A big part of my job is playing the role of Answer Man, guiding readers to the latest and greatest food and beverage experiences in the Philadelphia region. With thousands of out-of-towners preparing to descend on the area, let’s answer the restaurant and bar questions: “What’s new in town, and where else should we try?”

Read on to see what’s new out there since the pandemic started, as well as our staff picks of bars, foods, restaurants, wines, and holiday activities.

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Where to take the out-of-towners

Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday homecoming, and Philly is the prime meet-up destination among people throughout the region. Since the pandemic kept many folks home in 2020, let’s get up to speed — a round-up of bars and restaurants that have opened in Center City Philadelphia and its nearby neighborhoods since March 2020.

Our favorite foods

How much deliciousness can you take? Contributors Grace Dickinson, Regan Stephens, and Maddy Sweitzer-Lamme, and editor Jillian Wilson set out over the summer and fall to find the finest in foods in a host of categories:

🧁 Bakeries

🍖 Barbecue

🍔 Burgers

🥪 Cheesesteaks

🥙 Hoagies

🍦 Ice cream

😎 Outdoor dining

🐖 Roast pork

🍷 Rooftop bars

🥕 Vegan food

Our favorite bars

We asked some of Philly’s top bartenders and chefs to name their favorite bars, and the list created by staff writer Jenn Ladd is studded with classics like Oscar’s and Dirty Frank’s as well as newer spots such as Lucky’s Last Chance and Young American Hard Cider. Speaking of classics: Doobies, the David Bowie-themed watering hole near Fitler Square, is due to reopen during the first week of December after a few ch-ch-ch-changes prompted by the long pandemic shutdown.

Craig LaBan’s top 10 restaurants

Craig LaBan put his restaurant critic’s hat back on in June, and he’s come back with his 10 best, “from new Italian restaurants with rooftop views and bustling sidewalk seating to a charcoal-scented Israeli grill house, tasting menu ateliers conveying stories of the season, innovation, and diverse kitchen inspirations,” he writes. “I savored sublime sushi and extraordinary Thai dumplings, then devoured oysters every way at a roadside Jersey market transformed into a local shellfish heaven with picnic tables and some of the best sandwiches around. In each one I could taste a spark of real magic.” From our recent Let’s Eat, Philly dining guide, here are his faves.

And even more of Craig LaBan’s favorite new restaurants

Everyone has a “go” list, and here are 29 great new ideas from Craig, all over the region and representing a wealth of cuisines. (Tip: You’ll see Nicholas Elmi’s casual The Landing Kitchen in Bala Cynwyd among the picks. Head upstairs to the just-opened Lark — the more polished restaurant on the roof. It’s also a keeper.)

10 great places to buy wine

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s introduction of the Wine Expanded Permit not only ushered in wine-to-go sales but also allowed restaurants and other businesses to diversify their stock. Deputy food editor Joseph Hernandez lifts a glass to his 10 favorite places to snag a bottle or sip alongside a stellar meal.

Holiday specials

The halls are decked at Tinsel, the Christmas-theme pop-up bar at 12th and Sansom Streets that runs Friday, Nov. 26 through the end of the year. This year, aside from an over-the-top streetery, new twinkling light display, and Christmas cocktails served out of ornaments, boots, and snow globes, owner Teddy Sourias and crew are bringing in a snow machine and have set up a snow-covered ice cave with more than 700 icicles suspended overhead. Hours: 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Thursday, 2 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday, and noon-2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Butcher Bar (2034 Chestnut St.) has brought back its yule lodge on its patio, which has a bar with cold-weather drinks and a fireplace.

The new W Hotel at 1439 Chestnut St. is doing up its lobby in what organizers say will be “an Insta-worthy spectacle,” featuring neon lights and disco balls in The Living Room. This should be ready in early December.

Uptown Beer Garden, which moved over the summer to year-round operation at Penn Center (JFK Boulevard at 16th Street), is decked out in Christmas lights and decorations and bears the name “U-Ville” (get it, Dr. Seuss fans?). This complements the city’s Christmas Village, which puts 100-plus vendors at LOVE Park, City Hall Courtyard, and on North Broad Street from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas Eve.

Fishtown’s Evil Genius Beer Co. (1727 N Front St.) has a tree-lighting set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2 as its beer garden will take on a winter wonderland theme.

Go shopping and buy local. Contributor Michelle Reese found 18 holiday markets throughout the region.

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