Restaurateurs are working every angle as they try to maximize their seating in this era of the coronavirus, particularly in Philadelphia, where inside dining is not allowed. They have taken advantage of rules allowing them to set up tables nearby, not necessarily in front of their property. Many restaurateurs in Center City and adjacent neighborhoods have created streeteries, landscaped pods of tables in the curb lane.
Some have looked up to their rooftops, in some cases their only outlet for in-person service. When you factor in the required six-foot chairback-to-chairback spacing and the natural openness of a roof, these setups really put the distancing into social distancing. They all adhere to Pennsylvania law, which requires that drinks be accompanied by a meal. Masks are a must, though they may be removed at tables. (Many servers appreciate it when patrons remask as they approach the table.)
There’s a newcomer to the scene this year. Emmy Squared, the pizza-and-burger specialist at Fifth and Bainbridge Streets, opened a sprawling roof deck, accessible by elevator, on July 31.
And on Aug. 14, Stratus Lounge atop the Hotel Monaco at Fifth and Chestnut Streets reopens for evening service Fridays and Saturdays.
Assembly Rooftop Lounge
The Parkway stretches out before you from nine stories up at Assembly, the roof bar atop the Logan Hotel (19th Street and the Parkway). That is, if you’re facing northwest. The opposite view takes in Center City buildings and the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. It’s open for walk-ins (90-minute limit) from 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday (happy hour from 4 to 6). Seating pods for up to 10 people can be reserved. Menu includes cocktails, beers, and wine, as well as a charcuterie board, shrimp cocktail, octopus salad, and flatbreads.
The retractable doors that created a bar space at Attico have been pulled back to comply with restrictions, melding the indoors and outdoors at this hideaway atop the Cambria Hotel (219 S. Broad St.) and operated by chef Jason Cichonski. The building’s architecture and table locations block most of the views, though you might be able to wave at guests in the DoubleTree. Mediterranean is the focus of the menu (snacks and full-size entrées) and there’s a full list of cocktails, beers, and wine. Reservations are encouraged; to keep foot traffic to a minimum, a host wisely posted at the elevator controls the access. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday (must be 21 and over after 5 p.m.)
The roof deck at the Media location of the popular pan-Asian restaurant (217 W. State St.) overlooks the town. Full menu is available, and it’s a phone book: sushi, lobster mac and cheese, salads, bulgogi spring rolls, Kobe beef carpaccio, and bibimbap with red-wine braised short ribs, etc. Lunch hours are 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday to Friday; and dinner is 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday, 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Reservations are accepted (especially for weekends) but are not always necessary.
The destination atop the refurbished/repurposed vo-tech school at Eighth and Mifflin Streets in South Philadelphia — which offers unparalleled views from New Jersey out to West Philadelphia — has a slate of programming this summer beyond the popular table service. It’s reservation only, from Wednesday to Sunday, and it’s wise to download the ROOAM contactless dining and payment system.
The New York-based pizza-and-burger destination’s multilevel roof deck opened July 31 atop the Queen Hotel. Zip up from the lobby to see 360-degree views with Emmy’s full menu and a special cocktail/wine/beer menu including frozen cocktails. It’s first-come, first-served. Initial hours are 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Great American Pub
Reservations are a must at the Skytop Garden, which sits above the Conshohocken location of this reliable eatery (123 Fayette St.), open at 5 p.m. weekdays, 3 p.m. Saturday, and noon Sunday. It operates weather-permitting.
Even during the pandemic, there’s lots of energy (and a dedicated bar) on the roof of this downtown West Chester Mexican spot, an adjunct to the street-level patio. It’s first-come, first-served. At the front door, guests are assigned a rooftop table and are sent up on the elevator. They use the stairs on the way down to keep traffic flowing. Hours are 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday to Sunday.
This sunny Italian seafooder at 214 Walnut St. across from Zahav and the now-idle Ritz Five movies does not have a roof, though the seating — one story above street level via ramp, complementing the sidewalk tables below — gives lovely views of leafy Independence National Historical Park. Reservations are a good idea. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday, till 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
Because it’s Old City’s largest rooftop restaurant, with a tent that blocks the sun and most rain, the roof deck at this comfort-fooder is popular, so reservations are a good idea. Menu includes salads, burgers, entrées, and Neapolitan pizza, plus a full slate of cocktails/beers/wines. Hours can change frequently, but it’s generally open from midafternoon to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday.
Chef Nick Elmi’s French destination has reopened its second-floor garden deck, where the lack of views is more than made up by the sedateness, privacy, and greenery. (There also is dining in a streetery along Second Street.) French food and cocktails. Hours are 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Though it’s a lovely space on top of the Hotel Monaco on Independence Mall, there’s no real view at this lounge because of the building’s architecture, which translates into walls. It reopens at 8 p.m. Aug. 14 for food, drinks (bottle service, too), and DJ music on Friday and Saturday nights.
The 1.2-acre lawn covering Cira Green’s parking garage (along 30th Street between Chestnut and Walnut) is one of the city’s newer outdoor standouts, with sandwiches, salads, and drinks. Hours are 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, and noon to 9 p.m. Saturday.
Byblos, a popular Mediterranean restaurant and hookah bar at 114 S. 18th St. near Rittenhouse Square, has moved its operation upstairs to the roof deck, known as Vango SkyBar. You get privacy but no real city views. Based on a visit this week, the social-distancing matters seem to be squared away following a citation from the city. Menu is all over the map, from America (wings and wraps) to the Mediterranean (fettuccine Alfredo) to the Middle East (kebabs). Hours are 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Walk-ins are OK, though reservations can be made by phone (215-568-3050).