Mediterranean cuisine is so flavorful because it combines so many styles of cooking. The Mediterranean Sea is vast, influencing countries including Italy, France, Spain, Greece and Turkey, so your Mediterranean meal is likely to taste slightly different wherever you dine. Try any of these five restaurants for a small taste of everything the Mediterranean has to offer.
1405 Locust St.
Philadelphia, PA 19102
For traditional, slightly upscale Greek fare, you can’t go wrong at the Rittenhouse Square outpost of Estia, a beautiful restaurant with great staff. Start off with the Estia Chips, super-thin, fried zucchini and eggplant chips served with tzatziki dip, and then move on to the highly prized plaki, which is Chilean sea bass slow baked with vegetables. There’s always something going on at Estia; hear live Greek music Friday and Saturday nights, or enjoy a two-course express lunch for just $17 per person and a three-course pre-theater prix fixe dinner for $30 per person.
Intersection of 20th and Market streets
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Despite the name spelling, for the best Mediterranean food in the city, just look for the non-descript food truck at the corner of 20th and Market streets, surrounded by amazing smells and eager business folk. Don’t, however, look for a menu amongst the cart decorations. There isn’t one. You get what the owner serves you, which is always something tasty and satisfying, such as charcoal-grilled chicken, crunchy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside falafels, fresh veggies, garlicky hummus and fresh fruit, and sometimes, a side of playful banter. The price changes according to the ingredients, but it’s usually around $8 to $10, and if you can control yourself, there might be enough left over for dinner.
509 South St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
For 35 years, Tom Vasiliades has been the Greek-food king of Philly. His restaurant, South Street Souvlaki, is a neighborhood institution. Regulars suggest the crispy, crunchy fried calamari appetizer for $10. If you’re looking for a lot of meat for not a lot of money, you can’t go wrong with either the gyro or the souvlaki, both piled high for a scant $6 each. If you’re a veggie lover, the baba ghanoush appetizer can’t be beat. It’s served with warm, delicious pita bread for $6.
Related: Top Tapas in Philadelphia
276 S. 20th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
One of Philly’s favorite BYOBs is also one of its more intimate (read: small). Don’t be scared off by having to wait for a seat; it’s well worth the time. Audrey Claire brings flavors to its dishes from all along the Mediterranean, including Italy, Greece and Israel, but uses local produce and cheeses whenever possible. Fans rave about the bosc pear and gorgonzola grilled flatbread with sunflower seeds. Even finicky Philly critic Craig LeBan loved the zuppe di pesce, calling it “one of the best” with its “herby tomato broth” overflowing with mussels, shrimp, scallops and squid. Remember to wear shoes you can stand around in and cash, because Audrey Claire does not accept cards.
2501 Meredith St.
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Step into this hidden BYOB gem in the Fairmount section and your eyes, ears and nose will tell you you’re in Morocco. Enjoy the baked brie appetizer, which comes in a clay pot and is flavored with lavender, honey and toasted almonds, and comes with warm pita bread for spreading. An entree standout is the sesame-crusted salmon filet served atop grilled asparagus with a ginger-plum sauce, alongside garlic mashed potatoes. As with many other small BYOBs in the city, Figs is cash-only, but the friendly hostess will probably tell you that before you sit down. Figs also serves a wonderful weekend brunch.