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Le Virtu’s maccheroni alla mugnaia
Kateri Likoudis

Where to Eat on East Passyunk Avenue

Pasta, tacos, and dim sum on South Philly’s hottest restaurant strip

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Le Virtu’s maccheroni alla mugnaia
| Photo by Kateri Likoudis

South Philadelphia has always been known for Italian food and East Passyunk Avenue has always had restaurants. But in the last decade, something changed: This off-the-beaten-path street became THE place to eat in Philly.

In a half mile stretch on the diagonal South Philly street, classic Italian eateries coexist harmoniously with hipster dim sum joints, white-tablecloth fine-dining destinations, and casual neighborhood BYOBs. Chefs on the Avenue are known for their welcoming attitude toward newcomers — their collaborative spirit has helped make East Passyunk what it is today.

This map doesn’t cover every recommendable bakery, butcher, coffee shop, take out spot, bar, and elegant restaurant and BYOB on the street, but represents a tight collection of the greatest hits.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Le Virtù

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1927 Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148
(215) 271-5626
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For more than a decade, Le Virtu has had a laser-like focus on the rustic food of Italy’s Abruzzo region. According to owners Francis Cratil-Cretarola and Cathy Lee, Philly has the largest Abruzzese population in the U.S. That certainly contributes to its success, but everyone can get behind handmade pasta, house-butchered meat, and one of the city’s most charming gardens. Le Virtu is known for its maccheroni alla mugnaia: a hand-pulled single strand of pasta in a simple olive oil, garlic, and hot pepper sauce. Just up the street, Crail-Cretarola and Lee’s Brigantessa has a broader scope with a focus on more of southern Italy, with Neapolitan-style pizzas a highlight of the menu.

Kateri Likoudis

2. Saté Kampar

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1837 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148
(267) 324-3860
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Skewers are the name of the game at chef Ange Branca’s casual Malaysian BYOB. The chicken, beef, goat, pork, and tofu saté are cooked over a custom grill that uses coconut shell briquettes and served with a peanut sauce you’ll want to eat with a spoon. Order five or 10 to go with nasi lemak bungkus (coconut cream-soaked rice snuggled with anchovies, egg, peanuts, and the hot sauce sambal in a banana leaf), and a side of the spicy pickled vegetables called achat.

Maria Young

3. Marra's

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1734 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148
(215) 463-9249
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For more than 90 years, Marra’s has cooked old world Italian food in the heart of South Philly. This family-owned restaurant is known for its brick-oven pizza. Craving pasta instead? The ravioli and gnocchi are made in-house. This is the place to order spaghetti with red sauce, veal Milanese, and cannoli, with a carafe of the house red.

4. Mr. Martino's Trattoria

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1646 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148
(215) 755-0663

Mr. Martino’s is an experience. For three decades, owners Marc and Maria Farnese have served Italian food in a former hardware store that still feels a little bit like a hardware store. It’s only open on weekends and only takes cash, and tables can’t be booked online. Don’t let those challenges be a deterrent. This candlelit restaurant — a mix of homey and romantic — is worth the extra effort. Order the baked ricotta appetizer, pasta with red sauce, or anything special Maria is cooking up in the back, and bring a bottle of wine — or two, because the kitchen occasionally gets behind.

5. Bing Bing Dim Sum

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1648 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148
(215) 279-7702
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Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh first introduced Philly to their quirky take on Asian cuisines at ramen shop Cheu, before heading to East Passyunk Avenue to show off their dim sum skills. At the colorful Bing Bing, the soft pretzel–like bao is stuffed with roast pork and broccoli rabe and the scarlet dumplings get their bright red hue from the addition of beets to the dough, while the barbecue pork caterpillar bread is almost dessert-sweet thanks to caramelized honey. Expect a crowd.

Jason Varney

6. Cantina Los Caballitos

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1651 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148
(215) 755-3550
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With its brightly painted stucco exterior and roomy patio with umbrellas and string lights, it’s easy to see why anyone strolling the Avenue would be drawn to this lively Mexican restaurant, known simply as Cantina. The margaritas, in flavors like blood orange and guava, are among the best in town, the rotating specials are always interesting, and the vegan options are plentiful. There’s goat, steak, and chorizo here, but any of the build-your-own tacos and burritos can be made with seitan or smoked tofu.

7. Townsend

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1623 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148
(267) 639-3203
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Townsend Wentz honed his French cooking skills with chef Jean-Marie Lacroix at two of Philadelphia’s most luxurious hotel restaurants: the Fountain at the Four Seasons and Lacroix at the Rittenhouse. After working in New York City and London, he returned to Philly to open his eponymous fine-dining destination. Set in a charming rowhome, Townsend serves seasonal French food both a la carte and in tasting menus, with dishes like escargot with Brussels sprouts, broiled oysters, and côte de boeuf for two.

8. Laurel

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1617 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148
(215) 271-8299
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With years of experience working for chef Georges Perrier at Philadelphia’s esteemed Le Bec-Fin and a win on Bravo’s Top Chef under his belt, Nick Elmi has serious cooking cred. Laurel, his small flagship restaurant, is where he gets to show off. The chef puts out six- and nine-course tasting menus that feature high-end ingredients (the succulent A5 Wagyu beef is a must-try), intricate techniques, and photo-worthy plating. Reserve well in advance if you’re looking for a primetime table on a weekend.

Laurel [official photo]

9. Noord

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1046 Tasker St
Philadelphia, PA 19148
(267) 909-9704
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Bring your own bottle to Philly’s finest Dutch restaurant. At Noord, Joncarl Lachman uses seasonal and local ingredients to create his Northern European menu. Dishes aren’t always easy to pronounce, but friendly servers guide diners through the options. Expect plenty of fresh herbs, vinegar-based ingredients, and seafood. Favorites include the fried pork croquettes, called bitterballen, mustard soup topped with a scallop, a smoked fish and pickle board, and warm, crusty bread with whipped butter.

10. Perla

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1535 S 11th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(267) 273-0008
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Finding Filipino food in Philadelphia is still something of a challenge, but Lou Boquila deserves credit for making it easier. The chef, who was born in the Philippines, opened Perla in 2016 to serve an elevated take on traditional Filipino dishes. The restaurant is known for its twice-a-week family-style kamayan meal where diners eat half a dozen dishes — including pork belly, whole fried fish, and jasmine rice with garlic — with their hands. Across town, Boquila’s Sarvida on Girard Avenue is also a BYOB focused on Filipino fare.

1. Le Virtù

1927 Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148
Kateri Likoudis

For more than a decade, Le Virtu has had a laser-like focus on the rustic food of Italy’s Abruzzo region. According to owners Francis Cratil-Cretarola and Cathy Lee, Philly has the largest Abruzzese population in the U.S. That certainly contributes to its success, but everyone can get behind handmade pasta, house-butchered meat, and one of the city’s most charming gardens. Le Virtu is known for its maccheroni alla mugnaia: a hand-pulled single strand of pasta in a simple olive oil, garlic, and hot pepper sauce. Just up the street, Crail-Cretarola and Lee’s Brigantessa has a broader scope with a focus on more of southern Italy, with Neapolitan-style pizzas a highlight of the menu.

1927 Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148

2. Saté Kampar

1837 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148
Maria Young

Skewers are the name of the game at chef Ange Branca’s casual Malaysian BYOB. The chicken, beef, goat, pork, and tofu saté are cooked over a custom grill that uses coconut shell briquettes and served with a peanut sauce you’ll want to eat with a spoon. Order five or 10 to go with nasi lemak bungkus (coconut cream-soaked rice snuggled with anchovies, egg, peanuts, and the hot sauce sambal in a banana leaf), and a side of the spicy pickled vegetables called achat.

1837 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148

3. Marra's

1734 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148

For more than 90 years, Marra’s has cooked old world Italian food in the heart of South Philly. This family-owned restaurant is known for its brick-oven pizza. Craving pasta instead? The ravioli and gnocchi are made in-house. This is the place to order spaghetti with red sauce, veal Milanese, and cannoli, with a carafe of the house red.

1734 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148

4. Mr. Martino's Trattoria

1646 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148

Mr. Martino’s is an experience. For three decades, owners Marc and Maria Farnese have served Italian food in a former hardware store that still feels a little bit like a hardware store. It’s only open on weekends and only takes cash, and tables can’t be booked online. Don’t let those challenges be a deterrent. This candlelit restaurant — a mix of homey and romantic — is worth the extra effort. Order the baked ricotta appetizer, pasta with red sauce, or anything special Maria is cooking up in the back, and bring a bottle of wine — or two, because the kitchen occasionally gets behind.

1646 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148

5. Bing Bing Dim Sum

1648 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148
Jason Varney

Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh first introduced Philly to their quirky take on Asian cuisines at ramen shop Cheu, before heading to East Passyunk Avenue to show off their dim sum skills. At the colorful Bing Bing, the soft pretzel–like bao is stuffed with roast pork and broccoli rabe and the scarlet dumplings get their bright red hue from the addition of beets to the dough, while the barbecue pork caterpillar bread is almost dessert-sweet thanks to caramelized honey. Expect a crowd.

1648 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148

6. Cantina Los Caballitos

1651 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148

With its brightly painted stucco exterior and roomy patio with umbrellas and string lights, it’s easy to see why anyone strolling the Avenue would be drawn to this lively Mexican restaurant, known simply as Cantina. The margaritas, in flavors like blood orange and guava, are among the best in town, the rotating specials are always interesting, and the vegan options are plentiful. There’s goat, steak, and chorizo here, but any of the build-your-own tacos and burritos can be made with seitan or smoked tofu.

1651 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148

7. Townsend

1623 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148

Townsend Wentz honed his French cooking skills with chef Jean-Marie Lacroix at two of Philadelphia’s most luxurious hotel restaurants: the Fountain at the Four Seasons and Lacroix at the Rittenhouse. After working in New York City and London, he returned to Philly to open his eponymous fine-dining destination. Set in a charming rowhome, Townsend serves seasonal French food both a la carte and in tasting menus, with dishes like escargot with Brussels sprouts, broiled oysters, and côte de boeuf for two.

1623 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148

8. Laurel

1617 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148
Laurel [official photo]

With years of experience working for chef Georges Perrier at Philadelphia’s esteemed Le Bec-Fin and a win on Bravo’s Top Chef under his belt, Nick Elmi has serious cooking cred. Laurel, his small flagship restaurant, is where he gets to show off. The chef puts out six- and nine-course tasting menus that feature high-end ingredients (the succulent A5 Wagyu beef is a must-try), intricate techniques, and photo-worthy plating. Reserve well in advance if you’re looking for a primetime table on a weekend.

1617 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19148

9. Noord

1046 Tasker St, Philadelphia, PA 19148

Bring your own bottle to Philly’s finest Dutch restaurant. At Noord, Joncarl Lachman uses seasonal and local ingredients to create his Northern European menu. Dishes aren’t always easy to pronounce, but friendly servers guide diners through the options. Expect plenty of fresh herbs, vinegar-based ingredients, and seafood. Favorites include the fried pork croquettes, called bitterballen, mustard soup topped with a scallop, a smoked fish and pickle board, and warm, crusty bread with whipped butter.

1046 Tasker St
Philadelphia, PA 19148

10. Perla

1535 S 11th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147

Finding Filipino food in Philadelphia is still something of a challenge, but Lou Boquila deserves credit for making it easier. The chef, who was born in the Philippines, opened Perla in 2016 to serve an elevated take on traditional Filipino dishes. The restaurant is known for its twice-a-week family-style kamayan meal where diners eat half a dozen dishes — including pork belly, whole fried fish, and jasmine rice with garlic — with their hands. Across town, Boquila’s Sarvida on Girard Avenue is also a BYOB focused on Filipino fare.

1535 S 11th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

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