The Best Restaurants In West Philly

20 of our favorite spots to eat west of the Schuylkill.
The Best Restaurants In West Philly image

photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO

West Philly is a lot more than just the opening bars in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song. From University City to Overbook and Spruce Hill, many of the neighborhoods on the west side of the Schuylkill are filled with amazing shops, galleries, and gardens. Plus, fantastic restaurants and cafes where you can split Ethiopian combo platters with friends, grab your morning donuts and bagels, or spend a date night downing sai gawk and laab. These are our 20 favorite places to eat in West Philly. 


photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO


West Philadelphia

$$$$Perfect For:Small PlatesLunchBreakfastBrunchSerious Take-Out OperationQuick Eats


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This Afrocentric grocery store and all-day cafe sources as many products from Black farmers as possible, including the ingredients for Haitian-inspired tasso ham and pulled griyo sandwiches, spicy West Indian patties, and plantain snack cakes. If you're just getting one thing on the menu, go for the Dolla Hoagie. The roll comes is made with benne seeds, giving each turkey-filled bite a bit of earthiness. Stop by the casual shop for something before your morning commute or after a walk in Malcolm X Park. 

If you tried to eat at every good restaurant on Baltimore Avenue, it would take a month of two-a-days just to get through the standouts. But the first and most important place to visit on that stretch is Vientiane Cafe. It’s a Lao BYOB that’s great for a casual date or group dinner and serves generous portions of noodle and curry dishes. Prioritize the Lao specialties, like the BBQ cornish game hen and the pan-seared tilapia wraps. Just know that it’s small and cash-only, so call ahead for reservations and hit the ATM before you go.

We often wake up on Saturdays wanting a bagel or bialy with as much puff as a small pillow. If you relate, head to Cleo Bagels. They bake classics like poppy, everything, and sesame that you can top with whitefish, house peanut butter, or scallion cream cheese. But it’s their signature sandwiches that really show off Cleo's tendency to go all mad scientist (in the best way). The Ramen Thing is our favorite of the combos. It layers marinated egg, pickled ginger, bamboo, togarashi mayo, seaweed crisps, and scallions, all on a bagel of your choice. Each bite is slightly sweet, salty, and has everything that makes a brothy bowl of ramen so great—but less messy.

We’re pretty much going steady with Doro Bet on Baltimore Avenue. The Sami Dan music they play has infiltrated our dreams, the bright walls covered in African art is now our lock screen, and we’re thinking of proposing to the chefs after eating a plate of doro wot. This casual Ethiopian spot has plenty of plants, a big picture window near the front, and a handful of tables where you can eat their two varieties of teff-flour fried chicken. It’s our new go-to for a quick lunch or weeknight meal when all we want is fried chicken covered in berbere seasoning.

Hadramout makes incredible lamb fasah served in bubbling pots, flatbread with serious topography, and fish mofa that's sticky, steaming, and blackened. The 45th Street room doesn't look like much—it's possible you'll be the only person inside who doesn't work here—but it's easily the best place to eat Yemeni food in Philly.

Saad’s Halal is a Middle Eastern shop on Walnut Hill serving things like shawarma, falafel, baklava, vegetarian platters, and some of the best cheesesteaks in town. And with an open counter at the front, you can have a front-row seat to folks in the kitchen creating something as beautiful as another Sixers championship trophy.

When you head to Soul Greedy, you’ll notice a few things: the mint green walls, Whitney Houston throwbacks playing, and people eating soul-calming food at every table. It’s an easygoing place where everything is perfectly seasoned—but we love their catfish nuggets, potato salad, mac and cheese, and greens (a mix of collards and spinach). Come daily (like most people in the neighborhood) or bring your out-of-town cousin who needs to be saved from eating yams from a can. 

With South Indian and Indo-Chinese choices on the menu, your spread at Virasat Haveli can be filled with everything from crispy dosas to pan-seared chicken momo dumplings. Like most Indian restaurants in the city, there’s a lengthy vegetarian menu full of well-spiced cheese cooked in a creamy tomato sauce or chana masala with tender chickpeas in an onion paste. The streamers hanging from the ceiling and rainbow-striped walls make us feel like we’re at the best-smelling New Year’s Eve party of our lives.  

If you’ve been to the original Vietnam Restaurant in Chinatown, then you already know it has consistently good dishes like vermicelli bowls, seafood claypots, and crispy spring rolls. Plus, the tiki-ish cocktails are way stronger than they taste. The Vietnam Cafe in University City has pretty much the same food and drink situation as the Chinatown spot, but it’s way bigger and there’s usually a table open—even if you show up with your entire family.

Overbrook’s Crafty Soul makes soul food good enough to be your last meal on earth. With spacious lounge areas full of cozy black couches and TVs, you could spend the day in their dining room (except on Mondays, when they're closed). Plus, after diving into a plate of crispy fried chicken, creamy mac and cheese, and cinnamony yams, you won’t have the energy to get up anyway. Come here for an easygoing lunch when you have no plans for the rest of the day, or for a satisfying dinner while Stevie Wonder plays in the background. 

Jezabel’s is a daytime Argentinian cafe that always smells like coffee and warm pastries. Open daily, it’s an easy place to start your day with a cheese- and ham-filled mafalda, buttery medialunas, or a creamy ricotta torta. But the baked empanadas are really the headliners. Get them stuffed with cuts of beef, juicy chicken, tangy root vegetables, or spicy lentils.

Come to this Caribbean spot for beef patties, mac and cheese, and island wings that are perfectly charred and get drenched in an orange glaze. It's a great spot to bring a group of friends for a fun weeknight meal—that way you can pass around things like blackened tilapia that’s topped with pineapple salsa and cakey bread pudding that’s coated in a buttery rum sauce for dessert.

You just had a stop-and-chat with your old high school friend, and you gave an enthusiastic but completely disingenuous “we should totally catch up soon!” But they followed up so now you’re stuck. Instead of going the wine-and-cheese route, take them to Terakawa. When it comes to ramen in University City, you can’t do much better, and the service is fast. Grab a bowl of the tan tan ramen that’s bathing in spicy miso and chicken broth and get out of there before they ask to meet your partner.

Dottie’s Donuts is not a shop that’s just good for vegan donuts—it’s a donut shop that makes great donuts, period. They sell everything from classic apple fritters to options like the glazed gingerbread that’s topped with a hunk of chocolate-apple spiced cake. Open until they sell out, try to make it there before noon if you want to get your hands on these consistently delicious and fresh doughy rings.

Aksum is a Mediterranean BYOB with dishes like a vegetable tagine served over couscous—that’s one of our favorite vegetarian dishes in the city—and an especially large plate of lemon caper chicken when you’re extra hungry. It’s versatile and affordable, with most of their shareable entrees coming in at $30, so you can use it for everything from a casual weeknight date to dinner with your in-laws.

Abyssinia, an Ethiopian spot right around the corner from Penn’s campus, has a lot of different vegetarian dishes. Your best bet, though, is the $15 vegetarian combination, which includes six of their most popular vegetarian dishes—like split lentils in berbere sauce and spicy sauteed collard greens—served on top of spongy injera. You can probably split one plate between two or three people because the servings are so big, or just get one for yourself and bring home the leftovers.

With seafood mac and cheese, blackened catfish, and stewed collard greens swimming alongside shreds of smoked turkey, this Baltimore Ave. spot cooks up a dinner spread significantly better than those coveted after-church platters. But for us, a trip to the Southern-inspired restaurant usually comes during their brunch hours (Wednesday-Sunday from 10am-2:30pm). The creamy shrimp and grits, which comes with a spicy, nutty etouffee sauce and a sunny-side-up egg, makes for one of the best brunches in the city.

If you’ve taken a Saturday or Sunday morning drive down Lancaster Ave., you’ve seen crowds of people in front of Bart’s Bagels. From grabbing an everything topped with nova smoked salmon for breakfast to a classic reuben for lunch, there are plenty of reasons why the line outside is a fixture in the neighborhood. Their bagels are remarkably yeasty and deep golden brown, and since they smoke their fish in-house, they have a bagel sandwich (our favorite is the Uncle Leo) list that’s longer than any other shop in Philly. 

This brunch spot serves everything from lemon ricotta blueberry pancakes with a mixed berry compote to breakfast tacos, and they do it seven days a week. On the weekend, you’ll likely spend at least 45 minutes waiting for a table, so come on a random Tuesday when you’re supposed to be at a “doctor's appointment” instead to avoid the lines.

The West Philly Han Dynasty checks two important boxes. They serve good Sichuan food, and you can treat it like a full-on sports bar. We love the spicy dan dan noodles with pork, as well as wontons in chili oil, scallion-style lamb, and shredded, gingery duck. Order it all while you watch the Flyers lose.

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