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The Best Southern and Soul Food in Philadelphia

Where to find the best Southern and soul food in the City of Brotherly Love

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Relish Photo by G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia
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Nothing’s more satisfying than a plate of down-home eats. Thankfully, Philly’s dining scene is steeped in Southern and soul flavors, rich in catfish, jerk chicken, macaroni and cheese and more.

Whether it’s a gourmet spin on turkey wings, a zesty bowl of jambalaya or a slice of sweet-potato pie, hearty goodness abounds at the region’s soul and Southern eateries.

Here’s a look at some of the food proving that Philly has soul by the forkful. Our guide below lists the best Southern and soul food in Philadelphia, and also has a helpful map to reference which venues are most convenient for you on your visit.

01

Ms. Tootsie’s Restaurant Bar Lounge

Soul-satisfying southern cuisine on South Street

Pork chop and green beans at Ms. Tootsie's Restaurant Bar and Lounge Pork chop and green beans at Ms. Tootsie's Restaurant Bar and Lounge
— Photo courtesy Ms. Tootsie's Restaurant Bar and Lounge

South Street’s Ms. Tootsie’s serves up irresistibly homey eats — crab macaroni and cheese balls, smothered pork and turkey chops and some of the best fried chicken in town. The hybrid restaurant/bar/lounge’s sleek, urban setting keeps the party going.

Where: Ms. Tootsie’s Restaurant Bar Lounge, 1312 South Street

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02

Soul Food Cafe

Ms. Tootsie’s owner Keven Parker doubles down with his eponymous Soul Food Cafe in the Reading Terminal Market. In addition to the spectacular chicken and waffles, the quick-service stand offers catfish, yams and red velvet cake.

Where: Soul Food Cafe, 12th and Arch streets

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03

Relish

Diners at Relish Diners at Relish
— Photo by G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

Fusing contemporary and traditional, Relish restaurant and jazz club ramps up classic soul dishes with ingenuity. Among the offerings at this West Oak Lane hotspot are Cajun deviled eggs with shrimp, iron skillet buttermilk fried chicken and turkey wings over apple and cornbread stuffing.

Where: Relish, 152 Ogontz Avenue

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04

GiGi and Big R

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With a belly-warming mix of Caribbean, soul and Southern cuisines, the GiGi and Big R food truck more than satisfies the University City lunchtime crowd. The hefty Styrofoam platters stuffed with deep-fried macaroni and cheese, jerk chicken and gooey yams are a great value, too.

Where: GiGi and Big R, 38th and Spruce streets

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05

Chef Ken's Cafe

A friendly little hideaway in Mt. Airy, Chef Ken’s Café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The morning menu brings fish and grits and Texas French toast, while the lunch and dinner platters of whiting or ribs come with a choice of sides such as dirty rice, mac and cheese or collard greens.

Where: Chef Ken's Cafe, 7135 Germantown Avenue

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06

Warmdaddy's

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Live blues music provides the soundtrack for red-hot food at Warmdaddy’s. The long-running favorites are the shrimp and cheddar grits, crispy chicken livers over biscuits and barbecue beef short ribs with smoked turkey collards.

Where: Warmdaddy's, 1400 S. Christopher Columbus Boulevard

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07

South

Food on plate at South Food on plate at South
— Photo by A. Ricketts for Visit Philadelphia

Southern dishes, made with rare-around-here ingredients, are the focus at South. The Fairmount restaurant and jazz venue turns out exciting dishes like wood grilled chicken with creamed collards and Yukon gold potatoes, Carolina shrimp with Anson Mills grits and lobster and bourbon pecan pie with cornmeal crust.

Where: South, 600 N. Broad Street

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08

Percy Street Barbecue

South Street’s Percy Street Barbecue showcases Erin O’Shea’s reverent yet chef-driven approach to the smoker. Fried-green tomatoes with green goddess dressing, chopped brisket sandwiches and traditional ribs are accompanied by terrific sides like burnt-end beans. For dessert, go for the Yards root beer float.

Where: Percy Street Barbecue, 900 South Street

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09

Wishbone

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The craft-fried chicken at Wishbone in West Philly gives the Southern staple a decidedly new-school spin. In addition to the classic wings with signature pretzel crust, there are changing daily flavors, plus honey buttermilk biscuits and redneck pecan hand pies for dessert.

Where: Wishbone, 4034 Walnut Street

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Rex 1516

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Graduate Hospital’s palace of pimento cheese, Rex 1516 mixes and matches Southern flavors with creative results. There’s a crawfish pot pie, smoked brisket over corn cakes and plenty of fresh cocktails.

Where: Rex 1516, 1516 South Street

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The Twisted Tail

Modern Southern cuisine, bourbon and blues in Headhouse Square

Interior of The Twisted Tail Interior of The Twisted Tail
— Photo courtesy The Twisted Tail

Biscuits, fried chicken and aged ham appear frequently on The Twisted Tail’s menus. The bourbon bar and live music venue also prepares a decadent macaroni and cheese with crawfish, fried okra and ricotta beignets.

Where: The Twisted Tail, 509 S. 2nd Street

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12

Deke's Bar-B-Que

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With a carryout location and a sit-down restaurant in Roxborough, Deke’s Bar-B-Que has built a sweet and smoky reputation. The kitchen serves a mix of barbecue styles — from Texas to Carolina — and the ribs, hush puppies and chocolate-chunk pecan pie are revelatory.

Where: Deke's Bar-B-Que, 443 Shurs Lane

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13

Butter's Soul Food

Butter’s Soul Food corners the market for Salisbury steak and fried shrimp platters in Brewerytown. The takeaway joint also cooks up rice and gravy, corn and okra and a mean sweet-potato cheesecake.

Where: Butter's Soul Food, 2821 W. Girard Avenue

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14

Southern Cross

The country kitchen at Conshohocken’s Southern Cross turns out familiar yet fresh takes on home-style fare such as fried pickles, blackened catfish tacos and barbecue pork macaroni and cheese. On the liquid side, the bar shakes up cocktails such as Sweet Tea Bourbon and Southern Lemonade.

Where: Southern Cross, 8 E. 1st Avenue, Conshohocken

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Ms. Tootsie’s Restaurant Bar Lounge
Soul Food Cafe
Relish
GiGi and Big R
Chef Ken's Cafe
Warmdaddy's
South
Percy Street Barbecue
Wishbone
Rex 1516
The Twisted Tail
Deke's Bar-B-Que
Butter's Soul Food
Southern Cross
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