Philadelphia is, of course, one of the nation’s finest destinations for history buffs, home to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Betsy Ross’ house and many other step-back-in-time attractions. Yet the city’s thriving brunch scene is a more recent evolution. Over the last couple decades, it has grown tremendously as more chefs have taken American classics, French delicacies, Jewish favorites and other satisfying cuisine to new heights. As an added perk, many of these same restaurants offer easy access to the history that makes the city such a popular tourist destination. And yes, even at brunch, you can often find a variation of the classic Philly cheesesteak sandwich.
This café adds a touch of French panache to Philly’s dining scene, with a brunch menu that would feel right at home on the streets of Paris. Offerings range from chocolate croissants and Nutella brioche to beef bourguignon and eggs en cocotte with trout caviar. The exquis fare is paired with fine cocktails, including—what else?— the "French," featuring Bombay gin, orange liqueur, lemon juice and sparkling wine. Patrons can eat inside or, on nice days, enjoy al fresco dining facing Rittenhouse Square, the elegant public park dating back to 1683.
This restaurant exudes 1970s retro charm with its shag carpet, tweed booths and pleather swivel chairs. Fittingly, the menu is also a blast from the past, replete with old-fashioned fountain soda and excellent monkey bread, a sticky pastry first popularized in the 1950s. Comfort-food brunch items include chocolate-chip waffles and baked mac ‘n’ cheese, and Philly is honored with an inventive cheese steak omelet. Work off the meal with a trip to Independence Hall, located just a few short blocks away.
Honey’s is so popular among Philly locals, it has two locations: one on 4th Street and one on South Street. The brunch menu features Jewish favorites (a bagel platter with lox, potato latkes) alongside American classics (eggs benny, biscuit sandwich). But the best options combine both influences, as is the case with the excellent "Honey Cristo"—challah French toast stuffed with smoked ham and Swiss cheese, then topped with two sunny side-up eggs. Feeling especially hungry and adventurous? Try the "Breakfast Bomb," which wraps eggs and meat inside buttermilk pancakes, then tops it off with thick maple syrup.
This beloved restaurant, which opened in 1997, helped shepherd in Philly’s now-vibrant brunch scene. It led the way by focusing on fresh ingredients, preparations from scratch and inventive menu items, including a brunch-time breakfast pizza with potatoes, caramelized onions, mozzarella cheese and scrambled eggs. The restaurant also has some of the best frittatas in town, integrating everything from smoked salmon and ham to provolone and roasted red peppers. Sam’s has dubbed itself a "finer diner," and easily lives up to the slogan.
A classic South Philly haunt, Sabrina’s exudes homespun warmth with its brightly colored walls and hand-scrawled blackboard menu. But it’s not just the ambience that keeps regulars coming back. Brunch favorites such as frittatas and challah bread French toast are prepared with care, and there’s an excellent vegetarian menu—featuring a non-meat version of the cheesesteak sandwich, no less. The restaurant also boasts a welcome sense of humor: a recent specials menu was Beyonce-themed, complete with the "If You Liked It You Shoulda Put a Shrimp On It" sandwich and "My Omelet’s Too Bootylicious."