Philadelphia may be known as the city of brotherly love, but we have plenty of restaurants to woo that special someone while indulging in some of the city’s best dishes. Whether you’re looking for small bites in an intimate setting or a tasting menu from one of the city’s Top Chefs, Philly’s got you covered for date night.
One of my favorite restaurants for date nights has to be Chef Marcie Turney’s Barbuzzo. Located in Midtown Village on Restaurant Row, Mediterranean tapas are on offer at this close-quarters dining spot. Start with the silky smooth sheep’s milk ricotta, topped with EVOO, vin cotto, herbs, and sea salt. Sop that right up with the grilled country bread. There’s nothing more sensual than breaking a truffled farm egg over the uovo pizza, with the salt of the 1732 guanciale and roasted brussel leaves hitting your palate. Warm up with fall flavors by ordering the housemade chestnut agnolotti and heirloom squash. The salted caramel budino is a must order - a sweet and salty ending to the night.
Nab a seat facing Rittenhouse Square at this Stephen Starr French brasserie. Snuggle up by the heat lamps during the cold months as you enjoy the lights twinkling amidst the trees. Order up an effervescent Kir Royale while indulging in a fresh seafood tower. Or it keep it simple with a lobster tartine or a mushroom tart with truffled pecorino. Pair a carafe of wine with duck breast, dressed with spring onions, pears, and chanterelles. Moules frites are pretty perfect, with the mussels cooked just right in a broth of white wine, shallots, and garlic.
Dating a vegan or looking to keep the night deliciously light? You can do no better than Vedge, which isn’t just the best vegan restaurant in the country, it’s one of the best restaurants, period. Even this unabashed carnivore eats up the vegetables that are highlighted so well by husband-wife chef partners Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby. I like to start with the stuffed avocado, with nutty romesco and pickled cauliflower. You’ll be blown away by the rutabaga fondue, which is somehow ineffably cheesy and accompanied by a buttery, salted pretzel roll. Order up the smoked carrots – it’s beautifully plated, emanating the essence of updated Reuben flavors, with pumpernickel “dirt” and kimchee slaw. The eggplant braciole is a revelation, showcasing taste, texture, and technique.
Michael Schulson’s Restaurant Row hotspot in the Gayborhood executes modern Asian street flavors to great effect. Grab two stools at the kitchen counter for Happy Hour or dinner, while enjoying the sleek, dimly lit vibe. Get the edamame dumplings with truffle and peashoots, immersed in a light sake broth. The pork belly bao buns are spot on, with shallot and mint. Hamachi crudo is well-seasoned with chili and bright blood orange, with texture offered by crispy garlic. Share the well-fried tempura branzino for two and a side of the kimchee fried rice with, of course, a runny egg.
5. The Fat Ham
Top Chef winner Kevin Sbraga’s second effort features pork-centric Southern country cooking. In this cozy and beautifully-designed space, the Fat Ham’s Sunday Suppers are perfect for date night. At an affordable $30 per person, the blackened catfish and skillet cornbread are mainstays and for good reason. The catfish is moist and well-seasoned with a bit of kick from the comeback sauce. The crisp edges of the skillet cornbread are made only better with a gorgeous tasso and molasses butter. In addition to a Sunday roast, the hot chicken’s cayenne-saturated heat will help to make sparks fly.
6. Talula’s Garden
It’s obvious why this Washington Square restaurant is enduring and endearing for intimate date nights. In the outdoor garden, light bulbs flicker like fireflies in the night. Meals often start off with buttery housemade brioche, topped with maple cayenne butter. Do order the savory focaccia di recco tarts to share, highlighting a mélange of seasonal ingredients, cheese, and honey. Warm up with a chestnut and black garlic ravioli or butternut squash risotto. Scallops with warm bottarga and potato vinaigrette will offer saline-sweet flavors, with the brightness of grapefruit and dill.
Looking to take a romantic stroll by Penn’s landing with a backlit view of the Ben Franklin bridge? Stop by Panorama for a Northern Italian meal. It’s easily paired with the flights offered on a wonderfully witty wine menu, ranging from “Blanc Expressions” to “Cab Fare.” Panorama holds the Guinness World Record for the largest wine cruvinet, with 120 wines offered by the glass. If that doesn’t impress your date, enjoy the creamy and light burrata, with shaved butternut squash, fig, and balsamic. The gorgonzola dolce gnocchi are pillowy clouds, with just enough subtly sweet funk to create a salty, savory bite. Perfectly seared scallops are a standout, with wonderfully braised swiss chard and a stellar caper zabaglione. End the night with the tiramisu affogato budino, featuring a light banana mascarpone that is doused tableside with an espresso caramel.
I'm a self-proclaimed food addict who features his latest fix on a Philly Food Blog. From low brow to high, I enjoy visiting restaurants to try new dishes, especially those of the porcine persuasion.