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 both hunger and envy. Wallet-friendly lunches and happy hours, fab food halls, and reservations to make when the folks are in town can all be found within campus limits.Read More
Where to Eat Around Penn and Drexel
13 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.
The heat of Han Dynasty’s dan dan noodles, cumin lamb, and double-cooked pork is countered with an extensive cocktail menu at the airy sophomore location of Philly’s premier Sichuan specialist. Kick off the meal with the wontons in chili oil and the spicy cucumbers.
In lieu of making the trek out to the collection of Korean restaurants in Olney for charcoal-grilled bulgogi and banchan, students stick close to campus to enjoy Korean classics at this simple strip mall spot. The menu covers all of the bases with mandu, bibimbap, kimchi fried rice, and sundubu jjigae, all sliding in under the $10 mark.
Modern American dishes, local beers, and a colorful, high-ceilinged space are the draws at The Common at the corner of 36th and Market. Start with the crispy artichokes with tahini and chickpeas or the duck fat–fried chicken wings and then get the burger the restaurant is known for.
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.
The University City outpost of Midtown Village pizzeria Zavino features a roomier dining room and a broader menu, but the biggest draw here is the under-the-radar weekday happy hour with its budget-friendly lineup of $5 beers, wines, and snacks and an $8 margherita pizza.
White Dog Cafe
When this University City institution opened back in 1983, founder Judy Wicks’ tenets of keeping food local, seasonal, and sustainable were 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.
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, sandwiches from High Street on Market, and a burger joint inspired by Kensington Quarters’ beloved patty.
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.
This counter-service operation puts out an array of veg and meat options that taste less like an all-you-can-eat buffet and more like home cooking. Dana Mandi is tucked in the back of a well-stocked Indian market, making it the perfect place to restock the spice shelf after a lunch of aloo gobi with raita and roti.
At this 53-year-old Jewish deli, the lunch rush is always accompanied by a show. The owner and his team of sandwich architects are more than generous with the meats when making Reubens, corned beef specials, and only-in-Philly Jewish hoagies. They’ll be cracking wise and doling out samples of salami and potato salad to a clientele that knows their orders are worth the wait.
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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.
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.