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Where to Eat, Drink, and Snack in West Philly: A Local’s Guide

Neighborhood recommendations for thieboudienne fish stew, free fresh produce, Sichuan dry pepper tofu, and more, all from the West Philly locals who know it best

Too often, people think of Philadelphia as the city between two rivers. But West Philadelphia, which makes up almost 15 square miles of the city, is an expansive neighborhood west of the Schuylkill that deserves just as much attention as the more central locales. West Philly is an abundantly creative area full of new businesses, as well as decades-old stalwarts that make it feel anchored even as it evolves. To get to know West Philly, we let three in-the-know Philadelphians guide us around their favorite pockets of the area in the first installment of our new series Ask A Local.


Neal Santos, photographer

Chances are, you’ve seen Neal Santos’s photographs in some of your favorite local publications. He’s one of the city’s most beloved food photographers (he shot the Laurel cookbook) and his work captures the intimate corners of the city. He also runs Farm 51, a community-focused garden, with his husband, Andrew Olson. Santos and Olson have lived in the Kingsessing neighborhood — home to Bartram’s Garden and below Cedar Park — for more than a decade.

Why he loves West Philly

“There’s a great, vibrant community feel here. We’re right across the street from the Kingsessing Recreation Center. The neighborhood has changed a lot because of gentrification, but what has kept us there is the commitment to being stewards of the land and being responsible neighbors.”

His neighborhood favorites

Pentridge Station
5110-5120 Pentridge Street

“Pentridge Station is owned by Ephraim Seyoum, who also owns Dahlak. It’s this pop-up beer garden space, where they also have the capacity to do food vending, so there’s a rotating cast of people who cook and do pop-ups. Sometimes food trucks will come in. Tabachoy — the Filipino food truck run by Chance Anies — parks there sometimes.”

Lil Pop Shop/Weckerly’s
265 S. 44th Street

“Lil Pop Shop and Weckerly’s have a shared space right off 44th, and it’s been so wonderful to see the Weckerly’s team come back to West Philly where they started. It’s really cute to see their shop. I like the Vietnamese iced coffee popsicle, and literally any of the seasonal flavors from Weckerly’s. I can’t pick a favorite, but I like their ice cream on a cone better than the sandwiches.”

colorful ice pops on a pink background Lil Pop Shop

Saad’s Halal Restaurant
4500 Walnut Street

“I like Saad’s for cheesesteaks and sandwiches. I get the cheesesteak and fries — that’s all you need to know.”

Kilimandjaro
4317 Chestnut Street

“Kilimandjaro is an African restaurant with really great food — I’ve always loved them. At lunch they serve thieboudienne, a fish and tomato stew served with rice and vegetables.”

Sankofa Community Farm at Bartram’s Garden
5400 Lindbergh Boulevard

“We’re connected through the Philadelphia Horticultural Society to Sankofa Farm, and I think Chris Bolden-Newsome, who runs that place, is amazing. They’re doing the work every day and every season. They hire youth every year and they reconnect a lot of Black youth to their cultural ancestral vegetables. They’re connecting youth to the land. I think of them as comrades in urban farming, kind of kindred spirits of queer green space makers. The work that they’re doing is really cool.”

Jezabel’s
206-208 S. 45th Street

“I love Jezabel. She’s just really talented and multifaceted, a true Renaissance woman in my opinion. Her empanadas are great and her alfajores ... I love them. The shop is a beautiful space: It’s three contiguous spaces that flow in and out each other.”


Jezabel Careaga, chef and furniture maker

Jezabel Careaga runs Jezabel’s, a bakery, restaurant, and market on South 45th Street in West Philadelphia. The shop itself is a testament to her many talents: She built most of the furniture in her side hustle as a carpenter, and her Argentinean baked goods, especially empanadas and alfajores, are absolutely delicious. She lived in West Philly when she first moved to the city, but now lives across the river. Because her business is in the neighborhood, she still spends a ton of time there. And, she says, she loves what moving neighborhoods has done for her business.

Why she loves West Philly

“The biggest thing that West Philly has is diversity,” she says. The welcoming and accepting nature is a big reason she keeps her business there. “I haven’t seen that in any other neighborhood,” she says. “It allows me to be my true and authentic self, and then represent that into the business. I don’t think there’s another place like West Philly.”

Her neighborhood favorites

Alrayyan Food Market
121 S. 43rd Street

“I eat there once or twice a week for lunch from fall into spring, because it’s warmer, comforting food. They have a beautiful prepared-food section — you can get rice, a protein, and vegetables. They have really good okra and a yellow lentil soup that is really good, too. And you can buy really good spices there.”

Supremo Food Market
4301 Walnut Street

“Supremo is one of the first places [where] I found some Argentinean goods. They have a very good selection of Puerto Rican specialties, Mexican groceries, they have some Uruguayan products. You can buy dulce de leche, membrillo, yerba mate. If we need something quickly for the restaurant, we usually run to that supermarket.”

Vientiane Café
4728 Baltimore Avenue

“I love it here. If I have a friend who comes into the city, I’ll take people for a walk around and then finish with lunch or early dinner at Vientiane Café. It’s fresh, it’s consistent — their menu doesn’t change but it’s always so good. They have this coconut rice — it’s like a fried coconut rice that’s served with lettuce. They also have beef jerky that is really good and I like their peanut-based curry.”

Vientiane Cafe

Clark Park Farmers Market
4300-4398 Baltimore Avenue

“This is such a nice Saturday thing to do. It brings so many people from everywhere because West Philly is pretty big — it’s not just a few blocks. It’s a place that I like to visit, just to buy a few things for my house and then hang out in the park.”

Local 44
4333 Spruce Street

“When I lived in West Philly, I would go to Local 44 once a week and grab a meal, have a drink, and just hang out at the bar. I’m excited that they made it through the pandemic because they’re the neighborhood bar.”


Sonam Parikh, co-owner of Mina’s World cafe

Sonam Parikh runs Mina’s World, a mutual-aid focused coffee shop where you can eat pakoras and samosas, have an iced coffee, and buy locally made ceramics, jewelry, and whatever other delights they’ve chosen to stock their shelves with at any given moment. They grew up in Brooklyn but have lived in Philly for six years.

Why they love West Philly

“I love living in West Philadelphia because it’s such a community-oriented neighborhood. It reminds me of my hometown of Brooklyn before there was a massive wave of gentrification and change, which is something I try to be mindful of,” they say. “I am so happy and lucky and grateful to live and work here, and that in and of itself is a huge privilege. The food in my neighborhood is so good, and one thing that sets it apart is that there are a lot of long-running places, but there are also new spots popping up all the time that I’m always so excited to try out.”

Their neighborhood favorites

Alif Brew & Mini Mart
4501 Baltimore Avenue

“They roast their own coffee very casually and make no fuss about it. They have a really good selection of foods. I love that you can get a roll-up really quickly and have a mini-meal if you’re just starting out with Ethiopian food. They have international foods that are above and beyond in selection, and their food is so fresh and craveable. They’re so nice to all the customers and they’ve always been so welcoming.”

The People’s Fridge
511 S. 52nd Street

“We run the People’s Fridge alongside Mina’s World, and it’s an option for anyone who needs a free meal, no questions asked. It might seem like an unlikely destination when you’re looking at food spots, but we just started a new program where everyday cooks are dropping off 20 to 40 meals, and it’s allowing folks to try home cooking of all levels. All the food is really nutritious beautiful dishes that you can tell the person who cooked it made it with loving intention. You can support the People’s Fridge through Venmo @thepeoplesfridge215.”

Chili Garden
4626 Baltimore Avenue

“Chili Garden is the best Sichuan food in Philadelphia, hands down! It’s run by this family that I’ve come to have a deep friendship with. Over the past three or four years, I’ve been there at least once a week. I can’t recommend their dry pepper tofu enough — it is magical. Whenever I’m sick and in need of deep comfort and sustenance, I always get the poached fish and tofu with chile oil and it’s enough for like three people to share and it’s one of the most soothing, delicious foods I’ve ever had.”

Amir’s Halal Truck
50th Street and Cedar Street

“Amir is out there in his food truck every day rain or shine at 50th and Cedar. The menu is really simple — it’s chicken or mixed meat or falafel over rice, or you can get a roll-up. We finally got him to raise his prices to $6. It’s my constant mission to get him to put up a tip jar, so everyone, please know that he accepts tips, he just won’t put up a tip jar. He makes some of the most fragrant, delicious, well-cooked rice. The chicken over rice with salad is my lunchtime go-to. I always get a little extra hot sauce. It’s perfect.”

Brown Sugar
219 S. 52nd Street

“This place is an institution in West Philadelphia. I love it because it’s a very low-key space where you’re kind of in and out. You gotta know what you want, and you gotta have a second option, too, because they’re always busy and they’re always selling out. I love that they have roti, and for the vegans out there they have a really good soya rib platter. The small size is a huge serving. The bounty of the food exemplifies what it is to share, and what it is to want to feed people.”

Kilimandjaro

4317 Chestnut Street, , PA 19104 (215) 387-1970

Local 44

4333 Spruce Street, , PA 19104 (215) 222-2337 Visit Website

Laurel

161 Rutledge Avenue, , SC 29403 (843) 974-5159 Visit Website

Dahlak

4708 Baltimore Avenue, , PA 19143 (215) 726-6464 Visit Website

Vientiane Café

4728 Baltimore Avenue, , PA 19143 (215) 726-1095 Visit Website

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