After filling your mind at Independence Hall, feel free to fill your belly at a nearby fine Philadelphia dining establishment, like Barbuzzo. (Photo: Jason Varney)
You’re in the City of Brotherly Love. You love history. You love food. You couldn’t be in a better place. Within blocks of Independence Hall, where the Founding Fathers stood, stalwarts in Philly’s food scene represent strong. After filling your mind with our country’s founding tenets of freedom, feel free to fill your belly at one of these fine Philadelphia dining establishments.
Located behind minimalist yellow-glass doors on Chestnut Street, Morimoto not only serves up Iron Chef–caliber modern Japanese cuisine and sushi, it’s also like walking into a modern-art masterpiece. The ceiling made of polished, undulating hardwood mirrors the floors below, highlighting the cloud-like, sculptural walls. The booths are made of translucent glass that color shift as you sit, making the the restaurant continually evolve before your eyes.
The otherworldly decor suits sushi that is also out of this world, especially when hand-picked by the chef. Put yourself completely in his hands and order the Omakase, a special multi-course menu. If you are lucky, the chef could be Iron Chef Morimoto, himself. Be sure to leave yourself plenty of time; this beautifully choreographed meal takes a leisurely two and half hours.
James Beard Award–winner Jose Garces opened this tapas gem in Old City in 2005, and it’s been a favorite of locals and not-so-locals ever since. Garces brings a taste of authentic Andalusian cuisine (from the southern coast of Spain) to Philly, with recipes based on centuries-old traditional recipes. Take your time perusing the jam-packed menu divided by type (classic, meat, fish, vegetarian); there’s something to satisfy every palate. One of Amada’s tastiest bites are the Spanish flatbreads. Try one topped with Lamb Mergeuz, dates, harissa yogurt and toasted almonds, or, for veggie lovers, topped with artichokes, wild mushrooms, black truffles and manchego cheese. And if you’re feeling thrifty, don’t miss the $5 tapas at happy hour with some house sangria.
Phildelphians head to Buddakan when they’ve got something to celebrate and with good reason — the soaring ceilings, giant gold Buddha statue and Deco-style black and white décor scream special occasion. But any occasion is perfect to enjoy this sumptuous Asian-inspired cuisine. Buddakan’s family-style menu draws on the traditions of Asian cultures with dishes meant to be shared. Start with the house sake or a one of Buddakan’s classic cocktails with an Asian twist, like the Kyoto Mule, with vodka, sake, ginger beer, lime and Thai chilies. For appetizers, try the tuna pizza and Kobe beef sate. The Dim Sum menu offers an impossible choice of divine dumplings. While the comprehensive sharable entrée categories include beef, shrimp, chicken, fish and vegetarian options. Whatever you desire, Buddakan delivers.
Hustle and bustle meets simple and delicious at Barbuzzo, chef Marcie Turney’s and partner Val Safran’s award-winning Mediterranean-inspired spot. Turning out simple, handcrafted and insanely delicious dishes from its open kitchen, Barbuzzo is a popular local fave, especially for its pastas. Try the Parsnip and Ricotta Cannelloni, filled with braised duck sugo, black trumpet mushrooms and shaved chestnuts or the Pan Seared Gnocchi with guanciale (cured Italian pork jowl, similar to pancetta), chanterelles, kohlrabi, truffle butter and thyme. And if it’s pizza you desire, take heart: Turney and Safran worked at a Neapolitan-certified pizzeria to perfect their pies and their hard work is your reward. Barbuzzo also offers quite a few rare, smaller-brewery domestic beers, like Ommgang Gnomegang (NY) Belgian Blonde or Troegs Pale Ale (PA). And make sure to leave room for the Salted Carmel Budino (a kind of custard) with dark chocolate crust, vanilla bean caramel and sea salt — dessert dreams realized.
Blackbird is Philly’s first vegan pizzeria, but omnivores will feel welcome too. Close to Independence Hall, Blackbird Pizza is as friendly on the wallet as it is on the conscience. For pies, try the Haymaker, with garlic butter, seitan sausage (a wheat-derived meat substitute), onions, red sauce, fresh oregano and Daiya cheese. In the mood for a sandwich? Try the Seitan Cheesesteak, which gives the classic Philly cheesesteak a run for its money. They even make meatless Buffalo wings. In short, plant-eater or not, you’ll find something at Blackbird to fill you up and make you happy.