Cheap Eats: The Philly Diner’s 2016 Bucket List

Have you been to Philly's mac-and-cheese shop? Or the place that serves only dumplings? Here, the tastiest dishes from a slew of new, exciting eateries that take tastes to the extreme
Photograph by Claudia Gavin

Hungry? Match the numbers above to the descriptions below | Photograph by Claudia Gavin

This week on Foobooz, we’re publishing our guide to Philly’s new world of cheap eats: upscale quick cuisine that’s as exciting as a meal at Vetri — at a fraction of the price. Check out our roundup of one-dish wonders at eateries all around the region below. Or pick up the October issue of Philly Mag, on newsstands this week, to see all our Cheap Eats goodness in one place. 

1. A Pastry-Wrapped Sausage at Stargazy

Somehow, dropping in on Sam Jacobson’s British pie shop, Stargazy, on a gray and overcast afternoon and walking out with one of his hot, greasy, delicious sausage rolls feels like a Philadelphia tradition that’s existed forever. 1838 East Passyunk Avenue, East Passyunk.

2. A Cheesesteak on a Waffle at Ambler Feedstore

You’ll love Ambler Feedstore for being unapologetically over-the-top, especially in our era of raw food. Its inventive sandwiches have more components than a bowl of Vetri pasta, but eating this special—a Belgian waffle topped with steak, onions and a Tröegs beer cheese sauce—will be a tall tale you’ll tell forever. 242 East Butler Avenue, Ambler.

3. Make-Your-Own Mac-and-Cheese Bowl at Mac Mart

All those people waiting in line at this Rittenhouse newcomer? Yeah, they’re in desperate need of some serious comfort food, which here means a bowl of ultra-creamy mac-and-cheese. It’s the only thing Mac Mart makes. Eat your heart out with mix-ins like tater tots, spinach-and-artichoke dip and cornbread crunch. 104 South 18th Street, Rittenhouse.

4. Roast Pork and Broccoli Rabe on Nachos at Heffe

Only Heffe Tacos’ Peter McAndrews would put roast pork flavors on nachos. The plate of tortilla chips topped with pork, broccoli rabe, sharp provolone, radishes, salsa verde and about a billion other ingredients makes a mash-up of Mexican and Italian flavors seem totally normal. 1431 Frankford Avenue, Fishtown.

5. A Big-Ass Plate of Hummus at Dizengoff

Almost alarmingly simple, the Dizengoff concept (hummus, pita, sides) never needed any tweaking, not even when the NYC shop opened. The regular orders will never disappoint, but try the seasonal veggies (carrot, lima bean, turnip, squash) even if you think you won’t like them. 1625 Sansom Street, Rittenhouse.

6. Mini Artisanal Pizza at Snap Custom Pizza

The geniuses at Snap Custom Pizza took the thing we all loved about getting a slice at the mall (throwing whatever toppings we wanted on said slice) and the things we all love about artisan pizza (über-fresh ingredients, thin crusts) and blended them together, so now you can get whatever you want on your own heavenly pie. But the Bianco Verde, a suggested combo of herb butter, house-made mozzarella, ricotta and basil is pretty hard to resist. Multiple locations.

7. Loaded Kimchee Fries at Bop

Proving the theory that Korean flavors are good on pretty much anything, the chef at Bop tossed spicy kimchee on crispy potato wedges and slathered it all in a cheese sauce. Apologies in advance, because now your regular fries will be just so — sigh — blah. The Bellevue, 220 South Broad Street, Center City.

8. Buffalo Chicken Waffle Fries at Waffles and Wedges

Somewhere between a baked potato and poutine, the potato dish at Waffles and Wedges is slightly less guilt-inducing thanks to chicken that’s baked, not fried. 1511 Pine Street, Center City.

9. A Cup of Thai Ice Cream at Sweet Charlie’s

A disclaimer: Expect to wait, because since Sweet Charlie’s opened last spring, there’s pretty much always a line. Here’s why: You’ll get to see your ice-cream order go from cream base to frozen dessert before your eyes. The cool combos, like doughnuts and coffee or toasted s’mores, give you plenty to ponder in the meantime. 711 Walnut Street, Washington Square West.

10. A Bag of Cheesy Dumplings at Humpty’s Dumplings

Humpty’s Dumplings can pretty much make anything inside their thin dumpling shell work, but this version with the throwback family-dinner-night flavors of cheese and broccoli is a new favorite way to pretend we’re eating our vegetables. 277 North Keswick Avenue, Glenside.

11. A Rice Krispie, Fudge Brownie and Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar at Bakeshop

Bakeshop on 20th says that “childhood favorites” are part of its mission. They delivered on that promise with the Trifecta: a giant bar that’s one-third gooey fudge chunk brownie, one-third chocolate chip cookie and one-third Rice Krispie treat—and 100 percent nostalgia. 269 South 20th Street, Rittenhouse.

See Also: 25 Best Sandwiches in Philadelphia Right Now »

See Also: Philly’s Tastiest Tacos — By Neighborhood »

This article first appeared as part of the Cheap Eats package in Philadelphia magazine’s October 2016 issue.