When I want to feel bad about living in Baltimore, I spend the weekend in Philadelphia. I’m a staunch Baltimore loyalist, but let’s face it, there’s a lot more to do in Philly. The Rocky steps! An old alleyway! A bell with a crack in it! For those of us who prefer to eat our way through vacation, there are fortunately plenty of awesome restaurants to visit, too. One weekend is the perfect amount of time to sample the city’s fine cuisine: you’ll be full enough to consider eating only salads the next week, but not so bloated that your jeans won’t button.
Note: These recommendations are sponsored by nothing but my taste buds. Nobody is paying me for this post, although I will gladly take restaurants’ money for future content.
Friday night: Bao Nine
Near: Rittenhouse Square
You’ve been driving. You’re tired. You’re hungry. Work today was all meetings that could’ve been emails. You are not getting a sub from Wawa.
Enter Bao Nine, fast food that could easily pass for fine dining.
On the one hand, I hate Bao Nine. I’ve been saying for months that all I need to make a million dollars is to slap a hamburger patty on a bao bun, and Bao Nine beat me to the punch.
On the other hand…
Bao burgers? Great idea, but I was too myopic to envision mix-and-match bao sliders. From traditional crispy chicken to falafel, Bao Nine offers Taipei street food-style buns for every mood and craving. They’ve also hopped on and nailed the brussels sprouts trend.
My recommendation: the Prime Time Angus Beef slider, obviously, but also the Bao Boa, a braised short rib bun with truffle whiz and cherry pepper relish. If you’re still hungry, get the crispy cinnamon-sugar bao with glaze dipping sauce for dessert.
Saturday Morning: K’far
Near: Rittenhouse Square
For: pastry enthusiasts, influencers in search of a photogenic brunch, Israeli gap year veterans who daydream about the rugelach they ate in Tel Aviv that one time
Steps away from Rittenhouse Square, K’Far (meaning village in Hebrew) is the CookNSolo restaurant group‘s take on Israeli bakeries. Their menu boasts a variety of pastries American gentiles have probably never heard of: babkas, rugelach, and borekas, to name a few. If you’re looking for something heartier, my boyfriend says the Jerusalem bagel egg and cheese sandwich was “life-changing.”
Changing your life, of course, isn’t so simple. When we visited K’Far, a line stretched down the block, and we found ourselves waiting for around twenty minutes — to pick up an order we’d put in a few days prior. We actually never got our coffee, which is a shame, because where else can you get a Yemenite latte? Still, I’m cutting K’Far some slack, because I imagine service will improve post-pandemic.
My recommendation: BABKA
Saturday Lunch: Adelita
Near: Italian market
For: Taco fans, people who love and respect themselves, Buddhists on the path to enlightenment
I couldn’t find Adelita on any lists of best tacos in Philly, a glaring omission I am here to correct. Adelita does not just have the best tacos in Philly; they have the best tacos I’ve ever eaten.
I mean, seriously. You could display these in the Philadelphia Art Musuem.
You see that pork? Slow marinated in pineapple. Those tortillas? homemade, and doubled for maximum taco durability. That salsa? Unbelievable. Those green spears hiding beneath those perfectly roasted onions? CACTUS.
The price for three tacos and a side? Ten dollars.
How is Adelita not more popular? Is it the lack of a flashy storefront? Is there some hip food truck around the corner serving gentrified white people tacos that I don’t know about? Is the spot on ultra-touristy 9th Street a curse rather than a blessing? Help me get to the bottom of these questions, dear reader, or better yet, eradicate these questions entirely. Eat at Adelita. Or don’t; I’d like an empty table the next time I’m in town.
My recommendation: The pastor tacos, pictured above. You’ll savor each bite; half an hour later, you’ll savor every burp. Yes, they are that good.
Afternoon coffee: Anthony’s Italian Coffee & Chocolate House
Near: Italian Market, Adelita’s
For: Caffeine addicts; sugar addicts; people who visited Italy once and won’t shut up about the cannolis; individuals in possession of superhuman guts who can, after eating a full meal at Adelita’s, still have room for a bomboloni or two.
After all those tacos, you will be sleepy and tempted to return to your hotel for an afternoon nap. Do not give in! Grab a pick-me-up iced mocha latte (or Nutella frappe, if you’re feeling particularly indulgent) and get in those steps. You’re going to need them, because we have a big dinner ahead of us.
My recommendation: Due to an immense amount of restraint and a bloated stomach, I only had an iced mocha. However, given free reign, I would’ve eaten everything in the store.
Saturday Dinner: Abe Fisher
Last October, we ate here on a whim. It had good reviews on Google, outdoor dining (this was the pre-pod/plywood sidewalk hut era), and appealed to our kitschy side (upscale Jewish diaspora cuisine?!) — why not go? Fortunately, there was a table available at 8:30–yes, you should book in advance–so we were starving when we got there.
And thank god for that. Abe Fisher offers a prix fixe tasting menu that begins with pillowy challah rolls and continues to impress through dessert, so you’ll want room for every course (hence the walking you hopefully did earlier).
Another culinary innovation by the CookNSolo restaurant group, this trendy spot is perfect for date night. My boyfriend and I like to order different appetizers, entrees, and desserts so we can mix and match. If you’ve heard any chatter about this restaurant at all, you’ve probably heard their Montreal short rib is nothing short of ethereal, and we’re inclined to agree. Don’t sleep on the other options, though. Selections rotate in and out of the menu each month, but in our two visits to Abe Fisher, we’ve loved every dish, from the latke fries to the coffee-braised brisket.
I also have to give a shout-out to the waitress who managed to recognize my boyfriend and me during our second visit to Abe Fisher, even though months had passed since our first. Be on the lookout for us again, because I guarantee we’ll be back.
My recommendation: If challah dumplings are on the appetizer menu, get them. Get them and never look back.
Sunday Morning: Di Bruno Bros.
Near: Rittenhouse Square
For: Fancy bitches
This is the fanciest grocery store I’ve ever entered. They have everything: a bakery, a meat counter, prepared dinners, cheese with unpronounceable names. I recommend coming here for the same reason you might visit the Louvre: simply to look around in wonder.
There’s also a coffee bar, which is where you’ll be headed this morning, because you are tired and still a little full from yesterday and need something healthy for breakfast. Fortunately, Di Bruno Bros. has you covered, because of course they have fancy oatmeal. It’s steel cut! It comes with three toppings of your choice!
So, eat your oatmeal, sip your coffee, and peruse the store’s selection of gourmet candy. Take home a bag or two. Something to remember Philly by when you’re stuck in your cubicle next week.
My recommendation: Move to Philly. Shop here every day. Experience everlasting joy.
Sunday Afternoon Late Lunch: Joe’s Steaks + Soda Shop
To visit Philadelphia without eating a cheesesteak is to secure one’s eternal spot in hell. It’s pure blasphemy–almost as blasphemous as ordering a cheesesteak from Geno’s. Go somewhere the locals actually eat.
Our go-to for cheesesteaks is Joe’s in Fishtown, a hipster neighborhood a few miles northeast of the Rittenhouse Square area. The sandwiches speak for themselves. They’re soft. They have cheese whiz. They’re larger than my head. What else could you possibly want?
My recommendation: 10″ cheesesteak with mushrooms, onions, and whiz
Did we get it right? Are there restaurants we left out? Did you try Adelita??? Tell us in the comments!