This weekend, Philadelphia carefully reclaims a bit of normalcy: outdoor dining.
Many restaurants are reopening for al fresco dine-in service, and more are planning to do so. The city released its COVID-19 dining guidelines on Thursday, outlining the rules for health and safety (expect masks, social distancing, and digital-forward service). The city also gave restaurants expanded options for outdoor seating, including parking lot takeovers and “streeteries,” in which tables are set up in what would otherwise be a parking spot or a lane of traffic.
It might take a while for the outdoor dining scene to develop. Only those that already have the proper permitting could launch Friday; the rest must apply for the appropriate permit, and the city will start processing applications on Monday. In its detailed guidelines, the city says it will process new applications for sidewalk cafes and streeteries in three business days. However, temporary street closures and streeteries with built-in platforms need to be approved by the Streets Department as well.
It’s a brave new dining world, and not one that all restaurants will rush into. It’s also unclear how many diners will feel comfortable eating out during a pandemic. Eater Philly surveyed over 1,100 people about whether they were ready to dine out as soon as outdoor dining started; only a third of respondents said they were.
One thing is certain: Outdoor dining won’t be what it used to be. It will often require reservations, encouraged by the city and state. You’ll need to be seated at a table to be served. And if it rains, rushing inside is not a viable alternative.
But for those who have been pining to get out, it will be enough to sit at a wobbly table on the sidewalk, a humid breeze blowing down the street, a chilled glass of wine or cold beer in hand, and a hot meal served to you by someone other than your spouse. Who cares if the waiter is wearing a mask?
If you’re ready to sit outside and enjoy a meal, here are 10 options for the first weekend of outdoor dining in Philadelphia. For many more options, and to submit a restaurant offering outdoor dining, go to inquirer.com/outdoordining13.
3269 S. Ferry Rd., 267-385-6703, trolleycarcafe.com
This South Philly Italian spot at Broad and Porter Streets has only been open since 2003, but its flavors and style are old-school. Share the stuffed artichoke and sweet sausage and fresh figs to start, then dig into a veal chop for dinner.
2500 S. Broad St., 215-468-3900, scannicchio.com
Walk-ups are welcome at chef Tyler Akin’s Southeast Asian-inspired Rittenhouse BYOB, serving pho, banh mi sandwiches, papaya salad, and cold noodles, among other items. Akin has been busy during the pandemic advocating for small restaurants with the newly formed Independent Restaurant Coalition.
Enjoy affordable French fare (steak tartare, roast chicken, garlicky escargots) and a view of North Broad Street’s historic buildings at chef Peter Woolsey’s sidewalk cafe. Its sibling restaurants, Bistrot La Minette and La Peg, are also open for outdoor dining.
339 N. Broad St., 215-377-9407, gabirestaurant.com
Several of the restaurants in Stephen Starr’s Philadelphia constellation have reopened for outdoor dining, including his Headhouse Square pizzeria, serving wood-fired Neapolitan-style pies and adult slushies. Other Starr options: The Continental in Old City, El Vez, Fette Sau, Frankford Hall, Talula’s Garden, the Love, and Parc.
420 S. Second St., 215-320-8000, pizzeriastella.net
Brunch (chicken and waffles, egg-topped shrimp and grits, tofu scramble) is the specialty at this Cedar Park spot, but the Inquirer’s food critic sings the praises of the jerk oxtails and buffalo cauliflower, too. It opens for outdoor dining on Baltimore Avenue starting at 10 a.m. this weekend.
5021 Baltimore Ave., 215-883-0960, bookersrestaurantandbar.com
Reservations only at this sleek Old City sushi bar from chef/owner Kenneth Sze, who melds Japanese traditions with his Fujianese roots. There’s sushi, of course, but don’t miss the pork gyoza and the stir-fried rice.
205 Race St., 215-238-8862, tunabar.com
This low-key gem in Fairmount is where the neighborhood goes for cold beers, Quizzo, and hearty servings of Ethiopian stews served on spongy injera bread. Tables will be set up on North 28th Street starting Friday night.
2743 Poplar St., 215-769-7008, facebook.com/EraBarRestaurant
Starting Sunday, the shaded patio at this historic stone home turned restaurant in Mount Airy is open for dinner. The seats will be fewer, making it “that much more luxurious,” a staffer said. (Make reservations by phone until Wednesday, when they should be available online, along with additional outdoor seating.) Recent menus include Norwegian salmon with crispy spaetzle, grilled New Zealand lamb chops, and tempura softshell crab with crispy shallots.
7402 Germantown Ave., 267-335-5041, jansenmtairy.com
This tiny BYOB just north of Northern Liberties and west of Kensington has set up tables on North Fifth Street. The seasonal contemporary menu from chefs Kevin D’Egidio and Mike Griffiths includes softshell crab with asparagus and bernaise, tempura leeks with citrus and yogurt, and a strawberry crumble with lemon verbena.
1303 N. Fifth St., 215-309-2211, helmphilly.com