photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO
The Best Restaurants In East Passyunk
There are endless places to eat around East Passyunk. These are our 18 favorites.
With some of the best restaurants in the city, a bunch of BYOBs, and two of the biggest cheesesteak tourist traps on the same block, East Passyunk is a neighborhood that’s always busy. And because you can get real whiplash choosing somewhere to eat for dinner, we’ve done you the favor of picking out the best places. You'll find taquerias, dim sum spots, and much more.
South Philly Barbacoa
There are a universal few truths in the world: Gritty is the thing of nightmares, you don’t take I-95 on gameday, and South Philly Barbacoa makes the best tacos in the city. There are a few things on the menu, barbacoa and pancita tacos, a lamb consomme, and specials like tamale and quesadillas, and they’re all excellent. It’s also a pretty popular spot with both locals and tourists, and they’re only open on the weekends, so show up before noon (they open at 5am) if you don’t want to wait in a line.
Laurel is a 24-seat, tasting-menu-only restaurant that will cost you about the same price as a last-minute Amtrak ticket to Boston ($142). Instead of heading north to boo the Celtics on a random Tuesday night, you should come to Laurel. The six-course meal includes dishes like a l'arpege egg served with caviar, braised lamb with pickled berries, and poultry sausage with a honeynut squash custard that tastes like a honeycomb cereal milkshake. It's also a perfect place for a fancy date night with someone you like enough to wear that one good shirt you own.
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For the nights when you’d rather just get takeout, go to Hardena. They serve Indonesian food that changes up daily and it all comes over a big pile of rice. You can mix and match whatever looks good to you, but we highly recommend the beef rendang that’s caramelized and slow-cooked in coconut milk, along with the collard greens. There are a few tables where you can sit down and eat, but there’s no shame in taking yours to go and eating it while watching reruns of Golden Girls on your couch.
The Best Restaurants In South Philly
Ember & Ash
You'll probably only find dishes like pig’s head, a silky pork mousse, and pig’s blood cannoli in Philly at Ember and Ash. Just like its name, virtually everything here is charred or touches the flames in the open kitchen, including one of our favorites: the beef shin. It comes in an oval-shaped pan as big as the eggs in Jurassic Park, and you should take some of the curry-glazed shreds of beef and eat them in the accompanying lettuce wraps. Entrees range from $20-$80, so depending on what you order, it’s a place where you can have a casual weeknight or celebrate an anniversary or some other special occasion.
When you first sit down at River Twice, you’ll notice that every table has built-in utensil drawers. Everything at this East Passyunk spot is thoughtful, especially their menu that changes every single night (they stamp them with the date to prove it). The dishes use some ingredients and combinations that you won’t see at a lot of other restaurants, like NJ oysters swimming in tomato water, a purple Cherokee tomato sandwich with hunks of golden ossetra caviar, or a red miso and amaro-soaked apple dish for dessert. When it’s nice out, you can dine outdoors, grab a seat that’s surrounded by plants, and sample something from the seafood-heavy menu while taking in the sun.
Townsend was built for dates. The whole place is dark and there are more candles than they probably used on the set of Charmed. There’s an upstairs dining room where you should take your partner of three years for an anniversary dinner (they’ll even customize special occasion menus for you). From seared NJ skate served with a crunchy savoy cabbage to venison swimming in a red wine sauce, the menu here is what you might expect from a fine-dining spot. There’s also a bar downstairs that’s ideal for a more early-in-the-game date, especially because it’s open late on weekends, so it’s a great spot to head to with your friend who always says “where are we headed to next?” even though you only go out past midnight four times a year.
photo credit: GAB BONGHI
Here are some things you’ll find at Mish Mish: white tablecloths, a dimly-lit dining room, and skewers that stack juicy squares of swordfish over a creamy parsley puree. The Mediterranean spot has a small interior, so we don’t recommend bringing a super big group. But if you come with a friend or two, go for plates like their white beans in a peppery broth and a pomegranate-glazed grilled chicken that’s tender and has just the right amount of crunch to it. It’s pretty much always packed so, if someone you know snags a reservation, drop everything and go.
This tiny Filipino BYOB is one of the only places in the city serving a kamayan feast. It comes with a crispy whole fried fish, lemony chicken inasal, jasmine rice, a few other proteins and soy-drenched vegetables that can easily feed four people. Stroll in with a bottle of wine (or two) to keep you company while you wait for them to bring out all the food that will definitely fill your entire table.
Nineteen Eleven BYOB
Nineteen Eleven BYOB is a place that does multiple things consistently and exceptionally well, including dishes that you'll be dreaming about the next time your friend has you over and cooks a disastrous new recipe. You'll find small plates like fluke crudo in parsley buttermilk, tomato carpaccio, doughy beads of spinach gnocchetti, and large and perfectly charred scallops. It’s a laid-back and casual spot where you can bring some of your favorite bottles and debate with your friends over who gets to take the leftovers home.
Mike’s BBQ is in the running for our favorite barbecue spot in the city. They do sandwiches with shreds of pulled pork and have a very creamy gouda mac and cheese side, but our favorite thing here is the juicy and smoky 14-hour brisket. Plus, you can get it plain or covered in their sweet Carolina barbecue sauce—both options being better than that summer barbecue run by your cousin who learned how to grill on Youtube.
photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO
La Llorona Cantina
With a mezcal and tequila list as long as the line around the Rocky statue, and a kitchen that stays open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, La Llorona Cantina is where we go for the best margaritas in town and some great Mexican food. Come here on a casual weeknight and start with light things like a crab and scallop aguachile verde, then move on to their juicy pan-seared branzino that comes topped with tomato sauce, olives, capers, and bell peppers.
Juana Tamale makes some of the best tacos in town, specifically the ones with birria, but they also use the stewed beef in ramen with mounds of queso and an oniony consomme that we drench everything in. With all the piles of melty cheese in the ramen, it has super gooey strands each time you get a forkful. And the queso birria taco that comes with each order has corn tortillas that are flavorful from being grilled in skimmed fat and crispy enough to sop up the broth without losing any of their texture. They’re only open Thursday-Saturday, but it’s a place you should plan your entire weekend around.
When you think of a first-date spot, ITV is probably exactly what you imagine—somewhere with dim lighting, lots of wine, and white string lights strung over top of the bar area. Unsurprisingly, about 90% of the crowd here on any given night is staring soul-searchingly into someone else’s eyes. True to wine bar form, pretty much the whole menu is shared small plates, with the most expensive thing on the menu topping out at $18—unless you want the caviar service, but you should probably save that for at least a third date.
Barcelona Wine Bar
There’s a lot to like about Barcelona Wine Bar. The food is good, the wine list is better, and their massive outdoor patio sets it apart from most other restaurants on East Passyunk. Not to mention, we feel comfortable enough to show up here in whatever we wear during laundry day and nobody blinks. They serve mostly tapas like eggplant caponata, patatas bravas, and steak paillard covered in peppery vinaigrette, which makes it a perfect spot to go with a bigger group of people. And they’ll even split the big paella dishes by however many people you’re with. Stop by for a glass of wine before bar hopping around the neighborhood.
We don’t know if Stargazy will succeed in turning Philly into a scotch egg and fish and chips type of town. But they have conquered our dreams with a sausage roll that has a perfectly buttery and flaky crust. The British spot serves meat pies, desserts like sticky toffee pudding, and an eel mash that comes topped with a parsley liquor that we think is the best British import next to Adele and The Office. It’s a low-key place to grab some comfort food while reading a book at one of the few tables inside, or you can get it all to go and have a picnic at Dickinson Square Park.
Bing Bing Dim Sum
Bing Bing Dim Sum has dishes like pork soup dumplings and a roast pork bao, but they also serve some dim sum classics with a Jewish twist–like smoked whitefish on everything bing bread and turnip cakes made with matzo. Even though the cozy spot is a little small, it’s still somewhere we’d come for a group dinner and order five or six rounds of dumplings for the table. They also have a few sake options, but if you’re not in the mood to share a carafe of fruity junmai, you can just as easily come here for a solo casual weeknight dinner instead and bring your dumpling order down to three.
Cantina Los Caballitos
Cantina Los Caballitos is in the big orange and blue building on East Passyunk Avenue, and if you still can’t find it, look for the huge patio that takes up what should house a whole second restaurant. They serve solid Mexican food that tastes even better when you’ve had a few margaritas, and it's where you should spend your Saturdays in the summer. Even if it’s not 85 and sunny outside, they still have a great Happy Hour where you can get $2 taquitos and $20 pitchers.
Le Virtu is where you go in East Passyunk when you want to eat Italian dishes like grilled lamb skewers with spicy Abruzze spices and a lemony branzino, but don’t want to do it in a closet-sized room where you could end up caressing someone’s leg at the next table. There’s a lot of space here, including garden seating on sunny days, so it’s a good spot for a weeknight group dinner where you can share plates of garlicky tagliatelle and people-watch on one of the best patios in the city.