Ask anyone in our city, and chances are they will forgive mediocre food or a long wait if they have good service. Good service isn’t trying to sell the table on a bottle of sparkling six seconds after they sit down; it’s being quick yet conversant. It’s being well versed on the menu as well as on any additional specials, and sharing beverage pairing expertise. It’s remembering a table the next time they come in. Here are a few spots that “get it.” They provide an exemplary dining experience without sounding too rehearsed and robotic.


640 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130-3420
(215) 763-0920

There is something about Osteria that stands out, as though the staff read Lessons in Service by Charlie Trotter. Nothing seems too scripted. The waiters/waitresses have their own personalities but are professional and meticulous with timing. The teamwork is most impressive. Vetri’s service is just as adept, but it’s a much smaller room. The task of managing a much larger space, more covers and more plates with the sheer flawlessness that they exude at Osteria is borderline mind-blowing. As is the Michaud’s Chicken Liver Rigatoni with Cipolline, Onions and Sage.


227 South 18th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 545-2262

The scale is so large, but the food is so good at this Rittenhouse Square Stephen Starr eatery. I feel for the bartenders and bar maids that might be stifled in their bar keep formal attire, but they never show signs of distress or discomfort. They’re savvy, they’re pleasant, and they would make Julia Child proud with their description of coq au vin.

Resurrection Ale House

2425 Grays Ferry Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19146-2450
(215) 735-2202

Owners Brendan Hartranft and Leigh Maida have 100% faith in their staff to represent their bars’ best interests while they are at their other locations, Memphis taproom or Local 44. They’ve hired two band guys that geek out on records, movies and craft beer. They hired another guy who’s not nicknamed the Mayor of West Philly for nothing. He’s as nice as nice gets and likes to talk food so much he even writes a blog about his affinity for all things sandwiched. This Grays Ferry ale house also has some lovely ladies waiting tables that are happy to tell you about the menu’s seasonal changes as well as describe the latest drafts (all while donning dresses that are too cute for words). The experience doesn’t leave me speechless per se, but it makes me pause for a minute and think about the excellence with which the machine that is Resurrection operates.

Ranstead Room

2013 Rainstead Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 563-3330

If you haven’t been, the Ranstead Room is off a small street just north of Chestnut in the back of El Rey, Starr’s casual Mexican spot in the former Midtown diner. The mellow yet knowledgeable bar staff will make your cocktail with care, and it will be one of the best you’ve had all year. There’s even a “bartender’s choice” option on the menu. You should opt for that–and enjoy some of their pumpkin seeds while you’re at it.


701 South 4th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147-3101
(215) 238-1888

After years of slinging Tully at Fergie’s Pub, Kip Wade opened Southwark at Fourth and Bainbridge. It’s a place where you could have one of the best meals in the city in either the barroom or dining room (wife Sherry Wade works with local farms to procure the best ingredients to make the best dishes). He’s joined by George Costa, and the two of them make up one of the best bartending duos in the city. You’ll leave knowing something about Madeira or Rye that you didn’t know before, and they’re always guaranteed to have a conversation-worthy tie on.


116 South 20th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 665-9150

Jose Garces’ sophomore restaurant has a most capable staff under the management of Paul Rodriguez. The staff can talk basques or beer or Spanish cider for that matter. They guide you through the menu making recommendations–not in a “I want you to try everything so you I have a high check but you leave full and bitter kind of way,” but more so that you can sample some house favorites and be satiated. The entire staff gets an across the board A. The private dining room upstairs is ideal for a special event of 10-12 people.

Suzanne Woods has resided in Philadelphia since 2001. She’s a freelance writer, craft beer enthusiast, and is president/founder of the Philadelphia Women’s Beer Club. She eats out two meals a day, churns out exotic ice creams as often as she can, and has her records spinning more often than not. You can follow her drinking and dining adventures at