Philadelphia's Hot List: 10 Best Restaurants for Foodies

5. Fork
Photo courtesy of Tom Ipri
By Sharon Rigney, Philadelphia Local Expert

When you're wondering where to go for dinner in Philadelphia, you want expert advice from people who really know what's what. Fortunately, restaurant visitors are usually not shy about their experiences. Sorting through those reviews can be a lengthy task, however, so 10Best steps up to the plate to make finding a good place to satisfy your hunger easier than ever. 10Best narrows the options to those places in the city with the most appeal and the best reputations. We offer carefully vetted selections to let you explore Philadelphia dining on your own. If time is really tight, though, and you don't have the leisure to look through all our offerings, we present our Philadelphia Best Restaurants list. Here, we distill the best businesses down to a special selection of ten. These places promise a stellar experience and a taste of the city that you just can't miss. Interested in an Italian option? Check out Vetri. Looking more towards a venue with a vegetarian menu? You'll want to reserve a place at Vedge. There are also cuisine choices that may be a little off the beaten path for some, like the ones at Zahav. Treat yourself to an upscale evening out, or relax at a familiar venue with friends and coworkers. It's nice to have options, and such tasty ones at that.

10. Marigold Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Marigold Kitchen

Recently re-invented as a prix-fixe only restaurant, this sunny and homey former boardinghouse in West Philly is re-capturing the spotlight. It did away with its a la carte menu in favor of an $85, 15-course tasting dinner, with the chef choosing all but the entr�e. Still on the menu: modernist preparations (beet-salad-flavored dipping dots, anyone?) and molecular gastronomy techniques that employ "ingredients" like liquid nitrogen. Reservations are required; and for a pairing recommendation, it is recommended to consider sparkling wines to start and a red or white Bordeaux for the actual meal. Take a trip here for a little something different, and certainly a little something special. 501 S. 45th St., 215-222-3699, marigoldkitchenbyob.com.

9. Fond
Photo courtesy of Fond

This contemporary American corner spot on East Passyunk Avenue delivers selections done in top-notch style, like elegantly prepared sea scallops, pork belly, sweet potato green curry soup, seared foie gras and salmon among other choices. The seven course tasting menu is a fantastic option for those not sure what to pick, and offers diners some variety, so they know what to order the next few times they come in. The plentiful bar allows patrons to fulfill their drink preferences, whatever they may be. On weekends, however, they're also free to BYOB. Be sure and make a reservation if you're serious about coming in; Fond is hot.

8. Bibou
Photo courtesy of Bibou

Lauded as one of the nation's best French bistros, this quaint, cash-only BYOB is well deserving of the countless glowing reviews bestowed upon its warm, personalized service and exceptional cuisine. French-born chef Pierre Calmels performs magic magnifique in the kitchen, creating seasonal masterpieces like tarragon-flavored escargots, heavenly foie gras with saut�ed apricot, succulent hangar steak with green peppercorn sauce and savory bone marrow stuffing. Lovely cr�me brulee and buttery fruit pies provide a fantastic finale. Bibou boasts the intimacy of eating in what feels like a friend's home, accompanied by top notch cuisine in a quiet setting fit for a truly special evening out.

7. Townsend
Photo courtesy of Heather Katsoulis

Chef Townsend Wentz has been around the block a bit when it comes to the restaurant business. His latest project offers diners a French experience with a distinctively upscale environment. The place isn't stuffy, however, but rather comfortably refined. The menu is not huge, but it delivers on both flavor and interest and is never the same place twice. Feed your inner foodie with options such as foie gras mousse, beef tartare, braised oxtail risotto, pan rated magret duck breast or lamb en cocotte. You'll also want to take advantage of their detailed wine list that pairs perfectly with their delicious cuisine options.

6. Zahav
Photo courtesy of Zahav

Before James Beard chef Michael Solomonov opened the only upscale Israeli restaurant in Philadelphia, he took his entire staff to Israel to give them a taste of the land, the spirit and the food. The result is a very modern experience that draws from recipes cooked since ancient times. Innovative drinks, a small-plates approach and one of the largest Israeli wine lists outside of the Middle East make Zahav an ideal place to go to learn about an unfamiliar cuisine or return again and again for old favorites. The restaurant Esquire rated a Top 20 Best New Restaurant in 2008 is romantic, intimate and lively enough to be provide a welcoming setting for couples, families and friends.

5. Fork
Photo courtesy of Tom Ipri

Fork is an Old City gem that serves up seasonal fine dining in a refined and contemporary setting. The restaurant attracts a crowd looking for delicious yet edgy ingredient combinations, and is especially popular among the millennial crowd. They proudly source many ingredients from local farmers in the surrounding area, and serve up dinner seven nights a week along with a delicious Sunday brunch you won't want to miss. Chef Eli Kulp's staff continues to churn out creative, handmade dishes that combine unexpected flavors and ingredients. Many times the evening's entire menu will center around a specific ingredient or item and move creatively from there. Stop in to see how this sleek eatery satisfies the palate in an interesting and creative way.

4. Vernick Food & Drink
Photo courtesy of T.Tseng

Two floors of ingredient-driven cuisine is what you'll find at Vernick Food & Drink. Recognized as a Rising Philadelphia Chef by Star Chefs, Greg Vernick and his wife Julie bring artful dishes to the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood. Cuisine choices include a variety of small plate options, raw choices, selections served on toast, as well as a host of exquisite vegetable options. Vernick also excels at its large plate choices, such as grilled black sea bass, pork blade steak and steamed halibut over pea leaves for seafood lovers. Also tempting are their delicious meat portions roasted in the on-site wood fire oven. The lovely open kitchen layout here gives patrons the opportunity to observe their food as it's being prepared.

3. Vetri Ristorante
Photo courtesy of Flickr/snowpea&bokchoi

With only 35 seats, this nationally acclaimed restaurant is booked one to two months in advance, so call way ahead for reservations. Chef-owner Marc Vetri prepares elegant "new" Italian cuisine, served only as a prix fixe menu for $135. Seasonally rotating entrees include unusual meats like chestnut fettucini with boar and cocoa, baby goat with freshly stone milled polenta and Texas antelope with squash and amarone sauce. The signature dessert, chocolate polenta souffl�, sounds wacky, but it's quite good. Business dress appropriate. Vetri closes for one week in January and two weeks in August, so call ahead if you're thinking about dining here during those months.

2. Vedge
Photo courtesy of Vedge

Anyone who thinks vegan food can't be flavorful hasn't eaten at Vedge. Not only is this friendly and inviting Center City restaurant the best vegan/vegetarian join in Philly and the entire United States (by leaps and bounds) it might very well be among the best restaurants. Period. The husband and wife team who run the kitchen at Vedge manage to produce amazingly flavorful French-inspired dishes that are so decadent, it's hard to believe they're not made with heaps of butter and cream. Housed in a cute, old Victorian rowhome, this restaurant is attractive as well as convenient. Delicious, creatively-presented vegetarian food in a beautiful setting near Center City always puts Vedge at the top of our restaurant list.

1. Laurel
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Calgary Reviews

This BYO bistro serves up French-inspired cuisine to South Philadelphia diners looking for a fresh alternative to fine dining. Chef Nicholas Elmi, who has cooked at other top Philadelphia restaurants like Le Bec Fin, fills his menu with just fourteen choices, comprising four courses. The a la carte menu is available on weekdays. With room for just 24 in his eatery, the atmosphere and the experience is both intimate and personal. Whether you're starting out with the melon and yuzu potage, moving on to the arctic char, or digging into the roasted walu, your taste buds will awaken and thank you. End with chef-chosen cheeses and local honey.