Where to Celebrate Special Occasions at Philadelphia and New Jersey Restaurants

Credit: Saddle River Inn

Neighboring states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania have a lot to offer when it comes to special occasions. A walk around Philadelphia’s Old City will make you feel like you’ve been transported to Europe. Stop by Amada for Andalucian tapas, then walk over to Estia for a glass of wine and Greek pastries. Over on the other side of the riverbank is New Jersey with sophisticated barn house dining at Saddle River Inn and family meals at Haitian restaurant Saveur Creole. As underrated as Philly and New Jersey are as restaurant towns, you won’t be disappointed with these 15 restaurants for special occasions.

Philadelphia

Estia 

Bringing a taste of Greece to three locations throughout Philadelphia and New Jersey, Estia is a Mediterranean restaurant with seafood sourced from the Aegean sea. A selection of whole fish comes charcoal grilled with capers, lemon juice, and olive oil, while traditional Greek finds include spanakopita (phyllo pastry filled with spinach, leek, scallion, and feta) and moussaka (beef casserole layered with potatoes, eggplant, and bechamel sauce). Although each location’s menu varies, a distinct throughline is seen in the seafood-focused fare. A celebration isn’t complete without drinks — Estia has an extensive wine menu of more than 100 wines at the Radnor location and more than 300 wines in the Philly and Marlton, New Jersey locations. 

Dining at the restaurant: Enclosed in imported limestone and bamboo ceilings, the dining room transports you to the coast of Greece. An outdoor patio is equally charming in the Philly and Marlton locations. 

Takeout: Estia offers takeout and delivery from all locations. 

Philadelphia, PA

Radnor, PA

Marlton, NJ

JG Sky High (Logan Square)

Caviar with blinis

Soaring high amid the clouds is renowned French chef Jean-Georges’s Four Season Hotel 60th floor sky lounge specializing in casual all-day dining, power breakfasts, and weekend brunch. Evenings bring about signature cocktails such as the “comme si” with gin, anise apéritif, absinthe, honey, raspberry, lemon, and egg white. The egg toast is elevated with caviar, and fontina pizza with black truffle, while each ounce of osetra caviar is served with warm blinis and chive crème fraîche. On Friday and Saturday evenings, a live DJ spins jazzy and groovy tunes to match the swanky energy.

Dining at the restaurant: Take in the sweeping views of the city while unwinding with a cocktail in the lobby lounge. 

Takeout: Takeout or delivery is not offered. 

Veda (Rittenhouse Square)

This Indian restaurant is a gem in the historic Rittenhouse Square, a hybrid that combines a modern interior with traditional elements. The cocktail menu is a standout with inventive drinks including the drunken lassi made with mango lassi, chile powder, and dark rum, or the Punjabi sour with whisky, amaretto, citrus juices, bitters, and a Scotch rinse. You can also pair flights of whiskey with rich curries, which are all gluten-free. Dip onion and sage naan into lamb rogan josh (tender lamb pieces in a Kashmiri chile red sauce) and chicken korma (boneless chicken in a blend of almond and cardamom sauce). Veda is the whole special occasion package with flavors of a home-cooked meal in stylish digs. 

Dining at the restaurant: A burgundy palette, wood scheme, and gorgeous chandelier fixture creates the setting of this indoor dining space. The outdoor seating is positioned underneath red umbrellas beside potted plants.

Takeout: Veda offers both delivery and takeout. 

Relish (West Oak Lane)

Bringing a slice of Southern charm to Philly, Relish is a live jazz restaurant with weekend buffets. Signature menu items include the deviled cajun shrimp eggs and smoked turkey wings with collards, cabbage, and smashed potatoes. Both the restaurant space and hearty meals are family-friendly and great for larger parties. Treat yourself to a live jazz performance on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. 

Dining at the restaurant: White table cloths and dark wood adorn this dining space, with an outdoor patio adjacent to a jazz-inspired wall mural. 

Takeout: Both takeout and delivery are available. 

Amada (Old City)

Iron Chef Jose Garces’s first restaurant, Amada, is a deep dive into Andalucian cuisine, complete with tapas, charcuterie, paella, and suckling pig. Think classics such as serrano ham croquettes, paprika aioli patatas bravas, grilled octopus, and garlic shrimp. Start your weekend on the right foot at happy hour Thursday through Saturday with $5 tapas and house-made sangrias. To wrap up a fantastic weekend, return on Sundays for half-priced bottles of wine and a special selection of $7 tapas, or try all nine for $45. Mark your calendars for August 25 when Amada’s annual all-you-can-eat suckling pig dinner returns.

Dining at the restaurant: The no-frills restaurant has minimal decor in the form of a shelf of lamps and stunning legs of ham hanging from the bar. Shaded streetside seating under umbrellas is the perfect people-watching spot. 

Takeout: Delivery and takeout are both offered, with at-home dinner sets available through Garces Trading Company.

El Vez (Midtown Village) 

El Vez Philadelphia

Credit: El Vez

The life of the party, El Vez is a Mexican restaurant decked out with a spinning neon bike elevated as the centerpiece of the bar and a sprawling wall of miniature Calavera figurines against plush couches. Dive into five different types of guacamole and an array of tacos that will have you wanting to try every single one, or get the taco tasting platter with chicken, steak, carnitas, mahi, and árabes. Don’t sleep on the sides of lime chipotle and queso fresco grilled corn. This is the spot for lively group celebrations, from birthdays to family reunions.

Dining at the restaurant: The indoor dining space exudes energy, reflected through its decor. Outdoor dining is more mellow and relaxed for al fresco brunching. 

Takeout: Host your own fiesta at home with El Vez’s DIY taco kit. The brunch and all-day menu is also available for takeout or delivery. 

Laurel (East Passyunk)

Top Chef winner Nicholas Elmi puts his spin on French-inspired American cuisine at BYOB restaurant Laurel. Simple and refined, Laurel curates a seasonal six-course menu with a focus on locally farmed ingredients. Each artfully plated course is designed to impress; expect dishes such as a L’Arpège egg — chef Alain Passard’s famous dish, with Elmi’s twist on it — with bowfin caviar and two slices of toasted sourdough brioche; brown butter roasted cod with spring peas, white asparagus, and miso; and charcoal-grilled quail with sassafras, purple carrot, and pickled green almond. The exquisite food garnered the highest distinction of four bells from The Philadelphia Inquirer food critic Craig LaBan.

Dining at the restaurant: The charming outdoor back garden offers an intimate private dining experience for groups of four to eight, while the streetside patio is also available, as well as the indoor 22-seat restaurant.

Takeout: Laurel does not offer takeout or delivery.

Terrain Cafe

Terrain has made a name for itself as a plant nursery, home decor brand, and all-around place where nature merges with dining in its plant-filled cafés. The food is as fresh and seasonal as you would expect — a harvest bowl with quinoa, chickpeas, kale falafel, seasonal veg, and tahini vinaigrette is vegan and gluten-free, as is the wild mushroom frittata with organic eggs, mushrooms, goat cheese, potato, and greens. Dinner sees heftier plates of halibut, pork tenderloin, and steak frites. Either location of Terrain is suited for planning a special birthday or family brunch for those who love a touch of nature in their lives.

Dining at the restaurant: The Devon location is enclosed in a stunning glasshouse with hanging potted plants, while the Glen Mills location is reminiscent of a childhood treehouse with fairy lights and wood fixtures. 

Takeout: Curbside pick-up and local delivery is offered on its website

Devon

Glen Mills

New Jersey 

Elements (Princeton)

Elements gives farm-to-table a whole new meaning, gaining national recognition for chef Scott Anderson’s trademark “interpretive-American” cuisine using locally sourced ingredients. Travel & Leisure named Elements the best farm-to-table restaurant in New Jersey, saying “you’ll come away with memorable flavors and a whole new appreciation for what it means to eat well.” The five-course tasting menu features dishes such as linguine with local mushrooms, hazelnut, and herbs foraged from Elements’ own herb garden, as well as wagyu rib eye with fennel, hakurei turnip, and marigold béarnaise. A vegetarian option is available with advanced notice. After dinner, head downstairs to sister restaurant Mistral for a nightcap. 

Dining at the restaurant: In a restaurant that believes “every occasion should be treated like a special occasion,” the personalized service is unparalleled in the 28-seat dining room with an open kitchen. Covered outdoor seating is also available. 

Takeout: A weekly pick-up menu is available Thursday through Sunday. 

Yea Jip BBQ (Fort Lee)

Korean barbecue

Credit: Yea Jip

Fort Lee has no shortage of fantastic Korean fare, and Yea Jip sets the bar high with traditional Korean barbecue prepared at your table on charcoal grills. Meat lovers can relish in the selection of galbi (beef short rib), bulgogi (marinated sliced ribeye beef), samgyupsal (pork belly), and roasted duck — a meat you don’t see very often in KBBQ. There is nothing more satisfying than a bowl of bibim naengmyeon (spicy cold noodles) on a hot summer day and come winter, warm up with bibimbap, mixed rice served in a stone pot, or seolleongtang (ox bone soup). The restaurant is BYOB, so bring along mixers of soju and beer to make somaek (soju beer cocktail) to drink alongside your meat feast.

Dining at the restaurant: Yea Jip is no stranger to hosting large parties of diners all hoping to get a table, call to get a reservation indoors.

Takeout: The restaurant offers takeout, but not delivery.

Saveur Creole (Montclair)

This long-standing restaurant from Ronald Mompoint has become a popular neighborhood spot for upscale Haitian food. Mompoint started the restaurant after longing for a taste of home where he could introduce Haitian cuisine to his New Jersey community. He’s done just that with a tantalizing seafood and meat menu with dishes such as lambi bouki (conch ceviche in Haitian hot sauce served over toasted bread) or the restaurant’s eponymous beef dish consisting of slow-cooked grass-fed beef with a special seasoning mix. Those new to Haitian food can adjust the spice levels to their liking. The portions are extremely satisfying and great for a date night spot or a celebratory family meal. 

Dining at the restaurant: The BYOB restaurant is warm and welcoming with soft lighting and elegant white tablecloths. Outdoor patio dining is also available for warmer days. 

Takeout: Both delivery and takeout are offered. 

Saddle River Inn (Saddle River)

Make yourself comfortable inside Saddle River Inn’s restored barn house situated by the banks of the Saddle River. The romantic and elegant barn is spruced up with white table cloths and abstract lighting illuminating its two-floor dining space. Contemporary French fare, paired with whatever you bring to drink, is on the menu in dishes such as center-cut filet mignon served with chestnut butter, lamb chops with orzo and tzatziki, and chicken with truffle-artichoke mash and maple chipotle sauce. The special butcher’s block steaks feature tomahawk ribeye and 45-day dry-aged porterhouse. 

Dining at the restaurant: The indoor space feels more intimate while the all-white outdoor dining tent takes on a more casual aesthetic. 

Takeout: Takeout and delivery are not offered. 

Felina (Ridgewood) 

Felina pasta

Credit: Peter Bonacci

Housed in an old bank building, this Italian restaurant and venue with a grand ballroom is ideal for hosting weddings, parties, and milestone events. Felina serves seasonal antipasti in the form of burrata with coppa, peaches, watercress, and mint; octopus with fingerling potatoes, olives, celery, and paprika aioli; and house-made onion focaccia. Notable entrées include New Jersey scallops with gold bar squash, fregola, and basil pesto, plus the Long Island duck breast with broccoli, oyster mushroom, and black garlic. Classic Italian-style negronis come in five different varieties: barrel-aged, Oaxacan, Kingston, cold brew, and as a reimagined gin fizz. 

Dining at the restaurant: The indoor dining space is modern, yet rustic, with pendant globe lights and light wood tables. The ballroom space can be set up as a cocktail or seated reception with your personal touches. 

Takeout: Felina offers takeout, but not delivery.

Seven Valleys (Hoboken)

Steps away from Hoboken’s pier, fine dining meets Persian cuisine at Seven Valleys, where you’ll find traditional dishes served in a chic bohemian setting with beige woven chairs, hanging pothos plants, and shelves of potted plants lining the wall. Persian food is centered around rice dishes with marinated grilled meats, fresh salads, and comforting stews. Try the gheimeh with beef, yellow peas, and sun-dried limes simmered in a rich tomato sauce and served with basmati rice. Specialty dishes include the albaloo polo, a vibrant sweet and sour cherry rice dish. Not your usual scoop, Persian ice cream is flavored with saffron, rosewater, and pistachios. 

Dining at the restaurant: The small restaurant offers limited seating indoors and outdoors. 

Takeout: The restaurant offers both takeout and delivery. 

Fornos of Spain (Newark)

Walk through the enchanting entrance lined with plants into this expansive old-school restaurant that has been serving authentic Spanish cuisine since 1981. This Newark institution has every Spanish dish you could possibly imagine — paella for days, tapas, pinchos, suckling pig, stews, and so much more. Find lesser-seen dishes such as callos (stew of tripe, pork, veal, black sausage, chorizo, bacon, and chickpeas), fabada (bean stew), and rabbit in mushroom garlic sauce. For large parties of 20 or more, set menus, as well as buffet-style dining, are offered. The extensive wine list will have you overwhelmed by choice in the best way possible with more than 450 types of aged and vintage wines. 

Dining at the restaurant: The bustling atmosphere flows throughout the restaurant’s indoor and outdoor dining spaces. You can find large round tables, refectory tables, and marble tabletops outdoors. 

Takeout: Fornos offers both takeout and delivery. 

Tried them all? Check out other options here.