Philadelphia is a food town — from its humble fame as home of the cheesesteak to more recent accolades as a premier destination for innovative farm-to-table cuisine. You could spend weeks tasting around town and still not have your fill, but with merely 24 hours to enjoy, where do you make those all-important reservations? Here are our picks for a delicious day:
Breakfast or Brunch: Talula’s Garden
Aimee Oaxley’s second restaurant — she made her name with the book-a-year-in-advance, family-style dining destination Talula’s Table in suburban Kennett Square — takes all the casual, comforting things you love about breakfast and wraps them in a chic bow. You’ll be wowed as you enter the restaurant through its rustic-cute courtyard, teeming with ivy intertwined with twinkling lights and set with mismatched café tables and chairs. Inside, the homey space is packed with special touches — a living herb wall, flora prints and an inspirational quote wrapping the main dining room ceiling — and the friendly staff serves up refined dishes with personable flair. Housemade ricotta doughnuts are plated alongside seasonal fruit dipping sauces. Eggs Benedict is upgraded with house-smoked pork belly and tomato jam. Frittatas are loaded with local cheeses and veggies. Add in touches like buttery biscuits, mint-infused house water and one of the best cheese plate programs in the city, and you’ll never look at a plain box of cereal again.
Lunch: Fountain Restaurant
Long considered one of the best restaurants in Philadelphia, this Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star doesn’t do trends or pander to changing tastes. It simply delivers the best French cuisine with impeccable service. Ask for a table with a view of its namesake, the Swann Fountain outside on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and fully take in all of the sights (sophisticated tapestries and glass artwork) and sounds (the light clamor of business meetings and lunching ladies). Dishes are delicate yet flavorful, refined and refreshing. Look for lightly dressed oysters, country-club-style salads, tender filets of halibut and classic cuts of prime beef. The restaurant’s wine list is one of the most impressive in town.
Do what you must to arrive hungry at this Italian outpost and home of one of the cuisine’s most celebrated chefs, Marc Vetri. There is no à la carte in this tiny, 30-seat townhouse tucked on a quiet street. To experience the world of Vetri, take a journey through a four-course tasting menu that travels from the sea, to the garden, to the land and then on to a dessert paradise. As you admire the homey décor — dim lights, dark woods and little fuss — you’ll be served delicate housemade pastas, rich shanks of roasted lamb and more than one dish featuring offal. Spring for the wine pairing — the sommelier always comes through with unusual but just-right pours.
Late Night: Standard Tap
When the sun goes down in Philly, the gastropubs come alive. Few are as great as this original in Northern Liberties, where a quality beer selection is matched with well-executed bar fare in a fun-but-not-too-divey space that doesn’t close until 2 a.m. nightly. Grab a table in the dining area that looks like your grandmother’s living room, or nab a space on one the largest rooftop decks in the city. You won’t find any menus for this place, as the selections are influenced by local seasonality and written on chalkboards daily. Rest assured, though, you’ll always find comfort classics, such as pot pies, mussels in a hearty sauce and a burger that is one of the best in town.
Photo Courtesy of Four Seasons