The biggest food story of Philly in 2016? The upscaling of quick cuisine. Philly chefs are turning their attention to sandwiches, salads and tacos, Philly restaurant owners are dreaming up killer concepts, and Philly eaters are demanding that every meal is just better — better tasting, better quality. The result is our new fast-food revolution, where takeout is as exciting as a meal at Vetri. This week on Foobooz, we’ll be publishing our guide to this new world of cheap eats. (There’s not a cheesesteak mentioned!) Or pick up the October issue of Philly Mag, on newsstands this week, to see it all in one place.
In Fairmount: Buena Onda
Your order: Signature batter-fried mahimahi. Why: As close to a SoCal-style fish taco as we’ve had in Philly, thanks to quality seafood, crisp red cabbage and crunchy jicama. Only Jose Garces would make a taco this memorable. Look for a Rittenhouse location soon. 1901 Callowhill Street.
In Wayne: Pipeline Taco
Your order: Buffalo shrimp. Why: In just over a year, this Hawaiian-leaning shop has become a Wayne fave, possibly because someone was clever enough to tuck the flavors of your favorite Super Bowl dish into a tortilla. 165 East Lancaster Avenue.
In Manayunk: Taqueria Feliz
Your order: Pork al pastor. Why: The combo of sweet pineapple and slow-cooked pork is never not right, but the attention-to-detail chefs here make this classic taco elegant. 4410 Main Street.
In West Chester: Jaco Juice and Taco
Your order: Veggin Out. Why: This is a veggie taco packed with some serious weight thanks to white beans, potatoes, kale, poblano crema and a homemade corn tortilla. 8 West Gay Street.
In Flourtown: Union Taco
Your order: Mahimahi. Why: One taco might do the trick — the chefs here aren’t portion-shy. This seared hunk of fish is gussied up with a black-bean-and-corn salsa and cilantro aioli. 1666 Bethlehem Pike.
In Rittenhouse: Bar Bombón
Your order: Buffalo cauliflower and albondigas. Why: The tangy-spicy-crunchy flavors are so well layered that you’ll have to flag down your server to confirm that they are indeed vegan. 133 South 18th Street.
In Swarthmore: 320 Market Café
Your order: Pulled pork. Why: At $7 for two tacos, the order at this beloved market is a deal, especially because the pork is slow-roasted in-house. Taco traditionalists should load up on the excellent salsas and guacs to get the flavor punch they’re craving. 713 South Chester Avenue.
In South Philly: South Philly Barbacoa
Your order: Barbacoa. Why: Bon Appétit recently named this spot one of the best new restaurants in the country. To that, we say: Duh. Philadelphians have been watching co-owner Cristina Martinez chop up her slow-cooked lamb to order since her food-truck days. 1703 South 11th Street.
Fishtown: Sancho Pistola’s
Your order: Korean rib tacos and Freedom tacos. Why: It’s a bar that serves tacos. Oh, you need more of a reason? The fusion here is never overwrought. The rib tacos have a touch of Asian spice; the Freedom tacos are served on a throwback hard shell. 19 West Girard Avenue.
West Philly: Taco Angeleno
Your order: Chicken. Why: The tacos here are served from a seasonal cart that lives on an open lot that the owner (an L.A. native) has tricked out with picnic benches and twinkle lights. The fact that the food is this flavor-packed is almost beside the point. 5019 Baltimore Avenue.
Doylestown: Sabrosa Taqueria
Your order: Taco pint. Why: Traditional elements (chorizo and refried beans, pastor pork, tortilla chips, onions) are layered in burrito-bowl-esque pints and consumed with a spoon. Fewer napkins needed. 34 East State Street.
This article first appeared as part of the Cheap Eats package in Philadelphia magazine’s October 2016 issue.