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Philadelphia’s dining scene is often — and rightly — lauded thanks to critically acclaimed restaurants like Zahav, South Philly Barbacoa, Vetri Cucina and so many others. But determined diners who peek behind the curtain — sometimes literally — can find a number of under-the-radar food and drink locales that make for quite the memorable culinary experience in the city and the surrounding region.
Who would think an Irish bar serves stellar Italian food? Or that a nondescript building in Malvern offers lauded French and Asian fusion? How about a hoagie omakase, a customizable cookie-and-milkshake setup behind a bookcase, or a listening room in a baja spot?
From a cheese lover’s delight at Di Bruno Bros.’ After Hours events to one of the most difficult (but most definitely worth it) reservations to get in the country at Talula’s Table, the following not-totally-obvious-but-oh-so-awesome spots are worth the effort to seek out.
Keep health and safety top of mind when exploring Philadelphia and the Countryside. As of January 2022, patrons must show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 (card or photo of card) to eat or drink indoors at any establishment that serves food or drink in Philadelphia County. Other indoor public spaces in Philly require proof of vaccination and/or mask-wearing. Requirements vary in the surrounding region. Best bet: Call ahead or check online to get the latest info.
Read on for the top-secret (well, now not-so-secret) drinking and dining adventures that await in Philly and beyond.
Joe Beddia’s pies took the city and the country by storm in 2015 when the first iteration of Pizzeria Beddia was named Best Pizza In America by Bon Appétit. Pizzeria Beddia now has a new location and, in addition to still-legendary pies, offers a two-hour private pizza and hoagie omakase experience. Come hungry: The dinner includes a welcome cocktail, several small plates, a variety of hoagies, pizzas and soft serve. The intimate room can seat six guests seven days a week (or for parties of four and five people on Mondays and Tuesdays only).
Where: Pizzeria Beddia, 1313 N. Lee Street
Thanks to Insomnia Cookies, a bakery speakeasy is a thing we never knew we needed — until now. The 9th and Wharton streets outpost (right in the midst of cheesesteak heaven, between Pat’s and Geno’s) of the locally bred late-night cookie chain has an experimental customizable cookie and milkshake setup, accessed through a secret door disguised as a bookcase. Even more exclusive is a second secret room called The Space, where folks can book parties. Guests are treated to a cookie buffet, with plenty of room to customize with drizzles and toppings, create-your-own milkshakes and other sweet treats.
Where: Insomnia Cookies, 833 Wharton Street
You’ll be the favorite friend when you book a private, after-hours tasting at Di Bruno Bros. Offered at the historic Italian Market and The Franklin locations, the culinary event features an expert cheesemonger guiding groups of 10 to 16 guests through a two-hour savory journey of antipasto, six cheese-pairing dishes and a seemingly endless supply of freshly sliced cheese from behind the counter. Your host explains the complexities of each cheese and cured meat as you go. Bonus: Shop the store and score 20% off.
Where: Di Bruno Bros. - Italian Market, 930 S. 9th Street
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Di Bruno Bros. - The Franklin, 834 Chestnut Street
In Stephen Starr’s stylish new baja restaurant, LMNO, in what looks like a normal bathroom — but in fact is not a bathroom at all — there’s a secret door that leads to a stylish listening room. The wood-paneled walls give way to shelving housing hundreds of vinyl records where top DJs spin live on vintage and state-of-the-art stereo equipment. Meant as a cozy and semi-secret hangout spot with beer and cocktails at the ready, the Listening Room has limited walk-up availability. Translation: Reservations are recommended.
Where: LMNO, 1739-1749 N. Front Street
If you’ve stopped by during daylight hours, Talula’s Table seems like a quaint cafe and market in Kennett Square (about an hour’s drive west of Center City Philadelphia). But after hours, just two groups each day are treated to an eight-course chef’s tasting menu after snagging what NPR called “the toughest reservation in the U.S.” The seasonal menu changes every four to six weeks highlighting ingredients from local farms and pasture-raised meats. The four-hour culinary experience features two seating options: the Farm Table (eight to 12 guests) or the Local’s Nook (four to eight guests). Interested? Plan to call one year in advance to make a reservation.
Where: Talula's Table, 102 W. State Street, Kennett Square
During the day, Michael Schulson’s Double Knot serves up coffee and create-your-own bowls and bahn mi for lunch. But night, guests slink down to the dark, intimate and moody underground izakaya — the perfect spot to enjoy sushi. Go all out on the chef’s tasting menu, which features 10 selections of sashimi, fish, robatayaki, noodles and more.
Where: Double Knot, 120 S. 13th Street
Clearly, Michael Schulson has a thing for delicious hideaways. Also in Midtown Village, in an alley behind Sampan, find the open-air Graffiti Bar. (Don’t worry, there are heat lamps for chillier days.) Unlike the speakeasy aesthetic of some other secret spots, this one is colorfully adorned with floral murals to pair with $5 happy-hour bao buns. Just look for the neon light, saunter down the alley and sip on delicious cocktails while posing for pics in front of the graffiti.
Where: Graffiti Bar, 124 S. 13th Street
What looks like an ordinary barber shop from the street is anything but. After 5 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays at Blind Barber, visitors who aren’t in the market for a haircut walk to the back of the shop, through an unmarked white door to be transported back to the 1970s. The moody cocktail lounge — with its distinct black and white tile floor and patterned walls — specializes in cocktails and serves creative bar snacks like pimento grilled cheese sandwiches.
Where: Blind Barber, 1325 Sansom Street
You might want to turn on notifications for this one. Open by announcement only (on Facebook and Instagram), West Kensington’s Fermentery Form serves up craft beers made through a process called “mixed fermentation.” The brews are co-fermented with various strains of yeast and bacteria using their own mother cultures. The result: crisp, refreshing beers, executed in the style of Belgian lambics and French farmhouse ales, that have garnered a cult following among the city beer cognoscenti. (Not to mention impressive Untappd ratings.) Keep an eye out for when they announce they’re open and flock to their discreet outdoor, alleyway seating.
Where: Fermentery Form, 1700 Palethorp Street
To get to The Cage, a cocktail bar with locally sourced and hand-made mixes and ingredients, you must first walk through a chain pizza joint. No, really. The Instagram-friendly bar is outfitted in greenery and bird cages, while the cocktails shine with creative twists on mainstays like an old fashioned and martini.
Where: The Cage Cocktail Bar, 855 Easton Road, Warrington
Just recently opened, Good, Bad & Ugly, the underground bar at West Chester’s Stove and Tap, glows with Andy Warhol-inspired pop art, a colorful pool table and mood lighting. Open until 2 a.m. — much later than other neighborhood restaurants, which close between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. — this spot is a hidden destination for cocktails, wine and bar snacks.
Where: Good Bad & Ugly, 158 W. Gay Street, West Chester
The sign outside of Fishtown’s Murph’s Bar proudly displays a shamrock. But on any given night, you’d be hard-pressed to find a seat either at the bar or back dining room due to the popularity of the spot’s — wait for it — Italian fare. The hearty entrees range from delectable pastas (just try them all) to branzino, and most appetizers come with a giant portion of soft cheese.
Where: Murph's Bar, 202 E. Girard Avenue
Let’s face it: Museums aren’t often visited for their food. But the Garden Restaurant at the Barnes Foundation is a worthwhile exception. Serving lunch and brunch, the restaurant focuses on local and seasonal ingredients in dishes like roasted vegetables and grains and the lamb burger. Plus, admission to the Barnes is not required to eat here, either. (But, seriously, you should also really check out the museum.)
Where: Barnes Foundation, 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
From the outside, this elevated gastropub looks like it might be a stop on a walking tour of historical New Hope buildings. The 1751 stone building is unequivocally a blast from the distant past — and the inside is just as charming with wood floors, area rugs and cozy fireplace. Eat and imbibe downstairs at the bar or by the fire, or upstairs in the library lounge. Pro tip: Split the truffle honey crostini and bacon-wrapped dates with your dining companion.
Where: The Salt House, 7 E. Ferry Street, New Hope
A Malvern mainstay for more than 30 years, Bunha Faun fuses French and Asian cuisine in an unadorned building on the side of the road. Escargot and oriental noodles sit side-by-side on the menu, and the curries and escalope of veal are both worthy entrees.
Where: Bunha Faun, 152 Lancaster Avenue, Malvern
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The exclusive deal — booked more than 175,000 times since 2001 — includes buy-one-get-one-free attraction tickets purchased at the Independence Visitor Center to 33 of Philly’s iconic museums and attractions and free hotel parking (worth up to $100 in Center City Philadelphia).
Where to find essential cheesesteaks, hoagies, soft pretzels, water ice and more...