West Philadelphia doesn’t get as much attention for its food scene as other Philly neighborhoods like Rittenhouse, Fishtown, and East Passyunk, but the area is quietly home to the city’s most diverse crop of restaurants. It includes the college-centric neighborhood of University City, but go past the fast-casual student hangouts and all sorts of eating adventures abound. Within a few blocks, Ethiopian eateries cozy up to craft beer destinations and Laotian specialties can be enjoyed in walking distance of vegan burritos.Read More
Where to Eat in West Philly
The neighborhood’s under-the-radar food scene is one of Philadelphia’s most interesting
1. Booker's Restaurant & Bar
Owner Saba Tedla recently brought in Kurt Evans to run the kitchen at Booker’s. The chef and activist —known for his End Mass Incarceration and Cooks for the Culture dinner series — cooks American cuisine with Southern flair in dishes like salmon crusted in sweet potatoes and a vegan jambalaya. This is Tedla’s second restaurant in the neighborhood: She also has Mediterranean eatery Aksum.
2. Dock Street Brewery & Restaurant
The OG of Philly brewpubs has been keeping West Philadelphians happy with house-brewed pours and pizzas since 1985. These days the brewery has expanded its footprint with a next-door cannery and cocktail bar serving draft drinks and small plates.
3. Vientiane Café
Once upon a time, when it was set in the Phanthavong family’s backyard, Vientiane got too popular to contain and relocated to a storefront on Baltimore Avenue in 2002. Bring cash and a six-pack to this neighborhood BYOB to go with the lemongrass-spiked sausages, coconut-marinated barbecued hens, pineapple fried rice, and other Laotian and Thai fare. There’s also a newer second location in Kensington.
Since 1987, Dahlak has been a neighborhood staple for its satisfying Eritrean and Ethiopian meals. Grab a seat at one of the traditional low tables and try a combo platter of stewed proteins, like lentils and lamb, or veggies, like split peas and beets.
5. Jezabel’s Cafe & Bakery
Jezabel Careaga’s charming Argentinian cafe, bakery, and studio is known for its perfectly browned empanadas, flaky croissants piled with ham and cheese, and sweet, delicate alfajores. Stop in for breakfast, lunch, or a pot of tea.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Make sure to order something that can be sopped up at Hadramout because the bubbly tandoor-baked bread here is a specialty. The Yemeni restaurant is also a popular spot for its lamb stew, kebabs, and grilled spatchcock chicken.
This neighborhood favorite is a two-for-one deal, with a relaxed, homey dining room on the ground floor serving Ethiopian fare and a tiny dive bar tucked away one flight up. Come for tibs or a vegetarian combo of stewed collard greens and lentils in berbere sauce over injera and stay for the killer beer and whiskey selections upstairs at Fiume.
8. Honest Tom's Plant Based Taco Shop
Honest Tom’s has gone through a few formats (food truck, “regular” taco shop) before landing on its current incarnation as an all-vegan taqueria and fruit seller. Go for the carrot and lentil barbacoa or the sweet potato tucked inside tacos and burritos.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
A bigger cluster of West African restaurants can be found in Southwest Philly, but West Philly is home to some standouts too, like Kilimandjaro, open since 2005. Youma Ba’s brightly painted Senegalese restaurant is known for its thieboudienne (a tomato-y fish and rice dish) and grilled chicken.
10. Desi Chaat House
Indian snacks get the spotlight at this casual corner eatery serving up cool and crunchy chaats and bhel puris, along with mini-potato sliders (vada paav).
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11. Dana Mandi
A neon-lit dining room in the back of an Indian grocery store is home to some of the city’s most vibrant Punjabi eats. Choose from an extensive menu of veggie or meat options, don’t forget the paratha, and enjoy an affordable and no-nonsense meal served without ceremony on a styrofoam plate.
12. Quality Taste Jamaican Restaurant
West Philly is home to several restaurants that specialize in Jamaican cuisine. This counter-service spot ranks among the most popular for its saucy jerk chicken, braised cabbage, curry goat, and whole red snapper.
Stephen Starr’s pan-Asian restaurant Pod, which looks like what people in the past envisioned for a spaceship-fueled future, has been going strong on the University of Pennsylvania campus since 2000. More recently, Starr recruited Kevin Yanaga, the former sushi master at Double Knot, to upgrade the raw fish operation with specials like king salmon ceviche with green ponzu and pico de gallo.
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14. White Dog Cafe
When Judy Wicks’ pioneering University City restaurant opened its doors back in 1983, it marked the beginning of Philly’s love affair with local sourcing. Three-plus decades later, Wicks has moved on (and two more locations were added outside the city) but her legacy remains with canine-themed decor throughout the collection of small dining rooms and a menu of farm-to-table fare.