Philadelphia is joining the ranks of cities spotlighted by Michelin, the French multinational known for travel and dining guides around the world.
No, Philly’s restaurants aren’t going to be rated with the famed stars — at least not yet. But insiders say it could mean they’re getting closer to being considered.
What we are getting now is the Michelin Green Guide, which is only produced for eight U.S. destinations so far.
The guide represents a “very French way of seeing how the city is,” editor in chief Philippe Orain told WHYY. The focus, he said, is “trying to bring more people” and “trying to teach them the way we experienced the city.”
Set to launch in English later this month, the Philadelphia edition features what it deems to be can’t-miss destinations around the city and region. Think tourist sites, cultural institutions, activities, parks, restaurants, and hotels, from Independence National Historic Park and Eastern State Penitentiary to Ishkabibble’s and South Philly Barbacoa.
The guide — which declares Philly the “Frenchest American city”: a “perfect compromise between American excess and European spirit” — comes out of a partnership between Michelin and the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.
France is one of Philly’s key tourism markets, according to Robin Bloom, director of content for PHLCVB, in part because there are daily direct flights between Philadelphia and Paris. Over 21,000 French travelers visited the city in 2022, Bloom said, with this year’s number on track to surpass that.
Some of the reasons Michelin chose to develop a Philadelphia guide, per Orain, were the city’s geographic location on the East Coast of the U.S., its history, its arts and culture scene, its food scene, its “charming countryside,” and its humanity.
“It’s a very human city,” Orain said, “with a strong human identity that you can see when walking or cycling in its neighborhoods.”
The Green Guide gives a more general overview of tourist attractions and things to do than Michelin’s renowned Red Guides, which zero in on restaurants and hotels and grant one, two, or three coveted “stars” to a handful of places that anonymous reviewers deem especially good.
(Philadelphia does not have a Red Guide — the only U.S. cities part of the current Red Guide series are New York, DC, San Francisco, and Chicago.)
Michelin’s Green Guides also give out stars to attractions, though it’s done by a different editorial team than the Red Guides. One star means a place is “worth a visit,” two mean that it’s “worth a detour,” and three mean it’s “worth a special journey.”
The Green Guide ratings are figured out using nine criteria, Orain said, including things like first impressions, convenience, and visitor friendliness.
The book also includes interviews with “greeters” from the city, Orain said, including Mural Arts executive director Jane Golden, Philadelphia Orchestra director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, chef Michael Solomonov, and trumpet player Fareed Simpson.
“We asked all those people what they love in the city,” Orain said. “And I find it really interesting for us to know what inhabitants and what people who make the city and who make its diversity, and also its richness, like in it.”
And yes, in case you were wondering, the Michelin we’re talking about is indeed the tire company. The founders of the firm originally started making guides in the late 1880s to help drivers know where they could eat or stay during their travels in France. At first these guides were free to Michelin customers, but the company eventually started charging for them and producing guides to places outside of France.
Michelin approached PHLCVB to partner on the Philadelphia destination guide. PHLCVB decided the “investment” was worth it (Michelin is now asking partners to cover some of the production costs for new guides) and then worked with Chester County Tourism and the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board to expand the content to the broader region.
The French-language version of the Green Guide for Philly was published in March, so it’s already available to people living in France, Switzerland, and Belgium. The English language version for North American and UK tourists is dropping on May 18, and recipients of stars will be honored at an in-person gathering at the Moshulu.