All addresses are Philadelphia, unless otherwise noted.
1007 S. 9th St., 215-644-8158; almadelmar.net
After watching their story on national TV, I can’t help but root for fish monger Marcos Tlacopilco and his wife, community organizer Alma Romero, as the crew from Queer Eye helped their family open a restaurant in the Italian Market. They’ve transformed the vacant lot next door into a festively tented patio ringed with colorful banners and murals, where a brunchy daytime menu (waffles, huevos and a molletes sandwich) segues into seafood ambitions at night. Try the distinctive crab tamal and simple but well-cooked fish, like the garlicky brazino and red snapper in achiote sauce.
231 S. 24th St., 215-703-2010; ambrosiabyob.com
This popular Italian BYOB from chef Freko Loka and George Profi takes full advantage of the elegant brick sidewalks and residential vibe near Fitler Square, with 40 seats flanking the corner beneath a broad awning. Date-night couples and families out for a special meal flock to Loka’s house-made pastas (short rib pappardelle; seafood casarecce), crudos, expertly cooked octopus and excellent pistachio panna cotta.
1800 Federal St., 215-334-2337; americansardinebar.com
The flowerbox-trimmed backyard behind this Point Breeze bar has long been a favorite outdoor refuge for good beer and funky sandwiches. It also has diligent safety protocols, with an online wait list to prevent lingering crowds, online menus, disposable plates, and procedures to minimize contact. Our meal from chef de cuisine Mallory Valvano (and exec chef Doreen DeMarco) was great, from the lip-stinging peach-infused Buffalo wings to memorable international mash-ups on a bun, including a Thai beef riff on banh mi, a miso-seared “Japanese cheesesteak” and a vegan torta take on carnitas with beer-stewed jackfruit and pureed corn “queso.”
258 Bridge St,, Phoenixville, 610-455-4110; avlosgr.com
Sisters Nikoleta Skartsilas and Katerina Skartsila launched their charming Greek BYOB in the Phoenixville space once occupied by Majolica - just months prior to the shutdown. They survived early on takeout, but have since reopened with white wooden tables outside on the Bridge Street sidewalk. It’s a relaxing spot to try the Cretan-trained Nikoleta’s renditions dakos barley rusk salad, hand-rolled warm grape leaves, charred bistekia beef patties and one of the area’s finest takes on octopus, served over earthy fava puree with tangy onions and capers.
940 S. 9th St., 215-925-1010; bluecornmexphilly.com
With its polished service and great little bar (stellar margaritas and piña coladas), Blue Corn is South Philly’s most complete Mexican restaurant, now with a festive sidewalk scene on S. Ninth St.. Go for Philly’s best shrimp cocktail (liberally splashed with La Bruja), the festive chile en Nogada and huaraches made with heirloom blue corn from the owners' hometown in Puebla. The signature blue tacos are a delicious take on al pastor gilded with Oaxaca cheese.
5021 Baltimore Ave., 215-883-0960; bookersrestaurantandbar.com
Saba Tedla’s lively restaurant and bar brings a fresh taste of Southern flavors to Cedar Park. And she’s extended the same attention to stylish detail that characterizes her dining rooms to the Baltimore Avenue sidewalk. A tall pergola with spacious cubbies is shaded, landscaped and partitioned with clear plastic dividers between guests — many toasting weekend brunch with mimosas as the trolley rolls by. There’s limited indoor seating and live Sunday jazz, but Booker’s is especially well-suited to a sunny brunch of perfectly fried catfish and grits, chicken and waffles and vegan options, from black-eyed pea hummus to Buffalo cauliflower.
1254 Haddon Ave., Camden, 856-541-4894; corinnesplace.com
Corinne Bradley/Powers has been Camden’s Queen of Soul Food for three decades, but this summer transformed a vacant lot beside her storefront into a tranquil refuge for outdoor dining. With ocean blue waves muraled on its long walls and a tented seating leading back to a garden with a trickling fountain, “oasis” is the perfect description. The zesty crisp of her no-nonsense fried chicken is still reliably great. But there are so many dishes I’ve appreciated here, from stewed pig’s feet to tender oxtails, a Cajun turkey wing and my new favorite, tender fried pork chops smothered in brown gravy so good I’d follow their platter anywhere.
17-19 E State St, Media, 610-557-8757; dimsummania.com
There’s plenty of good Chinese takeout options but the broth-filled Shanghainese soup dumplings known as xiao long bao are too delicate to survive much travel. So, it’s worth venturing to Media, where Tom Guo’s Dim Sum-Mania remains my XLB champ. I crave many things on this menu, from spicy dry pot shrimp to the sticky rice sui-mei and dumplings with pork and cabbage. But those xiao long bao are special. The savory cascade of hot juice and tender meat stuffing that comes from a strategic nibble on one of their bulging dumpling skins is ... slurp! ... magic that must be experienced on site.
817 Christian St., 215-305-9222; fiorellaphilly.com
Marc Vetri has been among the most vocal (and controversial) advocates for reopening inside dining. But his Italian Market pasta bar has also been one of the city’s big outdoor dining hits, where 100-plus diners each night vie for seats along the Christian Street sidewalk to taste affordable renditions of the exquisite noodles that have earned Vetri a national reputation, from perfect cacio e pepe to sweet potato tortellini over whipped Gorgonzola and rigatoni in a sausage ragù homage to the butcher shop that occupied this space for 125 years. Excellent Italian-temed cocktails (like the Dirty Pasta Water Martini) keep the casual mood loose.
1525 South St., 215-735-1116; jetwinebar.com
Jet Wine Bar’s leafy garden lot is a welcome oasis off the hubbub of South Street West’s lively strip. They take their COVID precautions seriously, but Jill Weber’s quirky wine bar is also a happy hour nibble delight, with a nibble menu from Rex 1516 across the street (skewers, mezze, a pimento cheeseburger) and a unique wine list that remains a draw. From Slovenian orange wine to a Lebanese pét-nat rosé, Jet remains a go-to destination for your favorite international wine geek.
1310 Frankford Ave., 267-314-5086; kensingtonquarters.com
After being closed for six months, this Fishtown pioneer in whole animal butchery reopened with a couple big changes. Owner Michael Pasquarello invested big in seating out front while also remaking the back patio into an all-weather refuge. Meanwhile, chef Nicholas Bazik also overhauled the menu’s into a seafood concept. A gorgeous fluke crudo with figs and a corn-crusted skate schnitzel with dilled halušky dumplings were convincing. There’s also a smoked duck dish, a late-night version of the renowned burger for carnivores, attentive service, and a smart drink list to remind you that Kensington Quarters' ambitions still have wide appeal.
1001 S. 17th St., 215-595-2500; lanimaphilly.com
The third restaurant in Gianluca Demontis' Italian BYOB family (Melograno, Fraschetta) has found its mission as one of Philly’s loveliest outdoor dining set-ups, its modern corner patio in Graduate Hospital decked with pastel-colored chairs, and an outgoing staff ready to serve with conscientious grace. The Roman-born chef makes some of my favorite cacio e pepe and all’amatriciana anywhere, but seafood is also a focus here (try the branzino), and the pork chop alla Fiorentina with Gorgonzola polenta and blueberry balsamic was outstanding.
1551 W. Passyunk Ave., 215-515-3276; lalloronaphilly.com
The crew behind Café y Chocolate and La Mula Terca has opened this cheerful cantina with 40 bottles of mezcal, some excellent cocktails from mixologist Israel Nocelo, and a menu from chef Zenaeda Flores that offers modern interpretations of regional Mexican cuisine. Puebla inspires the chicken wings in dark mole Poblano, as well as the tan almond-based almendrado that comes with the roast chicken. Flores' al pastor tacos are now among Philly’s best while her Oaxacan tlayuda, a broad tortilla crisp glossed with lard, avocado leaf-scented black beans, and smoky shreds of chicken tinga, should also not be missed.
1713 South St., 215-545-4448; pumpkinphilly.com
Hillary Bor and Ian Moroney’s tiny BYOB in Graduate Hospital leaned hard into takeout at the outset of the pandemic. Now they’ve also built one of the prettiest, most sturdy parklets around, framed by 150-year-old reclaimed barn wood, heaters and clear vinyl dividers protecting diners from the South Street fumes. The $45 three course menus deliver the quality-value I’d expect from this 15-year-old gem, with ever-changing offerings that range from hearty ribbolita with pumpkin, to delicate grilled quail over aji dulce vinaigrette, flank steak in salsa verde and a meaty monkfish in fennel-infused tomato broth with chickpeas.
7 W. King St., Malvern, 610-644-4009; restaurantalba.com
Sean and Kelly Weinberg’s wood-fired Italian in Malvern turned 15 in March as one of the suburbs' best fine dining options. Its ability to do a brisk takeout business, then reopen for outdoor dining on its bi-level deck this summer helped it maintain that status. Sean, who trained for two years in Northern Italy, creatively channels Pennsylvania’s best seasonal ingredients: hand-pinched agnolotti stuffed with truffled chicken and leeks; overnight-roasted pork with kabocha squash and sweet corn pudding; and an oak-grilled trout from the Lehigh Valley that practically levitated over escarole salad with brown butter-toasted hazelnuts, blueberries, and lime.
1801 Lombard St., 215-560-8443; southgatephilly.com
I regularly crave the hot stone bowl comfort of dolsot bibimbap, but that sizzling Korean specialty doesn’t translate to takeout. Gratefully, it’s one of the specialties at this friendly neighborhood Korean gastropub with sidewalk seating in Graduate Hospital. The city’s meatiest Korean fried chicken wings are seemingly on every table, shoju highballs are a fizzy hit, and my wife’s favorite entree, the grilled meat ssam platters, come with lettuce leaves, pickled daikon, rice and spicy ssam sauce for ultimate roll-your-own wraps.
701 S. Fourth St., 267-930-8538; southwarkrestaurant.com
Not only did Chris D’Ambro and Marina De Oliveira shift the dining outside to Southwark’s back garden this summer, they moved the kitchen, too. So when you arrive for dinner and pass through the wrought-iron gates into the lush garden, you step through a haze of fruitwood-smoke coming off a grill-sizzling pork chops, duck breast and shrimp skewers splashed with saffron and citrus. Don’t miss D’Ambro’s pasta, either. His tortellini stuffed with foie gras in a ragu of snails and foraged wild mushrooms was dreamy.
901 N. 2nd St., 215-238-0630; standardtap.com
Philly’s original gastropub is still going strong, having embraced outdoor dining with a handsomely landscaped streetery and a second floor beer porch. New chef Patrick Limanni took over just 10 days before the pandemic, and has maintained untouchable classics like the chicken pie. But he’s also added some worthy new draws, like a chicken fried corn on the cob (perfect in season) and a hoagie update with house-smoked meats and fresh-baked sourdough baguette that is a notable contribution to the genre.
1528 Frankford Ave., 215-302-1900; surayaphilly.com
The sprawling dream garden behind Suraya, with its trickling fountain, mosaic-tiled pathways, and shady grove of Persian ironwoods, has become a premier oasis for outdoor dining. Once past the laser-gun temp check, take a seat in one of the secluded nooks with an arak cocktail and then dive family-style into a “Taste of Suraya” feast. Charcoal-kissed kebabs, stuffed grape leaves scattered with barberries, a parade of colorful mezze with still-puffing hot pita, baharat-scented lamb shoulder and crisp-skinned branzino. And then the pastry chef’s grand finale: the lacy crunch of kanafeh stuffed with oozy cheese doused in sweet, warm rose syrup.
210 W. Washington Square, Philadelphia, 215-592-7787; https://talulasgarden.com/
Aimee Olexy and Stephen Starr’s perennial special occasion hit has long set Philly’s standard for elegant outdoor dining, with a twinkly light garden beside Washington Square now augmented by dozens of new al fresco seats on the sidewalk. Chef Charles Parker’s menu always delivers beautiful renditions of local bounty framed with American inspirations, from a chowdery clam toast and a spice-rubbed pork with succotash that captured summer, and an exceptional cheeseboard composed from Olexy’s cherished collection of artisan curds.
726 Bethlehem Pike, Flourtown, 215-619-2390; tamarindosrestaurant.com
Free margaritas are the hook at Fernando Sauri’s Mexican BYOB, situated in an elegant old house along the Bethlehem Pike, where the sprawling backyard is strung with lights and the glow of heaters. I come for some of this area’s only examples of Yucatan’s distinctive cooking, from the elotes-poblano soup to a stellar fried whole snapper in garlic sauce, and the Trio Yucateco, a skirt steak platter framed by a banana leaf-steamed tamal with smoky pork tinga, and also codzitos, a Mayan rolled tortilla dish Sauri’s mom used to make with pasilla salsa that are similar to flautas.
126 N Wayne Ave, Wayne, 610-293-9909; https://teresas-nextdoor.com/
One of the area’s great gastropubs is still a fantastic place to drink in the suburbs, with coveted craft beers, an enormous whiskey list and an impressive natural wine collection that’s available at fair prices by the bottle to go from the retail shop that now occupies the Italian half (Teresa’s Cafe) of these twin restaurant spaces. The food served both to go and at sidewalk seats is a mix of the two menus, but I typically lean towards Next Door’s brie sauce-drizzled Disco Frites, mussels, rabbit tenders (with a bunny wink of spicy carrot sauce) and a convincing lobster roll.
1939 Arch St., 215-515-2522; https://www.thanalphilly.com/
This South Indian favorite near Logan Square has bounced back from vandalism during the unrest this spring to completely rehab its space and create a bustling dining scene along its wide sidewalks with live jazz. The crowds come for the coconut-rich Chettinad stews, aromatic biryanis, tangy-spicy gobi Manchurian, ghee-glistened tadka lentils and Chicken 65 that crackles with curry leaves and chile. Also great for takeout.
1723 Locust St., 215-642-0020; vialocusta.com
This glam pasta boutique from Osteria’s Jeff Michaud and the Schulson Collective was the last restaurant I reviewed with bells (3!) before the pandemic. They’ve adapted well, with an impressive wood parklet structure for heated outdoor seating near Rittenhouse Square. The crowds are still rightfully enthusiastic for the veg-forward Northern Italian menu built around a dozen stellar noodle dishes, most priced under $18, irresistibly crunchy focaccia, salt-roasted chicken and an impressive collection.
6 Park Ave., Swarthmore, 484-471-3997; .villagevineswarthmore.com
After more than 125 years as a dry, Quaker-founded town, Swarthmore borough finally has a new wine bar and bistro worth the trip to its charming downtown strip, where a landscaped parklet warmed by heaters compliment VV’s art-hung little dining room. Ambitious Euro-style plates, from raclette-covered fingerling potatoes to mushroom strudel, lamb meatballs, and braised pork cheeks over spaetzle are perfect for sharing alongside offerings from the smart international wine list. Austrian Zweigelt, Basque Txakolina, Lebanese Merwah and raisiny Ripasso were some of the recent highlights, while fortified wines for dessert and a full bar round-out the options.
618 W. Collings Ave., Collingswood, 856-854-2670; zeppolirestaurant.com
I’m so fond of Joey Baldino’s Sicilian cooking at Zeppoli, I didn’t mind eating it in a mist of rain in his torchlit backyard, where the garden fence entwined with grapevines and figs feels like a private villa. The unwavering ode to Sicilian classics is as good here as ever, from the fresh tomato pie to the airy spinach-ricotta gnocchi dusted with caciocavallo, lemon-sauced tagliatelle with shaved bottarga, snappy links of fennel sausage and the signature fried zeppoli for dessert. Don’t miss Baldino’s masterpiece, a fisherman’s stew piled over Tunisian couscous in a saffron-cinnamon shellfish so deep that eating it is an immersive experience.