Where To Eat And Drink On South StreetSouth Street’s a weird place, but it’s got some great restaurants and bars. These are the 15 best spots.
From art galleries, music venues, and vape shops to people running the 40-yard dash between street lights at night, South Street is a world of its own. And while the liveliest street in town is known for its tattoo parlors, night clubs, and clothing shops lining the sidewalks, it’s also packed with some great restaurants. We’ve put together a list of the 14 best bars, BYOBs, cheesesteaks, Vietnamese, and sushi spots that prove the area offers a whole lot more than Philly taco attempts and PPA traps.
Rex at The Royal is one of those places to check out when you don’t want to be on the wild end of South Street. And when it comes to date night, you’ll get a better dinner-and-a-show experience here than hitting up the TLA a few blocks down. With a menu full of Lowcountry favorites like chicken and dumplings, shrimp and grits, and crawfish pot pie, you’ll get to choose from a lot of tasty dishes that are perfect for any night of the week. And if the date goes well and you want a nightcap, they have a bottle shop inside where you can grab some merlot to go.
South Street is like a sliding scale. Near the Delaware, it looks like it’s stuck in the ’90s, and on the other side of the city - well, there’s a Whole Foods. Pumpkin, a small BYOB, is located somewhere in the middle. It’s been around for ages, and while the $55 three-course tasting menu changes daily, the food is still consistently great. If there’s a crudo on the menu, make sure it ends up in front of you - but otherwise, you could pretty much close your eyes and point to anything and it will be delicious. The other thing you should know is that it’s cash-only, so you’ll want to hit both the bottle shop and the ATM on your way over.
This South Street restaurant and shop serves—you guessed it—banh mi and craft beer. But thinking that’s all they do is like thinking Tom Hanks just does a little acting. They also have sophisticated cocktails, along with an extensive menu of Vietnamese street food and snacks. The chicken wings are perfectly crispy, the stuffed clams are tender and deliciously spicy, and the pork bao buns are a must-order. Pop into the industrial space anytime you’re feeling peckish—the small plates are always changing—but make a reservation if you’re going with a group (it tends to get busy on the weekends).
When people mention Japanese breakfast in this town, we don’t know if they’re talking about the Philly-based alternative band or getting a roll from Kei Sushi before noon. One of the best sushi spots in Philly, they open at 11:30am, which means it’s a great place to come and ditch the office for a long early lunch. The space is pretty small, so it’s easy to relax at the sushi counter and watch as mackerel, hamachi, hirame, and salmon belly all get plated for the handful of families and people on first dates inside. Come here for a few handrolls full of chopped spicy tuna and chunks of crab meat, a few orders of pork gyoza soup, and the silky black sesame mochi ice cream for dessert.
Chicken wings and donuts have a lot in common: they’re handheld, can get a little sweet depending on what they’re coated with, and nobody’s sure if they’re a snack or a meal. So it’s no surprise that this spot (with a few locations all over the city) decided to put them both in one shop. On any day, the scent of crispy chicken right out of the fryer and sugary churro or strawberry lavender donuts can waft through the casual corner spot. With the TLA just down the street, an order of perfectly seasoned coconut curry wings with a subtly sweet rub, a fluffy cake donut, and a quick drink at Tattooed Mom might be our favorite pre-show pregame.
With a “Dummies Guide to De-Shelling” painted in bright orange on their wall, there’s no surprise that dishes like peel ‘n eat shrimp and lobster fried rice topped with a large lobster tail is on the menu at this Southeast Asian bistro. Stop by on a weeknight and bite into some spring rolls packed with shrimp and vegetables–that you can dunk into a sweet house made peanut hoisin sauce–and a few rice, spicy curry, and warm chicken phở dishes. You’ll find one wildcard on the menu: the seafood boil comes with shrimp, mussels, clams, corn, potatoes, and sausages that are all drenched in a spicy cajun butter sauce. And if the coldest Thai iced tea here doesn’t do the job of balancing out the fiery seafood blend, throw in an order of fried cheesecake or mango sticky rice to cool things off.
Philly is a BYOB city, so even on this chaotic street, you’ll find a few good ones. But it’s Entree BYOB–with its seasonal menu full of dishes made from locally sourced ingredients–that stands out among the rest. With a dining room that’s cozy and only a handful of tables, you won’t escape overhearing the weekend plans of a couple on a date night or a table of a few friends talking about award shows in the chatty dining room. When it comes to the menu (outside of their $40 and $50 prefix options), you can expect a few pasta dishes like blue crab bucatini and sweet potato alfredo, a steak main, and a few seafood starters like fried calamari and shrimp coated in a scotch bonnet and mango glaze. Pick up some beers or your favorite red on the way, and have a meal in an intimate space that will make you feel more like you’re having dinner at your best friend’s house than in Center City.
On a rainy night, there’s nowhere you’d rather be than sitting in front of an oniony bowl of house phở loaded with flank, steak, tripe, and a meatball at Viet Bistro. Outside of warming you up, the 24 noodle soup options here are some of the best in the city and are all $15 and under. Outside of the soups, you can go for things like dumplings, steamed rice dishes, vegetarian combination dishes, and long $6 bành mí that you’ll be thinking about all week. With lots of big tables and artwork showing off the Vietnam coastline, it’s an ideal place for a last-minute group dinner where you can just walk in, order anything on the menu, and daydream about your next beach vacation.
Tattooed Mom is your no-words-needed introduction to South Street. The walls, top to bottom, are covered in years of stickers, spray paint, and sharpie, and it would take an exhaustive “I Spy” search to find all of the different murals by both famous and local street artists. Outside of the atmosphere, it’s the food and drinks that make it one of our favorite bars in the city. When it comes to the menu, you can expect lots of veggie sandwiches like vegan Nashville hot chicken and sriracha “chicken” wraps, or classic burgers, cheesesteaks, and plenty of filling sides like cheesy tater tots. It’s the kind of place you’ll only find on South Street–with a sticker and marker-covered bumper car in the entrance– and one that’ll impress your friends just for knowing it exists.
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With Lorenzo and Sons and Rita’s nearby, you’ll usually find a crowd near 3rd and South that looks like the one near the Swann Memorial Fountain on a hot summer's day. But it’s Nora’s Kitchen–with their lineup of tacos, tortas, and burritos dripping in smoky habanero and salsa verde–that offers the best option on the busy corner. Everything they put on their house made corn tortilla here is excellent, including the shrimp, carnitas, and al pastor. And since they have plenty of vegan options like chorizo tacos made out of TVP (textured vegetable protein), it’s a fast and casual place where you can bring any of your friends when you want a laid-back spot that’s not near one of the busy bars on the street. Once you’ve had all the tacos, end your night with an order of churros. They’ll be the best thing you’ve eaten all day.
South Street’s Milkboy may not have the music stage like the Old City location, but they’re both all-day cafes, have the same sandwich-heavy menu, and are perfect for spending a Phillies game yelling at the large TVs lining the walls. It’s a no-brainer place to grab nachos and a blacked chicken panini during your lunch break or stop by after 5pm when the bar goes full service. And since you need a distraction from watching the scoreboard anyway, you can bite into their juicy burger while singing your heart out to Lorde during karaoke nights on Tuesdays or tap into your ultra-competitive side on their Monday quizzo nights.
On any given night, you’ll find that Bob & Barbara’s is absolutely packed. That’s for a few reasons. For one - it’s a classic. It’s been around since South Street’s prime, and it’s the birthplace of the Citywide. Plenty of other spots serve the famous four-dollar citywide combo of a shot and a beer, but this place invented it in the ’90s. They also have pierogies to pair with your classic drink and live music every weekend. They’ll keep everyone dancing until the bar closes at 2am - and cheering at events like drag shows and trivia on weeknights.
This blend of melted provolone, soft onions, and ⅛-inch-thick chunks of beef from this South Street spot is the perfect thing after a few slushies from nearby Fat Tuesday. One of the few places in the city that has more chicken options than beef, Ishkabibble's cheesesteaks can either be topped with American, provolone, or whiz, and go great with their half lemonade, half grape Gremlin drink. Whenever you stop by, you’re guaranteed to get a steak that’s on a long crackly roll and is the perfect squishy texture from all of the residual steak juices.
Walking through the doors at Brauhaus Schmitz is like finding a portal to Germany. The all-wood space is covered in German flags and photos of Deutschland soccer teams, and the waitstaff looks like they’ve been teleported from Oktoberfest. There aren’t many great sports bars on South Street, and this is by far the most enjoyable place to watch a game. From currywurst, smokey speckwurst, and pretzels to pilsners, it’s a great place to bring a group of friends and pack the beer hall-styled tables.