Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods—and spot-on neighborhood dining. Thriving restaurant rows have emerged across Philly, offering eaters a place to dine and explore, and explore and dine. Within view of City Hall, Midtown Village’s chic 13th Street is home to Mexican, Spanish, Mediterranean, Japanese and all-American bistros. On the other side of the Schuylkill River, steps from the University of Pennsylvania’s historic campus, West Philly’s ever-international Baltimore Avenue is dotted with hyper-local coffee shops and markets, plus Thai, Laotian, Ethiopian, Middle Eastern, Indian and West African eateries. Trendy Fishtown is home to artisan-fueled, night-on-the-town operations. And South Philadelphia’s thoughtfully renewed East Passyunk Avenue showcases one “Top Chef”—among many top chefs. Here’s a list of Philadelphia neighborhoods known for their exciting dining scenes.
Center City Food Corridors:
• 13th Street/Midtown Village/Washington Square West, between 7th & Broad Streets and Market & Pine Streets
Known by these three names—and also lovingly nicknamed “the Gayborhood”—the busy urban district tucked between Old City and City Hall is a foodie haven. Chef Marcie Turney and partner Valerie Safran run a mini empire along 13th Street, with Lolita, Jamonera, Grocery, Barbuzzo, Bud & Marilyn’s—plus two shops, Open House and Verde, which happens to have its own chocolate studio. Also in the mix: chef Michael Schulson’s Double Knot, part underground izakaya, part coffee and Vietnamese food bar, and Maison 208, “Top Chef” contestant Sylva Senat’s beautifully designed New American spot. Nearby are vegan hotspot Charlie was a sinner and vegan destination Vedge, chef Marc Vetri’s first and finest Italian destination spot, Vetri, and, closer to Washington Square, tiny, terrific Cheu Noodle Bar.
• Chinatown, between 9th & 12th Streets and Arch & Vine Streets
One of the nation’s oldest, most textured Asian neighborhoods—just on the edge of the city’s colonial-era Historic District—continues to delight modern diners with Sichuan, Cantonese, Burmese, Vietnamese, Japanese and so much more traditional to modern fare. Highlights include a do-it-all food hall (Chinatown Square), authentic dim sum (Dim Sum Garden), early-morning pastry shops (Bread Top House, St. Honoré), banh mi (QT), hand-drawn noodles (Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House, Spice C), late-night noshes (David’s Mai Lai Wah, Red Kings 2) and a swanky speakeasy-style bar (Hop Sing Laundromat).
• Old City, between the Delaware River & 6th Street and Walnut & Race Streets
Art galleries, independent shops, students and restaurants pioneered the revival of this Historic District neighborhood, home to Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross House—and some very modern eating. Among Old City’s culinary trailblazers: Fork, Buddakan, the Continental and Chlöe. Today, the neighborhood is also home base for James Beard award winners Michael Solomonov (owner/chef) and Camille Cogswell (pastry chef) of Israeli favorite Zahav. Crawling with pubs and clubs, the blocks between 3rd and Front Streets and Market and Chestnut Streets bustle with bar hoppers. In season, the neighborhood’s beer garden scene includes riverside Spruce Street Harbor Park and Morgan’s Pier and, just across 6th Street from the Liberty Bell, Independence Beer Garden.
• Rittenhouse Square, between Broad Street & Schuylkill River and Market & Pine Streets
This busy, tony shopping and business district grew up around a verdant, seven-acre park. The neighborhood keeps as busy as ever after dark, when diners and drinkers flood sidewalks in search of food and fun. Some of the city’s most prolific restaurateurs have a strong presence here: Ellen Yin’s a. kitchen & bar, Steve Cook and Michael Solomonov’s Abe Fisher, Rooster Soup Company, Dizengoff and Goldie’s; Sam Mink’s Sansom Street Oyster House and Mission Taqueria; Jose Garces’ Tinto, Village Whiskey, and Volvér; 2017 James Beard “Outstanding Restaurateur” Stephen Starr’s The Dandelion, Parc, Butcher and Singer, Continental Mid-town and El Rey; and vegan chefs Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby’s V Street and Wiz Kid. The neighborhood has no shortage of independent operations, too, such as veteran bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) Audrey Claire, longtime sidewalk bistro Rouge and 2017 James Beard “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic” Greg Vernick’s Vernick Food & Drink.
• Bella Vista/9th Street Italian Market, between 6th & 11th Streets and South Street & Washington Avenue
Bella Vista is the traditionally Italian neighborhood south of Center City. Within the neighborhood is the historic, gritty, open-air 9th Street Italian Market (between Catharine and Federal Streets), where browsers find Mexican tortillas (Tortilleria San Roman), tacos (El Compadre/South Philly Barbacoa, Taqueria La Veracruzana) and pastries (Las Lomas), Italian cheeses (Claudio’s, Di Bruno Bros), breads (Sarcone’s) and meats (Esposito’s). Another Italian Market can’t miss: Fante’s, the country’s oldest kitchen supply store.
• East Passyunk Avenue, between Washington Avenue & McKean Street
Just beyond South Philly cheesesteak vendors Pat’s and Geno’s, this diagonal stretch of old-time shops and brick row homes retains its Italian-American roots while expanding into impressive culinary territory. On the Ave, “Top Chef” Nicholas Elmi operates elegant Laurel and edgy ITV, and pretty Fond and handsome Townsend showcase brilliant American cuisine. Chef’s chef Christopher Kearse does seasonal French beautifully at Will BYOB. Abruzzi Le Virtù plays on longtime neighbors’ geographic roots, as does its sibling pizzeria, Brigantessa. Saté Kampar showcases authentic Indonesian fare; Noord puts a modern twist on classic Scandinavian fare.
• South Street/Queen Village, between Front & 7th Streets and South Street & Washington Avenue
Cheesesteaks, pizza and other fast fare pepper quirky and colorful South Street, which divides Center City and South Philly. Still, the street is also known for destination dining in Serpico. South Street serves as a border to charming Queen Village, where eaters enjoy elegant tavern dining in Southwark, traditional French cuisine at Bistrot La Minette, overstuffed sandwiches at Famous 4th Street Delicatessen and deliciously rustic fare all-day at Hungry Pigeon.
• Washington Avenue, between Front Street & Grays Ferry Avenue
What this four-lane, industrial thoroughfare lacks in charm, it makes up for in culinary variety. Thriving Asian shopping centers straddle the historic 9th Street Italian Market (see above), offering a wealth of authentic, affordable Vietnamese fare (Pho 75, Nam Phuong, Pho Ha, to name a few). The avenue is home to one of the city’s first brick-and-mortar taquerias (Veracruzana) and two of Philly’s most popular taco trucks (Taco Loco and Tacos El Rodeo). West of Broad Street standouts include Mexican bistro Café Ynez and pizza pub Chick’s.
• Baltimore Avenue, between 43rd & 50th Streets
A college town-feeling, bohemian spirit of diversity, optimism and openness are hallmarks of this stretch of West Philadelphia. Diners here experience the city’s best Senegalese (Youma, Killamandjaro), Ethiopian (Abyssinia, Dahlak, Gojjo), Pakistani (Mood Café), Mediterranean (Aksum), Laotian (Vientiane Café), modern soul (Booker’s) food and then some.
• Fishtown/Northern Liberties, Fishtown: between the Delaware River, Frankford Avenue and York Street; Northern Liberties: between Callowhill Street & Girard Avenue and the Delaware River & 6th Street
These onetime industrial neighborhoods north of Old City have seen changes in recent years, adding into the mix residential lofts, edgy retail and happening restaurants. Newer culinary residents include international coffee roaster La Colombe, whose Frankford Avenue flagship includes a rum distillery; Kensington Quarters, a butcher shop-brasserie; exclusive, Italian-influenced Wm. Mulherin’s Sons; pioneering local beer pubs Standard Tap and Johnny Brenda’s; some of the world’s best pizza (Pizzeria Beddia, currently closed but preparing to reopen in a larger space); and ice cream entrepreneurs Little Baby’s and quirky pizzeria/pizza museum Pizza Brain.
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