Restaurateurs nationwide and in Philadelphia have been toying with the idea of ghost kitchens for a few years. Also called cloud kitchens or virtual restaurants, these concepts operate out of professional kitchens with real chefs, but are only open for delivery (and sometimes pickup). Some have their own websites and social media, while others only show up on delivery apps, such as Uber Eats and DoorDash. These restaurants tend to have tight, focused menus centering around a theme like fried chicken or hummus.
With restaurants either closed or operating at limited capacities over the past year, the ghost kitchen strategy has boomed in Philly. Thanks to the low barrier to entry for chefs and ease of access for customers who want to order delivery, it’s a suitable situation for this socially distant time. Some of these virtual restaurants are housed in existing restaurant kitchens, while others are part of incubator-style hubs, like Fairfoods in West Philly and Foodnest, north of Center City.
Follow this guide to learn where to order from a ghost kitchen in Philly — actual restaurant optional.
During the pandemic, chef Sean Green turned his catering business into a virtual restaurant specializing in barbecue and soul food. Fried whiting, pulled pork, and ribs top BBQ Unlimited’s hit list. Available on Grubhub and DoorDash.
Top Chef Masters regular Franklin Beckers’ square pizza and arancini joint is based at Fairfoods, a ghost kitchen hub in Mantua. Pizza options here run from classic to unusual like a Sicilian pie with caciocavallo cheese, breadcrumbs, onions, and anchovies. Though the menu questionably lists them as “heroes,” it appears that meatball subs are available, too. Becker’s other ghost kitchen, Shai Hummusiya, features Israeli favorites, like hummus with chicken shawarma, falafel, and house-baked pita. Order on ChowNow.
Middle Eastern specialist Bitar’s is operating several ghost kitchens out of its location in South Philadelphia. In partnership with a California-based ghost kitchen company, Bitar’s new concepts resemble the restaurant’s existing menu, but each is focused on one menu item like falafel or hummus. Find Saint Pita, Beverly Hills Platters, Hummus Hero, Bob’s Kabobs, Fabulous Falafel, and Pangea Banquet on Grubhub and Doordash.
Chef Big Rube’s Kitchen
Everyone’s favorite sports talk radio caller, fashion expert, and pop-up chef, Reuben “Big Rube” Harley finally has his own place. The Philebrity describes his quasi-Southern cuisine as “Real Black folk cooking.” He’s making fried chicken, cheesesteaks, burgers, breakfast sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, and fries. Order on Uber Eats, Grubhub, Postmates, or DoorDash.
Starr Restaurants and chef Peter Serpico are cooking rotisserie chicken in the Serpico kitchen. The crispy skinned birds come with red, yellow and green sauces and a range of sides, including extra cheesy mac and cheese, fried plantains, and steamed veggies. Pick it up at Serpico on South Street or order delivery on DoorDash or Grubhub.
Cloud Kitchen Twins
Jonathan Dearden, former executive chef at Red Owl Tavern, runs seven ghost kitchens with his Silicon Valley-based twin brother Brandon. Operating out of Fairfoods in Mantua, Smoked and Chopped combines American barbecue with Korean and Chinese influences, The Toastd Egg brings all-day breakfast, and Get Melt’D offers a melted cheese-focused menu. In recent weeks, the duo recently launched Gimme Breakfast Burritos which upgrades typical breakfast burritos with crispy tater tots inside, Toasted Tortilla for folded quesadillas a la the TikTok trend, Hot Bunz Chickin’ for fried chicken sandwiches, and Dumplings Only which specializes in handmade dumplings and spring rolls. Order on Uber Eats, DoorDash, Grubhub, and Postmates.
Farina Noodle is all about comforting Italian-style pastas and Asian-style noodles. Two recent Drexel grads launched this concept, where the menu features eight fresh pasta options ranging from bolognese to dan dan noodles, salads, and pasta kits for two. There’s also a separate menu of mac and cheese combos. Order on Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash, or Postmates.
With star NYC chef David Chang’s fried chicken concession stand on hold at Lincoln Financial Field, Fuku’s menu is now available for delivery. The indulgent sandwiches are available on DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, and Uber Eats.
Garces Trading Company
Philly favorite chef Jose Garces decided to combine the menus of three of his restaurants into one ghost kitchen, operating out of Old City. Orders can include a mix of favorites, like tapas from Amada and burgers from Village Whiskey. Family-style ready-to-heat meals — including paella, brunch, pasta, and suckling pig — are a nice option.
From the El Camino Real kitchen, Hot Burger sells a variety of burgers from Cuban style to one topped with mac and cheese. A second ghost kitchen, Tiki Tako, also operates out of the Northern Liberties restaurant. Find both on Grubhub, Uber Eats, and DoorDash.
The team behind Leda and The Swan, Vesper Center City, Vesper Dayclub, and Germantown Garden operate a few ghost kitchens. Hunnies specializes in crispy chicken, on sandwiches, in salads, on waffles and more. The kitchen will sub tofu for chicken on any menu item. A brick and mortar Hunnies may open soon. This restaurant also operates Tiny’s Burger Joint. Order delivery on Grubhub.
Ike’s Famous Crabcakes
A Jersey shore staple since the ‘80s, Ike’s is now reaching the Philly market with its ghost kitchen. Famous for crabcakes, the concept also brings the beach to the city with fried fish, lobster rolls, and sidewinder fries. Order on Uber Eats.
Departing from its polished persona, STARR Restaurants went gritty — gritty for STARR anyway — with Jackass Burrito, which it describes as gluttonous and unpretentious. Look for big burritos, plus chips and salsa or guac. Pick it up any day of the week at El Rey in Center City or order delivery via Doordash, Caviar, Grubhub, and Uber Eats.
Sort of an incubator for burgeoning businesses, sort of a pop-up space, Kampar Kitchen arguably fits under the nebulous ghost kitchen banner. Ange Branca, former owner of Saté Kampar, hosts a rotating lineup of chefs who cook meals ranging from Sri Lankan street food snacks to Haitian patties to soul food. Order delivery or pick up at the BOK Building.
Livy’s Plant Based
Inspired by his daughter Olivia’s decision to eat a plant-based diet, Jose Garces created Livy’s. He’s keeping things fun with burgers, fries, and mac and cheese. Open daily and available for delivery via Uber Eats, Grubhub, Postmates and DoorDash.
Always on the forefront of trends, Starr Restaurants has opened a few ghost kitchens. Pete’s Place, Chef Peter Serpico’s “kinda Korean” noodle shop, came first. Expect bibimbap, Korean fried chicken, and ramen. It’s available daily for pickup at Serpico on South Street and is available for delivery on DoorDash and Grubhub.
Rustika Pollo a la Brasa
Rotisserie chicken is always a good thing and is even better when executed by celebrity chef Jose Garces. For this Peruvian-style pollo a la brasa concept, the kitchen brines, marinates, dries, and cooks each natural, hormone-free bird over the course of 72 hours. The result is a mahogany flavor bomb that’s fun to eat with Rustika’s seven sauce options — try the Peruvian black mint sauce and purple olive chimichurri. Open daily and available on Uber Eats, Grubhub, Postmates, and DoorDash.
The owners of University City’s The Post, Sunset Social and Walnut Street Cafe took the ghost kitchen concept to another level with a virtual food hall that hosts four new restaurants. Agea features make-your-own mediterranean bowls, pita wraps, salads, and platters. Ghost Chicken cooks up French bistro favorites, including roast chicken, steak frites, and pomme frites. Maude & Mabel’s Fine Creamery offers fancy ice cream, like matcha with miso-caramel and blood orange sorbet. Philadelphia Wing Shop has chicken wings in ten sauce options, plus other bar snacks. All are available for delivery or pickup from The Post, Tuesday through Saturday. Order on the website.
What’s The Catch?
With his English homeland in mind, Twisted Tail owner George Reilly started frying up fish and chips in his Headhouse-adjacent kitchen. This virtual chip shop offers cod, haddock, a rotating fish, or veggies in classic or gluten-free batter. Battered pineapple rings and mushy peas star on the sides menu. Call 215-558-2471 for pickup or get delivery via Doordash, Caviar, Grubhub, or Uber Eats. Open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Sunday.