Cities Journal
The Journal

Philadelphia’s Restaurant Rebirth


Acclaimed New York chefs are moving to Philadelphia, and the historic Italian diners face some hot competition.

On July 4 1776, the founding fathers of America gathered in Philadelphia to declare their independence. You can still visit the site of this historical moment in American history: Independence Hall, a colonial building in the Old City neighborhood, where Benjamin Franklin impersonators direct chattering tour groups, and carriage-hitched horses walk down the streets. It is the second most interesting thing in this preserved district. The first is a restaurant called Fork.

Businesses-like Fork jump-started the area’s renaissance. Fork – a light-filled, amber enclave with high ceilings and an open kitchen – changed how Philadelphians dined when it opened in 1997. It is doing so again, with a new chef, Eli Kulp, who is currently making some of the city’s most amazing food.

Kulp infuses gnudi (gnocchi made from ricotta cheese and a little bit of flour) with lavender, turns whole Muscovy ducks into feasts worthy of a Chinese dynasty, and bakes incredible squid-ink bread that looks like something you’d find while scuba diving in the Seychelles. His big goal for 2014 is to start a snail farm, but first, he will replace Fork’s grocery with High Street on Market, a cafe serving unbelievable sandwiches by day, and hyper-creative dinners at night.

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