Going out to eat is supposed to feel like an experience. A night out on the town or a catch-up with friends and loved ones is special—so you should go someplace that makes it feel that way.
The recently opened Wilder Restaurant on Sansom Street feels like one of those noteworthy spots as soon as you walk through the door. The space looks as though two people had their hands in decorating—one who loves the funky air of prints and mix-matched patterns, and the other who knows how to put together a sophisticated and comfortable venue that embodies fine dining. Together, it provides a unique experience that molds into one vision: Eclectic, yet refined.
Wilder opened earlier this year in March with much anticipation and comes from chef-restaurateur Brett Naylor, along with his wife and partner Nicole Barrick. The concept was originally supposed to open in 2020, but the pandemic had other plans. Now, everyone can enjoy this bar/eatery located in the Rittenhouse area of the city.
Linette and Kyle Kielinski
The venue sits in the previous home of the Philadelphia Academy of Social Dance—but it received a full-scale renovation, combining an original carriage house and townhome into one sprawling 4500-square-foot dining establishment. The space is divided into three floors, with the first two containing a dining room and bar, and the third offering a private event space for intimate lunch or dinner parties.
There’s obviously plenty of space for hungry Philadelphians and tourists alike to try out the food and drinks from this establishment, and it’s worth it to plan to sit at a table and fully indulge. However, the bar on the first floor sets a tone for its own kind of experience with one of the most intently funky-focused designs in the city.
But it’s the menu that really keep the pace of this one-of-a-kind spot, and it wows just as much as the atmosphere. As the opening release states, Naylor and Barrick chose the name Wilder to signify the fresh bounty of ingredients they like to source, cook and eat, a name that also aptly describes their vision for the space – one that naturally evolves as you move through, a meaningful progression that is also free and unrestrained.
The menu has a few different focuses: A raw bar (which you can never really go wrong with), a variety of starters, salads, pizzas, pastas and main dishes. And with the original idea from the owners of setting off on a culinary journey with Wilder Restaurant, it is worth it to set your sites on a few items, at least.
A fan favorite at any hotspot is bread, and here, it comes in the form of warm pull-apart rolls served with house cultured green garlic butter (need we say more?). However, the true stand-out on the left side of the menu is definitely the roasted Chesapeake oysters (served with fermented chili butter, Meyer lemon, herbs and bread crumbs). And it’s so tasty and indulgent that even the pickiest of eaters will be able to indulge.
Those who are more interested in the raw side of the menu however, can also try out different sampling platters, or plateaus. Both options offer an assortment of seafood ranging from oysters, scallops, clams and more.
The pizza portion of the eatery’s offerings also includes choices from across the board, and they all utilize different interesting ingredient combinations. Those who dine at Wilder Restaurant can sink their teeth into different pie options including the artichoke and potato, Sicilian anchovies, Margherita, mortadella and long hots, and much more. Stand-out ingredients range from goat cheese, spicy soppressata, pistachios and even squash blossoms.
Pasta-wise, everything is handmade here. And it tastes like it was crafted with you specifically in mind. Dishes include pansotti (filled with spring pea and ricotta), casarecce (made with whipped goat cheese, fava beans, pea leaves pecorino and pesto), plus a few more unique options. A no-brainer however is definitely the malfadine alla vodka, which boasts Cheasepeake jumbo lump crab, chili, basil and breadcrumbs.
Philadelphians also have the chance to peruse through an assortment of salads and vegetables (think seasonal greens, “thumbalina” carrots and more), but the main entrees also take center stage. Patrons have a few different options ranging in the seafood and protein categories, each one is essentially its own experience and highly recommended. Stand-outs however are the Heritage pork chop milanesa and the grilled Jersey swordfish.
And what meal would be complete without drinks and dessert (and lots of ’em)?
Wilder Restaurant offers an assortment of cocktails. Some feel tropical like the Breakfast of Champions (rum, pineapple and orange), or classic like the Antique Showcase (rye, amari and orange.) And others are just unique, like The Mad Straw Hatter (gin, Earl Grey, strawberry and thyme.) Imbibers can also sip on a variety of beer, wine, or some non-alcoholic “all-day” sippers, which are just as creative as the cocktails.
And to end everything on a sweet note, there are an assortment of dessert and after-dinner drinks available. Chocolate-lovers will enjoy the indulgent Creméaux, while those looking to cool down can try an assortment of ice cream and sorbets—but this is just the start.
Wilder also offers a kids menu and is open for brunch (with some fun menu items being offered like the prosciutto/cotta salmon benedict or the Sansom Street Scrambler), and the vibe is the same any time of day.
Whatever meal, drink or occasion you choose to spend here will fill that desire of truly taking advantage of Philly’s food scene. It just feels more unique, a bit more eclectic and definitely very special.
To learn more about Wilder Restaurant (2009 Sansom St.) visit wilderphilly.com
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