Photo by Jess Willie. All photos courtesy of High Street Hospitality Group

Resy SpotlightPhiladelphia

Here’s Why Is Every Chef’s Favorite Place to Dine in Philly


Some people might shy away from hanging out at hotel restaurants but here in Philadelphia, we rep AKA Rittenhouse Square’s hard. For over a decade, it’s become a neighborhood fixture in Rittenhouse Square, serving natural wines alongside gougères, chickpea panisse, and double-patty burgers to tourists and locals, many of whom work in the restaurant industry.

In warm-weather months, the floor-to-ceiling doors open wide revealing a sleek kitchen helmed by chef Eli Collins and an eight-seat wine bar where bartender Paul Pavelka interacts with people from all walks of life. At sister spot, located just down the hall, the city’s top Hispanic and Latino bartenders often pull up for pre-shift rounds at the sexy, intimate cocktail bar.

“I would walk past and loved the look of it,” says Collins, who joined the restaurant as executive chef in 2017. “The inset of the building, how it sat on the street; it looked like an urban restaurant. Since day one, I’ve always treated as a neighborhood restaurant; it just happens to be affiliated with a hotel.”

That neighborhood feel, plus Collins’ reputation for cooking consistently good food, has attracted some of Philadelphia’s best chefs and bartenders to dine there and become faithful regulars.

“ is among Philly’s best and most chronically underrated restaurants,” says Paul MacDonald, head bartender at Friday Saturday Sunday who comes in for a pre-shift lunch most weekdays. “The food is creative, approachable, and — crucially — always flawlessly executed in a comfortable, approachable environment.” MacDonald was’s former bartender and has seen its wine list evolve, earning several Beard Award nominations for its wine program.

Chef Shola Olunloyo has been a fan since day one, first falling in love with owner David Fields’ timeless aesthetic when the restaurant first opened in 2011. Olunloyo frequents the restaurant multiple times a month, enjoying solo dinners at’s bar for its understated and elegant ambiance that often feels “like eating at a friend’s home.” He also loves that bartenders can riff on classic cocktails on the fly at To him, it’s one of the top five restaurants in town.

“Eli is one of the few chefs who finds a balance of fun, elegance, flavor, and solid technique resulting in brilliant, approachable food,” says Olunloyo. “In my opinion, the burger is the best burger in Philadelphia.”

Tuna from in Philadelphia
A ricotta rosette pasta from in Philadelphia

My Loup co-owner and head chef Alex Kemp agrees. “Eli is the man — he’s a chef’s chef,” says Kemp. “He gets so excited about food; we don’t ever have to worry about whether it will be delicious.” (Note: You can also catch Kemp at for an upcoming Vine-yl Night collaboration menu.)

“We eat at more than any other place in the city,” adds Amanda Shulman of Her Place Supper Club, who’s also co-owner and co-chef of My Loup with Kemp. “We recently did the Broad Street Run with our friend Noah (the assistant general manager and wine director at My Loup) and his wife, and our first stop after completing our 10-mile run was for brunch — and to crush some celebratory beers.”

Longtime regular chef Jesse Ito of Royal Izakaya and Royal Sushi Omakase loves the feel of being in both rooms, not only for their simple and intentional design but also because he often runs into his omakase regulars and chef peers.

“I love sitting at the kitchen counter to watch the cooks work,” says Ito who dines at most Sundays for a quick lunch of gem lettuce salad with chicken, or a nice dinner where he eats a little bit of everything. “I appreciate how Eli approaches flavor and am always in awe at how the kitchen can put out such a complex and not-small menu given their tiny workspace.”

U.S. Bartenders Guild of Philadelphia president Amanda Swanson decompresses at most nights after long shifts serving at Parc bistro down the street. She loves seeing the familiar faces of bartender Beau Quick and Jacob Fusco, bar manager. Bartender Diego Langarica always knows to pour her a glass of sparkling wine or make her an Adonis upon arrival. “Where else can you get a sherry cocktail made by a Spaniard?” she notes.

“All the bartenders and cocktails are always excellent, and it isn’t chaotic like a sports or dive bar, so it can be ideal to unwind there after a busy service,” adds Swanson.

Wine being poured at the bar at in Philadelphia
Winter cocktails from

Philly power diner, Sharon Thompson-Schill, first had a solid Monday routine sitting at right when they opened at 4 p.m. nursing a wine while working on her laptop, or bringing first dates to sip on booze-forward cocktails. These days, she’s the social queen of’s Vine-yl Night food and wine series, having attended every event to date. Sitting at the same corner bar stool, it can feel like being in “Cheers” she says: “By the end of the night, everyone knows everybody.”

That mix of familiarity and consistency never gets dull. Buzzy new restaurants come and go, especially in Center City, but has managed to capture guests’ excitement since opening night. For Collins, the chef, there’s always a balance in retaining the restaurant’s greatest hits while introducing new dishes (see Dèbuts, a weekly prix-fixe menu that showcases special R&D dishes) without excluding regulars’ preferences.

“Guests have been so much more responsive when they have a nice assortment of signature dishes they can return to, like the chicken liver toast, beets, octopus Lyonnaise, Bavette steak, the burger, and oyster mushrooms,” he says.

We take care of our own. If you do it well, then you’re improving people’s lives. — Paul Pavelka,’s bartender

Running two in-demand, full-service joints under one (hotel) roof is no small feat. Still, High Street Hospitality Group’s leadership has cultivated a signature identity, fluid food menu, and personable staff that put love and care into not just the food and cocktails, but each other and their guests.

“The first time I came to, I met Jess [Willie, bartender] and Frank [Kinyon, wine director] and they let me try a ton of wine,” says regular-turned-server Elizabeth Cloutier who, like many of the restaurant’s industry regulars, loves the homey familiar feeling at the restaurant. No matter how much time has passed, the staff welcomes back guests wholeheartedly, and they won’t hesitate to nerd out over wine language — if that’s your thing. “[You can] come in sweatpants and sit at the bar or come in a suit to celebrate a milestone, and neither person will be uncomfortable with each other’s presence,” adds Cloutier.

“We take care of our own,” says bartender Pavelka, who’s been at since its opening. The team’s camaraderie runs deep but the pandemic strengthened bonds he says. Staff worked harder together, and neighborhood regulars came back to reconnect with familiar faces. Pavelka and his colleagues always take pride in personally acknowledging repeat diners and remembering all their quirks and allergies.

“If you do it well,” he says, “then you’re improving people’s lives.” is open daily for dinner starting at 4:30 p.m. while breakfast and lunch are offered Tuesday through Friday. Brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Alisha Miranda is a Philadelphia journalist, digital producer, and #LatinxIndustryNight host. Follow her at @alishainthebiz. Follow Resy, too.

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