The concept of communal seating at restaurants is multi-faceted. It’s a return to the traditional style of dining that was typical in early eating houses and inns. It lends itself to a casual feeling that many restaurants wish to convey – a type of picnic-like atmosphere that encourages people to relax and stay a while. It satisfies the desire to meet new people, engage and share the social experience of good food. And perhaps most practically, it allows restaurants to fit more people and accommodate large dining parties when needed. If you’re on board with bumping elbows with strangers, you’ll want to check out these Philadelphia spots. And if not, well, the food is still worth the trip. Just make sure to travel with a group large enough to take over the table, or practice the skills of focusing on your food and dining companions and avoiding eye contact!
Fette Sau Philadelphia
1208 Frankford Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19125
This Fishtown barbecue joint from Owner and Chef Joe Carrol is a spinoff of his successful Brooklyn spot by the same name. Meaning “fat pig” in German, Fette Sau serves a menu of smoked meats from local farms as well as favorite sides like burnt-end baked beans, corn on the cob and German potato salad. With unique sodas and other non-alcoholic beverages, nine beers on tap, over 100 whiskeys and bourbons, five wines and a full bar, there are plenty of options to wash it all down. Picnic tables are the primary form of seating in this cafeteria-style spot, encouraging people to gather with friends and meet new people over drinks and good ol’ barbecue.
1210 Frankford Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19114
Seating 160 people inside and 240 people outside, Frankford Hall is the largest beer garden in Philadelphia. This Fishtown spot was inspired by the tradition of German biergartens and offers favorites such as pretzels, bratwurst, burgers and Bavarian dumplings. With three separate bars, including one dedicated solely to beer, the drinks flow freely. Picnic table seating as well as ping pong tables in the courtyard encourage casual gatherings. No reservations are needed, so it’s a great spot to meet up with friends on nice nights and weekends.
Related: Top Beer Gardens In Philadelphia
Heirloom Fine American Cookery
8705 Germantown Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19118
Tucked away in the Top of the Hill Plaza in Chestnut Hill is Heirloom, a charming BYOB from Chef Al Paris. The menu is constantly changing as the focus is on local, seasonal ingredients. Farm-to-table classic American comfort foods are reinterpreted with beautiful presentations. While the restaurant is relatively small, you can reserve the beautiful farmhouse-style table in the center of the restaurant for 10-12 if you call well enough in advance. And if a large party isn’t seated at the communal table, then you just might find yourself dining alongside other guests. In a venue so cozy that you feel a bit like you’re invited into the chef’s home, most embrace the experience and think of it as one big dinner party.
Related: Top Philly BYOBs: The Northwest
420 S. 2nd St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Pizzeria Stella is one of Stephen Starr’s more casual Philadelphia eateries. Located in Headhouse Square, the menu consists of a handful of appetizers, soups, salads and pastas, but the main event is the wood-oven pizza. Ranging from the traditional margherita to more inventive options like pistachio and tartufo (egg, black truffle and fontina), all of the pizzas are made from scratch using top-quality ingredients. Grab a bar stool in front of the pizza oven to watch the chefs at work, or take a seat at one of the long, farmhouse-style tables. The large tables surround the kitchen and pizza oven, creating a warm and cozy feeling that’s a bit like sitting around a fire with friends.
Tela’s Market & Kitchen
1833 Fairmount Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19130
After a stint on the West Coast, Chef Chad Williams returned to Philadelphia this past November to debut Tela’s Market & Kitchen in historic Fairmount. Chef Williams, who previously served as the opening chef at Amada, has partnered with owner Daniel Greenberg to bring this one-stop shop. The artisanal grocery and 30-seat café (with additional outdoor seating in nice weather) offers produce, seafood, meat, baked goods, coffee, salads, sandwiches and more. In addition, Chef Williams hosts a communal-style feast on Friday nights showcasing the best products available that week. These Dinner Table events are limited to just 12 people (reservations required) and are served family style on rustic wooden tables. These intimate dinners often feature special guests such as local wine makers, brewers and more, making it a friendly way to spend a night out learning about food and drink while meeting new people.
Michelle Hein is the social media 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 fiance would love to open.