A good restaurant obviously requires great food. But what makes a restaurant stand out is when top-notch food is accompanied by exceptional service. At these Philadelphia spots, you can count on attentive, friendly service to go along with your meal.
Grounds for Sculpture
18 Fairgrounds Rd.
Hamilton, NJ 08619
A short drive from Philadelphia, Rat’s Restaurant is located at the beautiful Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey. The Stephen Starr restaurant is named for a character from the children’s classic, “The Wind in the Willows,” because of Ratty’s entertaining nature and reputation as a fine host. The entire staff of Rat’s upholds the ideals of the restaurant’s namesake, making you feel welcome from the moment you enter this enchanting venue. Servers are friendly and knowledgeable, always eager to answer any questions and make food and wine suggestions from the changing seasonal menu. From the complimentary amuse bouche to the leftovers wrapped to look like foil rats (cuter than it sounds), no detail is overlooked. Whether you’re celebrating a big occasion or just stopping in for lunch after strolling the park grounds, every meal at Rat’s feels special.
The Twisted Tail
509-511 2nd St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
This Southern-style juke joint and bourbon house proves that great service doesn’t have to come with a high price tag or a stuffy environment. While many city spots with live music and an extensive bar menu let exceptional service fall to the wayside, the staff at Twisted Tail includes some of the best around. With a number of creative charcoal-grilled items and unique infused and aged drinks, some guidance goes a long way. The friendly and knowledgeable staff is more than willing to explain anything on the menu and help steer you in the right direction. It isn’t unusual to see the owner, George Reilly, walking around to check in with guests or even just chatting with guests at the bar. At Twisted Tail, everyone feels like a friend.
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237 S. 18th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Like most Stephen Starr restaurants, Barclay Prime offers a unique atmosphere that nearly rivals its culinary experience. The setting is a bit like dining in a wealthy man’s personal library, complete with plush, couch-like seating and bookshelves. While this Rittenhouse steakhouse is certainly upscale, the service is known for being both courteous and welcoming. You’ll have no worries about a pretentious waiter rushing you through your Kobe sliders or tater tot appetizers. Perhaps the greatest example of tableside service at Barclay Prime is the presentation of the knives: When guests order a steak, the waiter brings out a special box containing five unique knives. Each knife is explained, and guests have the choice of which one they would like.
440 S. Broad St.
Philadelphia, PA 19146
If you’re a fan of Bravo’s “Top Chef,” then you’ll recognize our hometown winner from Season 7, Chef Kevin Sbraga. Formally the executive chef of Rat’s at Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey (the first spot on this list!), Sbraga was able to open his appropriately-named restaurant on the Avenue of the Arts in 2011. With a focus on inventive American cuisine, Sbraga offers guests the option of a tasting menu with optional drink pairings or an a la carte menu that is available in the bar area. As you would expect with a “Top Chef” behind the restaurant, the food is both delicious and beautifully presented. But what really makes an impression with guests is the outstanding service. It’s both friendly and attentive without being overbearing.
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1312 Spruce St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
At Vetri, a chef’s tasting menu priced at $155 per person as the only dining option available. That being said, this isn’t the type of place you visit just to grab a bite to eat. But as the saying goes, “You get what you pay for.” And at Vetri, that means the experience is incredible. This fine Italian restaurant is consistently at the top of every list for its outstanding service and exceptional cuisine. Dinners begin as they would in Italy, with a selection of hors d’oeuvres to ease into the meal. From there, guests are presented with menus showcasing the seasonal choices. With just 30 seats available in the cozy townhouse restaurant, conversation with the staff is encouraged in order to prepare a truly personalized six-course meal.
Michelle Hein is a copy editor for a women’s fashion company in Bucks County by day and a self-proclaimed food and drink fanatic by night and weekend. She enjoys attending wine classes, trying new recipes in the kitchen and going to old favorites and new restaurants alike in the Bucks County and Philadelphia area. If the writing gig doesn’t pan out, she constantly dreams of owning her own bakery…perhaps connected to the restaurant/bar that her lawyer boyfriend would love to open.