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December 26, 2012

Year In Review: 12 Highlights From The Philadelphia Dining Scene In 2012 And 13 Food Stories We’re Excited About For 2013

What a whirlwind year it's been for Philadelphia's dining scene, with a series of sensational openings, revitalizations, accolades and chef imports. There's even more to be excited about for next year. Pictured, clockwise from top left: Fette Sau in Fishtown, Chinatown's Hop Sing Laundromat, the newly expanded Brauhaus Schmitz and the renovated Le Bec-Fin. (Photo credits, clockwise from top left: Danya Henninger courtesy Drink Philly, Robert Neroni courtesy Hop Sing Laundromat, courtesy Brauhaus Schmitz, courtesy Le Bec-Fin)

When it comes to food, Philly’s got it covered. In 2012 we welcomed lots of great new bars and restaurants that have proved to be well worth the anticipation.

Philly restaurants have cleaned up in the awards and accolades department and our favorite chefs have been featured left and right.

But all of that’s not to say that 2013 won’t be just as exciting for the local restaurant scene.

Next year, some of the city’s favorite restaurants are expanding, new restaurants are opening and transports are setting up shop within the city limits.

Below, a look back at 12 Philadelphia dining highlights from 2012 and 13 we’re looking forward to for 2013:

12 in 2012

1. Fette Sau: Thanks to a partnership between Stephen Starr and Brooklyn Restaurateur Joe Carroll, Philadelphia gets a taste of NYC’s prized BBQ spot, Fette Sau. Using all local meats and smoking them in house, this place puts up some serious competition for best BBQ in the city. The down-home vibe and extensive bourbon menu add some leverage, too.

2. Le Bec-Fin: The reinvention of what some have called the country’s best French restaurant was one of the year’s most exciting (and relieving) success stories. The service is still impeccable, the food excellent, the atmosphere elegant — but it’s all just a little bit more accessible.

3. Brauhaus Schmitz expands and adds Wursthaus Schmitz in Reading Terminal Market: Nothing wrong with plattering up Parma ham and Spanish lomo, but the latest trend in Philly kitchens is do-it-yourself (DIY) sausages, terrines and pâtés. Meat eaters have already pounced on the German-style Wursthaus Schmitz in the Reading Terminal Market, a spinoff of South Street’s Brauhaus Schmitz, offering the restaurant’s acclaimed homemade sausages, salads, pretzels and sandwiches such as the Bavarian, complete with bauernwurst, horseradish mayo, Bavarian coleslaw and crispy fried onions. The restaurant’s South Street home base also expanded into to accommodate 2,000 additional square feet of space, and 10 more taps.

4. Red Owl Tavern and Stratus Lounge: The opening of Philadelphia’s first new hotel in Old City’s Historic District in years also brought two new bar/restaurants to Independence Mall: Red Owl Tavern, helmed by Chef Guillermo Tellez of Square 1682 fame, and the super chic Stratus Rooftop Lounge.

5. Pizza Brain and Little Baby’s Ice Cream: Fishtown artist Brian Dywer, aka Pizza Brain, joined by a few of his pizza obsessed friends, has amassed a Guinness World Record holding 1,000-piece collection of pizza memorabilia. And you can check it out for yourself at the world’s very first pizza museum, right here in Philadelphia, complete with artisanal pizza restaurant. Right next door is Little Baby’s headquarters, letting Philadelphians enjoy the gourmet, milky goodness of their delicious ice-cream year-round. With crazy good flavors like Earl Grey Sriracha, Chai Coconut, Thai Peanut and even Pizza (paying homage to their pizza museum neighbors at Pizza Brain), this place is a hit for good reason.

Check out the rest of our 2012 highlights, plus 13 food stories we’re excited about for 2013, below.

6. Federal Donuts opens a second location: Next time you think about “Running on Dunkin,” think again. Philadelphia’s new Federal Donuts now has a downtown location in addition to the Pennsport spot. With cool creations like maple bacon, strawberry fennel, turkish mocha, spicy PB&J and the Korean-style chicken and donuts, these guys are definitely upping the deep-fried ante.

7. Rittenhouse Tavern: Rittenhouse Square’s east stretch along 18th Street is one of the best dining corridors in the city, featuring Parc, Rouge and Devon plus a. kitchen and Serafina right across the street. Joining the cadre this year was the Rittenhouse Tavern, a brand new venture replacing Gardenia inside the Philadelphia Art Alliance featuring a quaint courtyard out back for outside dining sheltered by trees, the perfect compromise for dining on the Square without all the hustle and bustle.

8. Vernick: When a Jean-Georges Vongerichten protégé returns home to his native city after a blistering career in top restaurants around the world, Vernick Food & Drink is born. The new casual bistro from Chef Greg Vernick features urbane-yet-homey offerings like potato ravioli with braised lamb and long beans. It’s received across-the-board flattering reviews. For good reason.

9. Hop Sing Laundromat: The unmarked storefront of Chinatown’s mysterious speakeasy Hop Sing Laundromat belies the liquid delights within, which pay spirited tribute to the storming of Normandy, the first African-American woman doctor and the late author David Foster Wallace, among others.

10. Morgan’s Pier: A beer garden at the foot of the Ben Franklin Bridge, Morgan’s Pier offers 20 draft beer and easygoing eats like corn-and-blue-crab fritters, blackened tuna burgers and fried-chicken tacos, along with Little Baby’s Ice Cream, Federal Donuts and a packed schedule of live music.

11. Shake Shack opens: Shake Shack finally made its way to Philadelphia this year. It was a pretty huge story for the Philadelphia dining scene, and the city at large. The 20th and Sansom spot is stocked with Philly-specific custard flavors, addictively juicy burgers, fries, hot dogs and more. Even after more than six months open, lunch lines still stretch around the corner. They must be doing something right.

12. Alla Spina opens: Marc Vetri’s newest restaurant, Alla Spina, opened on North Broad Street and like the rest of his restaurants in the city, it did not disappoint.

13 in 2013

1. Serpico: Finally, Peter Serpico, of New York’s Momofuku fame, will be opening up an eponymously named eatery on South Street with the help of Stephen Starr.

2. Noord: A Dutch BYO from Chicago chef Joncarl Lachman is slated to open on Tasker Avenue in East Passyunk.

3. Sophia: Also in South Philly, one-time local chef Chris Lee will be developing a new concept where Salt and Pepper currently stands. Lee returns to the city after a highly touted stint in New York.

4. Ramen Revolution: 2013 may well be the year of the noodle. After decades of a relatively ramen-free existence, Philly has a whole slew of new Japanese style joints: Nom Nom, Hiro Ramen House, Terakawa Ramen, Green Wasabi and more. For 2013, there will be no more running around to find Cheu Noodle Bar, as the popular Philly pop-up has secured a spot in Midtown Village.

5. Volver: Jose Garces will be opening a street-level restaurant at the Kimmel Center called Volver. The restaurant is set to open in spring 2013.

6. Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat: At last, 2013 should see the opening of Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat’s second location, at 21st and South. The Northern Liberties favorite will be bringing their tasty comfort food to eager Graduate Hospital brunchers after much anticipation.

7. Joe: One of the Big Apple’s favorite coffee shops, Joe, is coming to two spots in Philadelphia in 2013, in Rittenhouse Square and University City.

8. Metropolitan Cafe: Metropolitan Bakery will be opening a sit-down cafe a stone’s throw from their current location in Rittenhouse Square. The cafe will be full of tasty baked goods, soups, a full espresso bar and more.

9. Talula’s Daily : The folks at Talula’s Garden will be opening up Talula’s Daily right next door to the restaurant’s Washington Square spot. Talula’s Daily will be a market full of all of the same types of things that make Talula’s Garden awesome, but with an urban and high-end general store twist.

10. Boot & Saddle: South Broad Street’s Boot & Saddle will reopen in 2013, thanks to Avram Hornik and team. The bar will serve as a live music venue in South Philly. R5 Productions will book live acts at the establishment.

11. Dolphin Tavern: Avram Hornik’s Four Corners Management will also be resurrecting the recently closed Dolphin Tavern. Expect the South Philly spot to open its doors once again in 2013.

12. Mac’s Tavern Rittenhouse: Now you can get your It’s Always Sunny on in two different Philly bars. Mac’s Tavern will soon be extending beyond Old City, opening a second location on Chestnut Street near Rittenhouse Square.

13. Philadelphia Live Arts Building Restaurant: The old high pressure fire service building at Columbus Boulevard and Race Street has recently obtained a liquor license and will soon be the Philadelphia Live Arts’ fantastic new home. The building will boast a 225-seat theater, an outdoor area and a 2,000 square-foot restaurant and bar. Another snazzy addition to the revitalized Delaware River Waterfront.

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Joe says:

Glad to see Brauhaus Schmitz’s traditional European foods in the city of foodie love.