by Emily Kovach
These small-plate-focused experiences aren’t supporting acts—they’re the main event. One of the best ways to experience a restaurant is, oddly enough, to not sit at a table and delve into
the full menu. Drinks and a few snacks at the bar let you soak up the atmosphere and sample the offerings at a fraction of the price.
On a date? Two seats at the bar is, in our opinion, a much more romantic configuration than a two-top any day.
2244 Fairmount Ave.
Under the tutelage of Chef Townsend Wentz and the kitchen direction of Chef Michael Millon, A Mano strikes an easy balance between casual and elegant. The seasonally driven menu reads like a love letter to the diverse foodways of Italy, including lots of smartly composed small plates to begin the meal: an antipasti board, slow braised tripe, little vegetable salads and much more.
1720 Fairmount Ave.
Can’t decide on just one bar snack? Fairmount Avenue’s newest, epically cozy (heck, even their name, pronounced “huu guh,” basically means cozy time) restaurant offers customizable “Hygge boards.” Choose up to five tasty bites from a rotating list, like coconut chilled shrimp, crispy Brussels sprouts and local cheeses, all of which pair nicely with house-brewed beer.
1901 S. 9th St.
While this en plein air rooftop bar has been at the center of a heated debate about the gentrification of South Philadelphia (it’s housed in the renovated former Bok Technical High School), Bok Bar has become a popular gathering place. The soaring skyline views are indeed a draw, as is the simple menu of Filipino and Vietnamese-inspired snacks. Bánh mì and brut rosé play surprisingly well together.
824 S. 8th St.
The spirit of Montreal dining is alive and well in Philadelphia at Coeur. We love the irreverent decor, the working fireplace, the old movies playing behind the bar, and decadent food and drink. The entrées and brunch specials don’t disappoint, but the appetizers are where it’s at: oysters, cheese, charcuterie, salads to share and, of course, poutine, satisfy with gusto.
Crow & the Pitcher
267 S. 19th St.
When cheese is what you crave (and let’s be real, it often is), Crow & the Pitcher has got you covered. Their curated cheese program features a weekly rotating list of 12 artisanal dairy delights, with the option to build your own custom cheese board—up to 10 cheeses—or add a beer or wine pairing. Also, a shout out to these folks for their genius late night brunch menu, offered from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
1615 E. Passyunk Ave.
Top Chef Nick Elmi is back with another restaurant concept on East Passyunk Avenue, next door to his first venture, Laurel. ITV, stands for “in the valley,” a translation of “Passyunk” in Lenape, and this small, stylish space serves up unpretentious French-ish plates, most under $15.
Wm. Mulherin’s Sons
1355 N. Front St.
This much-lauded new restaurant is showing that there’s more to hip scene-y places than aesthetics (though the interior is quite handsome, with dark wood, cool light fixtures and exposed brick aplenty). The wood-fired oven works overtime, putting out magnificent pizzas, but the small plates deserve equal credit: Hamachi crudo is listed alongside asparagus salad, stuffed dates, various seafood and veg dishes, all somehow singing in harmony.