We Asked Philly’s Mayoral Candidates Where They Like to Eat and Drink

Sid Booker's, Palizzi Social Club, and more restaurant and bar favorites mentioned by our would-be mayors.

Sid Booker’s in North Philly is a favorite spot of former State Representative, Amen Brown. / Photograph by Jason Varney

The primary election that will almost certainly determine Philly’s next mayor takes place on May 16th. (You knew that, right? Please add the date to your Google cal or, better yet, Sharpie it on your forearm.) The stakes are high, with a field of candidates hoping to usher our kinda-post-COVID city into the future. Read our voter’s guide for details on the people vying for the job.

A not-insignificant chunk of the campaign trail (and its coverage) has been dedicated to discussing corporate business growth and development. So we thought we’d ask our maybe-mayors to namedrop some of their favorite small businesses — the places where they like to eat and drink in their regular lives. Or so they say.

Restaurants and bars, and the people who make them happen, are essential to a healthy city. Without ’em, Philly just isn’t Philly. Here’s what the candidates said.

Underrated Philadelphia restaurants

The dining room at Saloon in Bella Vista. / Photograph by Michael Persico

Amen Brown

State Representative

Saloon, Queen Village
It’s a comfortable setting, the food is always phenomenal. The recipe is always the same. Nothing changes. There’s just a positive atmosphere. I like the lobster fra diavolo.

Booker’s, West Philly
It’s a Black-owned business. Quality service. There’s professionalism in the space. They set a good standard for Black-owned businesses and they always do an exceptional job. The environment is always on point.

Top Shelf, West Philly
It’s like our Cheers, where everyone knows your name. People from all over the city come there. It’s a well-known bar. There’s never no drama. Frequent regulars. When I’m here, I drink Casamigos Reposado on the rocks. 

Sid Booker’s, North Philly
You gotta go with Sid’s. There’s just something about standing in line for shrimp. That experience is all Philly.

Fred’s Water Ice, West Philly
They have good pizza pretzels. They’ve got a nice outdoor setting. It’s Black-owned. You gotta go try it.

DiNic’s in Reading Terminal Market / Photograph by Michael Persico

Jeff Brown

Grocery chain owner

La Famiglia Ristorante, Old City
I’ve been going to La Famiglia Italian restaurant in Old City since I was a kid. I’ve never had a bad meal. They’re just outstanding, and I like the old-world feel it has. I also am a fan of Giuseppe, the owner.

DiNic’s in Reading Terminal Market, Center City
I like DiNic’s Roast Pork at Reading Terminal. I think it’s a great sandwich, can’t say enough about how fantastic it is.

Toast Cafe, West Philly
It’s an awesome brunch spot on 52nd Street with great coffee. When I’m there, they make me a dairy-free French toast that’s amazing.

The bar at Palizzi Social Club. / Photograph by Jason Varney

Allan Domb

Developer turned former Councilmember

Philadelphia has amazing restaurants in every part of the city. I love Palizzi Social Club in South Philly for all the pasta on their menu. Ashburner Inn in the Northeast is great for pizza and mozzarella sticks. Victoria’s Kitchen on Ogontz Avenue has the best chicken and amazing desserts. Tasties in West Philly has great chicken wings.

What makes these restaurants special to me is that they are owned by Philadelphia entrepreneurs who have opened these restaurants and built their businesses from scratch. I will always do everything I can to support local entrepreneurs and help them thrive.

grant blvd Kimberly McGlonn

Pizza from Down North / Photograph by Jauhien Sasnou

Helen Gym

Former Councilmember

South Philly Barbacoa, Italian Market
Cristina Martínez models how food brings us together, tells a story, and ignites change. As a daughter of immigrants, I have deep admiration for the way that South Philly Barbacoa not only brings an entire neighborhood together around amazing food but exemplifies how small businesses can lead on strong worker protections and responsiveness to the needs of the community.

Down North, North Philly
Their pizza is phenomenal and their workforce development program that supports returning citizens is a powerful model that should be replicated across the city. You can’t beat comfort food with a mission.

Bubblefish, Chinatown
One of my go-to spots in Chinatown.

Buna Cafe, West Philly
After a long week, there’s nothing better than sharing a hot platter of Ethiopian food with a friend in West Philly.

chinatown best restaurants

Chinatown Square / Photograph courtesy of Chinatown Square

David Oh

Former Councilmember running as the lone candidate in the GOP primary

I served the whole city and worked with many communities so I have too many choices but here are a few.

McGillin’s Olde Ale House, Center City
Open since 1860, it’s the oldest continuously operating tavern in Philadelphia and one of the oldest in the nation. Located on a small, isolated street in the middle of Center City, McGillin’s offers a historic venue, tasty menu at prices that will keep that smile on your face, and a friendly, attentive staff. It has an upstairs bar when it gets crowded that is also available to rent for private events. The owners are a great couple that quietly support our city and neighborhoods.

Tierra Colombiana Restaurant, North Philly
Set in the Hispanic section of North Philadelphia, Tierra Colombiana offers traditional Latin American and Caribbean food and drinks in a setting that is distinctly Latino. It has a bar. The variety of cuisine from different countries is stimulating, as well as delicious. It has a night club next door with a stage that is often used for many of the community’s events.

Chinatown Square, Chinatown
Chinatown Square is a food-court style, food hall with a variety of international options, a Korean restaurant and an even a Johnnie Walker Lounge upstairs. All of this set in the heart of Chinatown where there are so many other great restaurants in case you change your mind or want to change locations for dessert.

Vietnam Cafe, West Philly
A lovely setting that matches the delicious Vietnamese food. It’s an upscale restaurant and bar in West Philly along the Baltimore Avenue corridor. Excellent service every time.

Gamarjoba, Northeast Philly
Authentic Georgian food in a large bright venue with an outdoor space for dining when the weather is nice. Georgian food and wine are famous for their rich flavors. Very friendly and attentive staff. Reasonable prices means you’ll be taking food home with you for later.

Bandeja paisa with maduros on the side at Tierra Colombiana / Photograph by Casey Robinson

Cherelle Parker

Former Councilmember

Tierra Colombiana Restaurant, North Philly
Great food, great vibe, one of my favorite places to eat with my team. The food and atmosphere always takes me back to wonderful times on my trip to my Eisenhower Fellowship trip to South America.

South Jazz Kitchen, Spring Garden
I love everything the Bynam brothers do, and South is no exception. My only regret is that I can’t list Relish – which recently closed – on this list.

Reading Terminal Market, Center City
Reading Terminal Market is my go-to spot. So many great options, and a true Philly institution.

kalaya fishtown

The bar at Kalaya in Fishtown / Photograph by Ted Nghiem

Rebecca Rhynhart

Former City Controller

The fried shrimp from Sid Booker’s Shrimp Corner in North Philly is awesome.

The Southeast Asian Market in FDR Park on Saturday mornings is a unique Philly food experience.

My family loves Kalaya. It’s amazing!

My favorite place for takeout is Iztaccihuatl. I usually order the fajitas de camarones, enchiladas verdes without the chicken, and their flan.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story misstated Amen Brown’s position.