The Wharton Food Club shares their top 10 favorite spots to enjoy Philly’s award-winning culinary scene for Center City Restaurant Week.

Center City District Restaurant Week is back, and it’s the perfect time to explore Philadelphia’s celebrated culinary scene without breaking that New Year’s resolution to be more budget-savvy.

With nearly 120 of the city’s finest restaurants offering exceptional prix-fixe menus from $20-35 per person, the only problem is narrowing down the list.

Thankfully, one of our MBA student clubs, The Wharton Food Club was more than happy to lend their expertise.

After all, bringing together restaurant lovers, cooking aficionados, and eating enthusiasts to make the most of their Philadelphia food experience is part of their mission.

So take this opportunity to enjoy one of the best attractions Philadelphia has to offer — the food.

You’ll find their top 10 Restaurant Week recommendations below (feel free to try more than one).

1. Zahav

Zahav puts an excellent modern twist on traditional Israeli cuisine with highlights that include rich, ultra-smooth hummus served with freshly baked, wood-fired laffa bread and smoky flavorful beef skewers.

While many dishes on the menu are small plates, you won’t leave hungry. The exciting, exotic culinary experience you’ll have at Zahav will leave you just as satisfied as the lavish four-course Restaurant Week dinner menu.


Photo by benbmims

2. a.Kitchen

Delicate, whimsical dishes make a.Kitchen one of our favorites in town. The Rittenhouse Square restaurant (owned by Ellen Yin, W’87, WG’93) boasts quite the collection of recent accolades, including the No. 2 spot on Wine Enthusiast’s list of America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants 2015 and Chef de Cuisine Jon Nodler’s semifinalist win in the Rising Star Chef of the Year category of the 2015 James Beard Awards.

You’ll see why when you sample a.Kitchen’s lunch and dinner offerings for Restaurant Week—seasonal and sharable dishes that can be paired with wine for an additional $20. While the High Street sourdough isn’t part of the deal, we highly recommend you test it out. You won’t regret it.


Photo by akitchen_philly

3. Davio’s

Known for its crispy cheesesteak spring rolls, this classy, white-tablecloth Northern Italian restaurant puts an upscale spin on a Philly staple. There’s something for everyone on Davio’s menu—from the hand-rolled potato gnocchi to the mouth-watering braised veal and seared salmon.

Davio’s changes its lunch and dinner menus between the first and second week so you could even check it out twice.


Photo by raymond_thomas

4. Alma de Cuba

Whether you’re going on a date, grabbing cocktails with friends, or enjoying after-hours Latin music, Alma de Cuba never disappoints with its fun and seductive atmosphere. And the same can be said for its Latin-inspired menu.

Expect the ceviche to be fresh, the pork crisp, and the desserts creative and delectable. One entree is well-portioned for one person, but sharing is always the best way to taste as many items as you can. Oh, and don’t forget to try one of the signature cocktails at this sophisticated Stephen Starr hotspot!


Photo by starrestaurant

5. The Dandelion

Warm up by the roaring fireplace in this cozy gastropub, where Stephen Starr offers a traditional English pub experience with updated seasonal takes on the standard pub fare. The atmosphere will transport you across the pond, and the food (especially the lamb shepherd’s pie) will take you to cloud nine.

The craft beer and cocktail selections are pretty unique, too, and are bound to pair well with the special menu they’ve prepared for Restaurant Week.


Photo by philarestweek

6. Ocean Prime

Ocean Prime is the perfect place for surf and turf lovers. For a modern take on a familiar favorite, order the signature salad, which gives the classic Waldorf salad a facelift with fresh field greens and a sherry mustard vinaigrette.

With the wide variety of entrees from land and sea, you can’t go wrong. The house-prepared jumbo lump crab cakes and the perfectly seared filet are both great options.

Feel like splurging? Then, go off the Restaurant Week menu and order the 10-layer carrot cake. Incredible.


Photo by taneeshatanc

7. Gran Caffé l’Aquila 

Not only does Caffè L’Aquila have the best ice cream and espresso in town—the second floor features a a stunning restaurant with unique reimaginations of authentic Italian cuisine.

The award-winning gelato makes its way into traditional dishes such as agnolotti al tartufo or pasta alla carbonara, which get served with a small bite of truffle-flavored and bacon-flavored gelato, respectively.

Definitely worth a try during Restaurant Week for lunch or dinner, but also worth a daily visit for a cup of fresh cappuccino and gelato from the cafe.


Photo by pangelboy

8. Amada

Since Executive Chef Jose Garces opened Amada in 2005, this flagship Old City restaurant has been serving up new and inventive interpretations of centuries-old Spanish tapas recipes. Even staples like the tortilla española and patatas bravas are presented with an innovative flair.

Luckily, the lunch and dinner menus for Restaurant Week feature a wide assortment of small plates and entrees, so it shouldn’t be difficult to get a good sampling of Amada’s eclectic offerings (we personally recommend the gambas al ajillo and the espárragos con trufas).

If you have a big group, be adventurous and try the cochinillo asado (roasted pig)—unfortunately it’s not on the Restaurant Week menu but it’s a house specialty you won’t want to miss.


Photo by shar0npark

9. La Viola

Offering simple Abruzzi-inspired fare, this authentic family-run Italian BYOB in the heart of Center City is perfect for just about any palate and any occasion. On most nights, you’ll find La Viola’s two small adjacent dining rooms packed with families, couples, and friends sharing close quarters and a great meal.

The Restaurant Week 4-course dinner menu features nearly 20 entree choices and Italian classics, including homemade lobster ravioli in a pink vodka sauce and homemade spaghetti sauteed with shrimp, olives, and chopped tomatoes in a truffle oil sauce.

A freshly brewed cappuccino and one of La Viola’s exquisite desserts are the perfect way to end this meal.


Photo by its_labrae

10. IndeBlue

A fine-dining gem that serves both modern and traditional Indian food, IndeBlue has something for the adventurous types and less daring diners alike, as well as plenty of vegan and gluten-free dishes.

The menu boasts creative dishes like barbecue spare rib samosa rolls and amritsari fish tacos, but if you’re looking for more familiar Indian dishes, fear not. You can also enjoy some steaming hot naan with flavorful curries (yes, they serve butter chicken and it’s delicious).

The modern, classy decor provides the perfect atmosphere for a nice dinner or romantic night out. Stop by for lunch or dinner, and catch live music on Tuesday nights and during Sunday brunches.


Photo by inedible

– Colleen Mullarkey

Posted: January 22, 2016

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