Philadelphia, PA - South Philly, made famous by Rocky movies, is home to more than just cheesesteaks; it boasts an exciting food scene as well. One can sing off-key karaoke at a dimly lit dive bar while enjoying some fried scrapple for breakfast or enjoy an aromatic bowl of stew in a century-old home; meanwhile, you could dress up and get yourself a reservation at one of James Beard Award winners' hotspots.
Rooted in Blue-Collar, Gutsy Italian-American Cuisine
Joey Baldino hails from Philadelphia was raised near the Palizzi Social Club - one of the few members-only clubs to survive the South Philly-to-South Jersey white flight pipeline in the 1970s and '80s. Since taking over this cozy century-old hangout in 2016, he has revamped its menu to reflect its Italian-American roots, from Stromboli and crab soup to Fried Octopus and Sausage!
He also offers a roast pork sandwich (with broccoli rabe, sharp provolone cheese, and a roll), as well as the specialty dish known as scrapple breakfast sandwiches - processed meat loaves made of pork trimmings mixed with cornmeal and flour for maximum flavor!
At Juana Tamale in South Philly, Jennifer Zavala has established a devoted following with her distinctive take on Mexican cuisine at Juana Tamale - specifically its signature Birria Tacos! In addition to some of the city's best Thai, Laotian, and Vietnamese restaurants, South Philly also boasts some excellent vegan offerings such as Laser Wolf's wood-fired Israeli Skewer House, Goldie's plant-based falafel joint and Conscious Cultures' dairy-free cheese shop.
New Arrivals to the Area
South Philadelphia is one of Philadelphia's most diverse neighborhoods, and its cuisine reflects that diversity. While much of South Philly is historically Italian-dominated -- serving up red gravy and stromboli like no other -- other ethnic cuisines can also be found throughout its borders, such as Latin and Asian flavors.
Butcher shops in Philadelphia's historic Italian Market sell store-made chorizo. At the same time, South Philly Barbacoa, named by Bon Appetit one of America's best restaurants, offers homemade tortillas and lechon asado (roasted pork).
Washington Avenue's bustling commercial strip earned itself the name "Little Saigon," thanks to Vietnamese immigrants establishing food stalls there and offering Southeast Asian specialties such as Tibetan satay and Thenthuk (a traditional soup with hand-pulled noodles in an aromatic broth).
From Classic Italian Eateries to Modern Fusion Restaurants
Life events often call for special celebrations with food. Perhaps you have just moved to a new neighborhood, your child has successfully potty trained or your noisy neighbor has moved out - whatever the case, Philadelphia restaurants provide an abundance of blessings!
South Philadelphia offers plenty of traditional Italian eateries, such as pizza shops and delis serving enough red gravy to feed an army, along with cheesesteak joints with longstanding reputations. Still, the neighborhood also has modern fusion restaurants to satisfy any tastebuds.
Messina is a 30-seat members-only restaurant housed within a former metal factory and warehouse, run by Patrick Alfiero of Messina Kitchen & Catering. Here, Patrick offers dishes such as charred octopus in garlicky broth and spinach ravioli packed with lemony ricotta cheese from Messina; on the other side of the spectrum are luxurious Chinese banquet halls such as Grand Palace that serve lavish carts full of stir-fried clams in umami-rich black bean sauce as well as dumplings filled with shrimp or pork from large banquet hall kitchens like Grand Palace.
Find Your Favorite Restaurant in South Philly
South Philly, best known for Rocky running through burning trash cans in Rocky IV, is also home to some incredible dining options - its restaurants feature cuisine from around the globe and feature styles that span from comfort food to fine dining.
Campo's Deli in East Passyunk stands as an example. This tiny eatery serves freshly baked bread sandwiches stuffed with top-quality meats, cheeses, and sauces. Although Campo's was historically beloved among Italian Americans, today its popularity extends across ethnic lines.
Other notable South Philly restaurants include Victor Cafe, which specializes in traditional Italian fare while hosting opera singers as guests; Pat's King of Steaks and Geno's cheesesteak shops - each have garnered recognition in Philadelphia's restaurant community; Chutatip "Nok" Suntaranon of Kalaya in Fishtown earned two James Beard Foundation award nominations while Amanda Shulman from My Loup in Rittenhouse Square also garnered one.