Welcome to the Philly 15, the tiny corner of the internet dedicated to Philadelphia’s best new restaurants — based on the real life dining experiences of Philly Mag’s food editor (hi, it’s me).
So what exactly are the qualifications for this chic collection of establishments? For one thing, the 15 restaurants below opened within the past year. That’s why they’re called “new.” Secondly, I’ve visited each place and dubbed it genuinely recommendable. If I wouldn’t send my celebrity crushes (Tyrese Maxey, Tina Fey, and Quinta Brunson) to a restaurant, I wouldn’t send you, either, so it’s not going on the Philly 15. Make no mistake — this isn’t a press-release circus, nor is it a collection of dubious friend-of-a-friend endorsements. If you’re just looking for a round-up of newly opened spots, check out these restaurant and bar openings around the city.
Waltz into these new restaurants with confidence that you’ll enjoy your meal. (I make no promises on the company, though; that’s on you.) I’ll be updating the Philly 15 with more spots as soon as I visit them, so you can always count on this guide to give you up-to-date restaurant recommendations. Until then … happy eating, Philadelphia.
Got a place you think deserves to be on the Philly 15? Send an email to [email protected] and make your case.
El Chingon, East Passyunk
Around $25 per person; walk-in only.
Best For: Casual meet-ups, breakfast or lunch, BYOB dining.
Philly has plenty of Mexican restaurants and delis serving cemitas, dripping tacos, and sweet breads. What’s less common, perhaps, is a Mexican restaurant making every bread product — the chewy tortillas, the crusty rolls, the sugar-crowned conchas — from scratch. El Chingon pulls off such a feat in a BYOB environment with ample counter seating, a handful of tables, and friendly service. Impressive as the baking bonanza may sound, don’t consider chef and owner Juan Carlos Aparicio’s hardcore bread obsession just a charming fact about this new East Passyunk corner spot: You can actually taste the fermented sourdough in his flour tortillas when you snarf down an order of choriqueso tacos; you can actually detect a rounded, nutty flavor when you bite into a seeded roll hugging chicken cutlet, avocado, bright and smoky chipotle peppers, and a wig of stringy quesillo cheese. Bring a friend who appreciates carbs and the vast universe of Mexican baking techniques. They’ll freak. 1524 South 10th Street.
Over $50 per person; reservations recommended (walk-ins accepted at the bar).
Best For: A show-stopping meal, a fourth date with someone you want to be your S.O., birthday parties.
“Isn’t Kalaya so much bigger now?” I can feel you wondering, “How could its charm possibly translate to a Fishtown warehouse that looks more like an L.A. restaurant than a Philly one?” Consider this: Kalaya 2.0’s food is as remarkable as ever. You’ll still find that same “holy-shit-I-can’t-stop-eating-this” feeling from chef Nok’s menu of Thai curries, noodles, veggie sides and dumplings — each dish playing off each other with varying levels of slightly sweet oyster sauce, creeping bird’s-eye-chili heat, briny fish-sauce funk, and sour lime. What Kalaya lost in small-scale coziness, it gained in Thai beer slushies, deluxe large-format dishes like a freshwater river prawn and some grilled skirt steak, and so many more tables for you and your pals. Of course, this new Kalaya is not going to be the exact same as its former self. How could it be? There are 145 seats. But the restaurant’s original spirit lives on in a surprisingly warm room with a soundtrack of funk, Motown, and Thai hits. This is a glow-up situation, not a sell-out situation. By the way, get the marinated shrimp with seafood nam jim if you like spice. It’s fabulous and punishing. 4 West Palmer Street.
Honeysuckle Provisions, West Philly
Around $20 per person; walk-in only; no seating.
Best For: Takeout, stocking up your kitchen, lunch
Honeysuckle Provisions serves reliably great breakfast and lunch — spiced beef patties enclosed in a dough pocket that tastes a little like toasted Cheez-its, platters with grits and eggs, chocolate chip cookies, a hoagie slapped with thinly sliced marinated turnips that will fuck up your relationship with other hoagies. But Omar Tate, Cybille St. Aude-Tate, and their team’s mission is larger than the contents of the refrigerated case behind the counter. This Afrocentric grocer and cafe spotlights the traditions of and directly supports Black farmers and makers — whether that’s through baking earthy-nutty yam bread, offering a Black farmers subscription box, or providing neighbors with fresh local produce in a segment of West Philly that largely relies on a few spread-out grocery chains. It’s one thing for a business to make amazing food; it’s another for them to construct (by way of dismantling) a system of agricultural exchange. 310 South 48th Street.
Pietramala, Northern Liberties
Around $40 per person; reservations accepted.
Best For: Vegans, date night, group dining
So you want to date someone who’s vegan without taking them to the same four restaurants over and over again? Congratulations, Pietramala has come directly from your sexy plant-based dreams to North 2nd Street in Northern Liberties. The menu at this BYOB celebrates seasonal vegetables without being too up-their-own-butts about the whole thing. You’ll see a beautiful chicory salad that tastes precisely like a caesar, made with dried olives and grated Barn Cat cheese concocted from tofu. You’ll eat fried lion’s mane mushroom nuggets lathered in what’s essentially a spicy-sticky duck sauce. If you’re lucky, you’ll eat braised beans in a tomato conserva that could easily cameo at the city’s best Italian restaurants without anyone knowing the difference. Bring some wine (know that there’s a $20 corkage fee), sit amidst the monstera leaves, and show some appreciation for the vegetables we all should be eating more of anyway. 614 North 2nd Street.
Saami Somi, Reading Terminal Market
Around $20 per person; walk-in only
Best For: Lunch, solo dining, casual work meetings
Siblings Donna and Mike Kolodesh have carved out a surprisingly idyllic world at Reading Terminal Market, thanks to a welcoming (and chic) stall design and even better Georgian breads. Every order here should follow a strict mission to sample as much of that bread as possible, but a good starting place is the adjaruli khachapuri. You’d think that the center of this classic Georgian cheese boat — its salty, gooey suluguni and imeruli cheese and a big slice of melting butter — would steal the whole of your attention. Instead, all I could think about was the sourdough bread surrounding the dairy party, its nubby edges dusted in flour, its airy, webbed insides, and its crusty perfection. Saami Somi almost feels too special for the echoey, tourist-hub surroundings of RTM. Regardless, they’re making excellent Georgian food that easily competes with what’s happening on Bustleton Avenue. Play hooky from work next week and stop by for lunch. And make sure to check out the marketplace of spices, cookbooks, and Instagram-famous glassware on your way out. 51 North 12th Street.
Doro Bet, West Philly
Around $15 per person; walk-in only.
Best For: Casual meet-ups, solo dining, fried chicken that will drive you wild
Thanks to your brain’s trusty pleasure center, eating fried chicken will always feel somewhat satisfying, even when the bird itself tastes just fine. At Doro Bet, though, just fine doesn’t exist. This new Ethiopian counter-service spot in West Philly comes from Mebruka Kane and the family behind nearby Alif Brew and Salam Cafe in Germantown. And, here, teff-battered fried chicken is the headliner dish — served in either a spicy berbere or mild alicha variation that each carry an extra hit of sweetness and peppery kick distinguishing Doro Bet from other fried chicken places in Philly. Both options are completely delicious. Imagine crackly thin skin, juicy dark meat inside, dark red berbere or yellow turmeric dust on your fingertips while you go to town. But Doro Bet’s alicha version burned down whatever my brain thought it knew about chicken-induced pleasure. These fat drumsticks and wings and thighs are acidic enough to cosplay as Lemonheads, at least until the citrus evens out with black cardamom and plenty of black pepper. Go now. Maybe run. 4533 Baltimore Avenue.
Roxanne BYOB, Bella Vista
$85 tasting menu
Best For: Anyone looking to for creative and unexpected food, unique dining, people who like dessert.
At Roxanne, one person does the cooking (Alex Holt) and one person (Alex’s good friend, Lauren) hands out plates and refills water glasses. But if you were wearing a blindfold, you might assume an entire kitchen brigade system was responsible for the $85 tasting. Alex’s food is ballsy and balanced — calfs’ brains sauteed in butter like budget foie gras, then lifted by the acidity and brightness of a paw paw and caper jelly; lion’s mane mushrooms presented like cuts of steak in between crisp slices of pear, all chillin’ over smoked hollandaise; kombu ice cream with espresso that tastes like the ocean ordered an affogato after a storm. Even still, nothing about Roxanne gives off pretension or self-importance. Etsy-purchased prints in Etsy-purchased frames dot lilac walls, for instance, and there’s an inexplicable assortment of stuffed animals in the bathroom hallway. As the meal began, Alex told all 10 of us diners that we could request whatever song we wanted, and then proceeded to create a playlist by talking to her Amazon Echo Dot: “Hey Alexa … play the band, America.” In a phrase, Roxanne has the energy of a fine-dining slumber party. But instead of microwaved popcorn, we ate baby cow brains. P.S. Alex says she’ll be switching from a tasting menu to a la carte service soon enough (and there’s a lineup of pastries offered on weekends). In either case, go for some wildly original food and to celebrate the creativity of a person who’ll likely be a force in this town. 912 Christian Street.
Arepa Grub Spot, Italian Market
Around $15 per person; walk-in only.
Best For: Casual meet-ups, solo dining, corn for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Few gestures can compete with someone handing you food fresh off of a griddle, the simple hospitality of a stranger saying, Hey, eat this very hot thing I just made for you with my hands. In the case of Arepa Grub Spot, that gesture comes by way of thick, folded corn cakes whipped up in a quiet room on 9th Street. These Venezuelan arepas — their sweetness playing against salty stewed meat, stringy-melted queso blanco, and the pure fat of a garlic cilantro sauce — will burn the roof of your goddamn mouth. Against all better judgement, you won’t be able to quit taking bites. You won’t be able to wait even 30 seconds before you go back in search of charred pernil and cheese. The menu at Arepa Grub Spot offers more than just arepas (you’ll find empanadas, cachapas, patacon sandwiches, loaded hot dogs, and flan for dessert, too), but a visit here sans arepa would be sad. Come for takeout or a quick, satisfying meal at one of their sidewalk tables. 1112 South 9th Street.
Taco Heart, Bella Vista
Around $20 per person; online ordering available; walk-ins welcome.
Best For: Breakfast, Texas ex-pats, highlight-of-the-week takeout.
Philadelphians have lived much, if not all, of our lives devoid of remarkable breakfast tacos. Nano Wheeden and the crew at Taco Heart are here to change that. Blistered, chewy flour tortillas get the star treatment. And, when you eat one after watching the disc puff up on the comal, you’ll understand why. Try your tortilla via a migas taco (made with half-softened tortilla chips, plus diced peppers and onions, and eggs), or the classic bacon, egg, cheese, and avocado. Whatever you do, it’s imperative you drench your Austin-style breakfast taco in creamy jalapeño salsa, which is almost zippy enough to send an electric current through the expertly scrambled eggs. They accept walk-up orders and have started to do delivery. But we recommend placing your order ahead of time. 1001 East Passyunk Avenue.
Burgertime, NJ, Audubon
Around $20 per person; walk-in only.
Best For: Dreamy stoner food (even if not stoned), quick meals, the perpetual feeling of summer.
Attention future mayor: In addition to fixing all of the systems that need support this city, please fund at least seven Burgertime, NJ locations in Philadelphia, wherein neon hot dog signs adorn the walls and chef Dane DeMarco serves their mildly hallucinogenic takes on classic fast food. Here you can acquire hot dogs slit in half and topped with elote-off-the-cob, or colossal fried-chicken sandwiches dripping with a waterfall of ranch dressing and hunks of bacon, or maybe a burger with rippled potato chips falling out of the layers of lettuce, American cheese and tomatoes. For now, Burgertime, NJ only exists in one special place — and it’s about 20-minutes from the city. Don’t let the drive stop you — this counter-service operation has too much fun with its food for you to disqualify a visit based on the location on a map. Plus, there are a couple of tables where you can sit in case you’d rather not eat tater-tots lathered with cheddar, bacon and barbecue sauce in your car. 123 West Merchant Street.
Grandma’s Philly, Midtown Village
Around $30 per person, reservations accepted.
Best For: Casual date night, takeout, fun group dinner.
Whenever someone mentions Thai food in Philly, Kalaya typically dominates the conversation. That’s cool and totally warranted. But we’re excited about a new option in town, too — especially one that focuses on northern Thai staples. Come to Grandma’s and focus on the dishes that take direct inspiration from chef Donrutai “Locket” Jainon’s grandmother’s cooking, like the “Crying Grandma” with strips of grilled beef marinated in a spicy tamarind sauce. (Locket also runs Ratchada Thai & Laos Cuisine on South 11th Street, by the way.) If you’ve ever loved a bowl of khao soi before — its creamy and golden curry base, its crispy-curly egg noodles that soften just a little as they sit, its tart pickles that brighten up every second you spend with the dish — you’ll be so happy knowing that Grandma’s Philly is open in Philadelphia. And if you’ve never tried the beloved curry noodle dish before, well it’s about time you did. 1304 Walnut Street.
Boricua 2, Port Richmond
Around $15 per person, walk-ins only.
Best For: A catch-up dinner with a friend, solo takeout.
The concept at this new Puerto Rican restaurant is simple and effective: show up to a strip mall storefront on Aramingo Avenue, step up to the counter and choose your protein — be it tomato-sopped pollo guisado or shredded pernil — plus your style of rice and your side salad. You can (and should) always add on some red beans to go with your yellow rice, as well as highlighter-orange pastelillos filled with beef, chicken, or cheese that taste as fatty and crispy as you’ll want them to. There are a couple of tables laid out in their bright space, but most of the business seems to come via takeout. Be warned: Boricua 2 sometimes runs out of their mofongo and their porky proteins later in the day, so you’re better off showing up before 6 p.m. if you can swing it. 3843 Aramingo Avenue.
Paulie Gee’s Soul City Slice Shop, Midtown Village
Around $15 per person; walk-ins only.
Best For: A late-night slice, fun group dinners, vegan pizza.
Typically speaking, positive things happen in the presence of pool tables and hot pizza. Paulie Gee’s Soul City Slice Shop — the new Brooklyn-based joint specializing in thin-crust New York pies as well as thick, Sicilian squares — is no exception to that standard. Its retro, after-school-clubhouse space can easily fit you and five friends on a Friday night (though the pool table might have a line, since Philly’s billiard elite has already descended upon this place) and there’s a bar area where you can hang with a slice of pizza or two and a signature “Gee Sting” cocktail. In terms of ordering, opt for the “Hellboy Squared” with crispy cups of pepperoni, the sweet-spicy zing of Mike’s Hot Honey, and a sesame-seed bottom that crunches and rips with ease. But know that the garlicky “Mootz” version tastes just as satisfying if you’re looking for a white pie. Head’s up: every pizza comes by the slice or the pie (with vegan options galore). The best part of all? Paulie Gee’s stays open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and until 11 p.m. every other day of the week. 412 South 13th Street.
Around $20 per person; reservations accepted.
Best For: Quick breakfast or lunch, cheese consumption, takeout.
Not unlike an Ikea bookcase, Autana can be as versatile as you need it to be — but you shouldn’t lead your life without her in it. Remember this Venezuelan place the next time you want to grab coffee and a bean-and-cheese arepa before getting on the train in Ardmore, or a place to meet a friend and eat what is without question some of the best food in the suburbs. After operating inside of Ardmore Station Cafe during the beginning of the pandemic, Autana now has their own storefront. It’s here that you can order empanadas at the counter (made with corn and then fried until they’re matte and golden), or stop by for a sit-down dinner. The cheese-laced Venezuelan snacks — in particular the sweet twists of mandocas or the massive patacon with shredded beef lodged between two smashed-then-fried plantains — warrant a trip to the ‘burbs no matter where you live in the Philly area. 4 Station Road.
El Mezcal Cantina, Point Breeze
Around $40 per person; reservations by phone.
Best for: Birthdays, sidewalk margaritas, weekend lunch with kids.
If Philly Mag’s editor ever asks you why the Foobooz crew isn’t on Slack on a Friday afternoon this summer, you can tell him it’s because we’re sitting on El Mezcal Cantina’s sidewalk, eating al pastor tacos and scallop aguachile. And you (and our boss, frankly) should do the same. This Mexican restaurant opened in an old pizza shop on Point Breeze Avenue in January of 2022 with neither fanfare nor a Yelp page. The El Mezcal Cantina team takes advantage of the space’s existing wood-fired oven to cook most of their hot dishes, including pizzas topped with juicy marinated pork and camarones a la parrilla with sweet corn. You’ll see a whole range of Mexican regional influences on the menu, from tiny CDMX-esque tacos to a Pueblan-inspired tres leches concha dessert and coastal aguachile served with crispy tortillas spotted with hoja santa. Set your sights on the tequila cocktails and the mazatlan aguachile, which is as cold, acidic and punching as you’ll want it to be on a 81-degree day. 1260 Point Breeze Avenue.