Philadelphia’s outdoor dining scene is as diverse, scenic and ascendant as the city itself. In Center City alone, the number of outside seats at restaurants, cafes, bakeries and ice cream parlors has grown from 1,208 in 2001 to 5,829 in 2017. That’s a 383% percent bump (source: Center City District). Today, more than 350 dining and drinking establishments have gone alfresco—and that’s in just the neighborhoods between Vine and South streets and the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers. Below is list of some of Philadelphia’s most idyllic spots to eat and drink en plein air, each one uniquely different from the next:
• BOK Bar – A circa 1938 South Philly technical high school is now a multiuse space—with a vast, seasonal, popular rooftop bar where, as the sun sets, the city skyline appears industrial and ethereal. This summer’s chef: Paul Garberson, of the former Fitler Dining Room, with a menu of Middle Eastern street food (shwarma, falafel). New this year: Irwin’s, an Art Deco cocktail lounge on the 8th floor, where Garbersen makes Mediterranean small plates; cocktails are classic, reservations are accepted, and the terrace share the view with Bok Bar. Bar: No reservations; ages 21+ only except Sundays, when dogs and children are welcome. 800 Mifflin Street, bok-bar.com
• La Peg – At the foot of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, from a renovated water pumping station, chef Peter Woolsey serves lobster rolls, smoked eggplant sandwiches and fizzy cocktails on a three-tier patio full of picnic tables. The sum effect is dramatic, yet laid-back, and utterly romantic when the lights along the span of the bridge set to twinkling. 140 N. Columbus Boulevard, (215) 375-7744, lapegbrasserie.com
• The Moshulu – Bucket-list checkers can cross off a few items by dining on The Deck of the world’s oldest and largest square-rigged ship still afloat. Contemporary American lunches, dinners, brunches, cocktails, mocktails and delicious spiked ice pops come complete with a grand view across the Delaware River—and a fantastic waterfront breeze. 401 S. Columbus Boulevard, (215) 923-2500, moshulu.com
• Restaurant Attico – Slated to open in June, this spacious Mediterranean-American spot sits atop the 14th floor of the Cambria Hotel (also new), with indoor and outdoor seats overlooking the theater-lined section of Broad Street known as the Avenue of the Arts. The menu reflects chef Tony Sindaco’s specialty in seafood. 219 S. Broad Street, facebook.com/atticorooftop
• Rouge – Now toasting its 20th year of sidewalk chic, this Rittenhouse Square stalwart distinguished itself first and still with its Rouge burger, martini and wines (including Perrier Jouet) by the glass. Rouge has both inspired Center City’s outdoor dining scene and seen restaurants boom around it—including grand neighbor Parc Brasserie. 205 S. 18th Street,
(215) 732-6622, rouge98.com
• Barcelona Wine Bar – From the plant-lined triangular outdoor dining room of this busy wine and tapas bar, patrons witness the singular transformation of a Philadelphia neighborhood. Those lush planters, plus white lights strung overhead, partially shield Barcelona from the surrounding hubbub, but its location at a five-point intersection—and the popularity of more restaurants and bars nearby—make the nearby excitement palpable. 1709 E. Passyunk Avenue, (215) 515-7900, barcelonawinebar.com
• Talula’s Garden – Across the street from Washington Square, tucked between two tall buildings, Talula’s Garden is the stylish, rustic, urban cousin of Chester County’s petite farm-to-table miracle, Talula’s Table. Co-owner Aimee Olexy honed her culinary reputation by transforming local cheese plates into works of art. She and Stephen Starr make sure the service and cuisine are polished yet homey—and that the plantings are ever lush. 210 W. Washington Square, (215) 592-7787, talulasgarden.com
• Terrain Garden Café – One of the country’s most sought-after and historic garden centers turned its rustic, fern-filled greenhouse into a brunch-through-dinner dining spot that’s become an attraction on its own. Just outside that greenhouse, a slate patio filled with picnic tables overlooks an antique mushroom house—and a vista of bucolic, green perfection as far as the eye can see. 914 Baltimore Pike, Glen Mills, (610) 459-6030, shopterrain.com/glen-mills-restaurant
• Front Street Cafe – Diners on the bricked patio of Fishtown’s rugged, industrial Front Street Cafe welcome the rumbling of the elevated Market-Frankford train—which, when it passes by, seems only an arm’s length away. This all-day spot is beloved for its gluten-free and vegan-friendly dishes, fried chicken sandwich, grilled pimento cheese and Buffalo cauliflower—all of which, when weather permits, make for quite an exciting meal each time the El zips by.
1253 N. Front Street, (215) 515-3073, frontstreetcafe.net
• Laurel – Just beyond the kitchen, in a backyard more aptly described as an intimate, planted space, chef-owner Nicholas Elmi offers up a single, perfect, by-reservation-only table. Weather permitting, four to eight diners squeeze through Laurel’s kitchen to sit down to artful, seasonal, local, French dinners in the heart of South Philly. 1617 E. Passyunk Avenue, (215) 271-8299, restaurantlaurel.com
• Royal Boucherie – Whitewashed and exposed brick walls border the tranquil upstairs courtyard of “Top Chef” Nicholas Elmi’s handsome new venture in Old City. Beyond dusk, aglow with strands of white lights and the city itself, it’s a romantic spot for chilled shellfish, champagne-braised escargots and hibiscus punch. 52 S. 2nd Street, (267) 606-6313, royalboucherie.com
• Suraya – A chic, tiled-floor courtyard leads to the 4,000-square-foot garden behind this stunning, block-long Lebanese dining destination (an all-day market, cafe, lounge and restaurant) in Fishtown. The outdoor space, which promises to debut in early summer 2018, also promises Suraya’s many fans the wait will be more than worth it. 1528 Frankford Avenue, (215) 302-1900, surayaphilly.com
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