It feels like just yesterday that we were excited at the thought of hands made sticky by the first water ice of the season. Alas, Labor Day is here. But before we start mourning the end of our favorite season -- there's a silver lining: The Labor Day Mass Exodus, and what that means for food-loving people stuck in the city.
While the rest of civilization is down the shore eating taffy and BBQ-ing in the salty air, those of us who aren't leaving town, either by choice or misfortune, can finally score those impossible-to-get-tables at all the perennially booked spots. So, no sobbing into our farmhouse beers and ketchup-stained t-shirts just yet—the city is newly up for grabs.
Below, the top five spots to consider:
Thomas Paine Place and Dock Street
Chef Mike Solomonov offers a $34 tasting menu that goes four courses deep and includes his delicious pickled salads, hummus, and a gaggle of Israeli haute cuisine. This weekend is a prime opportunity to sample some of his latest offerings in a new high-end tasting menu, the "Ha'yom", for only $14 more. It launched just last week, and once word gets out about these daring new plates (can you say Rabbit confit Foie Gras Terrine with Candied Eggplant and pickled White Corn?), good luck getting a seat.
East Passyunk Avenue and Tasker Street
The young couple at the helm of this little BYOB on the hottest street in the city have already carved out a niche in the Philly foodie culture and built a rabid fan base. The problem, of course, is lack of available seating. This holiday weekend is a good bet to walk in and get lucky.
"We've got a few open reservations at prime times right now, but with such a small dining room that can change quickly," says Owner and Executive Chef Lee Styer. In addition, they have just debuted a new menu for late summer including an Octopus Stew that will blow your mind. But if the sight of pulpo turns you off, our money is on the Corn Risotto, one of the most exciting dishes in town.
Front and Chestnut Streets
The buzz surrounding Han Chiang and his fiery, flavorful Sichuan eatery is almost as loud as the dining room on a Saturday night. But this weekend, walk-ins will find themsleves a few extra seats thanks to the holiday.
"After the good reviews came out, we've been slammed. Lines out the door," says the affable and often candid Chiang. He's not kidding. Legions of heat-seekers pack the restaurant daily, but Chiang apprises that reservations are light this weekend, and they're yours if you've got a fast phone finger.
Broad and Mt. Vernon Streets
Center City North
Summertime is all about grilling and junk food, and at Osteria you'll find the high-end versions of both. The Spit-Roasted Pig and Lombardo Pizza are our very favorite dishes here, and Executive Chef Jeff Michaud says this is a great weekend to sample the wares.
"We've got openings and are always ready for some walk-in traffic. I certainly wouldn't wait until the last minute, but right now is the time," says newly-crowned Beard Award winner Michaud. We don't need to be told twice.
13th and Waverly Streets
Marc Vetri's latest outpost is his most approachable and right now, most available. Local and national critics have heaped praise on the Roman trattoria, and we can't argue with their words. The simplest of dishes sing here, like the Fried Lamb's Tongue and the Turkey Milanese. But we're craziest for the beautiful house-cured meats, most notably the Coppa with Hazelnut Honey.
"About 40 percent of our business is walk-in, and with the holiday coming up, there's going to be more seats available for hungry passers-by," says GM Ben Fileccia. There's ample outdoor seating at Amis, and we've found the dark, mysterious interior to fit the bill for local celebrities and those in town on movie shoots.