The Best Lunch Spots In Philadelphia

16 great places to get a weekday meal when you don’t have to work.
This is the Italian hoagie at Liberty Kitchen.

photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO

On a few rare occasions, you get a weekday off from work. And whether it’s a national holiday or you’re one meeting away from going full Office Space on a fax machine, a list of places to get a great lunch when you need a mid-week break is crucial. In this guide, you’ll find brunch spots, a taqueria, a prime hoagie shop, and some of the best restaurants in town (that will definitely be easier to get into during the daytime). Here are the 16 best places for a magical weekday lunch. 

The Spots

photo credit: GAB BONGHI



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If you know only two things about Kalaya in Fishtown, it's probably that it’s the best Thai restaurant in Philly, and that the walk-in wait time on a busy night is about the length of a Marvel movie. Even if you do get a reservation for dinner, they serve an entirely different menu during the day, so stopping by during lunchtime is a no-brainer. Try dishes like the poached shrimp and lotus root salad, short rib soup swimming with lemongrass, and let the view of 14-foot palm trees spark a fantasy about never going back to the office again.  

Dinner reservations are almost impossible to get at this Fishtown restaurant, and their epic weekend brunch is just as crowded. But when we come here during the week, there are plenty of open tables, a quick cafe line, and it (sort of) feels like you could be there all day and they wouldn’t kick you out. It’s usually pretty quiet, and they have things like Lebanese flatbreads and kebab sandwiches that are good for either sharing or eating alone while you give yourself errand paralysis by thinking about all the things you were going to check off your to-do list today.

photo credit: GAB BONGHI

Usually, when we want a little fun and games midday, we have to settle for a grab-and-go sandwich while we play Sims in our cubicles. But on our day off, our Tuesdays through Fridays can be spent shooting pool while eating a juicy cheeseburger from Middle Child Clubhouse in Fishtown. This all-day spot serves breakfast sandwiches with short rib and pillowy eggs, waffled chocolate french toast, and stacked club sandwiches for lunch. No matter what you order, each bite will make you happier than finding all the hidden words in the day's puzzle.

As soon as you walk through the door of this Northern Liberties West African spot, you’re met with the scent of steaming jollof rice, plantains fresh out of the pot, buttery cornbread muffins, and the sound of chicken sizzling on the grill. It’s a sensation that we can’t put a price on, but they have, and it’s notably affordable (the bowls are $13 or under and each comes with a side). The comfortable counter-service restaurant is great for grabbing a quick meal in between reaching the next level on God of War or streaming a show you’ve been saving for a day off.

This takeout-only Queen Village shop, a warm and friendly bastion of South Philly’s favorite handheld, makes some of the city’s best hoagies and cutlet sandwiches. Of course there’s a fantastic Italian, but The Papale Special, stacked with pepper turkey, creamy Cooper Sharp, and olive oil is the surprisingly simple hoagie standout. If cutlets are more your speed, the Damien is a crispy, spicy delight. Grab one on a day off or for lunch and doctor them with all the L,T,O, and peppers you like, and call ahead to order (especially on weekends, when they sell out early).

Cafe Nhan feels like less of a restaurant than it does a religion. Come to this West Passyunk daytime spot on a Monday at 2pm and you'll see restaurant industry people, bands on tour, college students, and everyone else in South Philly who knows what's good for them. If you're looking for some classic phở, get the version with oxtail. But Nhan's specialty is the spicier bún bò huế, a classic, bright-red soup from the owner's hometown. Each bowl balances pungent star anise, lemongrass, fish sauce, and Sichuan chilis, with fatty brisket, pig's feet, and housemade blood cubes.

It’s not easy planning a group lunch. The result of picking a bad spot is horrible food and nobody trusting you again. So take your friends or family to this Olde Richmond shop for some of the best pizza in town. The incredible, thin-slices have blistery charred puffs around the edges, and just enough sauce to keep the quality toppings in place. We love the spinach, onion, and spinach cream white pizza and the classic cheese. After a bite, you won’t hear any complaints—outside of your friend putting on a Highlander VHS on the vintage TV in the corner. 

Despite the name, Amy’s Pastelillos in Fishtown isn’t all about the deep-fried meat pies. Everything the Puerto Rican shop makes is pretty great. From the pickled yuca to the various bowls (go for the Vegano) or loaded sweet and spicy tostones nachos, it’s all going to make you feel like you’ve been doing this lunch thing all wrong. Of course, all of the pastelillos are fantastic, but it’s the sweet and tender guava pork that has Philly lining up. They're only open from 11am to 3pm, Wednesday to Saturday, so plan ahead to leave with something you’ll still be talking about tomorrow. 

Paesano's on 9th Street gets less attention than the famous, old-school Italian restaurants in the neighborhood. But we find their food—like beefy sandwiches, arancini, and bucatini with a super savory amatriciana sauce—is much more reliable. Come for a casual sit-down lunch and watch someone sniff a melon like it's a scented candle through the windows.

You have a small rivalry with the marketing department after they brought in hoagies for the CEO. Pitch lunch at Dizengoff in Center City—it’s a meal they can’t compete with, and not just because of the good food. Yes, you’ll find incredibly smooth hummus, an addictive parsley salad, and a spicy shawarma-spiced lamb pita, but it’s because of the lively atmosphere, too. The large, colorful  Israeli restaurant is always filled with business people, families, or couples playing hooky for the day and toying with the idea of coming back for dinner and drinks. The next time your co-workers think they’ve impressed your boss with a better-than-average caesar salad, pull this place out of your back pocket. 

Surrounded by places requiring reservations or hour-plus waits, Huda is something that Rittenhouse needed: somewhere to grab a sandwich between saving the world at the office or window shopping on Walnut Street. But the location isn’t the only reason we keep telling everyone about this place—all eight sandwiches, served on housemade milk buns, have us murmuring “hoo-dah” in our sleep. We typically go for the grilled swordfish topped with a spicy kimchi tartar sauce, and we always pair it with an order of fries that comes with a choice of southwest, dijonaise, sour cream and onion sauce, or that delicious kimchi tartar.

There are a lot of weird, cool things under the El: a dive bar with a heavy metal night, a high-end event venue attached to a high school, and at least three hidden rooftops. Dawa is also right under the El on Front Street, and this tiny, casual spot has some of the best food you can find in Fishtown. It’s a casual place to grab a lunch full of miso soup, otoro fatty tuna, king salmon rolls, and forget that a life of deadlines exists. 

photo credit: GAB BONGHI



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Parc is a special place, partially because it’s slowly fused into Rittenhouse Square’s permanent architecture, but also because you can pull it out of your back pocket for pretty much any situation–including weekday lunch. It’s a classic French bistro with things we love like steak frites, french onion soup, and a juicy burger. They also have some of the best sidewalk seating in the city, so when you skip work on a nice day, you can eat something great while watching people walk dogs that look like them or head to meetings that have nothing to do with you.

Ocean Harbor is one of the best and most convenient places to have dim sum in Chinatown. It’s open from 10am-9pm every day of the week, which means you can eat wonton soup and fried seafood rolls for brunch, lunch, and dinner. Though it’s super efficient, it can get crowded at night, so it’s better to come in the daytime. Pick a number, wait a few minutes, and then spend the next hour or so grabbing whatever you want off of the carts as they speed by.

For your hoagie cravings in Fishtown, there’s nowhere better than Liberty Kitchen. The Front Street deli and market makes their sandwiches with a bunch of local products, like bread from Carangi Bakery and relish from Brine Street Picklery. They also do things like tomato pie, mac and cheese, and a vegetarian hoagie filled with marinated eggplant, provolone, and roasted red peppers, so you can take your weekday picnic to go.

This quaint Mexican restaurant near Snyder Station makes the best tortas in Philly, but we also love the tacos de alambre–they combine juicy spiced chicken, crisp red and green peppers, chihuahua cheese, bacon, and fried onions. If you head there in the afternoon, you’ll find a handful of people staring at the menu on the colorful chalkboard trying to decide between the birria or al pastor tacos (spoiler alert: get both). They’re both under $15, which is not bad considering you’re getting paid for the day and haven’t answered a single Slack. 

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