Now that the city is in a “restricted, modified green phase” of quarantine, restaurants in Philadelphia finally have permission, for now at least, to serve patrons outside, and it’s one of the best things to do in Philadelphia during Covid—if you’re safe.
Seems like everyone’s in a rush to break free of eating takeout on the couch to actually venture out to eat in the real world. (Remember real silverware? And cloth napkins? Pants?!) But let’s face it: There’s “outdoor dining” and then there’s “eating on a crowded sidewalk.”
For this guide, we scoped out restaurants offering fresh-air dining destinations that are tucked away on patios and gardens, so that you could have your meal surrounded by greenery and strands of twinkling lights—and void of sidewalk gawkers and bus exhaust.
Keep reading for spots across the city that offer all types of cuisine—and give you a chance to support our locally owned businesses. Some offer breathtaking views of the Delaware River, while others are nestled just enough away so that you can forget, if only for a moment, that you’re smack dab in the middle of a gritty city semi-locked in quarantine. Happy outdoor dining!
Where to eat outside now in Philadelphia
This laidback Point Breeze bar / restaurant offers sidewalk seating, but try to get in early enough to snag a spot on the backyard patio, which is blocked off from the street by flower boxes and hanging lights. The dining area gives off serious South Philly block party vibes with folding lawn chairs, umbrellas and makeshift fire pits for when the nights turn colder. A chalkboard menu lists the day’s offerings, including a variety of sandwiches and comfort foods, loads of beers and refreshing seasonal cocktails. 1800 Federal Street, 215-334-2337
You won’t find much greenery on the sprawling roof of the Bok Building in South Philly, but what Bok Bar lacks in plant life it more than makes up for in those never-cease-to-amaze views of Center City and far beyond. The space is open Wednesday to Sunday, and the menu changes weekly. Reservations are mandatory. View safety protocols here. 800 Mifflin Street, 267-270-5894
A reader tipped us off to the loveliness that is Rittenhouse restaurant Branzino’s lush interior patio, which is almost entirely shaded by trees and surrounded by cool brick and stone walls. A trickling fountain sets the scene for the menu of beautifully prepared traditional Italian pasta and seafood dishes, including, of course, a whole branzino seasoned with lemon caper butter. 261 S. 17th Street, 215-790-0103
You’d be hard pressed to find a restaurant with more stunning views than The Garden at Cherry Street Pier, which sits in the shadow of the hulking Benjamin Franklin Bridge and along the Delaware River. More than 200 people can comfortably fit in the open-air, industrial venue, which is outfitted with quaint sidewalk café-style seating, a handful of trees, and planters separating each table. The menu boasts summer-picnic fare (think pulled-pork sandwiches, salads and sides) local ales, wine and craft cocktails. To keep interactions to a minimum, guests are alerted by text when their food is ready to be picked up from the kitchen. 121 N. Christopher Columbus Boulevard, 215-923-0818
You’ll feel kind of like you’re in a treehouse at this Northern Liberties beer garden that sits under wooden canopies and several towering trees. Potted plants and hanging ferns help round out the festive, forest-in-a-city surrounds. Seafood and fried chicken is the specialty here, with options ranging from shrimp po’ boys and crispy chicken tenders to shareable seafood boils piled with snow crab, shrimp, potatoes, corn and andouille sausage. 1029 Germantown Avenue, 267-214-0086
If you’re outdoor dining near Rittenhouse, do it at Harper’s Garden, which is so stuffed with greenery that you practically have to hack your way out of it. Another plus: Every table on the veranda is partitioned with plexiglass, a smart way to keep guests separated while not obstructing views of all the green. The menu emphasizes seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, plus two cocktails for a good cause: Proceeds from the Green Phase and the daily Relief Punch benefit hospitality workers affected by the Covid-19 crisis. 31 S. 18th Street, 267-886-8552
New to the Philly dining scene, this festive Spring Garden joint adds a pop of cheer to these otherwise dark times with colorful seating, vibrant wall murals and kitschy decor like neon-lit signage and a large model ship. It’s also almost completely shaded by trees and surrounded by hanging flower boxes. Come here when you’re in the mood for frothy margaritas and Mexican-American fare like guacamole, meat- and veggie-filled tacos, and quesadillas. 1033 Spring Garden Street, 267-639-2892
With cocktail huts crafted from shipping containers, glowing lights and tons of trees and garden space, you’d barely guess this arty outdoor oasis was steps from buzzing Columbus Boulevard. Upscale French-café fare makes up the entree portion of the menu, but you could also go the casual route with light bites like a lobster roll, fried cheese curds and a “fast food cheeseburger.” Be sure to go on a Friday night for live performances curated by FringeArts. 140 N. Christopher Columbus Boulevard, 215-375-7744
This Italian restaurant on East Passyunk Avenue specializes in food from the Abruzzo region of Italy (think hearty seafood stews and heaping, flavorful plates of fresh pasta). The spacious patio is adorned with strands of lights, shrubs and potted plants, and large canopies keep you covered on rainy summer nights. 1927 E. Passyunk Avenue, 215-271-5626
It doesn’t get much more secluded—or romantic—than the patio at Gayborhood Italian restaurant Little Nonna’s. The enchanting space, accessed by going through the restaurant (with mask on!), is surrounded by four brick walls and sheltered by wooden canopies that are draped with hanging lights. The owners, Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, have removed tables to allow for proper social distancing, so only 12 people can be back there at a time. Be sure to book early—and ask for the patio, because sidewalk seating is available, too. And bring a hearty appetite for Chef Turney’s menu of traditional Italian comfort foods, like BVP meatballs swimming in Sunday gravy, spaghetti and pan-seared gnocchi. 1234 Locust Street, 215-546-2100
Outdoor beer garden Parks on Tap is operating in two bucolic outdoor settings in Philadelphia: along the Schuylkill River outside Fairmount Water Works (640 Waterworks Drive) and at a sprawling space inside FDR Park in South Philadelphia (1500 Pattison Avenue). Both spots offer beers, wine and barbecue-style grub in an airy, under-the-stars setting.
The lush PHS pop-up garden is back on South Street this year with all its beloved amenities: wooded seating and bar areas, botanical-inspired (and frozen!) cocktails and so much flora and fauna that you’d swear you were lost in a jungle. Covid has introduced some welcome changes, though, such as socially distanced seating, mask requirements when moving about the space and completely contactless ordering. 1438 South Street, 215-988-8800
Outdoor seating at Stephen Starr’s Pizzeria Stella is technically street-side, but its location under the Head House Shambles earns it enough points to nab a place on this list. Tables and trendy red chairs are situated between each of the brick pillars along the historic Society Hill structure, giving diners ample space to enjoy the pizzeria’s signature wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas with gutsy Italian wines. 420 S. 2nd Street, 215-320-8000
The Water Garden at Spruce Street Harbor Park offers something that none of these other spots can: It’s literally floating on the Delaware River on a barge. There’s also cool hammock-style net lounge seating, which allows guests to lounge four feet above the water while sipping beer, wine and cocktails and enjoying light-bite food options like grilled corn on the cob, smoked chicken thigh sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies from Lost Bread Co. 301 S. Christopher Columbus Boulevard, 215-922-2386
You can now experience the wonderland of delicious favors at Zahav outdoors. The seating area at Michael Solomonov’s award-winning Israeli eatery is located behind the restaurant in a charming courtyard decorated with greenery and lit by glowing stands of lights. Come hungry: The $66 mesibah menu gets you a seemingly never ending spread of foods, including the restaurant’s renowned hummus-tehina with laffa bread, a generous collection of Israeli small plates, and proteins like branzino and Romanian-style beef kabob. Reservations, as you likely know, are a must, and can be made up to two weeks in advance. 237 St. James Place, 215-625-8800
Additional reporting was provided by Sophie Borgenicht.