clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
Several birria tacos lined up next to a white bowl holding a bright red sauce.
Birria tacos at Juana Tamale.

Filed under:

How to Eat Your Way Through Philadelphia in 24 Hours

Look beyond the cheesesteak for a true taste of the City of Brotherly Love

Philadelphia may be best known nationally for its hearty cheesesteaks and technicolor water ice, but there’s so much more to eat in the City of Brotherly Love. To get the full picture, read through Eater’s City Guide. But if one day in Philly is all that you’ve got, consider forgoing the city’s famous foodstuffs in favor of some other classics for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Start in South Philly at Bok Building, where you’ll get going with a menu of pastries and coffee, with some light shopping inside the building on the side. From there you can be ambitious and walk (Philly is a fairly small city and is great for walking), or rent a bike and see the sites that way. The subway is so-so but it’ll definitely get you from one place to another if you’d rather not get too sweaty. You’ll definitely be covering a lot of ground, so get going early and wear elastic-waist pants.

9 a.m. Pastries at Machine Shop Boulangerie

A tray of pastries including croissants and kouign amann.
Pastries at Machine Shop Boulangerie.

A perfect day always starts at a pastry shop, and lucky for both residents and visitors, Philly is home to one of the world’s best. Machine Shop Boulangerie — located on the ground floor of Bok Building, a massive former technical high school in South Philly — is about as good as you’ll get without boarding a flight to France. Owner Emily Riddell’s croissants, kouign amann, and Danishes are all stellar, and the breads are perfect to take with you. Our recommendation: Buy a whole box's worth of stuff and snack while you walk around town. Two Persons coffee shop is next to the bakery and opens at 8 a.m. daily if you’re looking for a little caffeine before Machine Shop opens at 9 a.m. Thursday through Sunday.

10 a.m. Coffee and provisions at Herman’s Coffee

Wander north and east — swinging through Dickinson Square on the way — to arrive at Herman’s Coffee in Pennsport. There, you can pick up specialty coffee drinks, local provisions like chocolate bars, sauces, and coffee beans, and a remarkable array of tinned fish — very on-trend. It’s a welcoming place with outdoor seating and an open garage for hanging out and taking a break. If you’re still hungry after eating several pastries (or are so enamored with Herman’s that you want to head back later), there are usually lunch and dinner pop-ups that run out of Herman’s food truck — check the website for the current schedule.

12 p.m. Lunch at Juana Tamale

A bowl of ramen next to chopsticks and two wedges of lime on a bright surface.
Ramen at Juana Tamale.

Yes, yes, you may have to walk in a bit of a roundabout way to make it to Juana Tamale for lunch, but it’s worth a little extra effort to get a filling, flavorful meal of birria tacos, ramen, and churros in a space that’s colorful and exciting. Chef Jennifer Zavala made her name with a spectacular birria pop-up over the past few years in Philly, so when her permanent location opened on East Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphians flocked there from all over the city. Walk all around the neighborhood and up East Passyunk — the city’s hottest dining strip — for even more food options, like sausage rolls at Stargazy, banh mi and pastries at Artisan Boulanger Patissier, bagels at Korshak, and a perfect burger at Fountain Porter.

3 p.m. Cookies at Isgro Pastries

The city has had a proliferation of buzzy bakeries in the past few years (you already tried one this morning if you’ve been following along), but one of the oldest is still one of the best. Near the Italian Market in South Philly, Isgro has been around for over a century and still whips up excellent Italian rum cakes, soft and lemony ricotta cookies, chewy almond macaroons, perfect pignoli, and archetypal cannoli. The ricotta filling, dotted with mini chocolate chips, is not too sweet, and since it’s piped in to order, the shell is still crispy. If you aren’t planning to eat it right away (but why not?) ask the staff to hold the powdered sugar to limit sogginess.

5 p.m. Take your pick at Reading Terminal Market

reading terminal market in the dark with signs including the most visible one that says pastries and bagels.
Reading Terminal Market early in the morning.

We’ll keep it short and sweet: Reading Terminal Market is actually worth the visit. It’s touristy, sure, but there are so many good dining options that it’s a shame to come to Philly and not at least get a Beiler’s doughnut or lumpia from Tambayan. The market closes at 6 p.m. daily, so sneak in on your way north for a snack before dinner.

6 p.m. A glass of wine and a French hot dog at Le Caveau

The story of Chloe Grigri’s wine bar has been one of boom and bust: Right before the COVID-19 pandemic began, Le Caveau was nominated for a James Beard Award for outstanding wine program and was a bustling hotspot before the shutdown six months later. Suddenly, the bar à vins — a longtime dream of Grigri’s — was shuttered and empty with no reopening date in sight. Then, in October 2021, Le Caveau opened again, the wines resumed flowing, and the party picked back up. It’s one of the best places in the city for a glass of wine and a French hot dog, which is served on a baguette, of course.

7 p.m. Dinner and a show at South

A stalwart of Philadelphia’s dining and entertainment scene since the ’90s, South is a great option for out-of-towners seeking not just excellent soul food (buttermilk fried chicken, Creole deviled eggs, vegan jambalaya) but also a concert to enhance the vibe. You can reserve tables and book tickets in advance, so time your visit to Philly around a favorite singer or jazz group or trust that you’ll find a new favorite anytime you come here.

10 p.m. After-dinner weekend drinks at Middle Child Clubhouse

A martini glass with liquid and a piece of twisted lemon casting a long shadow on a blonde wood countertop in a booth.
A cocktail at Middle Child Clubhouse.

This city’s bar options are nearly as diverse as its dining scene, and while you’re in Fishtown, you should at least stop at Middle Child Clubhouse for the fun atmosphere and the cocktail menu, which are both representative of Philly in a way that is difficult to put one’s finger on. It stays open till midnight Fridays and Saturdays. You could also try nearby International Bar or Johnny Brenda’s for music. For a classic dive, make for Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar. If you’re looking for something a little swankier, go back into Center City for the Franklin, a sleek subterranean spot with intricate, meticulously made cocktails and roots in the Prohibition era. Or keep heading north to test your luck at Hop Sing Laundromat, an unmarked bar in Chinatown that makes some of the very best cocktails in the city on Fridays and Saturdays — but you have to get past the whims of the owner to be allowed entry.

Hop Sing Laundromat

1029 Race Street, , PA 19107

Italian Market

South 9th Street, , PA 19147 (215) 278-2903 Visit Website

Machine Shop

1901 South 9th Street, , PA 19148 Visit Website

Le Caveau

614 South 7th Street, , PA 19147 (215) 625-3700 Visit Website

Machine Shop Boulangerie

1901 South 9th Street, , PA 19148 (856) 434-2352 Visit Website


45 North 12th Street, , PA 19107 Visit Website

Juana Tamale

1941 East Passyunk Avenue, , PA 19148 (267) 273-0894 Visit Website

Herman's Coffee

1313 South 3rd Street, , PA 19147 Visit Website

Artisan Boulanger Patissier

1218 Mifflin Street, , PA 19148 (215) 271-4688

Beiler's Doughnuts

51 N 12th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107

Fountain Porter

1601 South 10th Street, , PA 19148 (215) 305-8338 Visit Website


1838 East Passyunk Avenue, , PA 19148 (215) 309-2761 Visit Website

Reading Terminal Market

1136 Arch Street, , PA 19107 (215) 922-2317 Visit Website

Middle Child Clubhouse

1232 North Front Street, , PA 19122 (267) 858-4325 Visit Website

Here’s What We Know About the Protests Surrounding Michael Solomonov’s Restaurants

An Eater’s Guide to Philadelphia

Inside Sparkling Pink, the Ritz-Carlton’s Barbiecore Holiday Speakeasy