Where to Eat Halal in Philly
Whether you want to dive into barbacoa, plov, or a whole bunch of kebabs, check out these 21 halal restaurants in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia is an underrated destination for halal food, the method by which meat is prepared for permissible consumption in the Muslim community. Just like NYC, D.C., or parts of Jersey, though, the range of halal restaurants here varies in cuisine and reflects the different cultures of people who live here — be it immigrant communities from Asian and African countries, or the city’s significant Black American Muslim population who has been practicing Islam since the 1960s.
The literal translation of halal is “permissible” — for example, pasta and salad are halal, regardless of whether they contain meat or not, but alcohol and pork are haram, or forbidden for observant Muslims. In the Muslim community, for a meat to qualify as zabihah halal, an animal — clean, healthy, treated with kindness, and fed well — should have its throat cut in a swift motion, a prayer uttered at the precise moment of slaughter, and the body drained of blood. (This last act has health benefits, making the meat resistant to bacteria growth, and allowing it to remain fresh for a longer period of time.)
While our city’s halal restaurants are often owned and operated by people from the Muslim community, usually immigrants, their food has always been enjoyed by Philadelphians from all walks of life. This guide focuses specifically on brick-and-mortar restaurants rather than carts (of which there are tons all over the city, like Sunny’s Halal that’s been serving food on Temple’s campus for four decades). Whether you want to eat a mouth-watering curry and a whole bunch of kebabs, or a cheesesteak and some excellent fried chicken, here’s where to go to eat halal in Philadelphia.
Saad’s is its very own kind of mecca for halal food on the East Coast, attracting both out-of-staters and Philadelphians to its one-floor, cafeteria-style space. On the weekends, it can be hard to find seating. But the wait will be worth it, since Saad’s melds the flavors of the owner’s native Lebanon with Philly staples like a cheesesteak teeming with beef shavings and translucent caramelized onions set on a roll and drizzled with ketchup. Basically, Saad’s halal cheesesteak is all meat, and then some. There’s also a chicken equivalent if you’re forgoing red meat, as well as the chicken shish tawook sandwich, which puts a twist on Lebanese grilled chicken by laying the soft chicken pieces on a hoagie roll. For a vegetarian option, try the falafel made with ground chickpeas and fragrant herbs and then deep-fried to crunchiness. There’s a precision and a specificity to the falafel that the rest of the food — which is indulgent — sometimes lacks, and that’s probably why you’ll see the falafel consistently flying out of the kitchen. 4500 Walnut Street.
This Yemeni restaurant is a recent addition in the West Philly area (it opened in 2018). Their lamb fahsah, which stews in a burning-hot clay pot until the flavor of the meat totally permeates the broth, is always a go-to choice in this small corner spot. The fahsah comes with Yemeni flatbread on the side, cooked on the clay walls of a huge oven. The bread is requisite eating here — it’s soft and scorched in equal measure. 136 South 45th Street.
Manakeesh Café and Bakery
Right next to Saad’s is Manakeesh, a high-ceilinged restaurant named after a freshly baked flatbread that’s topped with cheese, minced meat and za’atar, and often eaten for breakfast. Here, manakeesh options range from versions with a yolky egg to meaty stuff eaten for dinner, plus gluten-free manakeesh. They’re all baked in an oven that’s been imported from Lebanon and thick enough so that the flatbreads “hold in all the flavors and juices,” according to general manager, Adam Chatila, the 25-year-old son of the owner. Chatila grew up not far from the restaurant, and attended the Islamic school facing the bakery across the street as a child. “My father wanted something for the [surrounding] community that would help bring Muslims closer, and as a bridge between cultures.” As such, Manakeesh acts as a hub for Muslims to meet and socialize in this patch of West Philadelphia. Get the cheesesteak manakeesh or the shawarma platter with sliced pieces of meat meticulously cooked on a Lebanese wood charcoal grill. On the side, order hummus or baba ghannouj, and then dip the shawarma meat. You’ll find yourself feeling like you’re anywhere but Philly. 4420 Walnut Street.
Walk further up Walnut Street and you’ll find Makkah Market, a 24/7 grocery store selling things like tea leaves, honey, spices, olives, chickpeas, juice and cookies, raw frozen halal meat like beef, lamb, and chicken; plus Islamic books, clothing, trinkets and rugs. Makkah also has a self-service coffee stall, and a kitchen that serves new options every day from a buffet line. The shawarmas are some of the best in town, especially once you realize they cost around $6 per order. These are perfect for a quick lunch or a late-night snack. Grab a meal for takeout or sit and eat at a table in the cafeteria section of the store. Either way, you’ll want to tell every single one of your friends about this place immediately. 4249 Walnut Street.
Kabobeesh has a decidedly no-frills atmosphere: The Pakistani restaurant serves its spicy, mouthwatering kebabs, curries and stews in paper plates and styrofoam cups. But none of that really matters, since the food at Kabobeesh usually surpasses even the most upscale Indian or Pakistani restaurants in the city. Kebabs, lamb chops, and tandoori chicken are cooked on a charcoal grill in the kitchen, a riff on the traditional outdoor barbecue experience in northern India and Pakistan. (When you walk inside, make sure to get a glimpse the raw, marinated meat on spits behind a pane of glass near the cash register.) When it comes to juicy tandoori chicken, accompanied by naan bread, mint chutney, a half-lemon and onions on the side, texture is everything — the factor that distinguishes a real subcontinental kebab from a halfhearted, tepid rip-off. For example, the cylindrical-shaped reshmi kebab that quite literally translates to “silky kebab” in Hindi or Urdu: Marinated in a delicate mix of curd, a sheen of cream, and crushed cashew nuts, the kebab is grilled to silky perfection and soft to the touch. If you’re in a hurry, ask for the reshmi rolled in naan. 4201 Chestnut Street.
Across the street from Kabobeesh is Wah-Gi-Wah, a Pakistani, Indian, and Bangladeshi restaurant that offers curries and barbecue, as well as also an idiosyncratic dish that’s not so easy to find elsewhere in Philly: the keema naan. Here, minced beef is baked inside the naan, putting a twist on the classic flatbread. It’s a fun, indulgent snack, and it’ll fill you up no less than if you ate ground beef with naan on the side. 4447 Chestnut Street.
This Ethiopian restaurant wasn’t always halal, but that’s changed since opening, perhaps due to the increasing demand for halal meat from the Muslim community in the area. At Kaffa Crossing, tender tibs are sautéed in butter and spices, then served with the trademark cushiony injera. The sourness of the injera meshes with the boneless tibs, the flatbread’s almost-brackish saltiness soaking up the stock dripping from the chicken cubes. Still, as delicious as the tibs are, nothing compares to Kaffa’s lentils and veggies. It would be worth trying either (or both) the fiery misir wot with red lentils or the kik aletcha wot, which is subtler in taste. But the star of the menu is the zesty and rich okra wot, made with half-cut pieces of okra — ideally scooped up with a fistful of injera. 4421 Chestnut Street.
At this legendary Senegalese restaurant on Baltimore Avenue, the flavors rely primarily on a deep salting of the meat. Whether you’ve eaten a ton of Senegalese food before or you’re trying West African food for the first time, there are plenty of meat options that will work for you here, including a poulet roti or yassa made with chicken, beef, or lamb sautéed in peppers and dijon. Seafood is also a specialty of the restaurant, which means you should try the iconic thieboudienne, the national dish of Senegal that combines rice, vegetables and fish in a steaming pot of water, slow-cooking the mixture until the ingredients thicken. You can also get a whole tilapia or red snapper, fried or grilled, and subsequently showered with sliced cabbage and caramelized onions. Every meal is served with rice. Get the fried jollof version with peas, carrot and asparagus. It’s filling in a way that you’ll want to lie down after dinner (while you dream about jollof and feel proud of your dining decisions). 4519 Baltimore Avenue.
Desi Chaat House
The menu at Desi Chaat House is almost entirely dedicated to chaat, which makes it somewhat unique in Philly. So you should expect most of the vegetarian dishes at this tangerine-painted corner spot to involve a riff on chickpeas set in a bowl of yogurt, along with chopped onions, tomatoes, and cilantro leaves, sprinkled with chaat masala (a mix of chili powder, cumin, dried mango powder, and variations thereof) and then topped with something crunchy. Standby dishes here include samosa chaat with halved potato-filled samosas — popular in the Punjab region of Pakistan — and papri chaat. But Desi Chaat House also makes platters with strips of lamb or pieces of grilled chicken, and there’s a whole gluten-free section of the menu. Hang out in their small dining room with something cold to drink from the fridge or take your food to-go. 501 South 42nd Street.
Kensington and Northern Liberties
Hookah is the laid-back equivalent of going to a bar or a nightclub, allowing you to vibe in the city’s cool black nights. And it’s always better to go to a hookah place that also serves great food. (You should never smoke hookah on an empty stomach, since inhaling that much tobacco is bound to make you light-headed. Also, the melding of a classic mint or lemon-flavored hookah with your snack of choice is extremely satisfying.) Few places in the city nail this intricate balance: There was Aloosh near Drexel but it burned down; and then there was Amasi on Cecil B. Moore Avenue near Temple, which has departed somewhat from its homey vibe. Alamodak continues the legacy where others left off. Climb up the stairs to the second floor of this Middle Eastern restaurant, order some lamb chops, hummus with ground meat, or a mixed family-size grill if you’re smoking with a big party. The portion sizes here are generous, and the menu does a great job of balancing mezze with cooked dishes, such as deep-fried spheres of chickpea batter stuffed with beef. There are usually a bunch of specials available as well, like an eggplant sandwich or lamb freekah topped with nuts. Alamodak is the ideal place both for hookah aficionados and anyone wanting to try a new place for a late-night dinner — they close at 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. 161 Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
At this stylish new BYOB in Northern Liberties, you’ll be able to try traditional Turkish dishes such as tiny, lamb-filled manti dumplings covered in yogurt and chili oil, plus lamb shank with eggplant, and the bread-layered Iskander kebab. Pera’s glossy adana kebab — an oval-shaped kebab of ground lamb served with satin-y rice and a juicy tomato — is the closest you’ll get to a kebab in Istanbul without leaving Philly. For dessert, order the kunefe with shredded phyllo and not-so-sweet cheese. Just remember this restaurant has a walk-in only policy. 944 North 2nd Street.
Center City and Chinatown
Come to Paprica for the meat alone, the nearly limitless ways in which it’s cooked and made. While branded as a Mediterranean restaurant with an extensive menu, Paprica is Turkish in palate and presentation. The beyti, adana, and doner kebabs rarely miss the mark. But you should also try the suçuk sausage, a flatbread topped with doner kebab, and the buttery cubes of calf’s liver cooked in a pan with a ton of garlic and parsley. In terms of feel, this restaurant would be perfect for a casual night out. Come here for a random Wednesday dinner and it’ll probably be the highlight of your week. 811 Sansom Street.
After this New York-founded franchise opened a spot on Race Street in 2016, they expanded with locations on Chestnut Street, in the Northeast, and in the King of Prussia Mall. Originally a food cart in Midtown Manhattan, Halal Guys now represents what happens when a halal truck becomes a global franchise worth several million dollars, transforming East Coast street food into a fast food commodity available in countries like Japan, Mexico, France and Indonesia. The business is a testament to immigrant resilience and creativity, showing how rice dishes that were once eaten in a kitchen (cooked over time at home and by seasoned chefs alike) could translate to the styrofoam boxes and plastic forks and become accessible for all. Sure, Halal Guys is sort of like Burger King. Except instead of burgers, they serve chicken over rice. While there are plenty of local halal trucks around Philly — which, admittedly, are often more affordable and serve better food — it’s worth grabbing a bite at Halal Guys for the symbolism behind the name alone. There’s something in a Halal Guys shawarma with its grease and all its sauces you might not necessarily get in a typical shawarma at a sit-down restaurant. Plus, the spiciness never disappoints. 1016 Race Street.
Don Panchito’s Halal Mexican Grill
Don Panchito’s serves halal takes on Mexican food, which is especially exciting for younger Muslim generations craving for cuisines that reflect the diversity of the America where they grew up. The place is owned by millennial Mohammed Goubaa, who says, “It’s really hard to find an authentic Tex-Mex option that is [also] halal in the Muslim community… Mexican food is actually one of the most popular cuisines in America. We can just make it halal and then cater to the entire demographics.” Try something fried: flautas filled with shredded chicken then painted with chipotle mayo sauce or a fried burrito (an idea that came to Goubaa after he experimented with grilling a burrito). And make sure to mix and match the complimentary sauces, especially the exuberant spicy pineapple sauce that Goubaa says is an invention totally unique to the restaurant. If indecision starts to kick in, go for the halal steak quesadilla, fattened with cheddar cheese and tender barbacoa beef or some fish that goes well with the zingy pineapple sauce. 3180 Grant Avenue.
On Bustleton Pike in the Northeast, Samarkand Steakhouse (named after the Persianate city in southeastern Uzbekistan filled with turquoise-tiled mosques) offers a menu reflecting the regional diversity and connectivity of Central Asia and eastern Europe. It’s the perfect place for a big meal with friends or family on a Friday night because you’re going to want to order a feast and share everything. Samarkand’s platters lend to sharing anyway — like creamy beef stroganoff served on a bed of fries; buttery, panko-fried chicken Kiev; or the Plov Samarkand with big cuts of lamb shank, starchy white chickpeas, and broad carrot shavings coated in oil. Make sure to tap into the barbecue section of the menu, too. In the shish kebab category, you can get a bunch of cuts that have been marinated in lamb fat and then cooked over a charcoal flame. These will kick in some primal instincts, whether you’re ready for them or not. 135 Bustleton Pike.
South Street, Society Hill, and Queen Village
Sansom Kabob House
Sansom Kabob House is just as useful to know about for solo meals as it is for big group dinners where you can order a combination platter of chicken, beef and lamb. This restaurant serves a huge variety of Afghan food (think: pulao, grilled kebabs and hearty vegetable stews) and nearly every dish is accompanied by naan, crustier in texture than its Indian or Pakistani variants with straightened lines rippling through the bread. Pair that with some qablee palaw, made with tender lamb chunks, slivered almonds, carrot shavings, and, like all Afghan iterations of the dish, raisins. The cinnamon-y tang of the raisins (and the way they pop in your mouth) contrasts with the relative saltiness of the rice and meat. Other than that, the beef kebab is a must; if you’re feeling like something lighter, get the chicken kebab. 1300 South Street.
At Isot, you’ll eat typical Turkish kebab platters, lamb chops, and the like. But the unexpected star here is the $20 mixed mezze platter, without which no visit to this BYOB restaurant would be complete. It features, of course, a dollop of hummus trickled with olive oil, but that’s only the beginning of what you’ll get. The near-transparent abugannush — made of eggplant and then bathed in lemon juice — is fragrant with rosy pomegranate seeds, and there’s also some wine-dark acili ezme with some heat that can offset with the herby-creamy haydari. The heaviest mezze on the platter is the saksuka, a scoop of chopped mixed vegetables, which still provides the same consistency as the rest of the appetizers. Take a slice of pita bread, dip it into your mezze, and mix and match to your heart’s satisfaction. 622 South 6th Street.
A fixture of Society Hill for the past 40-plus years, Marrakesh is hidden in a narrow alley off South Street. It’s sort of like a portal to Morocco, complete with small round tables, luxurious pillows, and walls traced with forest-green Arabic script. For just $25 per person, you’ll get a ton of dishes served in quick succession, stuffing you until you can barely move. First comes salads with pita bread , followed by a baked pie with powdered sugar and filled with egg, chicken, and walnuts that establish the sweet-savory palate that makes Moroccan food so exciting to eat. Next you’ll get to pick between harissa chicken slow-roasted for four to five hours or a lemon chicken with olives (go for the harissa). After that, another choice: beef shish kebab or lamb tagine. Both are excellent options, but the lamb leaves a more lasting impression (with honey poured on the tender, nearly boneless lamb). By the time you’re finished the meal and you’re drinking some powerful mint tea with dessert, you’ll probably be in such a haze you might think the stained-glass lamps shaped like stars are starting to wink at you. 517 South Leithgow Street.
This Fairmount BYOB is perfect for a nice solo meal or a special occasion with your family or friends. The menu mixes Italian, Moroccan and Greek food, inspired by different foodways of the Mediterranean. That means you’ll get to choose between risotto, filet mignon, Greek-style angel hair pasta, tagine, and a whole bunch of seafood. If you’re coming for dinner, try the chargrilled swordfish, the rosemary-lemon chicken with olives, or the filet of sole stuffed with crab and bathed in mushroom sauce. The restaurant also serves brunch where you can eat crab-topped eggs Benedict and sunny-side up Moroccan eggs while you remind yourself to eat crab for breakfast more often. 2501 Meredith Street.
A four-minute walk from Tasker-Morris station, Hardena features a rotating buffet line with things like beef rendang curry that’s slow cooked in coconut milk for six hours, or the sour-spicy fried chicken ayam seasoned in white pepper and lemongrass. The menu changes slightly every day, so you’ll never have the same meal twice. There aren’t so many Southeast Asian halal options in Philly, and that’s just one of the many reasons Hardena stands out. It’s comforting, it’s consistent, and it’s family-run by Diana and Maylia Widjojo who took the business over from their parents. 1754 South Hicks Street.
Halal Crown Fried Chicken
A little-known fact is that Crown Fried Chicken, alternatively named Kennedy Fried Chicken, was founded by an Afghan immigrant in Brooklyn in 1969. Today, the famous fried chicken chain, which populates the entirety of the Northeast — and offers what is arguably some of the best fried chicken you’ll ever eat — tends to be run by Afghan-Americans. The chicken is halal, with a fried exterior so crunchy you’ll want to peel the batter off and eat the crunch on its own. Meanwhile, the middle of the chicken, juicy with fat and grease, simply melts. There are multiple locations in Philly, ranging from Germantown to South Philly to a store in the Hilton Garden Inn on Filbert Street. Pick up an order of Crown Fried Chicken in the brand’s trademark red-and-white striped boxes and enjoy with a set of gleaming buns and ketchup. KFC’s got nothing on this. 1317 Point Breeze Avenue.