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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, and Philadelphia’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 eateries proving that Philly has soul by the forkful.

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Ms. Tootsie’s Restaurant, Bar & Lounge

Ms. Tootsie's Restaurant Bar and Lounge 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. As a bonus, the hybrid restaurant/bar/lounge’s slick setting keeps the party going well after dinner’s finished.

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

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02

KeVen Parker Soul Food Cafe

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

Where: KeVen Parker Soul Food Cafe, Reading Terminal Market, 12th & Arch streets

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03

Relish

— Photo by G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

Fusing contemporary and traditional styles, Relish restaurant and jazz club ramps up classic soul dishes with ingenuity. Among the offerings at this West Oak Lane hotspot are shrimp and grits, iron skillet buttermilk fried chicken and Creole crab cakes.

Where: Relish, 7152 Ogontz Avenue

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04

GiGi and Big R

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, Various locations including 38th & Spruce streets

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05

Chef Ken's Cafe

A friendly little hideaway in Mt. Airy, Chef Ken’s Cafe serves crowdpleasers like fried chicken, fried fish, mac and cheese, sweet potatoes and, of course, sweet tea.

Where: Chef Ken's Cafe, 7135 Germantown Avenue

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06

Warmdaddy's

Live blues music provides the soundtrack for red-hot food at Warmdaddy’s. Long-running favorites on the menu include shrimp-and-cheddar grits, Cajun catfish fingers and fall-off-the-bone barbecue beef short ribs.

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

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07

South

SOUTH 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 leek-farro pilaf, Carolina shrimp with stone-ground lobster grits and catfish with creamy collards.

Where: SOUTH, 600 N. Broad Street

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08

Wishbone

— Photo courtesy Wishbone

The craft fried chicken at Wishbone, which operates locations in West Philly and Midtown Village, gives the Southern staple a decidedly new-school spin. In addition to buttermilk-battered wings with a signature pretzel crust, the menu includes a variety of dipping sauces, mac and cheese, honey buttermilk biscuits and redneck pecan hand pies for dessert.

Where: Wishbone, Various locations including 4034 Walnut Street

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09

Rex 1516

South Street’s palace of pimento cheese, Rex 1516 mixes and matches Southern flavors with creative results. The menu boasts crawfish pot pie, collard green spaetzle and plenty of fresh cocktails.

Where: Rex 1516, 1516 South Street

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10

The Twisted Tail

The Twisted Tail The Twisted Tail
— Photo courtesy The Twisted Tail

Fried chicken, aged country ham and barbecue smoked ribs appear frequently on The Twisted Tail’s menus. The bourbon bar and live-music venue also prepares decadent accompaniments like cornbread and crawfish mac and cheese.

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

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11

Deke's Bar-B-Que

With both 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, 4901 Ridge Avenue

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12

Butter's Soul Food to Go

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 to Go, 2730 W. Girard Avenue

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13

Southern Cross Kitchen

The country kitchen at Conshohocken’s Southern Cross Kitchen turns out familiar yet fresh takes on homestyle fare like fried pickles, blackened shrimp tacos and chicken pot pie. On the liquid side, the bar shakes up Southern-inspired cocktails and features an impressive bourbon selection.

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

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Ms. Tootsie’s Restaurant, Bar & Lounge
KeVen Parker Soul Food Cafe
Relish
GiGi and Big R
Chef Ken's Cafe
Warmdaddy's
South
Wishbone
Rex 1516
The Twisted Tail
Deke's Bar-B-Que
Butter's Soul Food to Go
Southern Cross Kitchen
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