Where to Eat in South Philly: The Ultimate Guide

South Philly has always been at the center of Philly’s restaurant scene. Here’s where to go for the best of everything below Washington Avenue.


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South Philly Barbacoa | Photo by Jason Varney

If Rittenhouse is the heart of fancy-pants Philly, the Northeast our melting pot, Fishtown our experiment in creative gentrification, and West Philly our global village, then South Philly has always been the soul of our restaurant economy. Here, among the BYOs, neighborhood haunts, award-winning kitchens, and cheesesteak joints is where Philly is most truly Philly. Where a dozen cuisines and traditions all cram together amid the rowhouses. Where a huge number of the best restaurants in the city cluster along one street (East Passyunk), Italian and French galleys sharing space with storefront BBQ and fried chicken and satay and tacos.

Sure, the area is heavy on Italian food. But all along 9th Street and through the Italian Market, we’ve got Vietnamese and Mexican restaurants that are so good (and so numerous) that they’ve already gotten their own lists — one for tacos, another for pho. We’ve got Point Breeze gastropubs and Indonesian cafes, Dutch breakfasts in Pennsport, British pie shops, Vietnamese comfort food in Newbold, and caviar service on Passyunk Avenue. South Philly encompasses multitudes.

And while there are a hundred little neighborhood joints south of Washington Avenue that have faithfully catered to the neighbors for decades, we’re focusing on those restaurants that have risen to become the best places to eat in what’s already Philly’s best restaurant neighborhood.

So let’s start with…

The South Philly Restaurants You Must Try First

best restaurants south philadelphia

Palizzi Social Club | Photo by Jason Varney

South Philly Barbacoa
Three days a week, from 5 a.m. until everything sells out, South Philly Barbacoa offers some of the best lamb barbacoa and pancita tacos you’ll find anywhere at their new, larger space at 9th and Ellsworth. The kitchen does consommé, seasonal aguas frescas, pop-up dinners with their chef friends, and fundraisers for everything from immigrant’s rights to local political candidates. 1140 South 9th Street

John’s Roast Pork
Sure, South Philly has Pat’s and Geno’s, locked in their perpetual war for cheesesteak dominance. But let’s be honest, Cheesesteak Vegas at 9th and Passyunk is for the tourists. John’s is where you really want to be: in addition to having better cheesesteaks, it also serves Philly’s definitive roast pork sandwich. 14 Snyder Avenue

Cheesesteak Vegas
Pat’s King of Steaks (est. 1930), Geno’s Steaks (1966), neon, tourists and — always! — the late-night crowd. Are there better places to get a cheesesteak in this city? Absolutely. But there’s simply no denying the gravitational draw of this corner. 9th and East Passyunk

NY Bakery
It’s been around since the 1920s, looks like a film set from the ’40s, still uses equipment from the ’50s, and serves what some consider to be the best tomato pies around, by the slice or the pie. 2215 South 11th Street

Stina
After time spent wandering the wilds of Philly’s restaurant ecosystem, chef Bobby Saritsoglou is in his own place, doing pizza and Mediterranean food for the neighborhood. 1705 Snyder Avenue

Mr. Martino’s Trattoria
Weekends only, cash only, BYO — Mr. Martino’s is the kind of place that could only exist in Philly, and the kind of place (red gravy Italian, served in an eclectic dining room, with a menu of ravioli, sausage, and octopus with canellini beans) that only Philadelphians would love. 1646 East Passyunk Avenue

Palizzi Social Club
If you have a membership, you already know what kind of magic this place has on its best nights, when the dining room is full and the drinks are flowing and the old men in the corner start playing Louis Prima tunes. If you don’t, find someone who does and experience a night here for yourself. Everything about it is as rough-edged, warm, and comforting as you imagine — and better than you can possibly believe. 1408 South 12th Street

Hardena Waroeng Surabaya
This Indonesian workingman’s cafe with its styrofoam plates, big portions, and simple, small dining room got a James Beard Award nomination this year. Our only question is what took them so long to recognize the excellence we’ve known about for years. 1754 Hicks Street

Victor Cafe
If you like singing waiters, this is your spot. I’ll be eating somewhere else, but hey — that just means one more open seat for you. Random opera from the waitstaff aside, people love the cozy, intimate space and menu of classic Italian dishes that wouldn’t have seemed out of place when John DiStefano opened it in 1933. 1303 Dickinson Street

The Best Restaurants in East Passyunk

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Fond | Facebook

Le Virtù
At this point, Le Virtù is almost more like a museum dedicated to the cataloging and preservation of Abruzzese cuisine than it is a restaurant. But, you know, a museum where you can still have a couple drinks and eat all the displays. 1927 East Passyunk Avenue

Saté Kampar
That a Malaysian BYO opened by a first-time restaurateur in an old shoe store on the city’s most competitive street rose (fast) to become one of its most loved restaurants is just one of the reasons why Philly is awesome. 1837 East Passyunk Avenue

Noord
If anyone would’ve told me ten years ago that lamb gratin and mini herring sandwiches would be part of one of the most popular menus on the Avenue, I would’ve said you were crazy. Now I can’t imagine what we’d do without the comforting Dutch flavors at Noord. 1046 Tasker Street

Mike’s BBQ
No, Philly is not known as a barbecue town. But someone forgot to tell Mike Strauss that — and he’s pretty much single-handedly trying to put Philly barbecue on the map. 1703 South 11th Street

Perla
With his kinilaw and short rib kare kare, chef Lou Boquila set off a Filipino mini-boom in the Philly restaurant scene. And with his massive, eat-with-your-hands, family-style kamayan dinners on Wednesdays and Sundays, he made group dining not just cool again, but one of the hottest reservations in town. 1535 South 11th Street

Fond
New American cuisine with a distinct French accent is Fond’s game. And they play it remarkably well, offering everything from foie gras with Asian pear and cinnamon cream cheese to duck hearts with tahini yogurt and lump crab soba in yellow curry broth. 1537 South 11th Street

Laurel
Nick Elmi’s first restaurant is still his masterpiece — his fanciest, most focused, most clearly defined Frenchy-New American menu, his most polished service, and a kitchen that leaves it all on the plate, every night. 1617 East Passyunk Avenue

Townsend
Sure, the classically, epically French menu is a sight to behold with its bone marrow, tartare, and côte de boeuf. But I’ve always liked the bar here even more than the dining room. It’s an unapologetically grown-up place for drinks that feels like it demands a tuxedo with the bowtie undone. 1623 East Passyunk Avenue

Stargazy
I still daydream about the sausage rolls here. The banoffee tart was one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. And honestly, neither of those things is even what Stargazy does best. 1838 East Passyunk Avenue

Marra’s
Classic street-corner Italian plus brick-oven pizza. Marra’s has been in business for nearly 100 years now, serving a kind of Italian food that’s so classic it has become timeless. 1734 East Passyunk Avenue

Redcrest Fried Chicken
If you live in the neighborhood and you’re not coming here at least once a week for the excellent buttermilk fried chicken and a couple biscuits, I just don’t know what’s wrong with you. Is it that you hate being happy? It must be. There’s really no other explanation. 1525 South 11th Street

Tamalex
Just off the Avenue, the tamales from this Mexican/ Honduran/ Salvadoran spot often sell out before 10 a.m. on Saturdays — they’re that good. 1163 South 7th Street

Pub On Passyunk East
The sidewalk seating at the P.O.P.E. ought to have a historical landmark attached for the number of good, bad, or simply memorable nights that have started or ended there. Good beer selection, a solid burger, nachos and some vegetarian options make it a fine rest stop on whatever voyage has brought you to the Avenue. 1501 East Passyunk Avenue

ITV
I love this place for a variety of ridiculous reasons: because one of the city’s best chefs does caviar service at an East Passyunk bar that also serves sour cream and onion chicharrones. Because he once served Thanksgiving shots of Wild Turkey out of the ass of a turkey-shaped ice sculpture. Because around Christmas, he serves venison and pork belly “Rudolph Pie” and chicken liver stroopwafel. I love the place because it’s where a smart chef’s sense of humor gets some exercise and balances out the seriousness of Nick Elmi’s other operations. 1615 East Passyunk Avenue

Bing Bing Dim Sum
The best compliment I can offer any restaurant is to say that there’s nothing on the menu I wouldn’t want to eat twice. And at this deeply weird Asian fusion spot house serving lamb dumplings and cheesesteak bao, there’s not much on the board that I wouldn’t want to eat every week. 1648 East Passyunk Avenue

Brigantessa
Southern Italian cuisine from the Le Virtù team, serving small plates, wood-fired pizzas, gnocchi with Calabrian chiles, and a big spread of antipasti dishes. 1520 East Passyunk Avenue

Bitar’s
The longstanding Middle Eastern grocery just went through a remodel to expand the small dining room, become more restaurant than shop. Which is awesome, because this place now serves fries topped with gyro meat and tahini — something I’d eat every day if I could. 947 Federal Street

Burrata
With a short Italian menu, beautiful plates, handmade pastas, and a bright, sunlit dining room, Burrata is the very definition of a modern South Philly BYO. 1237 South 13th Street

The Best Restaurants in Newbold, Point Breeze and Girard Estates

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South Philadelphia Tap Room | Facebook

American Sardine Bar
ASB’s menu goes through shifts and changes every now and again — but at its core, it exists as a kind of vegetarian-friendly American/Spanish/Mexican/New South fusion restaurant with a well-curated tap list, neighborhood brunch, and a gastropub-y vibe that’s odd for traditional South Philly, but completely appropriate for South Philly in 2018. 1800 Federal Street

Brewery ARS
In Philly, you’re really not an actual neighborhood until you have your own brewery and taproom. For South Philly, Brewery ARS is it. 1929 West Passyunk Avenue

Second District Brewing
Great local beer on tap, plus chicken wings, burgers, funnel cake, and Czerw’s pierogies. What more do you need? 1939 South Bancroft Street

Cafe Nhan
Homestyle Vietnamese comfort food in South Philly, prepared by a mother-and-son team, with a menu that covers everything from pho and bahn mi to Vietnamese coffee and lemongrass pork chops. 1606 West Passyunk Avenue

Brunic’s Luncheonette
I’m a fan of any place where I can get a short stack of pancakes for breakfast and walk out having spent less than four bucks. And a cheeseburger for $3? How can you beat that? 2000 South 17th Street

Café y Chocolate
It’s a fantastic spot for brunch, but the real draw here will always be the Mexican hot cocoa, made with spiced Oaxacan chocolate. Best had with some hot churros on the side. 2100 South Norwood Street

South Philadelphia Tap Room
SPTR is a survivor from the epoch when gastropubs ruled Philly’s dining scene. It does deviled eggs and pickles, fried brussels sprouts and kale salad. There’s a good cheeseburger, a fancy grilled cheese sandwich, a run of taps forever pouring something interesting and something local (often both at the same time), and a comfortable bar that always seems to be filled with friends. 1509 Mifflin Street

L’Angolo Ristorante
Davide and Kathryn Faenza have been running L’Angolo in this location for nearly 20 years, doing Italian cuisine from Puglia. The place is a neighborhood favorite, so reservations are a must — but it’s worth it. The space is comfortable, the service excellent, and the menu full of littleneck clams with spicy sausage, fresh rigatoni with shrimp, and radicchio and ravioli stuffed with broccoli rabe and ricotta. 1415 West Porter Street

La Mula Terca
There are people out there who say that this is the single most overlooked restaurant in Philly. And they may be right. The menu is a kind of pan-Latin fusion, offering Chihuahuan street food and Cuban sandwiches, arepas, lamb birria soup, Argentine churrasco, and Peruvian ceviche. It’s small, friendly, approachable, and delicious — so get down there and decide for yourself if the hype is worth it. 2053 South Beechwood Street

Scannicchio’s
Another classic, long-lived, neighborhood BYO, serving everything from gnocchi and lobster ravioli to veal parm and steaks topped with scallops, shrimp, and mozzarella, plus prix fixe, family-style menus for big groups. 2500 South Broad Street

The Best Restaurants in Pennsport, Whitman and Dickinson Narrows

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Créme Brûlée Bistro | Facebook

Bok Bar/Irwin’s
When the weather is warm, the bar on the roof of this former technical school in deep South Philly is one of the best seats in the entire city. Year-round, Irwin’s, the new-ish fine dining restaurant on the 8th floor, offers Middle Eastern cuisine in a beautiful, dark, and intimate industrial-rustic dining room with an excellent bar attached. 800 Mifflin Street

Créme Brûlée Bistro
They do brunch on the weekend and breakfast every day, with a sandwich menu that covers everything from croque monsieur to Tunisian tuna and Israeli sabich. At night, there’s Breton-style mussels, poulet roti and salmon in a mushroom sauce, all of it served in a small, brick-walled cafe space with a bakery case filled with desserts. 1800 South 4th Street

Caffe Valentino
Traditional Italian — and fantastic brick-oven pizzas — done in a loving tribute to cafe dining in Puglia. 1245 South 3rd Street

The Dutch
Every city needs a restaurant that specializes in brunch and serves it every day of the week. At the Dutch, that’s all they do: a combination of Dutch-Dutch and Pennsylvania Dutch specialties served every morning and afternoon in a combination effort from Fond’s Lee Styer and (now-former owner) Joncarl Lachman of Noord. 1527 South 4th Street

Herman’s
There’s something so Philly about a former auto shop with roll-up garage doors morphing into a neighborhood coffee shop that roasts its own beans. 1313 South 3rd Street

Food For Your Soul
Southern-style soul food with zero pretension, where mac-and-cheese counts as a vegetable and the collard greens are there for more than just show. 2039 South 5th Street

Mr. Joe’s Cafe
It’s basically an edible museum featuring old-school red-gravy South Philly Italian. A true icon. 1514 South 8th Street

Little Sicily II
Forget everything you see the minute you walk in. You’re not here for the regular pizzas, cheesesteaks, and hoagies on offer here. No — what you want is the semi-hidden “Spicy Food Menu” which will introduce you to the joys of Indo-Philadelphia cuisine. Of special note: the Indian-spiced chicken cheesesteak that you absolutely have to try. Get it with a side of masala fries. Thank us later. 1600 South Christopher Columbus Boulevard

New Phnom Penh
South Philly’s thriving Cambodian food economy runs the gamut from street hawkers to mom-and-pop shops; the small, always busy New Phnom Penh is one of its anchors. 2301 South 7th Street

La Virgen de las Nieves
A tiny corner eatery making a name for itself with fat tortas, deep-fried tacos dorados, and huaraches the size of your arm. 1839 South 8th Street

Mifflin Tavern
Because sometimes you just need a place to get a cold beer, some chicken wings, a fried chicken sandwich, or some chili. 1843 South 2nd Street