Places to eat in Philly
August 26, 2009 6:15 PM   Subscribe

I just moved to Philly and I want to know what some of the best places to eat around town are. I've checked Philly Magazine, but a lot of those restaurants seem to be upscale and out of my price range. What are some affordable, good places that I should check out? I'm interested in all varieties of food, so any suggestions are welcome.
posted by Aanidaani to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
These are places I try to go to whenever I'm visiting Philly:

Rangoon Burmese Restaurant
Beau Monde creperie
The Bards Irish pub
and of course, Reading Terminal Market.

I'm going there for a day next week and I'm going to try at least to make it to Rangoon!
posted by moonmilk at 6:26 PM on August 26, 2009

I love Rangoon! A couple other of my favorites:

King of Tandoor
Vietnam Restaurant
posted by Shesthefastest at 6:40 PM on August 26, 2009

Vietnam Cafe (locations in Chinatown and in west Philly) is the best Vietnamese I've had in Philly.

Singapore Vegetarian (Chinatown) is my favorite vegetarian dim sum place.

White Dog Cafe in University City is worth checking out.
posted by timmygoestothezoo at 6:41 PM on August 26, 2009

I'm not sure where you are, but I'll mention some of the notable places in my neighborhood:
- there's a sizeable African community, which supports at least two Ethiopian restaurants: Abyssinia (45th and Locust), Dahlak (47th and Baltimore). The former has a bar above it, Fiume, which is apparently anarchist-run and is roughly the size of your living room. (I wouldn't be surprised to learn it was once somebody's living room.) One or both of these restaurants might actually be Eritrean. There are also restaurants of other African cuisines but I can't name them off the top of my head.
- expensive pizza and good beer: Dock Street Brewery (50th and Baltimore). I say "expensive pizza" but it's cheap for a meal out ($8 or so for a small pizza which will feed one, $16 for a large which feeds two or three); they have other food (burgers, etc.) as well. They brew their own beer, which is of course the main attraction.
- a couple of takeout places with followings: Koch's Deli (Locust between 43rd and 44th) makes ridiculously large hoagies, big enough for at least two meals, and they'll give you pieces of cheese while you wait in line. Fu Wah (47th and Baltimore) is actually a corner grocery store but they make a "tofu hoagie" (marinated tofu, various vegetables, jalapenos, hot sauce) which is one of my favorite Philly foods. and I eat meat. In either of these cases I recommend heading over to Clark Park (43rd and Baltimore) to eat if the weather's nice.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:44 PM on August 26, 2009

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention Vietnam, despite living a block from their West Philly location. (I've actually never been to the West Philly one, but I've been to the Chinatown one.)
posted by madcaptenor at 6:46 PM on August 26, 2009

Fuji Mountain. Fuji #@$ing Mountain! So so good.
posted by cashman at 6:49 PM on August 26, 2009

seconding Abyssinia. forgot that one.
posted by timmygoestothezoo at 6:54 PM on August 26, 2009

Also, Continental Midtown. The 50's/60's atmosphere is awesome. Especially the groovy bathrooms, and swinging chairs upstairs.
posted by cashman at 6:57 PM on August 26, 2009

Continental Midtown doesn't take reservations. (At least, they didn't back in 2006 which was the one time I was there.) If you go at a busy time you will spend forever waiting, and probably order a couple (expensive) drinks. But they did give us free appetizers to apologize for the long wait.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:00 PM on August 26, 2009

I live for this question.

Royal Tavern, awesome pub food. Best place around.

The next four are all more or less owned by the same guys and all great in their own way:
Monk's, tremendous Belgian (be prepared to wait)
Belgian Café, like Monk's but much more chill, less centrally located
Nodding Head, Monk's food but house-brewed beers
Grace Tavern, great burgers in a chill neighborhood bar

Tamarind, great little Thai place with about zero buzz but it's just great
Good Dog Bar, good burgers, interesting mixed crowd
South Philly Tap Room, another good pub
Tampopo, neat little sushi place with three locations

MexiCali makes some good burritos, but isn't worth the trip unless you're around Penn anyway. They also have a truck at 38th and Walnut.
Other trucks to keep in mind around Penn:
Tacos Don Memo (38th and Sansom)
Magic Carpet (37th and Spruce, 36th and Walnut)

Tria, mostly a wine, beer, and cheese bar, has some great sandwiches and salads (two locations)
Mama Palma's, a friend of mine swears by their pizza (his taste is impeccable, but I can't vouch as I've never been)

Tiffin and Ekta are the two great choices for Indian; Tiffin has seating now but you're better off ordering delivery from either. Some people are Tiffin people, others are Ekta people, but you can't lose either way.

Mercato is great for a splurge, a bit more than cheap but it's a BYO and REALLY worth it.
Beau Monde, linked above, is great and really romantic, but a bit overpriced.
posted by The Michael The at 7:02 PM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

I haven't lived there in 10 years now but I think these places are still around:

Monk's Cafe - great Belgian beers. They used to have specials with a cheap chalkboard menu. It was the beer that added up!

Le Bus -- looks like ownership may have changed, but was always delicious, rustic, hearty.

The French Bakery - off in Chestnut HIll, but yum. I used to start a lot of Sunday mornings there with a flaky, rich croissant sandwich, fruit salad on the side, and their excellent coffee. A good thing to do on a nice day - you can follow breakfast with browsing the stores in CH or walking in the Wissahickon, not far away.

Marrakesh, a pretty awesome night out with Moroccan food and plenty of theatre. It's not as cheap as pub grub, but it's a blast, and you get more than you pay for - many courses and a luxuriously decadent atmosphere. You have to call ahead, it's prix fixe and they cook for reservations only.
posted by Miko at 7:04 PM on August 26, 2009

Oh, El Fuego on Chestnut makes some good takeout burritos, comparable to but better than the chains (Chipotle, Qdoba)
posted by The Michael The at 7:07 PM on August 26, 2009

But I guess they're only "good" due to the lack of awesome Mexican in Philly. Maybe Taqueria Veracruzana, but I've heard mixed things. Cantina Los Caballitos is run by the Royal Tavern folks, but it's vastly inferior.
posted by The Michael The at 7:19 PM on August 26, 2009

Yakitori Boy (right down the block from the "Vietnam" everyone mentions)
Los Taquitos De La Puebla (In the Italian Market, south of Washington. Links to awesomeness that starts automatically. The best pastor that I've had outside of Mexico.)
Ishkabibble's (South Street. Everything you want in cheese fries or cheese steaks. Get a Gremlin to drink. You'll love it.)
Slice Pizza (10th and Federal)
Mustard Green's (2nd btw Bainbridge and South, a touch pricey but possibly one of the single best and most consistent restaurants ever)
The name escapes me, but there's a spot that makes rockin Vietnamese hoagies, right next door to Gino's Steaks (fuck Joey Vento).
And go to Imperial Inn (10th, btw Race and Arch) on Saturday or Sunday for Dim Sum.
Pho 75 (on 11th and Washington) is a dive, but it's fantastic. One winter, I ate there twice a day.
Pho Cali (10th and Arch) is also very good, and not divey.

Man, this makes me miss Philly SO MUCH! I'm comin home, baby! And all of these great places have such good memories attached. I'm totally excited for you to try all of these great spots in Philly!
posted by Jon-o at 7:27 PM on August 26, 2009

I can definitely second Monk's, White Dog, and Cantina. Even if you're not into beer, the mussels and fries at Monk's are pretty good.

In the same neighborhood as Cantina is Le Virtu, a great Italian restaurant specializing in food from Abruzzo. It's a little fancier, but still seemed somewhat casual.

Most importantly: Chowhound is your friend.
posted by 6and12 at 7:31 PM on August 26, 2009

Jones, because why wouldn't you want fried chicken and waffles?

Chick's has been highly recommended to me by friends. I think it's a little pricey, however.

I actually just asked this question of my friends who live in Philly for a friend who is visiting, so I will be watching this thread eagerly too!
posted by bedhead at 7:35 PM on August 26, 2009

slightly west philly centric because that's where i live...

fiume/abyssinia (teeny bar upstairs, ethiopian yummy downstairs)
dock street
the gold standard (for brunch or dinner, lunch is meh)
local 44
tria (i used to work at the fermentation school and got to try a huge amount of their stuff, and it's fabulous)
memphis tap room
southwark (the cocktails are unbelievable)
nodding head

white dog is very expensive and extremely overrated. the food should be so great, but just isn't. ditto continental, and really any steven starr restaurant.

pricier but worth it:
(those last three are jose garces restaurants, and i highly recommend him)

brunch is an institution in philly, so it deserves a separate category:
honey's sit and eat
north third
beau monde

i'm sure i'll think of more. we're real foodies here. don't miss restaurant week.
posted by timory at 7:44 PM on August 26, 2009

Banh Mi: QT
posted by melodykramer at 7:50 PM on August 26, 2009

But I guess they're only "good" due to the lack of awesome Mexican in Philly. Maybe Taqueria Veracruzana, but I've heard mixed things. Cantina Los Caballitos is run by the Royal Tavern folks, but it's vastly inferior.

Fuego is great, but it's Cali-Mex-ish. Cantina is Mexican-inspired. Neither are relevant to a discussion of real Mexican food in Philly.

And holy shit, WTF, there's so much awesome Mexican in South Philly. Taqueria Veracruzana was the first, and is indeed a bit mixed (great breakfast, though), but there probably ten taquerias between Carpenter and Federal on 9th Street, plus dozens more on sundry other corners in South Philly.

Taquitos de Puebla is my favorite for tacos. Acapulco, across the street, is my favorite for pozole. El Jarocho has a serious following for tacos, too. I don't like La Lupe as much (again, except for breakfast) but they do have the best homemade tortillas.

Aanidaani, where do you live? What kind of food do you like?
posted by desuetude at 7:51 PM on August 26, 2009

I love Serrano (Tin Angel is the music venue upstairs). Really funky vibe, the food is great, and service is friendly.
posted by LolaGeek at 7:56 PM on August 26, 2009

No mention of Geno's? Is that too touristy?
posted by jquinby at 7:56 PM on August 26, 2009

Yeah, Geno's is too touristy. (So is Pat's.) I don't eat cheesesteak enough to recommend a good place though.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:15 PM on August 26, 2009

Royal Tavern is the best place. Also Belgian Cafe. Go there instead of Monk's. Dimitri's in South Philly is a nice cozy little Greek place with good fish.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:34 PM on August 26, 2009

Marigold Kitchen, at 501 South 45th Street, is really great — and you can bring your own wine!
posted by nicwolff at 9:18 PM on August 26, 2009

I am really awash in all the thoughts (sensory memories...) of places to eat in Philly, most places above I would agree with, so I'll just chime in with some not yet mentioned suggestions.

We could spend hours arguing about where the best cheesesteak is, but I go there because they have both vegetarian and vegan cheesesteak. I don't eat either, but my friends love it, and I love their real-meat cheesesteak. Also crabby fries (seasoned with old bay) are great.

In Chinatown:
Nanzhou Hand Drawn Noodle House
Best. Noodles. Ever. I usually order the beef brisket with an egg, but basically everything tastes great and you can even watch the chef pulling the noodles in the back. Not really a summer food, since it's hot soup, but sometimes I go anyways.

Dim Sum Garden
Sure, it looks sketch and kind of like a converted nail salon. Everything is prepared fresh and the shanghai dumplings (aka soup dumplings) are the best. The scallion pancake has been perfect every time I've gone there (lightly fried and crispy), and you can also get potstickers. Best of all, dirt cheap.

By the way, I fall into the El Jarocho camp when it comes to Mexican. I was just there Tuesday. Heaven in a tortilla.

These are the cheap and hearty eats. Depending on your price range (I don't read Philly Mag) there might be some slightly less hole-in-the-wall places that are also great to eat at that you can go without breaking the bank.
posted by polexa at 10:17 PM on August 26, 2009

Ack! How could I forget my favorite brunch place?

Morning Glory
You can't make reservations, it's generally a madhouse at the busy brunch times on the weekends. There's a list, put your name on it when you arrive and wait in the garden/outdoor seating area. The biscuits are girnormous, rich and buttery: I usually save mine for the end and eat half of it as dessert with the house-/home-made jam that's on every table. If they don't bring it to you with your food, ask for the ketchup. It's also made there and more like a tomato sauce that goes GREAT with whatever savory brunch food you may have. Plus they bottle it in whatever is around (often green wine bottles).

The french toast (my pictures) is also amazing, though I'm not really a sweet-foods-for-brunch person.
posted by polexa at 10:23 PM on August 26, 2009

Watching this thread develop with great foodie interest, and I had to speak up about the cheesesteaks.

Basically, forget Pat's and Gino's. In terms of ratings and "culinary excellence," Jim's (South St.) is supposed to be better anyway. In terms of price and convenience? A cheesesteak from any steak cart will be more than good. Cart steaks have the proper amounts of greasiness, and you can ask for all the accoutrements like onions and sauces, etc. All for an excellent price.
posted by the NATURAL at 12:30 AM on August 27, 2009

Rachael Ray did a great tour of restaurants in Philadelphia. It made me wish I was there. You may be able to watch it online or see when it will be aired next at Food Network. It was on her show, Rachael's Vacation. You guys have good eats there.
posted by VC Drake at 12:40 AM on August 27, 2009

Horizons is absolutely amazing (yes, even if you're not vegan).
posted by bengarland at 4:30 AM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

La Locanda Del Giottone might be on the expensive side but it seems to evoke Philly in a few ways: damn good food, gnocci like little clouds, and loud South Philly guys working the tables.

Also in the Italian food genre, Boca Criniti is great traditional Italian-American food; I'll suggest their handmade pasta dishes.

Termini Brothers bakery has amazing Italian cookies, but these cost money. Try instead, Varallo's Bakery. Their associated restaurant is also good and nearby. I love their pumpkin cheesecake.

For cheap breakfast/brunch, Greek diner style, try Sandy's Lunch

In West-ish Philly: the Restaurant School has a cafe with cheap coffee. Their brioche are awesome. The Indian grocer next door has really good samosa and if you cook, the cheapest spices you'll find in the city.

Saad's Halal place is closed for Ramadan right now, but in about a month, go there and get a chicken Maroosh way.

I came to this askme late and most of the places I would have suggested are already here.

Abyssinia needs a caveat: go with people you like because the service is extremely slow, you want to be in the mood for a long dinner with good conversation.

Koch's: get one of the specialty sandwiches.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:04 AM on August 27, 2009

Everything I would recommend has already been mentioned, but here are my favorites anyway: Vietnam, Veracruzana, Good Dog (best burger), Sabrina's (for brunch), Royal Tavern, Bishop's Collar (best nachos). Also, head over to the Headhouse Square Farmer's Market on Sunday between 10-2. Not only do they have great local veggies, fruit, cheese, meat, eggs, and flowers - there is a taco stand serving up fresh Tacos Al Pastor that are TO DIE FOR.
posted by jrichards at 7:44 AM on August 27, 2009

This is making me so damn homesick for Philly!!!!

Some of my favorites:

- I like the food and atmosphere at Standard Tap and Johnny Brenda's (North Philly)
- I was taken to the Memphis Taproom once, on a visit back to Philly (this is also in North Philly). Damn good.
- Magic Carpet cart on the Penn campus
- Nodding Head brewpub in Center City has good food in addition to great beer
- Vietnam Palace in Chinatown
- Late night slice at Lorenzo's pizza on South St (tastes best when you're drunk)
posted by medeine at 11:08 AM on August 27, 2009

Seconding Honey's Sit 'N Eat, which is tasty at any time of day, and adding The New Wave Cafe to the list of delicious places.

Try Carman's Country Kitchen down on 11th and Wharton for brunch sometime, the menu changes every week depending on what Carman wants to make.
posted by Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld at 7:58 PM on August 27, 2009

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