Always, always, always worth the drive.
Two years ago this month, we launched our annual 50 Best Restaurants list. Two months later, COVID came along and shut down our city, our communities, our restaurants. When it came time to publish our list in January 2021, it felt wrong — if not downright impossible — to come up with a ranking. Anyone who survived those lean times deserved accolades.
We’re not back to normal yet, but we thought it was time to take a stab at the list again—but this year, it’s a little different. We broke the Top 50 into five categories, each showing off a different facet of the region’s most vibrant restaurants. Below, 10 restaurants and purveyors in the Philly suburbs that are well worth the trip.
Anthony Andiario’s restaurant is only open four nights a week. He cooks a prix-fixe meal based on what he can get from local farmers and producers and doesn’t announce the menus in advance. Once something is gone, it’s gone — possibly never to return. Eating here is often the kind of experience that sticks with you for years—a carefully curated and expertly prepared taste of a particular moment or season in Pennsylvania, expressed through the flavors that best represent the state. Yet your meal never feels forced or heavy or false. Dinner here is just dinner, after all. But Andiario stands as an example of just how extraordinary something as simple as “dinner” can be.
West Chester | Italian
106 West Gay Street, 484-887-0919
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Bardea is one of those restaurants where you don’t go for any specific thing. You go for the burrata-stuffed pop-tart starter that oozes melted cheese when you cut into it, the wood-fired pizzas, handmade pasta, the cobia collar glazed with dulse butter and swiped with mango beurre blanc. You go for cocktails mixed with the house-made limoncello and laminated doughnuts with caramelized pineapple. Wilmington’s dining scene was a little stagnant when Scott Stein and chef Antimo DiMeo opened Bardea in 2018, and since then, it’s been drawing crowds for doing everything right.
Wilmington | Italian
620 North Market Street, 302-426-2069
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Dubu (named for the tofu that goes into its Korean soups and stews) low-key dazzles us with comforting bowls of soondubu jjigae, made with soft tofu and just the right amount of heat. With an endless array of complimentary banchan that kicks off your meal, with haemul pajeon—crisp, savory pancakes, pan-fried and flecked with shrimp and scallion — and with handmade dumplings in broth that’s been simmering for two days. Lastly, you come for the warm vibes and the K-pop that plays in the background as you fervently wish this place existed in your own neighborhood.
The dining room is all stonework, dark wood, flames licking from the big wood-fired ovens in the kitchen and the gleam of candles on every table. The menu is lobster spaghetti, brussels sprouts with the sting of Calabrian chilies, smoked pork chops with grits and bacon jus, and whole roasted branzino with olives and artichokes in a white wine beurre blanc. Together, they make Hearthside feel like a Restaurant With a Capital R — a place for dining that eschews the flighty and impulsive in favor of something more refined. Serious but not stodgy, solid but not stuffy.
Collingswood | New American
801 Haddon Avenue, 856-240-1164
More about Hearthside
Sometimes at June, Todd Cusack — the chef who runs the restaurant with his wife and sommelier, Christina Cusack — will wheel an antique duck press to your table. He’ll use the silver-plated press to crush the carcass in a century-old tradition that extracts its juice, leaving nothing edible to waste. The pomp is followed by a sequence of duck courses that show off the chef’s decidedly French culinary prowess and cred. (His résumé boasts stints at New York’s Daniel as well as Bibou here in Philly.) Not up for partaking in that tradition? There are plenty of other French-inspired dishes on the menu, from escargots imported from Burgundy to Parisian gnocchi, all of them deserving a visit to Collingswood.
Collingswood | French
690 Haddon Avenue, 856-240-7041
More about June BYOB
Since 2013, Nick Elmi has been working from his teeny-tiny kitchen at Laurel, his East Passyunk tasting-menu boîte. Lark, opened in October with partner Fia Berisha, is sprawling by comparison, with a scenic outdoor patio overlooking the Schuylkill River. For most chefs, the expansion might mean road bumps, but not for these two. The service is friendly and professional as ever, and every single dish—from wide pillows of gnocco fritto served with silky ricotta and paper-thin prosciutto to squid-ink chitarra dusted in garlic breadcrumbs to the oh-so-fluffy espresso budino — nails the mark.
Bala Cynwyd | Mediterranean
Ironworks at Pencoyd Landing,611 Righters Ferry Road, 484-434-8766
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The historic Green Room inside Delaware’s Hotel Du Pont served the same menu in the same archaic, heavy-draped environs for decades. Then local boy Tyler Akin took over and breathed new life into the space. Gone are the curtains; gone is the wall-to-wall carpet that covered the original terrazzo floor. The menu, too, got a modern revamp, with French brasserie-inspired plates of duck frites and chicken Provençal. The result is worth traveling for.
Wilmington | French
42 West 11th Street, 302-594-3154
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Some people might call Sagami a perfect Japanese restaurant. We call it a happy place where the same sushi chefs have been behind the same sushi bar, making the same chirashi bowls and eel rolls, for decades. Where the servers know guests by name, and where technique and tradition live together in perfect harmony inside a 47-year-old suburban New Jersey dining room.
Collingswood | Japanese
37 Crescent Boulevard, 856-854-9773
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The Sweet Amalia Farm Market, smack in the middle of South Jersey between here and the Shore, is at once a side-of-the-road farm market, a raw bar and artisan hoagie shop (backed by the talented Melissa McGrath), and an event space. Which means there’s a reason to get in the car and take a drive without, you know, having to pack the car with beach chairs, swimsuits and a cooler.
Newfield | Shoreside
994 Harding Highway, 856-839-2478
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It takes a lot for an Italian restaurant to make it worth leaving Philly. But chef Joey Baldino’s warm, intimate, tiny BYO is absolutely worth crossing the bridge for, because he’s channeled generations of love and passion for Italian (specifically Sicilian) food into this one place. Tagliatelle with lemon and prosciutto, stewed rabbit with tomato and rosemary, whole shrimp sautéed with garlic and lemon and tossed with cannellini beans — all of it is so simple yet so perfect, reduced to only its most elemental ingredients.
Collingswood | Italian
618 West Collings Avenue, 856-854-2670
More about Zeppoli
To check out the complete list of the 50 best restaurants in Philadelphia, click here.
Published as “The 50 Best Restaurants” in the January 2022 issue of Philadelphia magazine.