October 21, 2021

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Best Places to Eat in Philadelphia, According to a Local

7 min read
  • I grew up near Philadelphia, and there are so many great eateries there.
  • Get giant breakfast sandwiches at Middle Child and try a refreshing latte at La Colombe in Fishtown.
  • Grab vegan donuts at Dottie’s in Society Hill or West Philadelphia or get Sicilian food at Irwin’s. 

In addition to boasting world-class cultural institutions, Philadelphia is home to top-notch restaurants and a lively music scene

As a life-long resident of the Greater Philadelphia area who also lived in Philly after college, I’ve compiled a list of places you should definitely get food from.

Middle Child serves giant breakfast sandwiches

Try a Phoagie, a mix between a hoagie and banh mi, at Middle Child.

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Giant breakfast sandwiches filled with fluffy eggs, arugula, and sharp American cheese are the star of the show at Middle Child, a luncheonette in Washington Square West. You have the option of customizing your breakfast sandwich with items like avocado, bacon, and even a hash brown.

It also serves specialties like The Phoagie (a cross between a hoagie and a banh mi) and The Surfer (a turkey-and-Swiss sandwich).

Tip: Meat-lovers should try The Herschel, eggs and corned beef stacked between slices of seeded rye bread.

Mission Taqueria is a fun place to get tacos and margaritas 

Mission Taqueria, a lively restaurant in Rittenhouse Square decorated with plants and bright-colored decor, serves tacos with fillings such as carnitas, fried mahi-mahi, and roasted cauliflower. Since the owner has Celiac disease, Mission Taqueria’s menu is entirely gluten-free.

Tip: During happy hour, tacos are $2 and house margaritas are $6.

Good Karma Café is an eco-focused local chain with seasonal specialties

If you’re a coffee enthusiast, make a stop at Good Karma for a pink-petal latte.

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Good Karma, a café with four locations around the city, serves coffee, tea, soups, and sandwiches. True to its name, Good Karma’s coffee beverages are brewed from fair-trade beans.

In addition to its regular menu, this eco-friendly chain offers seasonal drink specials, such as the Pink Petal (an iced latte crafted with beetroot powder, honey, and rose) and the Dandy Lion (iced green tea mixed with lemonade and lavender). 

Tip: Good Karma’s Pine Street and S. 22nd Street locations have “secret” patios and front sidewalk seating.

The Tasty dishes out vegan diner food 

The Tasty, a South Philly favorite, serves vegan iterations of diner eats — think biscuits with meat-free gravy, breakfast burritos filled with scrambled tofu, and tempeh bacon BLTs. There are daily pastry specials as well. 

Tip: The Tasty is open Wednesday to Sunday and currently accepts call-ahead orders for pickup only.

Bloomsday Café has a vegetarian-friendly menu and happy-hour specials 

There are vegetarian-friendly options at Bloomsday.

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Located in Headhouse Square, Bloomsday borrows its name from James Joyce’s novel “Ulysses.”

This all-day, vegetarian-friendly café is open for brunch, dinner, and happy hour. Bloomsday is closed on Monday and Tuesday.

It offers new spins on comforting classics, from a “waffled” croissant to seared mushrooms with polenta, and has an extensive wine list. If you want to take a bottle of vino with you, there’s an in-house wine shop, too.

Tip: During happy hour, you can order a riff on Philly’s Citywide Special, a 3-ounce burger and a can of Lambrusco, aka a “Lambrewski.” 

Suraya, a Lebanese café, market, and restaurant, serves brunch and dinner 

For a taste of Lebanon, try Suraya. This Fishtown restaurant has a cafe and a market, and offers full-service dining indoors or outside in a garden area.

The dinner menu spans from hummus and labneh (creamy strained yogurt) to kafta kebab (seasoned beef kebabs) and kawarma (slow-roasted lamb).

On the weekend, you can order from a brunch menu featuring dishes such as ful mudammas (stewed fava beans with poached eggs) and samke harra (grilled branzino fillet), not to mention a pastry basket ladened with kouign amann (a sugary pastry), olive-oil cake, and other baked goods.

Tip: If you can’t decide what to order, opt for the prix fixe Taste of Suraya for a little bit of everything. It costs $65 and serves two. 

Nomad tops pizza with gourmet ingredients 

Pizza lovers have to try the gourmet toppings at Nomad.

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Located near South Street, Nomad is a pizzeria that tops pies with gourmet ingredient combos like fig and guanciale (cured pork) or arugula and buffalo mozzarella. Pair your meal with a classic Italian cocktail such as a Negroni or a spritz.

Tip: Nomad has some can’t-miss appetizers, from arancini (fried risotto balls) to a salad with roasted beets, carrots, and goat cheese. There are also two locations in New Jersey with a few menu items you can’t order in Philly. 

Abyssinia is an affordable Ethiopian restaurant

Abyssinia, an Ethiopian restaurant in West Philly, is perfect for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.

This is a great choice for budget-conscious travelers since entrees cost between $10 and $15. If you’d like to sample multiple dishes, order a combo platter.

Meat combos include items such as qey wot (beef simmered in berbere sauce) and yebeg alicha (curried lamb stew), while veggie platters contain things like ye’misir wot (split lentils in berbere sauce) and ye’gomen wat (sauteed collard greens with onions, tomatoes, and garlic). 

Tip: Abyssinia has a “secret” upstairs whiskey bar called Fiume. It’s temporarily closed, but it’s worth frequenting when it reopens. 

Try a creamy draft latte at La Colombe’s Fishtown flagship

La Colombe is a must-visit spot.

Zoë Miller for Insider


La Colombe, a Philly coffee chain with 30 locations in six US cities, has a flagship cafe in Fishtown with an airy, industrial vibe.

Several signature drinks are available on tap, including the draft latte (a cold, creamy beverage) and the black-and-tan, a creation that melds the draft latte with iced black coffee. 

Tip: While you’re in the neighborhood, check out the shops along Frankford Ave and E. Girard, such as Jinxed, a vintage furniture and home-decor store, and Harriett’s Bookshop, which specializes in books by Black authors and women. 

Dottie’s Donuts is a vegan bakery that sells eye-catching creations

Dottie’s, a vegan donut shop with locations in Society Hill and West Philly, produces innovative, eye-catching pastries in flavors like raspberry vanilla, cold-brew Oreo, and maple tahini.

You can also choose from classics such as rainbow sprinkle and Boston cream. 

Tip: Flavors change daily, so ask what’s available when you go. 

Franklin Fountain is an old-fashioned soda and ice-cream shop

There’s nothing like an old-fashioned soda and ice-cream shop, like Franklin Fountain.

Zoë Miller for Insider


Cool off with a retro treat at Franklin Fountain in Old City. This old-fashioned soda fountain churns out ice cream flavors ranging from vanilla bean and Hydrox cookie (known today as cookies and cream) to caramelized banana and butter pecan.

There’s also a rotating selection of seasonal flavors, such as honeycomb and peppermint stick. If you’d prefer a beverage, you can opt for a float or a rickey. 

Tip: Go early in the afternoon to beat the crowds. Additionally, be sure to mention any food allergies when placing your order. The chain keeps some ice-cream cartons separate to avoid cross-contamination.

Kalaya serves Thai curries and dumplings 

Kalaya is a cozy Thai restaurant in Bella Vista named for the owner’s mother. Curries, dumplings, and salads are all on offer.

Some of the most popular items are kang gai kow mun (chicken curry), som tum (green papaya salad), and sakoo sei hed (tapioca dumplings filled with shitake mushrooms and peanuts). 

Tip: For an appetizer that looks like a work of art, order shaw muang, blue, flower-shaped dumplings with ground chicken, peanuts, and cucumber. 

Tattooed Mom is a funky bar on South Street

You can enjoy outdoor dining at Tattooed Mom.

Zoë Miller for Insider


A mural of mermaids greets patrons at Tattooed Mom (affectionately called TMoms), a funky bar on South Street currently offering outdoor seating and takeout.

With a graffiti meets rococo aesthetic, this watering hole serves playful cocktails like the Pop Rocket, a drink made with raspberry vodka and Pop Rocks candy, and the Fortune Fish, which contains blackberry schnapps and Swedish Fish.

There’s also a full food menu that includes a section dedicated to fries and tater tots.

Tip: Tattooed Mom’s cheesesteaks, burgers, and fried-chicken sandwiches can be ordered with plant-based protein substitutes.

Tuna Bar serves sushi named after Philly neighborhoods

Tuna Bar, a raw bar in Old City, serves traditional sushi rolls like California and yellowtail scallion in addition to specialties named for Philly streets and neighborhoods.

The Broad Street roll contains spicy salmon and avocado, while the Rittenhouse is filled with ingredients such as spicy tuna and lobster tempura.

Tip: The dessert options are just as mouthwatering as the sushi. Conclude your meal with matcha lava cake or yuzu cheesecake.

Eat Sicilian food with city views at Irwin’s

Situated on the roof of the Bok Building, a former high school in South Philly repurposed as a maker space, Irwin’s offers natural wine and Sicilian fares such as caponata (a vegetable dish similar to ratatouille), bucatini with monkfish, and agrodolce chicken (a sweet and sour take on poultry). 

Tip: Free parking is available nearby. The Bok Building is also on SEPTA’s 47 bus route, which stops at 8th and Mifflin Streets.

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