cash only (they do have a cash machine on site).
1020 Race St, Philadelphia, 19107 Tel. +1 215-873-0258 Website
This historic building was founded by George Bartol and was the first in the world to house a stock exchange, maritime exchange and grain trading exchange simultaneously. This historic space has now been re-purposed into an internationally inspired food hall.
The Bourse is great for small local and international stalls and serves as a great place if you want to drop by for snacks or require express food. It is a lovely building however for me it was a little shopping mall food hall food however it is open all day and also does food in the evenings.
Be-lavie Tip: Great for coffee and sweet treats in between sight seeing
111 S Independence Mall East, Philadelphia 19106. Tel. +1 215-625-0300 Website
READING TERMINAL MARKET
Reading Terminal Market is one of America’s largest and oldest public markets, housed since 1893 in a National Historic Landmark building, the Market offers an incredible selection of locally grown & exotic produce, locally sourced meats and poultry, plus the finest seafood, cheeses, baked goods and confections. You’ll find everything you need to create a memorable meal, from cook books, to table linens, kitchenware, fresh cut flowers and more. Plus the widest variety of restaurants under one roof. Find it all here at Philadelphia’s historic public market!
I have to admit this was one of my go to eating hangouts and I actually had breakfast, snacks, freshly squeezed juices and the not be missed famous Philly Cheese steak here. There is an enormity of local food and drink at Reading Terminal market, just get what you need and grab a seat. It’s all pretty casual and fresh.
By the way, The Philly Cheese Streak is a sandwich made from thinly sliced pieces of beefsteak and melted cheese in a long hoagie roll with root in Philly. I had the Vegan version and I have to admit it was pretty delicious.
All I’m saying is that if there’s a one stop shop with fresh local produce and you don’t have time for a proper sit down meal and want to be dining in Philly, then Reading Terminal Market is the place.
Be-lavie Tip: Go early morning (just before 8am) for delicious bakery treats.
51 North 12th Street, Philadelphia 19107. Tel. +1 215-922-2317 Website
One of my favourite brunch spots, located in Queens Village is basically a trendy, hip eatery where two chefs cook, locally sourced, good quality fare all day in beautiful cute surroundings. It has very much an artsy feel about it. The staff are super friendly and on hand to help with recommendations and the pain au chocolat and croissants are freshly baked on site!
I opted for my usual cappuccino with scrambled eggs, a large homemade hash brown and toast to kick start my day.
Be-lavie Tip: If you’re an early bird like me get there around 7:30 am and you’ll have the place to yourself, with the odd customer popping in for take out coffee. Grab a pew, paper and take in the smell of freshly baked goods as you sip on your early morning caffeine fix.
743 South 4th Street, Philadelphia,19147. Tel. +1 215-278-2736 Website
Another more traditional diner come brunch / breakfast spot was Sabrina’s Café. They have a couple of locations in Philly (I went to the one located close to the Art Museum) and also do all day food, as well as alcoholic drinks and milkshakes. It’s all quite wholesome, quite large diner style portions but made with good quality ingredients and fantastic service. Service is also quite fast so if you’re in a hurry as we were to get our train back to NYC, the staff are incredibly accommodating!
I tried the spiced tofu, with sautéed onions, bell peppers, spinach, mushrooms, garlic and shallots. This was accompanied with fresh sautéed potatoes, bread and conserves.
Be-lavie Tip: The freshly squeezed orange juice is delightful.
1804 Callowhill Street, Philadelphia, 19130. Tel. +1 215 636-9061 Website
TRIA CAFÉ WASH WEST
A lovely wine bar come cool hangout with outdoor seating in a corner spot in the beautiful Society Hill. I popped in between doing the Mural Arts Tour (See below) and grabbed a table outside to enjoy a glass of my favourite Mendozan Malbec form Argentina and a very flavoursome Bruschetta topped with Burrata, pickled grapes, tomatoes and basil.
Tria also had a fantastic wine pairing menu with cheeses and hams but its advisable to book ahead for this. I took Dr C back to Tria where we enjoyed a couple more glasses of their fabulous wine collection menu.
Be-lavie Tip: To grab a table outside in the summer evenings as we did, it’s definitely advisable to book in advance and wine tasting / pairings should be booked to avoid disappointment. However Tria does have several locations in Philly.
1137 Spruce St, Philadelphia 19107 Tel. +1 215-629-9200 Website
XIX BAR & RESTAURANT AT BELLEVIEW HOTEL
A little gem located on the 19th floor of the beautiful Belleview Hotel is the XIX Bar and restaurant. There is a stunning rooftop bar with views of downtown Philly. We popped in for post dinner drinks in the elegant, high ceiling top floor. Unfortunately the heavens opened on our visit so we didn’t get to sit outside but we saw the beautiful view form the windows instead!
Be-lavie Tip: They make quite a mean Espresso Martini, just in case anyone’s wondering!
200 South Broad Street 19th Floor, Philadelphia 19102 Tel. +1 215-790-1919 Website
There we have it folks, my little culinary tour of dining in Philly. Considering the short space of time I was in The City of Brotherly Love, I managed to get a lot of foodie jaunts crammed in. Have any of you experienced the foodie scene in Philly? I’d love to know your recommendations in the comments below!