It’s no secret Philadelphia’s dining scene is on fire—a fact recently punctuated by three high-profile James Beard Awards just a few weeks ago. What might come as more of a surprise, though, is the city’s serious design cred, which is on display at so many of its restaurants. From fine dining in the clouds to dramatic bowls of Tom Yum served under indoor palm trees, read on for the eight prettiest places to dine in Philadelphia.
Exit the glossy glass elevator at the top floor, breeze past the botanical art installation care of celebrity florist Jeff Leatham, and float into Jean-Georges, the lofty fine dining destination helmed by Jean-Georges Vongerichen at the Four Seasons Philadelphia. Designed by British architect Norman Foster (who also designed the hotel), the two story glass-walled dining room has unparalleled views of the city skyline—and the ground below. Diners can look up to the angular ceiling, covered in a mirrored stretch fabric, to catch a glimpse of the street some 1,200 feet down.
Each floor of Friday Saturday Sunday, Chad and Hanna Williams’ bi-level Rittenhouse Square restaurant, has its own distinct vibe. Upstairs, find a comfortably elegant dining room with black and white checkered floors, paneled pastoral murals, and a statement brass palm tree. On the first floor, order small plates and perfect cocktails poured by veteran bartenders Paul MacDonald and Sacha Durham at the newly-refreshed, bar inspired, in part, by Hollywood Regency style.
Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon partnered with local restaurant group Designed Hospitality (the team behind Suraya, see below) to take Kalaya from a snug BYOB in the Italian Market to a stunning new space a few miles north in the Fishtown neighborhood. Designed by Philadelphia-based Stokes Architecture and Briquette Studio, Suntaranon’s celebrated Thai restaurant features a polished open kitchen and plenty of natural light, thanks to glass doors and a central skylight—under which a copse of live palm trees grows.
Hospitality veterans Marcy Turney and Valerie Safran took inspiration for their latest restaurant, Darling Jack’s, from the look and feel of classic taverns. But the warm and dimly-lit space, designed by Kate Rohrer of Philadelphia-based Rohe Creative with her signature mix of contemporary polish and keenly-curated vintage pieces, goes well beyond a throwback. Some particularly fun details: custom checkered tabletops and a 30-foot banquette swathed in a flying duck-patterned velvet.
At Suraya, the sprawling Lebanese restaurant in Fishtown, ornate tile, gold accents and pendant lighting with silhouettes similar to the minarets in Beirut are a fitting backdrop for feasting on mezze plates. (Try the smokey, chili-spiked baba ganoush and lemon pomegranate-infused fattouch salad.) In the back of the restaurant, also designed by Stokes Architecture, a garden oasis filled with greenery and a bubbling fountain is the perfect spot for sipping arak into the night.
Tucked inside the Rittenhouse Hotel, Philadelphia’s only Forbes five star property, the Mary Cassatt Tea Room is an elegant little gem for afternoon tea. Two separate spaces combine: an airy room of white tablecloths and a soothing neutral palette on one side, plus an adjacent sunny courtyard ensconced in climbing ivy and pink flowers on the other, separated by a wall of glass arched doors.
Wilder, a new American restaurant by husband and wife team Brett Naylor and Nicole Barrick, spans three floors of a one-time carriage house and townhouse. With leopard print barstools, a blue velvet banquette, hand painted murals on the ceiling (care of Barrick), and vintage Persian rugs, trimmed with brass and fashioned into the walls, the design is daring and eclectic—and somehow also entirely cohesive.
Guests at Giuseppe & Sons, the splashy, subterranean Italian restaurant by chef and restaurateur Michael Schulson, are greeted by a marble-topped bar and a room outfitted in a harmonious sea of greens, pinks, and navy. It all adds up to an elegance that feels out of another era. The vast room manages to convey intimacy, too, designed with pockets of banquets and elevated booths, private dining rooms (including one separated from the din by a wrap-around curtain), and in the center of it all, a drop-down dining room.
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