Updated: Thursday, December 21, 2017, 8:42 AM
Among the crop of new restaurants that made news in 2017, you can’t ignore the minimalist beauty that is Walnut Street Cafe at the base of the FMC Tower in University City. Or the sumptuous splash that Stephen Starr and Aimee Olexy are making near Rittenhouse Square with The Love. Or the bright Middle Eastern marketplace that is Suraya in Fishtown, or the Rat Packish atmosphere at Joey Baldino’s Palizzi Social Club in South Philadelphia, or the all-day Italian stylings at Res Ipsa on the edge of Rittenhouse, or the progressive Mistral in the King of Prussia Mall, or the noisy but romantic scene at Nicholas Elmi’s Royal Boucherie in Old City, or the roomy Yards Brewing Co. on Spring Garden Street at the edge of Northern Liberties.
These high-profile projects certainly will appear on many “best-of” lists. For another restaurant that has made a major impact, head to King of Prussia Town Center and join the throngs at Founding Farmers.
Founding Farmers, based in Washington, a collaboration between restaurateurs Dan Simons and Michael Vucurevich and a consortium of North Dakota farmers, might not be a critic’s darling — even elite Yelpers disagree on its merits — but it has been a commercial hit. Try snagging a table for the weekend brunch buffet. Open from breakfast through late night with a bar, bakery, and creamery, Founding Farmers served about 25,000 meals in its first four weeks, Simons said. The restaurant, which he said was projected to do $12 million a year in gross sales, is looking for a location in Center City.
What else was a “thing” in 2017? Fast-casual spots specializing in Greek street food, Spanish tapas, brewpubs, and King of Prussia as a dining destination.
Let’s look at what made news in 2017, grouped by neighborhood and concept:
Dae Bak (1016 Race St.): Korean home cooking on the second floor of the Chinatown Square food hall.
Kuriimii (1023 Cherry St.): Soft-serve ice cream in all sorts of wild flavors.
Little Sheep (1017 Arch St.): Mongolian-style hot pot specialist.
Little Lodge (927 Race St.): Storefront specializing in skewers and the soup known as mala tala.
N2 Sweet Cafe (125 N. 11th St.): Liquid nitrogen creates the ice cream at this corner dessertery.
Cheu Fishtown (1416 Frankford Ave.): The crew from Washington Square West’s Cheu Noodle Bar (and East Passyunk’s Bing Bing Dim Sum) has boldly redecorated a 19th-century city-owned carriage house and turned it into a deliberately unauthentic Asian noodle shop with a bar.
Suraya (1528 Frankford Ave.): With a market/cafe (now open) and a restaurant and outdoor space to open in 2018, this is a Middle Eastern-themer from the owners of the nearby Root and Northern Liberties’ Cafe La Maude; it’s open now from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday with beverages and Lebanese-inspired food and baked goods.
Tierce (2218 Frankford Ave.): The duo from Helm and South Helm have taken over the brownstone that housed the Pickled Heron with an ambitious breakfast-luncher; it’s BYOB, open Tuesday to Sunday.
King of Prussia …
Choolaah (155 Main St.): A Indian fast-casual restaurant in a bright, energetic setting at King of Prussia Town Center.
Founding Farmers (255 Main St.): All-day American dining, at King of Prussia Town Center.
MidiCi (201Main St.): Neapolitan pizza and light Italian fare in a sometime-boisterous room at King of Prussia Town Center.
Mistral (160 N. Gulph Rd.): Small plates of locally sourced food from this branch of the Princeton destination restaurant, in the King of Prussia Mall.
Bam Bam Kitchen (31 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore): Korean food comes to the Main Line at this lively BYOB with color-changing walls.
EatNic (231 W. Lancaster Ave., Paoli): The Main Line gets a rustic, hyper-locally focused American BYOB from the founder of Saladworks.
Farm & Fisherman Tavern (575 Horsham Rd., Horsham): The Cherry Hill farm-to-table restaurant/bar sets up a branch in a Montgomery County shopping center.
Hearth Kitchen (847 E. Baltimore Pike, Kennett Square): Bryan Sikora delivers Italian-inspired wood-fired cooking (with a full bar) in a Chester County shopping center.
Suburban Restaurant & Beer Garden (570 Wellington Square, Exton): Chef Eric Yost’s farm-to-table-focused restaurant and beer garden is tucked away in a Chester County mixed-use development.
Tredici (915 W Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr): Gorgeous second act for the Center City Italian.
At Ramen (4357 Main St.): Jason Kim (Jason’s Toridasu) presents ramen in an anime-decorated room on Main Street.
Somo (4311 Main St.): Handsome American brasserie with 25 beers on tap.
Sona Pub & Kitchen (4417 Main St.): A combo of Irish pub and American bistro in a sprawling building (the former Kildare’s).
Old City/Northern Liberties
The Kettle Black (631 N. Second St.): Bakery/coffee in a simple setting with counter seating.
Royal Boucherie (52 S. Second St.): Atmospheric and high-volume French-inspired brasserie from chef Nick Elmi and partners from the Royal Tavern.
Danlu (36th and Market Streets): In the works for several years, this newcomer is a high-ceilinged pan-Asian offshoot of Berwyn’s Nectar, with food from chef Patrick Feury.
Washington Square West
J’aime (212 S. 12th St.): A young Frenchman opens a pastry shop/cafe.
Maison 208 (208 S. 13th St.): Chef Sylva Senat cooks French-ish at this scene-y corner bistro; the upstairs lounge has a retractable roof and good views.
The Ugly Ducking (212 S. 11th St.) and Blue Duck on Broad (220 S. Broad St.): American comfort food and alcohol, as downtown versions of Northeast Philadelphia’s Blue Duck.
The Love (18th and Sansom Streets): There’s an ease and elegance about Starr and Olexy’s third collaboration — a richly appointed American bar-restaurant just off Rittenhouse Square.
Hearthside (801 Haddon Ave., Collingswood): South Jersey gets wood-fired American fare in a warmly appointed BYOB from chef Dominic Piperno, his wife, Lindsay, and chef Aaron Gottesman.
Walnut Street Cafe (2929 Walnut St.): This airy, modern all-day restaurant on the University City side of the Walnut Street Bridge over the Schuylkill has drawn praise, particularly for its pastries, wine selections, and happy hour.
Booker’s (5021 Baltimore Ave.): Lively neighborhood West Philly pub from Saba Tedla, owner of the nearby Aksum Cafe.
Chick’s (1807 Washington Ave.): South Philly sports bar with 24 beers on tap, plenty of TVs, and a family-friendly side.
Keen (1708 Lombard St.): An art gallery meets a neighborhood bar in Southwest Center City; the long-delayed restaurant offers plenty of eye candy in the moody environs.
Pistola’s Del Sur (1934 E. Passyunk Ave.): A third Mexican cantina from the Jose Pistola’s crew, set up on East Passyunk.
6 Feet Under (727 Walnut St.): Cozy, subterranean bar just off Washington Square.
Borough Brewhouse (208 York St., Jenkintown): Neshaminy Creek’s Montgomery County branch has 30 taps and cooking from Revolution Taco’s Mike Sultan.
Evil Genius (1727 N. Front St.): With wacky-named beers (e.g. Who Is Your Daddy and What Does He Do), this roomy brewpub landed under the El in Fishtown.
Fishtown Brewpub (1101 Frankford Ave.): Snug, comfy brewpub near the Fillmore in Fishtown.
Locust Lane Craft Brewery (50 Three Tun Rd., Malvern): Food trucks set up at this family-friendly tasting room, which has a “living room” setting and entertainment.
Original 13 Ciderworks (1526 N. American St.): Six ciders are the rule at this industrial cidery (with a vegetarian-friendly menu) in Kensington.
Philadelphia Distilling (25 E. Allen St.): The city’s oldest craft distillery, in Fishtown next to the Fillmore, offers tastings and tours.
Roy-Pitz Barrel House (990 Spring Garden St.): Industrial-theme pub from the Central Pennsylvania barrel-aged and sour specialist, at 10th and Spring Garden Streets.
Urban Village Brewing (1001 N. Second St.): Brick-oven pizza and a dozen or so beers are the chief wares at this brewpub at the Schmidt’s Commons in Northern Liberties.
Wissahickon Brewing Co. (3705 W. School House Lane): Food trucks provide the grub, and nine beers (plus other beverages) are on tap at this family-friendly tasting room in East Falls.
Yards Brewing Co. (500 Spring Garden St.): Vast, new tasting room for the Philly beer legend, and food from chef Jim Burke.
Charity Begins at Home
Rooster Soup Co. (1526 Sansom St.): This diner from the Cook N Solo crew (Zahav, Abe Fisher, Dizengoff, Federal Donuts) donates 100 percent of profits to Broad Street Ministry’s Hospitality Collaborative.
Baology (1829 JFK Blvd.): Taiwanese street food, including bao, made from quality ingredients.
Goldie (1526 Sansom St.): Vegan falafel shop above Rooster Soup Co. from Cook N Solo restaurants.
Love & Honey Fried Chicken (1100 N. Front St.): Chicken, sides, and pies on a Northern Liberties corner.
Poi Dog Snack Shop (100 S. 21st St.): Hawaiian-style plate lunches, poke, and Spam musubi in a Rittenhouse storefront.
Wiz Kid (124 S. 19th St.): Vedge and V Street’s sandwich/salad shop next to V Street just off Rittenhouse Square.
Zushi (100 N. 18th St.): Build-your-own sushi bowls and rolls, near Logan Square.
Golf & Social (1080 N. Delaware Ave.): A bar-restaurant with virtual-reality golf across from SugarHouse Casino.
Spin (15th and Walnut Streets): A subterranean cocktail bar with ping-pong tables.
Palizzi Social Club (1408 S. 12th St.): It’s a private club, so find a member to experience old-time South Philly Italian at the hands of chef Joey Baldino (Zeppoli).
Res Ipsa (2218 Walnut St.): All-day coffee and dining from chef Michael Vincent Ferreri in spartan digs from ReAnimator Coffee’s Mark Corpus and Mark Capriotti and Stock’s Tyler Akin.
Bar Amis (4503 S. Broad St.): A casual reconfiguration of the Vetri/Urban Outfitters-run Lo Spiedo at the Navy Yard.
Pizza Al Taglio
Alice (15th and Locust Streets): Specializing in pizza by the cut, this Roman-style pizzeria/wine bar/dessert shop is backed by Rome’s Domenico Giovannini and the Longo family of Gran Caffe L’Aquila. Say it “ah-lee-che.”
Rione (102 S. 21st St.): Roman snacks and pizza al taglio in a simple storefront from Italian-born Francesco Crovetti.
The closings of 2017
Nothing lasts forever. The following are among the year’s more significant closings:
Barbacoa in Ardmore, Brick & Mortar in Callowhill, Bridget Foy’s (fire), Chi Ken in Chinatown), Criniti in South Philadelphia, Drafting Room in Exton, Eat a Pita in Washington Square West, Elements Cafe in Haddon Heights, Eulogy in Old City, Falls Taproom in East Falls, the Fat Ham in King of Prussia and University City, Fitler Dining Room in Rittenhouse (now Trattoria Carina), Flora in Jenkintown, Forno in Maple Shade, Fratelli’s in Center City, Gracie’s in Glenside, Hamifgash on Jeweler’s Row, Herban Quality Eats in University City, Jack’s Deli in Northeast Philadelphia, Jim’s Steaks in Northeast Philadelphia, Junto in Chadds Ford, Little Pete’s in Rittenhouse, Los Amigos in West Berlin, Mainland Inn near Lansdale, Mrs. K’s in Old City, Neuf in the Italian Market, Penne in University City, Pennsylvania 6 in Washington Square West, Rarest in Washington Square West, Rembrandt’s in Fairmount, Rock Bottom in King of Prussia, Sarcone’s Deli in South Philadelphia, Sbraga in Center City, Smokin’ John’s Barbecue in Manayunk, the Irish Mile in Haddon Township, the Irish Pol in Old City, Tilted Kilt/Vinny’s in King of Prussia, Towey’s in Chestnut Hill, Tria Fitler Square, West Ave. Grill in Dresher, Wyebrook Farm in Honey Brook.
Read full story: Philly's hottest restaurant openings of 2017