Rittenhouse Square is the nexus of Center City Philadelphia, the most desirable neighborhood with the hottest location. Given Philadelphia’s fame as a city stacked with great places to eat, it should come as no surprise that Rittenhouse Square is a hotspot for dining on all levels, with plenty of restaurants available that boast great reputations and adventurous, enticing menus. Whether you are looking for an upscale, luxury dinner for a special occasion or a casual stop for a quick lunch break, the Ritt has you covered. Read on to learn about the best restaurants in Rittenhouse Square, and make it your new goal to hit as many as possible when you are in the area for work or play.
227 South 18th Street
Well-heeled and chic, Parc is one of the most-desired reservations in the whole city, let alone Rittenhouse Square. The menu, lovingly crafted and perfected over the years, is like a brief trip to the City of Lights without leaving your banquette. Parc is open for three meals daily, ranging from flaky, fresh-baked croissants and café au lait for breakfast to such French classics as steak frites, fruits de mer (served on a towering platter), and escargot. The weekend brunch may just be the hottest ticket in the City of Brotherly Love. A place to see and be seen as much as it is one to eat delicious fare, Parc is spendy, but not horribly so.
237 South 18th Street
Right next door to Parc is world-class celebrity chef Stephen Starr’s Philadelphia outpost, Barclay Prime. It is a sublime choice for special occasions, with a citrus-y, retro decor that looks as expensive as the menu choices. You can’t go wrong with one of the steaks, which are buttery and cooked perfectly to order no matter the cut. One interesting quirk is that you can choose your own knife for cutting your dinner. Make no mistake, this is a power scene – Ritt Square execs dressed to kill come out at night for murderously pricey expense-account dinners, and the upper echelon of Philadelphia high society drifts through the dining room like the luminaries they are.
114 South 20th Street
Named after a rose wine native to the northern part of the country, Tinto is a throwback to the Basque wine bars popular with the hip crowd in Europe. Chef Jose Garces presents country cuisine with succulent authenticity: pulpo (octopus), duck montadito, and lamb brochettes are just some of the traditional dishes to which Garces adds his signature twist. The wine list is truly extraordinary, featuring glasses and bottles for every palate and budget. The restaurant accommodates large parties easily, making this an excellent choice for the whole family or work group to dine and drink together.
126 South 16th Street
Comparatively inexpensive Chinese that works great as either a savory lunch or sure-to-please happy hour watering hole? It’s something of a holy grail, and it can be found at DanDan. This tiny eatery serves up crave-worthy plates like pork belly burgers and noodle bowls that are easy on your wallet, but warm and filling at the same time. The mapo tofu comes highly recommended. Happy hour drinks and dishes are only $5 each: indulge in the spicy, crisp cucumber or the dry-rubbed wings as you bump elbows with Center City’s early-departure crew. DanDan boasts a full bar, so you can wash down your meal with something that will lighten up your evening.
124 South 18th Street
Another stunner by Stephen Starr, this quaint and beautiful nod to Great Britain has been described as a cross between EastEnders and Diagon Alley. Fussy in the best way, with floral chintz wallpaper and all manner of curios and thingamajigs as decor, you’ll automatically feel cozy here, even in the warmest weather. Starr’s approach is to take the best of London’s haute, elevated pub cuisine and add an Americanized feel, all with seasonal ingredients. Brunch, lunch, dinner, and afternoon tea (of course) are all served here. Tandoori chicken, Sunday roast with all the trimmings, rabbit pie, and a truly exceptional pub burger accentuate the menu. The tea courses are real standouts, with dainty salads and finger sandwiches arranged in Instagram-worthy tiers, along with a truly overwhelming – in the best way – tea menu.
1623 Alma Street
A great night out in Center City starts at Alma De Cuba with a few friends snuggled into the comfy seats sharing ceviche and other tapas while sipping mojitos. Or stay for a while and linger over chimichurri skirt steak, high-end empanadas, piquant rice bowls, and chicken served so many delicious ways that you’ll boggle at what to order. The happy hour is popular and crowded, with excellent cocktail choices and jazz music. No matter how much or little actual savory food you order, make sure to save room for the fantastic desserts: classic Tres Leches cake or Vanilla Bean Pavlova are standouts.
1312 Spruce Street
If you are lucky enough to dine here, consider yourself truly blessed. Vetri Cucina, literally the kitchen of Chef Marc Vetri, is an intimate space that holds only eleven tables and serves an individually-customized, multi-course tasting menu that rotates seasonally around rustic Northern Italian cuisine that is authentic and mouth-watering. Based on the time you visit, you might dine on antipasti of sweet onion crepe, seckel pear, or dry-aged carpaccio; a pasta course featuring inclusions as diverse as pistacio and artichoke or king crab and Bottarga; and a main course of salt-baked branzino, “Elysian Fields” lamb, or local capretto. Finish up, if you still have room, with succulent chocolate polenta souffle or brioche doughnuts. The prix-fixe price, while steep, is richly worth it.