As Philly’s restaurants swung open their doors and began seating customers inside starting Tuesday dining in is a whole other experience than the one we knew six months ago. The tables are distanced. The servers are masked and shielded. The salt and pepper shakers have vanished, even at the most basic of eateries.
But the food should be just as warm, delicious, and expertly prepared and plated.
Philly dining rooms can open at just 25% capacity, so small BYOBs will feel even smaller, and the din at large restaurants on busy weekends should be softer. (Starting Sept. 21, though, Pennsylvania restaurants may increase indoor dining capacity to 50% as long as they agree to follow safety guidelines to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.) If you’re ready, so are these 10 spots in Philadelphia.
Chef Adam Diltz and his wife, architect Jenny Ko, opened this Fishtown BYOB with an old Pennsylvania twist — think roasted rabbit, Pennsylvania Dutch pot pie, and venison scrapple — in May 2019. It’s been dormant since March, but will reopen its dining room on Thursday, with a limited menu and even more limited seating (just three tables at a time).
1007 Frankford Ave., 215-279-7427, elwoodrestaurant.com
Perhaps the most vocal advocate for indoor dining in Philadelphia, chef Marc Vetri began welcoming guests back into his Washington Square West brownstone on Wednesday. There’s a two-hour time limit for parties of one or two, and an extra 15 minutes for parties of three or four (the maximum), so don’t let the handmade pasta linger on your plate.
1312 Spruce St., 215-732-3478, vetricucina.com
Starting Thursday, West Philly’s Mediterranean BYOB with all-day brunch adds indoor dining back to its repertoire. Come for the Moroccan chicken and waffles and blueberry-lemon pancakes, stay for the fattoush salad and the spiced shrimp and grits.
4630 Baltimore Ave., 267-275-8195, aksumcafe.com
One of South Philly’s countless corner bars, Watkins stands out for its cask beer, game-driven menu (think kangaroo, camel, alligator), and ever-changing grilled cheese offerings. It reopened inside on Tuesday.
1712 S. 10th St., 215-339-0175, instagram.com/watkinsdrinkery
Dim Sum House by Jane G’s
Let’s face it: The best time to eat a soup dumpling is when it’s freshly steamed and slurp-able. On Tuesday, about 60 socially distanced seats became available inside the University City Szechuan hot spot, and 30 or so more are available in its downtown location.
3939 Chestnut St., 1930 Chestnut St., 215-921-5377, 215-563-8800; dimsum.house
Northern Liberties’ shot-and-a beer bar-turned-cozy-gastropub — lovingly restored in the last decade and now outfitted with plastic glass barriers — allowed guests back inside on Wednesday. About 30 seats are available for those seeking fettuccine with crab in saffron cream sauce, Pat LaFrieda burgers, and lobster eggs benedict.
129 W. Laurel St., 267-273-1632, jerrysbarphilly.com
The Better Box
Tamekah Bost has grown her cheesesteak-egg roll-inspired restaurant concept from a ghost kitchen to a food truck to a takeout-only storefront in the Northeast and now to a full-fledged dining room in Fairmount. The Spring Garden Street location — serving up firecracker salmon rolls, Philly twist cheesesteak egg rolls, and crab fries — will offer seating inside starting on Thursday.
1519 Spring Garden St., 8601 Frankford Ave.; 267-858-4143, 215-613-7381; thebetterboxllc.com
La Llorona Cantina
This corner spot from the owners of Cafe y Chocolate and La Mula Terca created pandemic-era buzz this summer with its mezcal cocktails, mole-glazed wings, zesty shrimp and scallop aguachile bowls, and chicken tinga-topped tlayudas. If all goes well, it will open its dining room later in the week.
1551 W. Passyunk Ave., 215-515-3276, lalloronaphilly.com
Plexiglass barriers weren’t thought of in 1773, the year City Tavern first opened for business, but they’re in place now at the historical recreation of the famous colonial watering hole. Starting Thursday, pepperpot soup, cornmeal-fried oysters, and duck sausage are available again indoors.
138 S. 2nd St., 215-413-1443, citytavern.com
Chef Nick Elmi’s four-bell flagship restaurant was already a sought-after reservation; now that it’s only seating eight people at a time, twice a night, expect them to be that much harder to score. Elmi’s French-inflected nine-course tasting menus resume inside starting Thursday.
1617 E. Passyunk Ave., 215-271-8299, restaurantlaurel.com