The Best Soul Food In PhiladelphiaWhen only a platter of greens, mac and cheese, and something fried will do, head to these 9 spots.
Not everyone eats soul food the same. For some, a forkful of mac and cheese doesn’t make sense without yams, and for others, fried fish has to be topped with hot sauce—or, unforgivably, mustard. But what most soul food shops have in common are long waits, incredible aromas, and recipes more secret than Area 51’s location. These are Philly’s nine best soul food spots serving comfort in each bite.
When you head to Soul Greedy in Spruce Hill, 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.
Overbrook’s Crafty Soul is serving up 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.
We dream about the platters from Sheba’s Soul Plate so often that we’ve started licking our fingers in our sleep. Inside the tiny West Philly spot, you order directly from the counter, listen to something sizzling while looking at a painting of Bob Marley, and end up eating melt-in-your-mouth food. When we’re at the part-Soul, part-Caribbean restaurant, we go for the BBQ chicken platter. The diced chicken is juicy and soaked in a perfectly tangy, smoked sauce. They rotate their sides, but if their collard greens or sugary candied yams are available, grab them, along with a bunch of napkins.
We tried to go a few weeks without a soul food platter from Ms Daisy's Corner Kitchen. But it turns out that life without their fried fish, potato salad, and string beans is like a Roots Picnic with no music: boring and flavorless. From juicy salmon to pillowy macaroni and cheese, everything at the Kensington takeout only shop is seasoned perfectly (and worth the 25-minute wait). And just like the top billing of a festival, it will be the headliner of your week.
An order of chicken from Soul D’Lites in Cobbs Creek tastes like it was crafted by spice engineers. Each bite has just the right amount of crunch and flavor. A batch is essentially good enough to make us want to pitch a tent and live inside—which would be bizarre, since it’s takeout only and we don’t own a tent. When it comes to sides, suffice it to say that the string beans and gooey mac would get a nod of approval at a cookout in Fairmount Park. While there may be a line at least 15 people deep when you come, comfort food this good is worth lining up like you’re on a 3rd grade field trip again.
When you eat great food, you tune out everything else. The only things that remain are your fork, plate, and maybe the Eagles (this is still Philly). That’s the feeling we get while eating a fried whiting platter at Tyemeka’s in Germantown. Their mac and cheese is baked so it has super crispy edges, the greens have a smokiness to them that can’t be matched, and the fish is so beautifully seasoned that you’ll want to hug everyone behind the counter. Sit in their burgundy dining room and look at pictures of the neighborhood or take a platter to Vernon Park nearby, dig in, and head home when you can stand again.
Ogontz’s Soul Kitchen 5935 is our food happy place. They have eight platters on the menu that range from pork chop and short ribs to meatloaf and they’re all under $20. But it’s the smothered turkey wings that keep the dining room more crowded than a family reunion. Each drumstick takes up half of your plate—so one platter could feed two people. Plus, with two sides and cornbread thrown into the deal, plus great desserts, you may need a cousin or two to help you get through a meal.
We don’t know what they put in the yellow rice at Lancaster Ave’s Lavish. But it’s a peppery and savory blend that, like every Jazmine Sullivan song, exists in perfect harmony. The small neighborhood spot has only a few tables inside, so you’ll usually see people shuffling in and out with something they covet more than an empty chair at the barbershop. Grab the chicken wing platter—it’s just $6, each bite has a satisfying crunch, and the sides are large enough to keep you full for an entire day.
There’s lots that draws visitors into Reading Terminal Market: tourists can’t get enough of it, the endless cuisine options mean there’s something for everyone, and it offers great coverage on a rainy Center City day. But when you’re craving soul food, the real draw is Ma Lessie’s Chicken & Waffles. The black eyed peas are perfectly peppery, the mac and cheese has that ideal creaminess, and although every main is good, the tender turkey wing is as unforgettable as Friday.