With longer days here, there are more hours to enjoy the fine array of new restaurants in Philadelphia. This spring, the lineup includes an exciting new trend—restaurants with an aim of social justice, including a cafe that employs foster children (The Monkey and the Elephant) and a burger joint that donates proceeds to hungry children (Hunger Burger).
Add to that an eclectic mix of Asian snacks, edgy tacos, hybrid dinner/entertainment venues and neighborhood spots serving creative fare, and the upcoming eating season looks incredibly fresh. Here’s a look at some of the newcomers:
Notable New Entrées:
- There’s always room for a new Thai restaurant, and the tiny Thai Square brings a brisk and tasty mostly takeout business (with 20 seats for dining in) to Graduate Hospital. The kitchen turns out classics like basil-fried rice, Massaman curry and pad kra pow. 2521 Christian Street, (215) 454-6683, thaisquarephilly.com
- Ardmore gets its own upscale pizzeria with the arrival of Parlor in Suburban Square. The family-friendly destination specializes in creative pies like the Sasquatch (butternut squash, sage, fontina and speck) and the Buffy (shrimp, fresno chile, salsa verde and garlic chips), along with pastas, salads, wines and beers. 30 Parking Plaza, Ardmore, (610) 649-6200, parlorardmore.com
- Fresh and local defines Old City’s newest entrée, Luna Café. The approachable sustainable fare includes black bean and kale veggie burgers, cornbread eggs benedict and braised pork quesadilla with house-made pico de gallo. 317 Market Street, (215) 309-3140, lunaphilly.com
- Its Korean-fried chicken wins fans around the globe, and now Philadelphia finally has a Bonchon franchise of its own. In addition to shatteringly crispy wings and drumsticks, the menu offers pot stickers and scallion pancakes, bibimbob and bulgogi, and a reasonably priced lunch special. 1020 Cherry Street, (267) 639-6686, bonchon.com
- Taking over for the Freight House in Doylestown, newcomer Station Tap House promises a similar vibe with easygoing pub fare (loaded tater tots, crab mac and cheese and filet mignon with beer-braised mushrooms). The bar offers more than 150 craft bottles and 35 beers on tap. 194 W. Ashland Street, Doylestown, (215) 348-1663, thestationtaphouse.com
- With pop-up restaurants all the rage, Nick Farina dedicates his Northern Liberties space (formerly Union Taco) to EAT, a 25-seat venue for four to six dinners per month to be prepared by aspiring restaurateurs looking to try out new concepts. 712 W. Girard Avenue, (267) 401-4769, eatrestaurantphilly.com
- Boasting the only direct-from-Italy cannoli shells in the city, Café Crema revisits the Italian Market’s namesake roots. Chocolate lovers beware—not only do the pastries come in flavors like dark and milk, there’s an entire hot chocolate bar (with peppermint, peanut butter and parmesan cheese among the options), not to mention hand-roasted coffee and gelato. 1205 S. 9th Street, (267) 928-4501, cafecremaphilly.com
Meals With A Mission:
- A non-profit cafe employing former foster youth, Brewerytown’s The Monkey and the Elephant serves fine drip and pour-over coffees and teas and simple breakfast and lunch fare. Its admirable social aims make these delicacies even sweeter. 2831 Girard Avenue, (484) 343-3709, themonkeyandtheelephant.org
- Fast food shows its heart with Hunger Burger, the recently opened stand at the Reading Terminal Market that donates the equivalent of a meal to hungry children for every burger sold. Menu items include the YO’lk (fried egg, onion ring, American cheese and chipotle ketchup), chili fries and salted caramel chocolate swirl milkshakes made from Bassetts Ice Cream. 1136 Arch Street, #427, (215) 922-2707, hungerburgerpa.com
Dim Sum & Then Some:
- The team behind the enormously successful Cheu Noodle Bar applies its doughy genius to Passyunk’s Bing Bing Dim Sum. The decidedly contemporary take on Chinese snack foods includes turnip cakes made from matzo meal with fried egg, maple and bonito; kimchi pork soup dumplings in shrimp broth; and Chinese okra with crispy onion. 1648 E. Passyunk Avenue, (215) 279-7702, bingbingdimsum.com
- A New York legend arrives in Philly’s Chinatown: Nom Wah Tea Parlor is a cartless dim-sum emporium with dishes like delicate egg rolls, sticky rice parcels, pork buns and dumplings. 218 N. 13th Street, (267) 519-2889, nomwah.com
- In April, South Philly welcomes Los Jimenez Mexican Cocina, the creation of Vetri kitchen staff member Justino Jimenez. Though the taqueria will specialize in spit-roasted al pastor pork, Jimenez will also feature meats such as suadero, chorizo and tripe in his signature tacos. 2654 S. 6th Street
- Graduate Hospital’s Los Camaradas takes on a timeless formula: the Mexican restau-bar, replete with a full tequila bar and fresh margaritas. On the edible side, the menu highlights fresh Mexican cuisine such as tacos (pork belly, mahi mahi, Brussels sprouts), chicken mole poblano and short-rib enchiladas. 918 S. 22nd Street, (215) 309-3727, loscamaradas.com
- He has a special way with tacos, and now Iron Chef Jose Garces brings them to Fairmount with the opening of Buena Onda. The fast-casual restaurant emphasizes Baja cuisine—specifically fish tacos on made-to-order tortillas, margaritas and fruit popsicles for dessert. 1901 Callowhill Street, (215) 302-3530, buenaondatacos.com
Dinner & More:
- Restaurant conventions are thoughtfully reimagined at West Philly’s William Street Common, an indoor beer garden with a vintage arcade. In addition to a savvy menu of snacks (pork-belly fries, kimchi pierogies) and sandwiches (turkey schnitzel with malt vinegar aioli, BBQ short rib with creamy horseradish), there’s a “curated” drink list ($5 cocktails, $15 pitchers of beer, $20 carafes of wine) and a no-tipping policy. A “three-drink” brunch with unlimited coffee and homemade donuts makes for another tempting proposition. 3900 Chestnut Street, (215) 397-4693, williamstreetcommon.com
- The hotly anticipated Heritage, a jazz and funk bar in Northern Liberties finally throws open its doors this spring. Live music accompanies rustic American fare prepared from ingredients grown on the roof garden, along with more than 30 beers on tap. 914 N. 2nd Street
- The below-Washington Avenue companion to Northern Liberties’ North Bowl, South Bowl builds on its modern bowling alley concept in an expansive space on Oregon Avenue. In addition to 26 lanes, the venue boasts a private upstairs alley, billiards, video games and a small menu of clever snacks such as tater tots, eggrolls with Taylor pork roll and pretzel bites. 19 E. Oregon Avenue, (215) 389-BOWL, southbowlphilly.com
- Vietnamese street food commands the spotlight at Same Same, opening by May 1 in a Northern Liberties boîte. On the menu: spicy fish cakes, pork noodle soup, banh mi sandwiches and banana cake with coconut milk and toasted peanuts.
- A New York phenom with whimsy in spades, Big Gay Ice Cream opens its first Philly outpost on South Broad Street.
- Perfectly situated in Brewerytown, Crime and Punishment Brewery revives that neighborhood’s reputation as beer central, offering up casual eats and well-crafted beverages.
- The mega-popular Han Dynasty chain gets its first spinoff with Dan Dan, a Rittenhouse-area seafooder.
- It’s been a long buildup to the opening of Bainbridge eatery/bar Whetstone, but if it’s as great as owner Jeremy Nolen’s Brauhaus Schmitz, it will be well worth the wait.
- Joncarl Lachman’s Noord opened up Philly palates to Nordic cuisine, and his upcoming Neuf in the Italian Market will likely do the same for North African fare.
- West Philly welcomes a new beer-centric hang with Clarkville, a Maida/Hartranft/Kelly production (Memphis Taproom, Strangelove’s, Local 44) right across from Clark Park.
- Susanna Foo returns to Center City to open Suga on Sansom Street, alongside longtime protégé Chef Anne Coll.