Where to Eat Like You’re on the Beach (Without Leaving Philly)

Just because you're not jetting off to the Mediterranean or even headed down the shore doesn't mean you can't trick your stomach with beach classics.

seafood scene

Sid Booker’s Shrimp Corner / Photograph by Jason Varney

Listen, I get it. There are countless reasons why you might not be traveling the way you want to this summer: gas prices, COVID variants, airports full of people waiting on cancelled flights, employers imploring you to “do” “your” “job.” But just because you’re not jetting off to the Mediterranean, or even headed down the Shore doesn’t mean you can’t trick your stomach into thinking you’re on a beach enjoying classic seafood and cold snacks. That’s where I come in. These are the treats I’m seeking out on the hottest days of the summer when I wish I were anywhere but in the city.

FDR Park Southeast Asian Food Market, South Philly
The Beach Snack: Slushies with Condensed Milk, Grilled Skewers, Fresh Fruit
FDR Park is probably the closest thing Philly has to a lakeside experience. And if you go on a Saturday, you can combine that psuedo-beachy feeling with the wonderland that is the Southeast Asian Food Market. Do a lap around the dozens of vendors selling Lao, Thai, Khmer, and Vietnamese food. Then grab a couple of beef and chicken skewers, some papaya salad, and a sugarcane juice, and set up a chair next to the pond for an enjoyable afternoon. Just bring cash — not all of the vendors accept cards and the park doesn’t have an ATM. 1500 Pattison Avenue.

Fred & Tony’s Restaurant, North Philly
The Beach Snack: Whole Fried Fish
Fred & Tony’s serves a whole range of Puerto Rican classics, but the most transportive among them, in my opinion, is the whole fried fish. I mostly nibble with my hands to avoid bones, enjoying the perfectly crispy skin and the moist inside. It’s just enough work to make you forget where you are for a few minutes. 201 West Allegheny Avenue.

Amazing Crab House, Queen Village
The Beach Snack: Fried Shrimp and Beyond
Everyone has their own dreams when it comes to beachy seafood. Personally, I’m a fan fried shrimp in mass quantities (for which Sid Booker’s Shrimp Corner in North Philly is especially known, by the way), but Amazing Crab House prepares pretty much every sea creature you could want in most styles. Seafood boil with shrimp, crab legs and potatoes? You’re in the right place. Fried oysters? Yes. Crab legs? You’ve go it. 604 South 2nd Street.

Small Oven Pastry Shop, Point Breeze
The Beach Snack: Soft Serve
Soft serve is a distinctly summer food to me, and you can find the best versions in the city right now over at Small Oven. The flavor combination is different each weekend (track it here), but I’m marking my schedule to make sure I get sweet corn and blackberry, and plum and raspberry. 2204 Washington Avenue.

La Llorona, South Philly
The Beach Snack: Ceviche and Aguachile
There’s a lot to love about La Llorona, but in the summer the thing to remember is that their menu is distinctly seafood forward. If scallop aguachile and shrimp ceviche and a whole lot of mezcal can’t transport you to the beach, it’s possible that nothing will. 1551 West Passyunk Avenue.

Nunu, Fishtown
The Beach Snack: Yuzu Watermelon Salad
Eating this watermelon salad is the adult version of being eight years old and eating so much watermelon at the beach that you make yourself sick. Nunu mixes in charred corn, avocado, jicama and arugula, which all pairs well with a bowl of their wok-fried black pepper udon noodles. 1416 Frankford Avenue. 

Sunset Social, University City
The Beach Snack: Cheese Fries
If you, like me, are not a member of a neighborhood pool where the snack bar serves shitty (read: perfect) cheese fries for afternoon snacking after being soaked in the sun, then let me direct you to the rooftop at Sunset Social. Here you can have better-than-they-need-to-be cheese fries with a view of the river and the skyline. Consider this one of the best dry-land alternatives to the beach that we’ve got. 129 South 30th Street.

Craftman Row Saloon’s shore-themed pop-up runs all summer. / Photograph by Laura Swartz

Craftsman Row Saloon, Center City
The Beach Snack: Funnel Cake and Hot Dogs
Stay with me here: I know we’re talking about a Center City beer bar, but Craftsman Row is running a shore-themed pop-up all summer where you can order funnel cake, hot dogs, and a watermelon smash cocktail. It’s decorated like a cheesy grandma’s beach house (in the best way) meets the Boardwalk, but without all the sand. 112 South 8th Street.

Frankford Hall, Fishtown
The Beach Snack: Boozy Milkshakes
There’s something about being on vacation that makes you eat things that might seem like too much in your everyday life. Enter: alcoholic milkshakes on Frankford Hall’s dessert menu. Options include strawberry cake, chocolate covered pretzel, and vanilla stroopwafel. Consume while playing corn hole for the full effect. 1210 Frankford Avenue.

L’Angolo Restaurant, South Philly
The Beach Snack: Seafood Pasta
My ideal summer day would be spent on a beach in Italy, where I rouse myself from the beach lounger only for a perfect bowl of seafood pasta at a seaside restaurant. L’Angolo doesn’t have beach loungers or a seaside view, but it does have satisfying spaghetti alla scoglio served with mussels, clams, shrimp, and rings of calamari resting on top like little halos There’s also BYO policy here, which means you can bring a cold bottle of some very nice Italian white wine. 1415 West Porter Street.

Hook & Master, Kensington
The Beach Snack: Rum Cocktails
The concept of Chicago-style pizza, seafood starters and tiki-inspired cocktails doesn’t quite add up to me, but that doesn’t change the fact that a blended rum cocktail is just about the beachiest thing you can drink. Hook & Master has very, very good ones. Maybe if you drink enough, the rest of the menu will start to make more sense. 1361 North 2nd Street.