Where to Eat in Northeast Philly: The Ultimate Guide
For khachapuri and steaming bowls of Uzbek rice, hit the boulevard.
I get it: Northeast Philly is big, and maybe even a little mysterious unless you live there. (Fox Chase? Juniata? Rhawnhurst?) So I’m beyond excited to let you know that the food there is good. Extremely good. So good that I once rode my bike miles down Roosevelt Boulevard for a pastrami sandwich at Steve Stein’s Famous Deli. While I can’t condone that two-wheeled trek, I can recommend you make a trip one way or another, especially if it means trying something new. Northeast Philly is a good place for that.
The Northeast Philly Restaurants You Must Try First
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Picanha, Oxford Circle
Sometimes overshadowed by its more popular (and expensive) counterparts, Picanha is certainly the most underrated Brazilian steakhouse in Philly. The buffet is solid, with salads and black beans. And the mashed potatoes are surprisingly good. It’s everything a churrascaria should be: a haven for the appreciation of meat. 6501 Castor Avenue.
Mayfair Diner, Mayfair
Diner competition is stiff in Philadelphia, and I don’t like to see Mayfair Diner left out of the conversation. It’s ancient, unwavering and soul-nourishing. Get anything you want: It’s open 24-7. 7373 Frankford Avenue.
Steve’s Prince of Steaks, Oxford Circle
The original Steve’s location makes the controversial choice of adding full, unchopped slabs of meat to their cheesesteak. It’s not an easy style to pull off — perhaps why so many people are wary of it — but I don’t think every cheesesteak needs its beef chopped into oblivion. Pile on the cherry peppers and enjoy. 7200 Bustleton Avenue.
China Gourmet, Mayfair
China Gourmet is huge — massive, actually, and the menu is as expansive as the space. The roving dim-sum carts are bursting with custard buns, rice-noodle rolls and other things that are all generally steamy, chewy and delicious. 2842 Saint Vincent Street.
Steve Stein’s Famous Deli, Bustleton
This is one of the last standing Jewish delis in a neighborhood that, at one point, was brimming with them. Steve Stein’s is more than a relic though; it’s a great place to get a sandwich. Pastrami on rye or a bagel with lox are the go-to’s. 1619 Grant Avenue, suite 39.
Sweet Lucy’s, Holmesburg
Good barbecue is hard to come by in Philadelphia, but there are a select few spots that satisfy the craving when it hits. I promise you Sweet Lucy’s is one of them. 7500 State Road.
Rieker’s Prime Meats, Fox Chase
The endless deli counter at Rieker’s is packed full with house-cured and smoked meats. It’s a lovely place to lose yourself in. The leberkäse in particular is so rich and delicate and perfectly salted. I almost don’t want to recommend the kielbasa here; it sets too high a standard. But definitely get the liverwurst, even if you think you won’t like it. 7979 Oxford Avenue.
Fink’s Hoagies, Tacony
Fink’s is one of the best hoagie spots in Philly. The signature sandwiches all somehow taste both distinct and classic, especially the Original Italian, which is kicked up by a very sharp provolone and a proprietary olive spread. The seeded French Liscio’s roll is, of course, non-negotiable. 4633 Princeton Avenue.
Georgian Bread, Somerton
You need to get the khachapuri here: The adjaruli style is ideal. What better vehicle for butter, bubbling cheese and a soft egg than freshly baked bread? 10865 Bustleton Avenue.
The Best Restaurants in the Far Northeast
Alshami Mediterranean Cuisine, Torresdale
Alshami is a relative newcomer to the neighborhood. The specialties are fatayer and manakeesh — Levantine breads topped or stuffed with meat, cheese and herbs. Get the hummus and baba ganoush sampler, too. It comes with dolmas, which are exceptional, and very crispy falafel that are vibrant green with herbs. 3217 Willits Road.
Plov House, Bustleton
It’s right in the name: Get the plov. The classic Uzbek rice dish is transformative if you’ve never had it: subtly fragrant rice with sweet carrots and chunks of beef as soft as butter. They do sell dishes pre-packed for reheating, so be sure to ask for your plov to be made fresh. And order a samsa, too. 9969 Bustleton Avenue.
Mallu Cafe, Bustleton
Mallu serves up generous portions of Kerala-style South Indian food. Try the biryani and flaky porotta, or go for something more regionally specific like the beef cutlet, a kind of potato and beef fritter flavored with ginger and chili. 10181 Verree Road.
Shish Kabob Palace, Bustleton
Shish Kabob Palace’s blend of Central Asian cuisine with Sephardic Jewish and Russian influences hits your plate hot from the grill. The hefty kabobs are charred and piled high with onions, evoking flavors of the Middle East and Eastern Europe. 1683 Grant Avenue.
Uzbekistan Restaurant, Somerton
Like many Uzbek spots in the neighborhood, Uzbekistan Restaurant serves great manti, vareniki and plov, but the digs are elevated with old-school decor. It’s both cozy and refined in the way a good bowl of borscht is. 12012 Bustleton Avenue.
The Best Restaurants in Rhawnhurst
Gaeta’s is a classic Philadelphia bakery that makes an exceptional tomato pie. The crust is just thin enough, and the sauce is just sweet enough. It’s crunchy and deeply layered with rich tomato flavor. It’s textbook. 7616 Castor Avenue.
Lipkin’s is known for their traditional Jewish baked goods, but in addition to bagels, rye and challah breads, they’ve got a killer pound cake. The knishes, however, are the main attraction. 8013 Castor Avenue.
The selection of Russian and Eastern European groceries at Bell’s Market is unmatched. There’s an overwhelming variety of unique caviar, cheeses, breads and smoked fish from which to choose. They have prepared foods as well, so make sure to grab some dumplings or blintzes on the way out. 8330 Bustleton Avenue.
Cantinho is a casual spot with great Brazilian food. It’s a different experience than the steakhouses you may be used to: The food is all sold by weight, so load up your plate with as little or as much as you can manage. 7536 Castor Avenue.
The Best Restaurants in Oxford Circle
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Morning Star Pastries
Hit Morning Star early for a breakfast of Hong Kong-style buns. Come back later — or just never leave — and dive deep into a steaming bowl of congee or rice-noodle soup for lunch. 6918 Bustleton Avenue.
Tio Pepe is the spot for Portuguese food in Northeast Philly. Start with a bit of chourico sausage, served on a flaming ceramic grill, and finish with a big pan of paella Valenciana. Wash it all down with a glass of sangria. 6618 Castor Avenue.
The pastries here span the entire gamut of Colombian baked goods. They have empanadas, pan de bono and a variety of things both savory and sweet — all perfect to eat with coffee. 6039 Castor Avenue.
The arepas and tostones are great, but the whole chicken, beef ribs and steaks — really anything cooked on charcoal — are what make this place special. Finish what is likely to be a heavy meal with a light passion-fruit mousse for dessert. 6516 Castor Avenue.
The Best Restaurants in Juniata and Lawncrest
Pupuseria Sabor Latino #2, Juniata
A good pupusa sticks with you for days. The lingering memory of lightly charred corn dough, hot cheese and rich salsa roja is hard to shake. Suddenly I’m back at Pupuseria Sabor Latino piling curtido, a Salvadoran pickled slaw, onto a hot pork and cheese pupusa. When you go, know that it may take a little time: The pupusas are all made fresh to order. 1446 Hunting Park Avenue.
Cafe Saigon, Lawncrest
Cafe Saigon makes great — and cheap — banh mi sandwiches. Beyond that, you’ll find a menu of bright and flavorful Vietnamese dishes: rice vermicelli, noodle soups and crispy spring rolls. 827 Adams Avenue.