Philadelphia

The Best Dishes We Ate This Year in Philadelphia

From an over-the-top takeout box to birria tacos, these are the dishes that got us through 2021.

Photo by Ian Shiver
Photo by Ian Shiver
Photo by Ian Shiver

With another year in the books, it’s time to reflect on the highlights of the year. And while 2021 may not have lived up to all that we had hoped it would be, there were some serious bright spots.

In Philly, we watched local favorites grow up and expand across the city; saw some of our favorite spots finally reopen; and welcomed a ton of new restaurants to the city, seemingly against all odds. Through all the ups and downs of this year, this city’s incredible bars and restaurants brought us much-need comfort and opportunities to celebrate-and we couldn’t have gotten through 2021 without a handful of dishes from new restaurants. From an over-the-top takeout box that made quarantining a little easier to trendy birria tacos that are definitely worth the hype, here are the best dishes we ate this year.

La Chinesca PHL
La Chinesca PHL
La Chinesca PHL

Quesabirria tacos from La Chinesca

In a year where takeout reigned supreme, a restaurant like La Chinesca seemingly doesn’t hold up. Half the fun is venturing to the brightly colored location in a former Jiffy Lube where Chinese and Mexican cuisines come together for unique takes on familiar favorites. But at this restaurant, and others around the country this year, a Mexican street food dish that typically comes in a takeout container steals the show. La Chinesca got in on the quesabirria taco trend and offered up tacos filled with stewed, braised beef shank and gooey chihuahua cheese paired with a bowl of onion-y, cilantro-y consommé for dipping. This warm, rich dish provided all the comfort we needed this year.
How to try it: Book a table via Resy
-Allie Volpe, Thrillist Contributor

Photo courtesy of Middle Child Clubhouse
Photo courtesy of Middle Child Clubhouse
Photo courtesy of Middle Child Clubhouse

Latkes with trout roe from Middle Child Clubhouse

When Middle Child opened in Washington Square West in 2018, it was billed as a modern take on the sandwich shop and quickly gained a dedicated following. This year, the Middle Child family grew when owner Matt Cahn opened a second location; an expansive 120-seater with table service and a cocktail bar in Fishtown dubbed Middle Child Clubhouse. While the menu includes tried-and-true favorites like the Phoagie-a vegan take on a pho sandwich-the broadened menu, which includes dinner, has fresh standouts that prove the concept really is all grown up. Case in point: the latkes. A starter on the dinner menu, the crispy pancake fritters are covered with what you would find atop Japanese okonomiyaki: wasabi pickled ginger, scallion, and, finally, trout roe for a sophisticated dish with delightfully fussed textures and flavors that still brings a helping of fun.
How to try it: Book a table via Resy. Order pickup via website.
-AV

Bluefin tuna sashimi from Izakaya by Yanaga

With a resume that includes stints at restaurants like Izakaya at Borgata, Double Knot, Pod, Morimoto, and Zama, chef Kevin Yanaga finally opened his own sushi restaurant in Fishtown this year. Undeniably fresh and unpretentious, the menu centers around affordable small plates and hot and cold dishes, with the tuna sashimi taking the spotlight. Simple and effective, a generous pile of raw tuna is complemented with a dollop of guacamole, a pool of tobanjan vinaigrette, and radish-and the perfectly composed dish shows that Yanaga’s solo spot was worth the wait.
How to try it: Book a table via OpenTable
-AV

Eeva
Eeva
Eeva

Margherita pizza from Eeva

The city’s pizza scene tends to get overpowered by big names and historic hotspots, but newcomer Eeva, operated out of Kensington’s ReAnimator Coffee, was an immediate standout when it opened late last year. The naturally fermented wood-fired pizzas are light, yet chewy, with a crunchy crust, and come in a slew of constantly-changing varieties. However, you can never go wrong with a classic, and the Margherita pie, slathered in smooth tomato sauce, mozzarella, grana padano, and fresh basil, hits all the right notes.
How to try it: Book a table via Resy. Order takeout via website.
-AV

LMNO
LMNO
LMNO

La Sirena Gorda from LMNO

Named after stories of “the fat mermaid” in Mexican folklore, La Sirena Gorda is just one of the showstoppers on the menu at LMNO, an epic bookstore, DJ lounge, art galley, oh, and restaurant by Stephen Starr that opened this year. A literal goblet of ceviche, this dish packs in shrimp, octopus, oysters, mussels, kampachi, and scallops, all of which can be scooped up with saladitas (saltines) provided. It’s the perfect shareable start to an over-the-top experience at this new Baja Mexican spot, and it was perfect for a year in which we were extra grateful to get together.
How to try it: Book a table via Resy
-Marielle Mondon, Thrillist Contributor

Pizza Plus
Pizza Plus
Pizza Plus

Snack Box from Pizza Plus

Originally designed with Sunday game day in mind, the Snack Box from Pizza Plus has become a hibernation staple for quarantining, staying in, and living it up in a year that had us spending more time at home. The original box comes with the pizzeria’s signature nine-inch pan pizza, two burgers, six wings or tenders, and a smattering of fries, onion rings, and dips, all for $35-the ideal feast for settling in and making no apologies.
How to try it: Order from either location via website
-MM

Saffron calamarata puttanesca High Street Philly

Rising rent in Old City and the effects of the pandemic led High Street to ditch its old digs at 308 Market Street last year. Since then, the all-day cafe opened shop at 101 S. Ninth Street, pivoting to takeout-friendly options with an emphasis on expanding salad, pizza, and pasta offerings. As such, the spot is always offering something innovative with pasta, like this dish made with olive oil poached tuna, crushed tomato, capers, black olive, parsley, white anchovies, and sourdough breadcrumbs. The return of High Street (with this new menu item in tow) provided some welcome familiarity with a new twist this year.
-MM

Gabriella's Vietnam
Gabriella’s Vietnam
Gabriella’s Vietnam

Water fern dumplings from Gabriella’s Vietnam

Gabriella’s has been a refreshing addition to the local dining scene since it opened in May. Offering ultra-authentic Vietnamese street fare to South Philly, the restaurant started with a goal to redefine Philadelpians’ view of Vietnamese food-and it delivered, especially with the top-notch water fern dumplings. Hue City in Central Vietnam is the origin place of this dish (also known as Bánh Bèo Chèn). The savory rice cakes are made with flour, water, and turmeric and stuffed with pork belly, shrimp, fried shallot, and scallion, best enjoyed bathed in fish sauce.
-MMWant more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Allie Volpe is a writer based in Philadelphia. She hasn’t slept in days. Follow her on Twitter: @allieevolpe.

Marielle Mondon is a writer from Philadelphia. Follow her @MarielleMondon on Twitter and Instagram.

Philadelphia

Museum Exhibits in Philly to Check Out Before They Disappear

Get in some culture (and selfies) at the best art exhibits in Philadelphia.

Photo courtesy of Disney
Photo courtesy of Disney
Photo courtesy of Disney

From the historical to the artistic, Philadelphia is jam packed with museums. Art aficionados of all ages can get lost inside the likes of tourist-friendly museums like the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Museum of the American Revolution or feast their eyes on unique exhibitions at institutions like the Fabric Workshop and Museum and the Museum for Art In Wood.

Between big-ticket exhibitions honouring the House of Mouse to collections showcasing the legacy of a prominent Black family in early America, there’s plenty of material to dig into. After you’ve planned a date night and rounded up friends to explore the city, here are the most exciting museum exhibits in Philly right now-before they’re gone for good.

Photo courtesy of Disney
Photo courtesy of Disney
Photo courtesy of Disney

The Franklin Institute

Exhibition: Disney 100: The Exhibition
Mickey Mouse, you look good for your age. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of Disney is a retrospective exhibition, which got its world premiere right here in Philly. Between rarely-seen artworks and artifacts, costumes and props, and interactive installations where you can listen to hit Disney songs, the exhibit is a Disney lover’s wish-upon-a-star-come-true.
Dates: Until August 27, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Monday through Sunday. Tickets are available online and at the door.

Photo by Ramon Torres, courtesy of ANS
Photo by Ramon Torres, courtesy of ANS
Photo by Ramon Torres, courtesy of ANS

Academy of Natural Sciences

Exhibition: Conversations With Birds
No, not an allusion to the Eagles, this exhibition is dedicated to actual birds, their migration patterns, and humans’ relationship with avian creatures. Expect avian photography and video by local birders and wildlife photographers along with an interactive exhibit showing five migratory birds that pass through the Philadelphia region on their seasonal passage between North and South America.
Dates: Until May 21, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. Tickets are available online or at the door.

The Barnes Foundation

Exhibition: Sue Williamson & Lebohang Kganye: Tell Me What You Remember
The work of two contemporary South African artists-Sue Williamson and Lebohang Kganye-are shown side by side, offering a cross-generational dialogue. Both artists utilize video installations, photographs, sculptural installations, and textiles “to consider how the stories our elders tell us shape family narratives and personal identities.”
Dates: Until May 21, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Thursday through Monday. Advanced tickets are recommended.

Photo by Jonathan Horowitz
Photo by Jonathan Horowitz
Photo by Jonathan Horowitz

Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History

Exhibition: The Future Will Follow the Past: An Exhibition by Jonathan Horowitz
Exploring the rapid change of societal issues in America since 2020-antisemitism, racial violence, immigration, women’s rights, LGBTQIA+ rights-Jonathan Horowitz designed installations inspired by recent occurrences. His works explore specific events like the infamous far-right rally from white supremacists in Charlottesville as well as recent themes in American history, like attacks on those within the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities.
Dates: Until July 4, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Friday through Sunday. Admission is available online and at the door.

Photo by Hoda Tawakol
Photo by Hoda Tawakol
Photo by Hoda Tawakol

The Museum for Art In Wood

Exhibition: The Mashrabiya Project
The newly renamed Museum for Art in Wood (formerly The Center for Art In Wood) celebrates the rebrand with a brand new project. Focusing on mashrabiya, the traditional Islamic architectural design, The Mashrabiya Project is a first of its kind effort in the U.S. to examine this aesthetic. As a part of the larger mission, a new exhibition Seeing Through Space features newly-commissioned, never-before-seen works by six female-identifying artists.
Dates: Until July 23, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. Tickets are not required.

Photo by Carlos Avenda├▒o
Photo by Carlos Avenda├▒o
Photo by Carlos Avenda├▒o

Fabric Workshop and Museum

Exhibition: Henry Taylor: Nothing Change, Nothing Strange
Combining painting and sculpture, Henry Taylor utilized recycled objects in this exhibition, the product of an 18-month residency. The entire second floor of the museum houses the large scale assemblages, tapestries, and textiles. Think: 30-foot billowing canvases and towering totems created from compressed blocks of paint buckets, vinyl home siding, and black plastic planters.
Dates: Until July 23, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. Walk up admission is available but advanced registration is encouraged.

Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Exhibition: Judith Joy Ross
More than 200 photographs from renowned portrait photographer Judith Joy Ross will be on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, chronicling her career from the 1980s to today. Her black-and-white portraits are intimate reflections of everyday Americans, and this show features work from all her major projects, plus, never-before-seen images.
Dates: April 24 to August 6, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Thursday through Monday. Advanced tickets are recommended.

American Swedish Historical Museum

Exhibition: Radically Marimekko
Famous for their bright and bold fabrics, Finnish textiles, clothing, and home furnishings, the company Marimekko is showcased at this special exhibit. Drawing attention to Finnish design, the collection traces the brand’s path from industrial art house to fashion icon.
Dates: March 30 to September 24, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. Walk up admission is available.

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and African American Museum in Philadelphia

Exhibition: Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America
A collaboration between the African American Museum in Philadelphia and PAFA, Rising Sun showcases new work from 20 artists examining the question of Is the sun rising or setting on the experiment of American democracy? With pieces shown in both museums, visitors can reflect on, challenge, and expand their view of democracy through art.
Dates: March 23 to October 8, 2023
How to visit: The African American Museum in Philadelphia is open Thursday through Sunday; admission is available online and at the door. PAFA is open Thursday through Sunday; admission can be purchased in advance or at the door.

Museum of the American Revolution
Museum of the American Revolution
Museum of the American Revolution

Museum of the American Revolution

Exhibition: Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia
James Forten may not be a familiar name within early American history, but this new exhibit at the Museum of the American Revolution is looking to change that. Telling the story of Forten and his family through 100 historical artifacts, Black Founders explores the Forten family’s roles in the Revolutionary War, business in Philadelphia, and the abolitionist movement.
Dates: Until November 26, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open daily. Admission is available online and at the door.

National Constitution Center
National Constitution Center
National Constitution Center

National Constitution Center

Exhibition: The 19th Amendment: How Women Won The Vote
That lofty document known as the Constitution and its values, interpretations, and amendments are explored in great detail at the National Constitution Center, naturally. This semi-permanent exhibit examines the 19th Amendment-the one which granted women the right to vote-and the road to its ratification. Out of the near 100 artifacts, expect to see a rare printing of the Declaration of Sentiments from the first women’s convention at Seneca Falls, a ballot box used to collect women’s votes in the late 1800s, Pennsylvania’s ratification copy of the 19th Amendment, and various “Votes for Women” ephemera.
Dates: Semi-permanent, no end date announced
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. Advanced tickets are recommended.

M├╝tter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
M├╝tter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
M├╝tter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

M├╝tter Museum

Exhibition: Spit Spreads Death
Eerily topical, the M├╝tter’s latest special exhibit, Spit Spreads Death, an exhibit about the 1918 flu pandemic, opened in the fall of 2019, less than six months before the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The exhibit traces the disease’s spread throughout Philadelphia neighbourhoods a century ago and how the pandemic impacted the city with artifacts like photos, newspaper clippings, and more.
Dates: Now through 2024
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday through Monday. Advanced tickets are required.

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Allie Volpe┬áis a writer based in Philadelphia. She hasn’t slept in days. Follow her on Twitter:┬á@allieevolpe.

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