The funny thing about writing a list ‘best of’ restaurants to come is that the entire enterprise is wildly and wholly presumptive. Who the hell really knows if a top chef won’t botch the simplest thing like burning the rice (think I haven’t tasted THAT from some of the city’s so-called finest?) or that Philly’s mayor won’t mess up and delay a restaurant’s valued licensing, let alone rip away the option of valuable, post-pandemic seating options – which just happened?
Anyway, here is a list of some of what I believe will be key hot spots, dining spaces, ruling restaurants, best-est bars and worthwhile eateries and drinkeries to come (or just opened) in the next several months of 2023. I can give you opening dates all-day-long. But until the key hits the lock and I’m dining and drinking – who knows?
The Hayes, an American Tavern (1123 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA)
Award-winning Philly Chef and restaurant owner Townsend Wentz has already opened three of the city’s tastiest and most beloved eateries in A Mano (Italian), Townsend (French), and, my favorite, Oloroso (Spanish). Now, Townshend has the keys to the space adjacent to Oloroso, moved back to his fine-boned comfort food roots and has filled The Hayes with his (tony) vision of what is American pub fare.
Garces Trading Company at Kimmel on the Kimmel Cultural Campus, (300 S Broad St, Philadelphia, PA)
James Beard Award Winner and Iron Chef Jose Garces continues his habit of crafting, smartly-done and uniquely flavorful restaurant spaces (e.g. his Volver is mere feat away in the Kimmel) with what he’s calling “a collection of casual cafes that are part coffee shop, restaurant, bakery, marketplace and corporate catering solution” in one spot. Along with hot brews (including Yannick’s blend in dedication to the Philly Orchestra maestro), breakfasts and selling off patented Garces spices, look for sandwiches such as the The Bravo! (country ham and Amish butter on baguette) and The Standing Ovation (Chicken pot pie, garden peas and root vegetables stuffed into puff pastry).
Palenque Restaurante (908 Washington Ave, Philadelphia, PA)
The decades-long address to Veracruzana in the Italian Market just changed hands, and has refined the art of traditional Mexican fare, while maintaining massively proportioned meals as well as its fluffy, zesty burritos and quesilldias.
Bolo (2025 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA)
One of Philly restaurant-rapeneurs Stephen Starr’s most stalwart collaborators, Chef Yun Fuentes, so loved the look and feel of Starr’s dark, distressed wood and metallic space on Sansom Street – Il Pittore – that he’s gone and made it his own. Chef Fuentes, together with the musical MilkBoy Restaurant Group’s Jamie Lokoff and Tommy Joyner, open a new Latin and Caribbean-inspired dining spot and rum bar with what is promised to be a lively saloon scene space on the first floor and a plant filled second-floor dining room.
Farina Di Vita (250 Catherine Street, Philadelphia, PA)
Opening a spaghetti salon in South Philly is like opening a smoke shop in prison – who wouldn’t partake? But the promise of a boutique pasta shop and full-blown Italian meals and an Imported Italian delicatessen in Queens Village? Who wouldn’t partake?
SIN Philadelphia (1102 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA)
Northern Liberties Restaurant Row is having its winter restaurant week from January 27 to February 5, and by its next session will get a new member: restaurateur Justin Veasey and partners Mike Connors and William Muhr Jr. will open SIN Philadelphia on the ground level of The Beverly – a 51 luxury Beverly Hills-inspired apartment complex soon to drop in NoLibs. SIN, stands for Steak Italian Nightlife – the culinary equivalent of Gym, Tan, Laundry – and what they’re calling a “scratch kitchen delivering authentic Italian cuisine, high-end steaks, and a “cheese wheel” of homemade pasta served tableside” will take place in a 4,750 square feet space with a main dining room, sweeping bar and private dining room/event space for a total of 200 seats. Never go small. I like it.
Bankroll, 19th and Chestnut Street (Philadelphia, PA)
The controversially-closed, near-historical Boyd Theatre space in Downtown Philly is finally giving way to a new hot spot, as well as massively appointed one: Stephen Starr’s sportsbook-friendly Bankroll betting parlor and eatery. Offering what they call a luxury sports bar experience of 400 seats, a formal dining room, parlor seating pods and three bars, the Boyd and its next-door-neighboring The Gap had to be gutted in order for Starr and his partners (Paul Martino, whose Doylestown-based Bullpen Capital invested early in the sports betting app FanDuel) to compete with the nearby Barstool Mountain saloon and gaming space. No word as yet as to what sort of top-tier cuisine that Starr will offer in the 18,000-square-foot 1920s Art Deco designed place, but expect it to be faster food than usual as you don’t want guys losing money to stick around.
Bark Social (3720 Main Street)
I want to make this very clear: save for my wife and a few select loving friends, I would sooner eat with my dog – any dog – than a human. And now, in Manyunk I will get my wish as Bark Social has plans for an enormous menu of cocktails, craft brews and dining options for canines and their friends, some of whom happen to be people. Yes, there is a dog park and self-serve dog baths, and even a membership program. A social club for dogs? Nice.
Bake ‘n Bacon (1148 S. 1th Street, Philadelphia, PA)
Everyone’s favorite corner bar, the Devil’s Den, may have closed, but it has given way to Philly’s beloved
Black-owned food truck’s first-ever brick-and-mortar space. And its name says it all: bake, barbecue, bacon and booze. Live the dream with owner/chef Justin Coleman & Co.
Wokworks (1429 Marlborough Street Philadelphia, PA)
Brennan Foxman and Samantha Foxman will curate and cook everything in a wok, then use a high-tech robotic arm so that Fishtownians can achieve that “perfect wok hei – the magic nirvana of complex flavor and aroma you get only when food, oil, and flames meet in a wok.” The Wok rocks.
The Peabody, 1431 Cecil B. Moore Avenue (Philadelphia, PA)
The Glu Hospitality team of Derek Gibbons and Tim Lu have classed-up their operation beyond words with the tender, delicate dining of Izakaya by Yanaga and Omakase by Yanaga, to say nothing of Anejo. I love the name, and am hoping this American-themed The Peabody brings as much tony decorum as it does passion to the block.