Where To Eat And Drink In Kensington guide image


Where To Eat And Drink In Kensington

From breweries to bakeries and BYOBs, this is everywhere you need to eat and drink in Kensington.

With neighborhoods like Port Richmond and Fishtown on its edges, Olde Kensington and East Kensington within, and nearby restaurants like Kensington Quarters (that actually isn’t in Kensington at all), knowing where this North Philly area begins and ends can get a little confusing. And since getting around it requires Frogger-like skills to dodge potholes in the streets or hop off at the right El stop, we did our best to find the 16 best places to eat and drink without wasting your navigating efforts.  


Laser Wolf

We love Laser Wolf. Whether you’re up for something kind of healthy or want to eat at one of the best restaurants in Philadelphia, the laid-back Israeli grill is perfect for everyone. There’s a handful of bar seats, large tables, and a few booths when you want to get comfy with a large group. From the complimentary vegetable-based salatim and the chicken skewers to shareable things like chicken shishlik and juicy tuna slices covered in a green chili sauce, everything they put to the flame here is exceptional. And because of this, it’s one of the few places in the neighborhood where a reservation (if you can get one) is essential. 

Càphê Roasters is a casual Vietnamese coffee shop that’s lined with tall plants, bookshelves, and plenty of long, wide tables that are perfect if you're with a group. You'll have a hard time choosing between chacha fries that are covered with salsa roja and fried eggs, breakfast tacos packed with cloud-like eggs and avocado, or a crispy chicken ​​bánh mì coated with a syrupy gochu glaze. Get the egg coffee, which is topped with egg custard, condensed milk, and cocoa powder, if you like a little dessert with your morning coffee.

The next time you’re looking for a casual meal of small plates, natural wine, and pizza that’s both inventive and some of the best in Philly, head to Eeva on Master Street. Eeva's marble-laden communal dining room is full of large wooden tables and a chef’s counter that will give you a front-row seat to the wood-burning ovens. You can choose a red pie, like the margherita that comes with a slightly sweet sauce, but when we want a crunchier crust, we go for the white pizza (specifically the fontina, mozzarella, roasted fennel cream, sliced garlic, Grana Padano, and stracciatella). It's a blend that deserves the trophy for our favorite white pie in the city.

Philly is known for many things, but great fish tacos aren’t one of them. However, this spot—which has a massive outdoor patio and rows of overhead lighting—serves some that we can’t get enough of. The lamb barbacoa is perfectly cooked and each bite of tender meat makes us forget about a week of “I hope this email finds you well” messages. Even though finding Sor Ynez might be as hard as finding your car in PHL economy parking (it’s tucked in a massive lot next to a warehouse), the vegetarian and vegan-friendly menu is perfect for a Happy Hour or full dinner when you also want to sip on cocktails made with Mexican gin and corn-infused tequila.

Kensington’s Zig Zag BBQ offers classic Texas barbecue staples like pork ribs, brisket, and turkey breast. And while you can kind of get bbq as good at a few other places in town, what sets them apart are their loaded sandwiches, creative sides, and how incredibly consistent they are. You can’t go wrong with the turkey sandwich, layered with blueberry jam, mayo, and caesar-y kale, or their juicy and tender brisket sandwich, topped with pickles, onions, and peppery bbq sauce. For sides, they have a dill and horseradish-heavy potato salad, and queso mac and cheese with a Flamin' Hot Cheetos garnish. Add a square of their fluffy cornbread with melty miso maple butter and you’ll have a meal worth the 30-minute hunt for parking.  

Forîn is a charming all-day cafe and wine bar in Kensington. Everything in the casual space is mint green, from the counter seats looking out onto Frankford Ave. to the large booth tucked in the corner. In the morning, they serve pastries and sandwiches (the egg sandwich on a house-baked biscuit with espresso jam is a must-try), while the evening is all about European small plates, wine, and cocktails. Pop in for an AM work session, or post up with a few friends while sipping cocktails, sharing citrus galettes and listening to Khruangbin. They also have a “retail corner,” with records, candles, and, for some inexplicable reason, bespoke plaid shirts.

From the grilled octopus with a perfect char to the endless types of Chicago-style pizzas, this part-tiki bar, part-pizza shop is great when you don't want to choose between a restaurant and a pirate ship. The nautical-themed spot also has everything from multiple rum flights to twists on island drinks like the Tiger Shark—their version of a whiskey sour that gets a little sweetness from coconut milk. Ideal for a casual date night or Happy Hour (Wednesday through Sunday from 4-6pm), stare at all the ocean-themed murals until you lock eyes with a crispy sausage slice and forget the world.

After one drink at your last party, you felt inspired, announcing “I’m going to open a bar one day, fill it with everything that we like, and the people will flock to it.” And though no one took you too seriously, you’ll realize when you get to Martha that someone got the jump on you. The cocktails, wine, and beer are affordable (most costing less than $15), there’s a ton of outdoor seating in their plant-covered patio, and the menu is full of your favorite things to eat after your third drink of the night, like hoagies, cheese, and pickles.

This Kensington Avenue spot is where you should come to catch up with friends over shrimp wontons, spicy tom yum soup, pan-seared tilapia, and some small plates from the very long menu. We always order their pad kee mao, which mixes a spicy basil garlic sauce, broccoli, bell peppers, your protein of choice, and rice noodles in a stir fry. Its blend of flavors works so well that we eat it in small forkfuls just to make the dish last longer. There’s nothing on the menu over $20 and they open as early as noon, so it can work as your go-to spot for a Thai iced coffee, casual lunch, or as a place to end your day with a banana chocolate spring roll or sugary macaron.

Although this Kensington bakery makes both traditional and vegan donuts in their shop, the ones made with coconut milk are somehow just as good—or even better—than the regular ones. The flavors change weekly, but range from classics like Boston cream to ones that sound like they were invented by a hungry 9-year-old, like banana graham cracker and black and white cookie cake. They’re also owned by the same people as ReAnimator, so you know they have great coffee, too.

Right across from Somerset station, this Mexican restaurant serves chicken chilaquiles for brunch, tinga tostadas for lunch, and braised pork shank and masa dumplings for dinner. The atmosphere is cozy—there are only a few tables and the walls are lined with handmade figurines like cacti, colorful chihuahuas, and antique plates. They have sopas that can be made vegetarian and vegan, quesadillas big enough to feed two people, and other sharable plates like a braised pork shank topped with an Oaxaca pasilla pepper salsa.  

With names like “Stacy’s Mom,” “You Mad Bro?,” and “Zee Googles Zey Do Nathing,” Evil Genius Beer Company definitely wins our made-up award for the most interesting beer names in the city. Full of red brick walls, a long bar, deep wooden booths, and a backyard beer garden with lots of colorful seats, their Fishtown brewery is a place that you can visit any time of year. They brew things like key lime margarita sours, chocolate peanut butter porters, and watermelon blonde ales, and serve food ranging from nachos and pepperoni flatbreads to caprese sandwiches. You should also consider stopping by for any of their weekly events, including '80s-themed parties and brunches where you can sip on a guava IPA.

Whenever you’re looking for somewhere that feels expensive but isn’t, Helm in Kensington is one of your best bets. They change up the $55 three-course tasting menu (that has around five options for each course) a lot. But you can expect dishes like tender pork over butternut squash, lamb ravioli, and a small plate of beets and smoked carrots. If it all sounds great, you can always bring a big group here and make sure everyone picks a different dish so you can sample the entire menu. 

Kensington’s Fermentery Form is a brewery inside of a garage that looks like the place every alternative rock band in the early aughts got their start. There are also barrels everywhere, so you should really sit in their courtyard rather than at the handful of seats inside. The brewery mostly focuses on wine-and barrel-aged beer hybrids, like a fermented saison that’s been mixed with the grape must from a Sangiovese. They have a few things to snack on like jerky and fries, but for the most part, you come here to have an impromptu backyard party with friends and some of the most creative beers in the city.

Street Side is a tiny Vietnamese BYOB on Girard that's mostly great for takeout (there are only a handful of seats). So when you end up working late and are too tired to even reheat the leftovers from last weekend, it’s a good place to stop in on your way home. Other than their pho, this place mostly does small plates that are easy to eat on the go. Some of our favorites are the pork belly rice paper roll, the kroeung beef skewer, and the pork and chive dumplings.

When it's nice out, you'll usually find this spot packed with a bunch of locals and with their cats shelling out super judgy stares under their big umbrellas. Whether you're chilling at one of their yellow picnic tables or near the fireplace when it’s chilly out, you should do so with their signature beer (the Kenzinger). The crisp and light golden lager is one of the 30+ beers they pour, the others being blended sours and hazy IPAs. As far as food goes, they have a rotating lineup of food trucks that are usually parked near the front lot, serving things like crispy tofu tacos, burgers, and juicy grilled chicken satay.

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photo credit: GAB BONGHI

Where To Eat And Drink In Kensington guide image