Forget those tired tropes of college students living on a diet of instant noodles. The lucky attendees of the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University in the University City section of West Philadelphia have a spate of dining options that will leave the college cafeteria-goers of yesteryear with pangs of hunger and envy. Wallet-friendly lunches and happy hours, fabulous food halls, and reservations to make when the folks are in town can all be found near campus.Read More
Where to Eat Around Penn and Drexel
15 University City restaurants for everything from a quick lunch to a parents-in-town dinner
Weekend waits are a given at this local mini-chain known for its brunch. The University City location is housed in a striking Victorian building where diners can look out onto the corner of 34th and Powelton while enjoying blueberry-topped challah french toast, tofu scrambles, and tater tots covered with sausage hash and over-easy eggs.
Dim Sum House by Jane G's - University City
Right in the heart of University City is a little slice of the Jiang Nan region of China. The space offers a swanky feel with dim lighting, tufted leather booths, and a pool table. Dim Sum House is open for lunch or dinner featuring both Shanghai and Cantonese styles of dim sum. Expect truffle edamame dumplings, shrimp siu mai, honey-vinegar spare ribs, dan dan noodles, and bao buns.
Hadramaout in the Spruce Hill section of West Philadelphia offers an astounding introduction to Yemeni cuisine. Here diners can try giant flatbreads baked on the walls of a clay oven, and the specialty of the house, fahsah, a lamb and vegetable stew brimming with flavor. The chicken mandi is another strong option, spiced with cumin, coriander, cardamom and clove.
Manakeesh Cafe Bakery & Grill
Stop by this all-purpose Lebanese restaurant for a quick coffee and Middle Eastern pastry, a restorative fresh-pressed juice or smoothie, or a full brunch of crepes, omelets, and waffles. The savory selections include family-style mezze platters and the Lebanese flatbreads the restaurant is named for, topped with ground lamb, garlicky chicken, and za’atar-dusted labneh.
Regardless of the season, this minimalist ramen shop is busy putting out bowls of shoyu, miso, and tan tan ramen. Don’t miss out on the non-noodle offerings, as Terakawa has a menu of excellent izakaya standards like karaage, Japanese Berkshire pork sausages, and takoyaki.
Co-Op Restaurant & Bar
Located in boutique hotel The Study on the border of Penn and Drexel campuses, Co-Op brings a sophisticated mid-Atlantic approach to dining. Both lunch and dinner menus are brimming with fresh, local seasonal, and vegetable-heavy options such as the Lancaster beet tartare and local black bass with roasted cauliflower, fennel, and bell pepper emulsion.
White Dog Cafe
When this University City institution opened back in 1983, founder Judy Wicks’ tenets of keeping food local, seasonal, and sustainable were almost unheard of in the Philadelphia dining scene. Now, 36 years later, the canine-themed restaurant and bar is putting out locally sourced cheese plates and serving seasonal plates of eggplant Milanese and watermelon panzanella while the bar pours glasses of made-in-Pennsylvania wine.
For date nights or, more likely, when parents are footing the bill, this chic restaurant and lounge at the Inn at Penn hotel is the place to be. Secure a spot on a plush couch for a couple of cocktails and a dozen oysters, or grab a table for a full meal of beef carpaccio followed by rainbow trout amandine.
Franklin's Table Food Hall
This student- and faculty-filled food hall is packed with quick-serve versions of a who’s who of Philly favorites. Stop by Franklin’s Table for Neapolitan-style pizzas from Pitruco, sushi via the folks behind Double Knot, Goldie’s falafel and shawarma-spiced fries, and tasty sandwiches from High Street on Market.
In a part of town where Mexican fare is usually underrepresented, this newcomer has been racking up rave reviews since its early-summer opening. Daytime offerings include tacos, overstuffed tortas, and a breakfast of chilaquiles with bacon, beans, and eggs, while dinnertime sees platters of sizzling fajitas and the parrillada, an impressive mixed grill of chicken, chorizo, steak, and cactus.
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Walnut Street Cafe
Sometimes a classy space and a touch of refinement for a lovely luncheon is what you need, and Walnut St. Cafe offers that. The menu is American comfort food with a simple but polished approach. Their bright space also boasts a seasonal influence on food, with locally sourced organic produce from nearby farms. The wine selection, on the other hand, has a much further reach (think wines from Greece, Germany, and Australia). Head in for Golden Hour (read: happy hour) for well-priced cocktails and sumptuous snacks like whipped ricotta and salmon tartare.
For brunch any day of the week, look no further than Renata’s, situated on the edge of The Woodlands park. After moving to their new (and much larger space) in 2020, they were also able to acquire a liquor license to offer delicious Middle Eastern-tinged cocktails to match their menu. Try a harissa Bloody Mary with your shakshuka merguez with a side of crunchy spiced chickpeas.
Is there anything better than fried chicken? How about fried chicken with an Ethiopian twist? A sister duo off Baltimore Ave offers up two variations - Alicha, marinated with lemon and turmeric, then coated with a homemade honey hot sauce, and Awaze, which features a berbere spice blend for dipping in garlic aioli or Ethiopian mustard. Can’t decide? Opt for both.
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Chef Daovy Phanthavong and her husband Phoxay Sidara have been serving up Lao and Thai food to the Cedar Park neighborhood since 2002. What started as a backyard operation under a blue tent quickly became a popular brick-and-mortar location that is still beloved to this day. Grab a jar of their homemade Sunny’s Hot Chili Oil to take home.
Booker's Restaurant & Bar
Open daily for brunch and dinner, this lively restaurant features soul food classics (such as fried chicken, oxtails, collard greens, and seafood mac n’ cheese) and exceptional comfort dishes (such as spicy mango salmon, short rib, and grilled lamb chops with a watermelon mint salad).