Philadelphia is notoriously easy to navigate. The grid system is practically a utopian ideal, which makes giving directions easy (a shame, considering you just downloaded the Morgan Freeman voice on Waze). That is, of course, until you get to Fishtown.
The neighborhood is made up of roads slanting towards the river, thanks to it being a former fishing village. And though the population has shifted from anglers and fishmongers to artists and young families, the historical impact has left the neighborhood (literally) “off the grid.” The result is a diverse area full of restaurants, and while there seem to be new places popping up every week in Fishtown, these are our favorites.
Between the coffee shop in the front and fresh pita constantly being baked in the back, Suraya smells exactly how you wish your house did. You can sit in the cafe and have a chai while you get some work done, or head to the dining room for lunch or dinner. Their evening menu is especially excellent for a date, with plenty of lighter, shareable dishes like baba ganoush and stuffed grape leaves served with lemon yogurt.
While we love Fishtown for how many good, casual options there are everywhere, sometimes you just want to wear the one outfit that you mentally reserve for “special occasions.” Kensington Quarters is that place. They have a great burger, lengthy wine list, and a menu full of dishes that are nice enough to break up your week without making you worry too much about the bill. They also have a reasonably-priced Happy Hour if you’re looking to try a few small bites before committing to the duck breast or mixed grill.
If you’ve spent any time around East Passyunk, you’ve probably been to Perla - one of Philly’s best BYOBs. Sarvida is their second restaurant, and while it also serves Filipino food, it feels different than their South Philly spot. It’s about twice the size, which isn’t saying much considering Perla is the size of a large walk-in closet, and the space has a black-and-white color palette with an open kitchen. You’ll find similar food here, like calves liver bistek and beef tendon chicharron, and no matter what you order it’s all excellent.
Due to a mix-up at the post office, you’ve suddenly received all twelve bottles from your “wine of the month club” at once. Bring the case and some friends to Ekta on Girard, where you can put a dent in your wine surplus (it’s BYOB here) and eat some good Indian food at the same time. Between the big portions and family-style option, this place works especially well for big groups. Go with the biryani and the spicy Goan shrimp curry, along with some extra naan to mop up the sauce.
Sancho Pistola’s is a Mexican restaurant that has a TV within view of every table, which makes it the perfect place to have dinner while you watch a game. There’s never a huge crowd in here (except during Happy Hour), so come here if you want to watch the Flyers lose in peace while you eat a bunch of really solid tacos. Their carnitas bao buns and guacamole that’s topped with spicy raw tuna are also must-orders.
Whether your fantasy football team is looking more like a nightmare, or your gym just replaced your weekly vinyasa hour with another Zumba class, sometimes you just need something warm and delicious that’ll never let you down. These are the times to go to Stock. Their khao poon, a Lao-style coconut curry soup, is a cure-all for everything from a bad review at work to mistakenly treating a Sunday like a Saturday. This BYOB on Girard is walk-in only, and if you go with a friend, make sure to try the prahok katee (a spicy pork dip) and banh mi sprinkled with fried shallots, too.
Pizzeria Beddia is the second coming of the small pizza shop that used to have 6-hour lines on Girard. But this one, located in a Fishtown alley with a little green neon sign out front, is much bigger than the original, with three high-ceilinged rooms painted white and filled with minimal light-wood furniture. They also have more than just pizza. Besides the thin-crust pies (which are just as good as they’ve always been), there’s a long natural wine list, a few starters, and a daily selection of soft serve that you can - and should - take to go.
For your hoagie fix 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 one of the better charcuterie boards in the area.
Calling La Colombe in Fishtown a “coffee shop” is kind of like carrying a Swiss Army knife and only using the tiny saw - it’s not wrong, but it sort of misses the point. This place feels more like a brewery than wherever you normally go for your morning latte, with lots of space, plenty of seating, and a full food menu to go with all of the coffee you could ever want. Stop in for breakfast or pick up a sandwich after work when you suddenly remember you were supposed to go grocery shopping three days ago.
Front Street Cafe is basically always open, so regardless of whether you need to grab a second dinner or a quick bite before work, this place is here for you. It’s the neighborhood spot that everyone wishes they had, with good cocktails, patio seating, and bar food that’s just a little better than it needs to be. Make sure to get the buffalo chicken cauliflower and a fried chicken sandwich.
Pizza Shackamaxon took over the original Pizzeria Beddia location - the counter shop with just a few tables on Girard. And even though people aren’t waiting in lines out the door like they were for Beddia, they should be, because Shackamaxon’s thin-crust pies are really f*cking good. They also sell slices, so you don’t have to purchase an entire pizza for yourself to eat on your couch (unless you want to). Despite how huge these slices are, they hold their weight in toppings - meaning your pepperoni pizza won’t lose all of its perfect little grease pools as soon as you pick up a slice.
Cher and ABBA. Fast And Furious movies and long flights. Some combinations, while unexpected, just work, which is exactly how we’d describe Cheu Fishtown. Here you can eat dumplings and noodles alongside things like pastrami bing buns. You know, for balance. This former police stable is covered in crazy artwork, both on the stools and walls, and it’s a great place to stop by for a cocktail and some ramen.
Nunu and Cheu are from the same team, and are also right next door to each other in Fishtown. They share an outdoor area - it’s just a little alleyway with a few tables and a bar that looks into Nunu - that’s generally filled with lots of small groups throughout the summer. Although both serve Japanese food, you’ll find more small plates at Nunu - things like yakitori skewers and katsu sandwiches. The red, Blade Runner-esque lighting and secluded two-seater booths make it a really good first-date spot. Stop by for drinks and then stay for snacks if things go well.
If you were ever curious about alternative career paths for that art history degree, you should visit Pizza Brain. Part-restaurant, part-museum, the walls are covered with pizza memorabilia, which gives you plenty to look at while you wait for your pies. There’s limited indoor seating, but there are a few tables in the courtyard in the back, and their BYO policy lets you bring your favorite beer or wine along for the ride.
If you go to Pizza Brain, there’s a strong chance that you’ll come here afterward since they’re connected. Flavors range from somewhat classic (like chocolate salt malt) to borderline ridiculous (Earl Grey sriracha and cucumber dill). Plus, if you’re feeling especially generous, pre-pay for a scoop on the Pay-It-Forward Board. You can specify the scoop’s recipient in any way you like, like “anyone named Jake” or “someone having a bad hair day.”
Wm. Mulherin’s Sons looks like it belongs in the Catskills, or at least a bougie part of the Poconos. The part-boutique hotel, part-restaurant has big, round tables and a fireplace in the middle of the dining room. On top of looking really nice, the cocktails and Italian food are also excellent. There are lots of things to choose from, but what they do best are pasta (always get the porcini cavatelli) and Neapolitan pizzas - like the double margarita pizza topped with mozzarella and burrata.
Hiroki is an expensive, omakase-only spot from the people behind Wm. Mulherin’s Sons. The restaurant, which is also located in the same building as Wm. Mulherin’s, feels almost like a wine cellar. The barrel-shaped door leads into a small, dark room that’s almost entirely taken up by the sushi counter. To start, you’ll get a small tray of appetizers followed by things like soy-marinated wagyu short rib and crispy tilefish, and then around 12 pieces of sushi, a cup of miso soup, and a small dessert. Come here if you have something big to celebrate - it’s worth the $125 (plus another $60 for the sake pairing) price tag.
Fette Sau serves everything from beef brisket to pulled pork to St. Louis-style ribs, so you can just get a bit of each instead of worrying about choosing the wrong thing. The cafeteria-style seating is first-come, first-served and there’s a spacious outdoor patio that’s ideal for drinking a whiskey flight while discussing the finer things in life, like which actor would play Gerald in a live-action revival of Hey Arnold.
If you live or work in Fishtown, you’ve probably noticed that there are at least 10 coffee shops, but only a couple of spots to get a sit-down breakfast. Over Easy Breakfast Club is one of those places - at least Friday through Sunday when they’re open for brunch. This bright and airy spot has a long bar and plenty of tables where you can sit, drink a cup of coffee, and be glad that you’re not at home trying to make a frittata. All of the food here is great, but the eggs benedict, breakfast burrito, and burger (which is covered in caramelized onions, bacon, and bleu cheese) are some of the best options.
Loco Pez brings together two of our favorite things: a neighborhood dive and Mexican food. If you happen to come here on one of their dollar-taco nights, you’ll be able to eat, grab a PBR, and leave a tip for under $10. Avoid Happy Hour if you’re trying to skip the crowds and make sure you have cash (they don’t take cards), but rest assured that the prices will be reasonable and the nachos plentiful any time you go.
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. Da-Wa is also right under the El on Front Street, and this tiny, super casual 16-seat spot has some of the best sushi and ramen in Fishtown. If you want to do the $59 omakase, you’ll have to book ahead, but you won’t find higher-quality fish for a better price.
Maybe you’re having people over for the Eagles game, or maybe you’ve been craving wings since you smelled them at a bar the other night. Either way, Andy’s is the best place in the neighborhood to go for fried chicken. Their double-fried recipe results in an audible crunch, and the sweet chili sauce adds just the right amount of heat. Call ahead, and make sure you stock up on paper towels on the walk home.
Everyone has a favorite bagel place in the city, and ours is Philly Style Bagels in Fishtown. It’s a small corner spot off Frankford that usually has a line out the door on most weekend mornings. Their bagels aren’t the big fluffy kind you’ll find elsewhere - they’re a bit smaller and, in our opinion, that makes them more flavorful. The bagels are also boiled in beer, which we’re assuming is what makes them “Philly style.” Well, as long as they’re boiled in Yuengling.
Walking into Murph’s Bar, you might wonder why your friend suggested you try it for dinner. That is, until the aroma of garlic and tomato sauce hits you. This Irish pub serves some of the best Italian food in the city, and once you see platters of seafood manicotti and veal tortellaci being passed around the small dining room, you’ll be sold. Leave your expectations at the door and call ahead if you’ve got four or more in your party.
When your best friend is celebrating her dog’s birthday and you’re in charge of bringing the human treats, make a stop at Cake Life. It may be tough to choose from the display cases packed with things like pistachio kouign-amann and fruit tarts, but you can’t really go wrong. They’re open until 10pm on weekends, host BYOB cake tasting events the second Saturday of each month, and the sugar cookies will go faster than your interest in how old the dog is turning.