Where to Eat in Northern Liberties

BYOBs galore, great Middle Eastern food, and happy hour spots where you can bring a group.

Beef suya platter with jollof and plantains at Suya Suya / Photograph by Ted Nghiem

In recent years, Northern Liberties has become home to a ton of younger Philadelphians who want to have a great time. And that great time takes many forms — from a whole lot of neighborhood bars to the variety of BYOBs. This guide is for the folks who live or work in the area (or are just visiting from another neighborhood for the night), and are looking to get to know the best Northern Liberties has to offer.

We’re defining the Northern Liberties neighborhood as 6th Street to the Delaware River, between Spring Garden and Girard Avenue.

Suya Suya West African Grill
Suya Suya is the most exciting restaurant in Northern Liberties right now. It’s named for its signature dish, suya, a staple street food in Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja, where owner Dera Nd-Ezuma is from. Simply, the dish is comprised of skewered meat rubbed with peanuts, paprika, chilies and bouillon and then grilled. At Suya Suya, you’ll find both chicken and beef suya, built into a fast-casual model where you can customize a platter with jollof rice, plantains, and cornbread. It’s the kind of convenient and incredible spot we wish existed in every neighborhood. 400 Fairmount Avenue.

So you want to date someone who’s vegan without taking them to the same four restaurants over and over again? Congratulations, Pietramala has come directly from your sexy plant-based dreams to North 2nd Street in Northern Liberties. The menu at this BYOB celebrates seasonal vegetables without being too up-their-own-butts about the whole thing. You’ll see a beautiful chicory salad that tastes precisely like a caesar, made with dried olives and grated Barn Cat cheese concocted from tofu. You’ll eat fried lion’s mane mushroom nuggets lathered in what’s essentially a spicy-sticky duck sauce. If you’re lucky, you’ll eat braised beans in a tomato conserva that could easily cameo at the city’s best Italian restaurants without anyone knowing the difference. Bring some wine (know that there’s a $20 corkage fee), sit amidst the monstera leaves, and show some appreciation for the vegetables we all should be eating more of anyway. 614 North 2nd Street.

Spuntino Wood Fired Pizza
Every neighborhood in Philly has to have a spot for gathering over Neapolitan pizza and salad with a little wine and beer. Spuntino is that place for NoLibs. Order at the counter, then take your food to one of the tables and enjoy the bubbly char that comes from the large wood-fired oven in the center of the kitchen. Also good to know if you live in the neighborhood: they’re open for lunch. 701 North 2nd Street.

Love & Honey Fried Chicken
Learning to make perfect fried chicken is easy: all it takes is a decade of practice and a willingness to spend the rest of your life in pursuit of one thing. Lucky for us, Todd Lyons made that sacrifice, and he and his wife Laura showcase the results in this little takeaway spot, serving excellent plates of chicken drizzled with a kiss of honey to an ever-growing legion of fans. 1100 North Front Street

The Kettle Black
The Kettle Black does both bakery classics (bagels, croissants, soft pretzels) and creative baked goods with equal excellence. At a lesser bakery, a (vegan) funfetti croissant might seem gimmicky and gross, but at the Kettle Black, they’ve dialed in the rainbow sprinkles so they’re elegant rather than over-the-top (and it tastes totally delicious). Weekend mornings often bring lines, but these typically move quickly, and the wait is worth some cheddar-jalapeño pretzel bagels. Heads up, The Kettle Black mostly operates as grab-and-go place, with just a couple of stools at the window. 631 North 2nd Street.

A spread of mezze at Pera / Photograph by Eddy Marenco

Pera Turkish Cuisine
Located inside what used to be Dmitri’s, Pera is carrying on the tradition of great BYOBs in this 2nd Street spot. Settle into a table in the sunny dining room, and work your way through the Turkish menu of mezze, lamb-filled manti, eggplant dip, and grilled meats. Even if you’re full, don’t skip baklava from the pastry case. 944 North 2nd Street.

Standard Tap
Standard Tap is one of those spots that’s good for pretty much any situation. Happy hour, date night, dinner with friends, and late-night drinks are all totally appropriate in the big space (that has a fireplace they light when it’s cold outside and a pool table). Try a local cheese plate, a mackerel croquette, oysters, or a burger. 901 North 2nd Street.

Honey’s Sit’n’Eat
As implied by the name, Honey’s is all about comfort. The menu brings together Southern cuisine (see: a grits bowl with cajun fried catfish, fried green tomatoes and a biscuit sandwich) as well as Jewish food (challah French toast, a brisket breakfast platter, and a lox platter) and Mexican classics (they do a breakfast burrito, huevos rancheros, and enfrijoladas.) Breakfast and lunch are served all day, and there are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options. 800 North 4th Street.

Apricot Stone
Another great neighborhood BYOB where it’s easy to lose track of time in. Come here and graze your way through Armenian mezze and grilled lamb skewers, plus fattoush and spanakopita. Apricot Stone is casual-feeling enough for a group dinner, but nice enough for a date night, which makes it especially useful if you live in the area. 1040 North 2nd Street.

Baan Thai
Baan Thai does a very busy takeout business, but it’s also got a comfortable dining room with space for dine-in, and there’s usually a last-minute table available. You can certainly rely on standards like pad Thai, drunken noodles, and curries, but pay special attention to the larb gai with tons of herbs, lime juice, and crunchy roasted rice, and the clay pot seafood dish, which comes to the table hot and fragrant with noodles, vegetables and shrimp. 1030 North American Street.

Photograph courtesy of Cafe La Maude

Café La Maude
A restaurant that offers a long list of breakfast food is probably going to be a hit, and Cafe La Maude does just that. Yes, this daytime spot has classic eggs Benedict and pancakes topped with strawberry and banana, but they also do pancakes stacked with baklava, both red and green shakshuka, foul moudamas topped with scrambled eggs, and lots more. The food skews Lebanese-French (with a BYOB policy and no reservations offered) and the more you explore the menu, that happier you’ll be. 816 North 4th Street.

Jerry’s Bar
Jerry’s is NoLibs’ local Quizzo pub — the kind of spot with a lot of regulars, $8 wine, and plenty of $5 happy hour deals. The cocktails are solid, and the food ranges from burgers and fish and chips to local cheese boards, and grilled branzino. 129 West Laurel Street.

Pelicana Philly
The best strategy at this popular Korean fried chicken chain is to go with a group and order as many different pieces of bone-in chicken as you can. Pelicana doesn’t serve alcohol, but there are plenty of tables to spread out your chicken fest. 719 North 2nd Street.

Heritage hits the sweet spot of being both a restaurant and bar, but also a live music venue with a regular roster of performers. The vibe in here feels casual, with a big bar and high top tables, and a sunny outdoor space perfect for afternoon hangs. This is the kind of place where you’ll want to meet friends after work and split a bunch of crispy Brussels sprouts, wings, and  fries. 914 North 2nd Street.

Hikari does all the casual sushi standards you know and love, like a good selection of sashimi and nigiri, plus specialty rolls named after the neighborhood and other free-association topics. But there are some larger options at this BYOB spot as well, like light and crisp tempura platters, and a generous chirashi bowl for around $30. 1040 North American Street.

Anejo Philly

Photograph courtesy of Añejo

Classic Mexican dishes in a swanky space is the name of the game at Añejo. Happy hour deals flow right into busy weeknight dinners where diners scarf down short-rib tacos, chicken adobo empanadas and (probably) multiple margaritas. They also do a popular weekend brunch and offer at $14 set lunch menu during the week. 1001 North 2nd Street.

Kaplan’s New Model Bakery
A lot of restaurants, bars, and bakeries in Northern Liberties are new. But Kaplan’s has been selling rye bread and Jewish pastries in the neighborhood forever. Stop by for challah, Black Russian rye, and bagels, but know that you likely won’t be able to resist the cookies — nor should you. 901 North 3rd Street.