Chef Picks: The Most Under-the-Radar Eating Experiences in Philadelphia

If you're looking to side-step the hype and find delicious food, follow an off-duty chef or bartender. We asked some of the Philly's best to reveal their favorite lesser-known food haunts.

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Philadelphia has long outgrown its reputation as a simple cheesesteak town. Bustling, tiny kitchens helmed by ingredient-obsessed chefs with serious pedigrees are now the norm in the City of Brotherly Love.

Yet when they aren’t slaving over the stove, these chefs yearn to be as far away from heirloom greens as possible, unwinding with pints and hefty pork sandwiches instead. We asked 12 of Philly’s best which under-the-radar joints we’ll find them in when they are off the clock.

Jose Garces

Chef/owner, Garces Group

philly garces Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Philadelphia

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Cherry Street Tavern (129 N 22nd Street, 215-561-5683, cherrysttavern.com)
Garces says: “The bar is a real throwback; over 100 years old. I always order the roast-pork sandwich with provolone and hot peppers.” (Photos: Jason Varney, philly.thedrinknation.com)


Adam Leonti

Chef de cuisine at Vetri

philly leonti Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Philadelphia

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Kanella, 1001 Spruce St (215-922-1773, kanellarestaurant.com)

Leonti says: “It’s unique to find Greek Cypriot food here, so I bring out-of-towners to Kanella. I love so many dishes there, but I come specifically for the moussaka and the hazelnut date cake.” (Photos: Courtesy Vetri, kanellarestaurant.com)

Michael Santoro

Executive chef at The Mildred

philly santoro Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Philadelphia

Favorite under-the-radar spot: The Abbaye, 637 N 3rd St (215-627-6711, theabbaye.net)
Santoro says: “Surprisingly, I order the spicy vegan wings made of crispy seitan. Paired with a beer and one of their huge beef burgers with bacon, cheese, onions, and BBQ sauce, I’m pretty much happy as can be.” (Photos: Courtesy The Mildred, Yelp)


Joe Cicala

Executive chef at Le Virtù

philly cicala Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Philadelphia

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Los Gallos, 951 Wolf St (215-551-1245, losgallosphilly.com)
Cicala says: “I do a lot of takeout due to my grueling work schedule, and Los Gallos satisfies my Mexican craving. It’s always good—I like the cemitas poblanos and tacos a la plancha—affordable, and it’s right around the corner.” (Photos: Courtesy Le Virtù, phillyphoodie.com)

Nick Elmi

Chef/owner at Laurel

philly elmi Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Philadelphia

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Zeppoli, 618 Collings Ave, Collingswood, New Jersey (856-854-2670, zeppolirestaurant.com)
Elmi says: “Joey Baldino does some of the best pasta I’ve ever had, with my favorite being a simple lemon tagliatelli with bottarga. He’s also one of the nicest people I’ve met.” (Photos: Bravo, Zagat)


Michael Solomonov

Executive chef at Zahav and co-founder of CookNSolo

philly solomonov Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Philadelphia

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Street Food Philly, 33rd and Arch (@StFoodPhilly)
Solomonov says: “This is the best bánh mì going in Philly. It’s got the right ratio of pickled veg to pâté, and enough jalapenos to cut the richness.” (Photos: Michael Persico, Philly)

Eli Kulp

Executive chef at Fork and High Street on Market

philly kulp Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Philadelphia

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Kim’s, 5955 N 5th St (215-927-4550)
Kulp says: “The banchan at this Korean BBQ restaurant are the best I’ve ever had. The live charcoal they use makes all the difference; no gas here.” (Photos: Jim Graham, Yelp)


Peter Serpico

Chef/co-owner at Serpico

philly serpico Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Philadelphia

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Royal Tavern, 937 E Passyunk Ave (215-389-6694, royaltavern.com)
Serpico says: “The people are nice, the food is great, and it’s perfect for after work because they serve food until 1am. I love their simple, classic bacon cheeseburger.” (Photos: Courtesy Serpico, Facebook)

Erin O’Shea

Executive chef/co-owner at Percy Street Barbecue

philly oshea Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Philadelphia


Favorite under-the-radar spot: Valley Shepherd Creamery-Meltkraft, Reading Terminal Market, 12th and Arch St (valleyshepherd.com)
O’Shea says: “The handmade mozzarella braids here are so fresh—literally made less than an hour ago and never refrigerated. You can get ridiculous grilled cheese sandwiches here, too.” (Photos: Courtesy Percy Street Barbecue, Valley Shepherd Creamery)


Eli Collins

Chef at Pub & Kitchen

philly collins Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Philadelphia

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Tired Hands Brewing Company, 16 Ardmore Ave, Ardmore, PA (610-896-7621, tiredhands.com)
Collins says: “I have two small children, so I don’t get out much. When my wife and I do get a rare night out we like to keep it local. We live in a small town, Narberth, and in Ardmore, the neighboring town, this nano brewery serves super-fresh beer they brew in-house. The food is a small but well-curated selection of local cheese, charcuterie, and housemade pickles. It’s a great place for date night. With cool, interesting beers and a cheese plate we don’t need much more.” (Photos: Courtesy Pub & Kitchen, Tired Hands)

Jason Cichonski

Chef/owner at Ela

philly cichonsky Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Philadelphia

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar, 1200 E Passyunk Ave (215-365-1169, thehappybirthdaybar.com)
Cichonski says: “I don’t even know the address, just that it’s right near Pat’s and Geno’s. We usually head there late night, after a few drinks and grabbing cheesesteaks. For friends’ birthdays it’s a must because you get free shots. The fact that it’s cheap whiskey is not even important at that point.” (Photos: Courtesy Ela, cantabpublishing.com)


Justin Bogle

Chef at Avance

philly bogle Chef Picks: The Most Under the Radar Eating Experiences in Philadelphia

Favorite under-the-radar spot: Pho Xe Lua, 907 Race St (215-627-8883)
Bogle says: “My love of pho began here, so I have to stay loyal. Broth is just right and they are not shy with the garnish.“ (Photos: Courtesy Avance, Zagat)

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