Photo courtesy of Middle Child Clubhouse
Photo courtesy of Middle Child Clubhouse

Best of The Hit ListPhiladelphia

Middle Child Clubhouse, Zahav, and More: Philadelphia Dining’s Best in 2021


It’s been a roller coaster of a year, but compared to where we started 2021, we’re ending on a high note. After all, things began with restaurants open at a limited capacity and outdoor dining in the winter weather. While vaccines were slowly rolling out, restaurants that were normally meant for sit-down dinners were rolling out takeout and delivery menus, all in an effort to keep diners and staff safe.

But then the past couple of years have brought dramatic change to the dining landscape in Philadelphia. It was hard to say goodbye to some of the city’s most beloved dining establishments. But while restaurants close, the creative forces behind them are still around, and developing new businesses. Right after Ange Branca closed Saté Kampar, she opened Kampar Kitchen, a chef incubator in the BOK Building that is giving opportunities to new and rising chefs. Then there’s Kiki Aranita. It was heartbreaking to see Poi Dog close, but empowering to see Poi Dog reimagined as a sauce company, churning out bottles of Maui Lavender Ponzu, Guava Katsu, and Chili Peppah Water. It was an absolute sauce boss move.

We’re not out of the woods yet, but dining out has become more relaxed. And we’ve never been more appreciative of the simple joy of sliding into a booth, talking to staff about specials, and giving compliments to the chef. And at last there’s a series of exciting new openings, which has signaled something that we haven’t seen in a long time: hope.

After a year as eventful as this one, it’s hard not to look back and take into account how far we’ve come. This end of the year Best of The Hit List shines a light on restaurants that aren’t known just for their menus and their culinary artistry. These are industry leaders making waves in the community and changing the way Philadelphia thinks about food. And they deserve a year-end salute.