The LevLane Guide to the Best of Philadelphia

Photo: Tredici Enoteca, 114 S. 13th St. Philadelphia
Photo courtesy: Tredici Enoteca

Google the “Best spots to visit in Philadelphia,” and you will be inundated with articles, posts, reviews, and cheesesteaks, lots and lots of cheesesteaks. You’ll also notice that most of the sites are telling you to go to the same places over and over. Why not get the lowdown from those who call Philadelphia home? We’ve pounded the cobblestone in search of all the places you won’t typically read about in Trip Advisor or Yelp.

Sure VedgeBuddakan, and Vetri are fantastic, but everyone knows that. As a naturally curious bunch, we take pride in finding those hidden gems. At LevLane, we love our city, we love our people, and after you check out our hand-curated First Annual LevLane Locals Guide to Philly we think you’ll be glad you skipped Google for these hidden gems.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all that the city has to offer, so to help you along we’ve broken it down into a few different categories from places to eat, to live music, art, interactive museums, and everything in between.

FOOD AND DRINK

COFFEE

La Colombe: Java lovers and caffeine addicts rejoice! La Colombe is a Philly tradition and they brew a smoother cup than that other chain.

Rival Bros.: This Philly-grown coffee roaster was started in a truck by two life-long friends who wanted to bring great coffee to Philly, and they’ve succeeded. Rival Bros. has grown to three locations in just a few years. If you love coffee, it’s worth the visit.

BAKERIES

Federal Donuts: Blueberry mascarpone, french toast, cereal glaze, salted caramel pretzel…have I got your attention? Your taste buds really won’t know what hit them when they get a chance to experience the cooked-to-order and “Fancy” donuts at Federal Donuts. With flavors that are just as bold as they are innovative Federal Donuts has become a Philly staple. If you aren’t quite in the mood for something sweet try their famous fried chicken sandwich…yes they serve donuts and chicken sandwiches here! 

Termini Brothers: A Philadelphia staple since 1921 Termini Bros. will satisfy your sweet tooth in ways you never knew possible. Order a hand-piped cannoli, and watch as it’s filled with cream on the spot for freshness that leaves you wanting a second…and a third. Not that we would ever do that…

Frangeli’s: Enjoy a taste of the past with homemade doughnuts that are made to order. Their famous Franolli is a gift from the pastry gods- a cannoli cream filled doughnut with chocolate chips and sprinkled with powdered sugar. The Franolli is a must try, but their sticky buns are as equally yummy. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with anything you order here.

Stock’s Bakery: Two words: Pound Cake. They’re famous for it, and there’s a reason why. Go find out! You can thank us later.

BREAKFAST

Green Eggs Café: Try the red velvet pancakes or cookie dough stuffed French toast. Bring your own prosecco and wash it all down with a tangerine-juice mimosa.

Down Home Diner: A local favorite located inside Reading Terminal Market. Don’t miss the scratch-made blueberry pancakes!

BRUNCH

Pub & Kitchen: Not an early riser? Grab brunch here and try the Jonah Crab Toast and the P & K Wrangler Bloody Mary and kick-start your day in the city!

The Dandelion: Contemporary British cuisine comes to the city of brotherly love. Start with scones and jam and their English style cheese board, then round out your brunch with their succulent lamb shepherd’s pie.

Bud & Marilyn’s: Share a warm pecan-cinnamon roll with cardamom cream cheese, bourbon caramel, and raisins. Then order the lemon ricotta pancakes served with mixed berries and mint. It’s as inventive as it is delicious!

Talula’s Garden: Try the fried chicken & waffle served with roasted pear, spiced maple, scallion butter, and pickled butternut squash, have you ever heard of a better combination?

LUNCH

Reading Terminal Market/DiNic’s Roast Pork: Ok this is probably an obvious suggestion but Reading Terminal Market is well-known for a reason! You can find anything you are craving, but our favorite for lunch is DiNic’s Roast Pork. The original comes with provolone cheese and garlicky broccoli rabe. Travel channel voted this the “Best Sandwich in America,” and we have to agree. Try it once, and you’ll understand why the line is always so long.

Village Whiskey: The Whiskey King burger and Duck Fat Fries will have you eating here every time you’re in town!

MeltKraft: A farm-to-table restaurant that takes the classic grilled cheese sandwich up a notch. Try the brie and cranberry chutney sandwich and enjoy a fresh approach to a classic.

Talula’s Daily: The bright and sunny neighbor of Talula’s Garden isn’t your typical café. Stop in for freshly baked bread and delicious take-out meals and enjoy your lunch across the street in the beautiful Washington Square Park.

*LevLane Insider Tip: You cannot visit Philly without stopping by the South 9th Street Italian Market. As the oldest continuous open-air market in the country, the food options are truly endless and include everything from fresh fish and produce to still-warm-from-the-oven baked goods.

DINNER

Italian

Vetri: Reservations here can be hard to come by so plan ahead. Vetri has been at the top of the Best Restaurants in Philly for years and for good reason. Their seasonal menu that features both classic and contemporary Italian dishes is always excellent. The whole roasted branzino is a must-try.

La Viola West: When weather permits, dine al fresco at this family-owned BYOB. Start by sharing the Zuppetta Di Cozze; farm-raised mussels in a white wine and garlic sauce, and then enjoy the Pollo Alla Fontina; chicken breast topped with asparagus, prosciutto di parma and fontina cheese in a light marinara sauce. It’s the perfect place to end your night enjoying great food as you watch the city pass you by.

The Saloon: The Saloon has been a Philadelphia tradition for 50 years. Its unique setting fits their name and makes every meal feel like a special occasion. It’s classic Italian comfort food that feels special but never fussy. You won’t be disappointed no matter what you order.

Little Nonna’s: If you go on a Sunday, you must get the Sunday Gravy. It’s slow-cooked all day, and if you’ve never had real Italian gravy, this is the one you want to start with.

La Locanda Del Ghiottone: This tiny hidden gem is a classic Italian BYOB. Grab a bottle of your favorite red and enjoy home-cooked Italian food, just like our own Nonna’s used to make.

Asian-Inspired

Zama: Try the crispy brussels sprouts with truffle essence and cashews–it’s divine.

1225 Raw: An excellent place for sharing! Order the Tuna Tartare, Tempura Rock Shrimp and Takeshi Nachos and wash it all down with the “Tour of Japan” sake flight.

Bing Bing: You dim-sum, you lose some…with Bing Bing you definitely Dim Sum. New to the Philly restaurant scene but their flavors feel old world, and you will not be disappointed with their Pork Soup Dumplings and Sweet and Sour Brussels Sprouts.

Double-Knot: A fairly new restaurant to the Philly scene, this unique concept restaurant brings you coffee and cocktails upstairs and sushi and robatayaki down. It’s quickly become a favorite among LevLane staff for their $7 lunch special!

American

Harp & Crown: Share the Roasted Olives or Shrimp Toast and then cap off your meal with the Blueberry Whoopie Pie as you make your way downstairs to the bowling alley (yes, bowling alley) and bar known as Elbow Lane.

Lucky’s Last Chance: Their “incomparable burger,” the burger that named them Burger Battle Royale Champions, is hands-down the best bacon burger in the entire state!

Rex 1516 : This speakeasy-esque restaurant and bar on the famous South Street is known for its Southern comfort food and vintage movie screenings.

South: If you are craving good southern food north of the Mason-Dixon, we highly recommend South for its classic southern dishes, great jazz bar, and lounge.

Steak

Barclay Prime: Barclay Prime takes steak to a whole other level. It is a place for the most special of special occasions. Try the 40-day dry-aged prime bone-in New York strip.

Chima Steakhouse: A Brazilian steakhouse that’s all about hospitality. Servers roam the dining room with 15 different meats. We like to be sure we plan ahead and wear stretchy pants.

Mexican

Lolita: The crispy fish tacos are the best in the city, and right around the corner from our offices, so BONUS!

Los Caballitos Cantina: With a happy hour menu that includes $15 margarita pitchers, $5 nachos and tequila flights happy is undoubtedly an understatement.

El Vez: El Vez is just plain fun. From its funky décor and high-backed booths, to its solid food and expansive tequila selection, you simply can’t help but smile when you’re there.

Las Bugambilias:Classic and authentic Mexican highlighting cuisine from three different regions. Don’t miss their Sunday Brunch buffet.

Mediterranean

Barbuzzo:Seating is a little cramped, and it can get loud, but don’t let that discourage you. Do not leave Philly without getting your hands on their whipped ricotta or famous salted caramel budino! Your taste buds will thank you.

Tredici Enoteca: This Mediterranean restaurant creates classic dishes with fresh flavors. The bacon wrapped dates stuffed with manchego and blue cheese and the Raw Bar Sampler are an excellent introduction to your meal here. For an entrée, the braised duck fettuccine is a crowd favorite.

French

The Good King Tavern: If you like French inspired food, but don’t want to head to Parc, this is one of our favorite little spots.

*LevLane Insider Tip: East Passyunk Ave: Arguably the heart of South Philly, East Passyunk Ave. has restaurants for every craving, mood, and budget, and all within the span of just five blocks! If you can’t decide where to eat in Philly take a stroll down East Passyunk and see what catches your eye.

[Insert Obligatory Cheesesteaks Suggestions]

Delassandro’s – The clear favorite among LevLaner’s.

Jim’s Steaks

Steve’s Prince of Steaks

Tony Luke’s

John’s Roast Pork

Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagies & Cheesesteaks

Cleavers Philadelphia

*LevLane Insider Tip: Everyone knows Philly is home to the cheesesteak but if you want a fun spin on an old classic try the truffled cheesesteak empanadas at Good Dog.

BARS/DRINKS

R2L: Sip on their Sunset Punch while watching the actual sunset as Philly goes from day to night. High atop the 37th Floor of 2 Liberty Place, R2L gives you unparalleled, unobstructed panoramic views of the city.This place is a Happy Hour must!

Downstairs at Harp & Crown: Great vibe for drinks and the downstairs, known as Elbow Lane, you can even go bowling!

The Library: On a chilly night there is nothing quite like having a drink at The Library, located inside The Rittenhouse Hotel. As its name implies, The Library is cozy elegance and pure Center City.

Frankford Hall– Not only do they have the best warm soft pretzels and cheese, and great drinks and overall great vibe, they have JENGA!

Charlie Was a Sinner: As their tagline says, CWAS is all about small plates and strong drinks. It’s a unique and quirky place that makes perfect classic drinks and some lovely signature drinks.

Assembly: Located on the rooftop of The Logan Hotel, Assembly is one of the gems of the Philadelphia bar scene. With a solid selection of wines and bubbly by the glass along with excellent signature cocktails, it’s a great place to take in the beauty of the city from high above the Ben Franklin Parkway.

McGillin’s Old Ale House:Try their famous beer sampler which includes their own McGillin’s 1860 IPA and enjoys it inside the oldest bar in the country!

The Twisted Tail:With over 120 different whiskeys on the menu you’ll never run out of options to wet your whistle. Become a member of their Bourbon Club and receive exclusive discounts while listening to live blues music and entertainment six nights a week.

Irish Pub: For casual Irish-American dining and a lively nightlife Irish Pub is the place to be! With drink specials every night, over 20 beers on tap and outside seating there’s no reason not to make this one of your stops while in Philly.

Varga Bar: This pin-up themed bar inspired by the colorful imagery of artist Alberto.Varga Bar features All-American craft beers and comfort food for the soul.

THINGS TO DO

EDUCATIONAL/CULTURAL

MütterMuseum: One of the weirdest museums you’ve ever seen. It’s a collection of medical oddities that you can only see here- from the biggest tumor to body parts in jars- you’ll be grossed out and intrigued all at the same time.

The Barnes Foundation:An incredible collection of impressionists, post-impressionist, and early modern paintings with a surrounding landscape that is almost as breathtaking as the art inside.

Rodin Museum: In this tranquil oasis you’ll find one of the world’s great collections of works by Auguste Rodin as well as the only dedicated Rodin Museum outside of Paris, France.

Philadelphia Museum of Art: With a world-renowned collection inside a landmark building the Philadelphia Museum of Art inspires its visitors through scholarly study and creative play. Run up the “Rocky Steps” and step inside the museum for a lively and memorable experience that introduces you to something new with every visit.

Franklin Institute: With attractions like a giant walk-through heart, a Space Command center, SportsZone, and The Franklin Air Show, science comes to life at one of the oldest and premier centers for science education and development in the country. As an added bonus, it’s just as fun for adults as it is for kids!

PA Academy of the Fine Arts: Known for its collections of 19th and 20th-century American paintings, sculptures, and works on paper and offers open hours in their historical Cast Hall where guests can get a look at the rarely seen collection of celebrated casts. Be sure to look at the cast of Michelangelo and see “The Gross Clinic,” a painting by Eakins that has been named as one of America’s Greatest Paintings.

*LevLane Insider Tip: Take a stroll through The Magic Gardens, a 3,000 square foot urban oasis glittered with trash mosaics, shattered mirrors, and tiles. A LevLane favorite!

HISTORICAL

Elfreth’s Alley: Follow in the footsteps of some of Philly’s most prominent figures, like Benjamin Franklin or good ole’ Billy Penn, when you walk down the oldest street in the country.

Independence Hall: Home to the creation of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Independence Hall is rich with history that will definitely make you feel a bit closer to our forefathers. Fun Fact: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were both out of the city on business when the document was signed!

Masonic Temple: Called one of the “great wonders” of the Masonic world, here you’ll find some of the finest artifacts of Freemasonry as well as strikingly beautiful lodge rooms based on themes of the ancient architectural world.

MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT

Independence Beer Garden: If you’re looking for somewhere that celebrates your love of day drinking, lawn games, and elevated bar food then IBG is where you want to be! With a spectacular view of Independence Hall and seating for you and 50 of your closest friends, this outdoor oasis is a must visit!

Johnny Brenda’s: If you’re into good music and a great venue, with food and beer options that support the local community then this is the place for you!

Helium Comedy Club: Need a laugh after a long day? Helium Comedy Club has you covered! No matter what night you choose you’re sure to leave in tears from laughing so hard!

Fergie’s Pub: With everything from weekly Quizo and comedy open mic night to live band karaoke, Fergie’s is the TV-free venue you need to visit to unwind after a long day of sight-seeing. Once there you’ll feel right at home.

World Café Live: With events like The Ultimate 80’s Prom and Havana Nights: A Celebration of Cuban Music & Food, in addition to the dozens of talented musicians who perform here, World Café Live is just the kind of place to kick back, grab dinner and a drink, and enjoy the music.

Bury the Hatchet: Jump on the axe throwing bandwagon and relieve some stress at Bury the Hatchet. Bring your friends and some beverages, and make a night of it!

Lucky Strike: With 24 bowling lanes, ping pong and pool tables, 2 full bars, a DJ and VIP and lounge seating the entertaining options are endless and the fun never stops!

McGillin’s Olde Ale House: If you love karaoke, don’t miss McGillin’s on Wednesday nights!

ATTRACTIONS

Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest: Roller skate with friends at Philadelphia’s only outdoor skating rink then grab an ice-cold lemonade and hop on the ferris wheel to take in the breathtaking views of the city! The best part? Entrance to the park is free!

Spruce Street Harbor Park: Cold beers, hot food, relaxing hammocks and a view of the city that can’t be beaten! Sit back, relax and enjoy! This spot is the perfect place for a late afternoon summer stroll and is very Instagram friendly!

No matter your absolute “musts” when visiting a new city, you can be sure that at LevLane we’re going to do what we do best, and show you places that are a little out of the box and a lot more interesting than your standard tourist traps. So, when you hit one of our favorite spots, be sure to tag us using the hashtag #LevLaneLovesPhilly. We hope you love our city as much as we do.