Philly's Southern, Soul & Caribbean Restaurant Guide

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In Philly their is nothing's more fulfilling than a plate of down-home eats, and thankfully, Philly's feasting scene is rich in catfish, jerk chicken and macaroni and cheddar.

Whether it's a gourmet turn on turkey wings, a lively bowl of jambalaya or a cut of sweet-potato pie, generous goodness flourishes when it come to regional soul food, southern, Cajun, Cuban and Caribbean diners. Caribbean Cuisine Week (April 13-15, 2016) praises island flavors while fund raising for 700 secondary school competitors/athletes from Jamaica, Grenada, St. Vincent, the Bahamas, and Trinidad and Tobago taking the long trip to compete in the Penn Relays.

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Here’s a look of some of the mouthwatering delights sure to make a visit to Philly a filling one:

Hot Buttered Soul:

  • Aprons Soul Food sates healthy appetites all day long. The day starts with red velvet pancakes or fish and grits, and keeps getting better with chicken and waffles, candied yams, fried tilapia and peach cobbler. 2617 Grays Ferry Avenue, (215) 560-8837
  • With a belly-warming mix of Caribbean, soul and southern cuisines, the GiGi and Big R food truck more than satisfies the University City lunchtime crowd. The hefty Styrofoam platters stuffed with deep-fried mac and cheese, jerk chicken and gooey yams are a great value. 38th & Spruce Streets, (610) 389-2150
  • South Street’s Ms. Tootsie’s serves up irresistibly homey eats (crab mac and cheese balls, smothered pork and turkey chops and some of the best fried chicken in town). The hybrid restaurant/bar/lounge’s sleekly urbane setting keeps the party going. 1312 South Street,
    (215) 731-9045, kevenparker.net
  • Fusing contemporary and traditional, Relish restaurant and jazz club ramps up classic soul dishes with ingenuity. Among the offerings at this West Oak Lane hotspot: Cajun deviled eggs with shrimp; a Southern Caesar with cornbread croutons; and turkey wings over apple and cornbread stuffing. 7152 Ogontz Avenue, (215) 276-0170, relishphiladelphia.com
  • Ms. Tootsie’s owner Keven Parker doubles down with his eponymous Soul Food Cafe in the Reading Terminal Market. In addition to the spectacular chicken and waffles, the quick-service stand offers catfish, yams and red velvet cake. 12th & Arch Streets, (215) 731-9045, kevenparker.net
  • Live blues music provides the soundtrack for red-hot food at Warmdaddy’s. The long-running favorite sates the audience with shrimp and cheddar grits, crispy chicken livers over biscuits and barbecue beef short ribs with smoked turkey collards. 1400 Columbus Boulevard, (215) 462-2000, warmdaddys.com
  • A friendly little hideaway in Mt. Airy, Chef Ken’s Café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The morning menu brings fish and grits and Texas French toast, while the lunch and dinner platters of whiting or ribs come with a choice of sides such as dirty rice, mac and cheese or collard greens. 7135 Germantown Avenue, (215) 713-8899
  • Butter’s Soul Food corners the market for Salisbury steak and fried shrimp platters in Brewerytown. The takeaway joint also cooks up rice and gravy, corn and okra and a mean sweet potato cheesecake. 2821 W. Girard Avenue, (215) 235-4724, buttersoulfood.com
  • Parked outside of 30th Street Station, Denise’s Soul Food’s bright pink paint beckons diners to the window of its truck. The rewards, of course, are the tasty and affordable platters of fried wings, oxtails, corn bread and collards. 30th & Market Streets

Southern Fried:

  • With a carryout location and a sit-down restaurant in Roxborough, Deke’s Bar-B-Que has built a sweet and smoky reputation. The kitchen serves a mix of barbecue styles—from Texas to Carolina—and the ribs, hush puppies and chocolate-chunk pecan pie are revelatory. 443 Shurs Lane, 4901 Ridge Avenue, (215) 588-7427, dekesbar-b-que.com
  • The Fat Ham—creation of Top Chef Kevin Sbraga—tips a toque to Southern cooking in a rustic University City outpost. Delicacies include skillet cornbread with molasses butter, hot chicken sandwiches and Mississippi mud pie, as well as on-tap cocktails. 3131 Walnut Street, (215) 735-1914, sbragadining.com/fatham
  • South Street’s Percy Street Barbecue showcases Erin O’Shea’s reverent yet chef-driven approach to the smoker. Fried-green tomatoes with green goddess dressing, chopped brisket sandwiches and traditional ribs are accompanied by terrific sides like burnt-end beans. For dessert, go for the Yards root beer float. 900 South Street, (215) 625-8510, percystreet.com
  • Graduate Hospital’s palace of pimento cheese, Rex 1516 mixes and matches Southern flavors with creative results. There’s a crawfish potpie, barbecue meat platter and plenty of fresh cocktails. 1516 South Street, (267) 319-1366, rex1516.com
  • Southern dishes, made with rare-around-here ingredients, are the focus at South. The Fairmount restaurant and jazz venue turns out exacting dishes like Berkshire pork with creamed collards and sorghum mustard; Carolina shrimp with Anson Mills grits and lobster; and bourbon pecan pie with cornmeal crust. 600 N. Broad Street, (215) 600-0220, southrestaurant.net
  • The country kitchen at Conshohocken’s Southern Cross turns out familiar yet fresh takes on home-style fare such as fried pickles, blackened catfish tacos and barbecue pork mac and cheese. On the liquid side, the bar shakes up cocktails such as Sweet Tea Bourbon and Southern Lemonade. 8 E. First Avenue, Conshohocken, (484) 344-5668, southerncrosskitchen.com
  • Biscuits, fried chicken and aged ham appear frequently on The Twisted Tail’s menus. The bourbon bar and live music venue also prepares a decadent mac and cheese with crawfish, fried okra and ricotta beignets. 509 S. 2nd Street, (215) 558-2471, thetwistedtail.com
  • The craft-fried chicken at Wishbone in West Philly gives the Southern staple a decidedly new-school spin. In addition to the classic wings with signature pretzel crust, there are changing daily flavors, plus honey buttermilk biscuits and redneck pecan hand pies for dessert. 4034 Walnut Street, (215) 921-3204, wishbonephilly.com

New Orleans Nom Nom:

  • Twin locations in Reading Terminal Market and 30th Street Station make it hard to miss Beck’s Cajun Café. The New Orleans specialties such as muffaletta, alligator sausage po’ boys and beignets (served on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays) make it hard to resist. 12th & Arch Streets, 30th & Market Streets, (215) 592-0505, beckscajuncafe.com
  • Nestled inside the Booth’s Corner Farmer’s Market, Cajun Kate’s specializes in takeaway Creole cuisine. The crawfish pie, gator on a stick, crispy Cajun mac and cheese and pralines are the real deal. Open Friday and Saturday only. 1362 Neaman’s Creek Road, Boothwyn, (484) 947-8914, cajunkates.com
  • A neighborhood bar with Louisiana leanings, Catahoula dishes up rich and decadent flavors. The bounty includes bourbon burgers, fried crawfish po’ boys, shrimp and grits, gumbo and molasses pecan pie. 775 S. Front Street, (215) 271-9300, catahoulaphilly.com
  • Fresh crawfish, served by the pound, beckons at Dex & Syd’s. The Queen Village restaurant also serves boiled shrimp, wings and seafood pasta with a zesty Southern tang.
    525 Washington Avenue, (267) 858-4497, dexnsyds.com
  • A West Chester institution opened by former glam metal rocker Donny Syracuse, High Street Caffe has been known to host famous musicians. However, one need not wield a guitar to enjoy the etouffée, voodoo shrimp and bananas foster. 322 S. High Street, West Chester, (610) 696-7435, highstreetcaffe.com
  • The flavors of the Gulf meet gastropub cookery at the Khyber Pass Pub. Cornmeal-crusted oysters, muffuletta, gumbo and all manner of po’ boys (even vegan fried chicken) accompany modern spins on the Hurricane and Sazerac. 56 S. 2nd Street, (215) 238-5888, khyberpasspub.com
  • Named for its Louisiana-born owner, Marsha Brown restaurant evokes her favorite childhood flavors in a distinctive former church in New Hope. On the menu: oysters, jambalaya and “comfort” custard, plus steaks and an extensive wine list. 15 S. Main Street, New Hope, (215) 862-7044, marshabrownrestaurant.com

Jamaican & Trini Delights:

  • Traditional Irie fare mingles with American eats at West Philly’s 48th Street Grille. As such, the jerk chicken sandwich shares menu space with braised oxtail with butter beans, curry goat and homemade ginger beer. 310 S. 48th Street, (267) 244-4764, 48thstreetgrille.com
  • Trini and West Indian flavors meld at Walnut Hill’s Brown Sugar Bakery. Customers clamor for roti, doubles, escovitch fish, coco bread and sorrel drink. 219 S. 52nd Street, (215) 472-7380
  • A craving for coco bread can be satisfied at Jamaican D’s truck, typically parked on the Community College of Philadelphia’s campus. More reasons to visit: generous portions of curry goat, brown stew chicken and rice and beans. 1700 Spring Garden Street, (215) 668-5909
  • A Philly dining landmark, Jamaican Jerk Hut, a pivotal location in the Cameron Diaz classic
    In Her Shoes—does a brisk business in traditional delicacies like jerk chicken, curry goat and ginger beer. Expansive outdoor seating adds to the resort vibe. 1436 South Street,
    (215) 545-8644, jajerkhut.com
  • Affordable, huge platters of jerk and curry keep fans coming back to Little Delicious. Tasty sides of plantains, cabbage and rice and tender beef patties gild the spicy lily. 4821 Woodland Avenue, (215) 729-4911
  • Island cuisine comes to the mainland at Reef nightclub and restaurant. Fruity margaritas and rum punch accompany specialties such as snapper with mango sauce, coconut shrimp and sweet potato pie. 605 S. 3rd Street, (215) 629-0102, phillyreef.com
  • The oxtails are a must-try at Sunday’s Best. The Jamaican takeout kitchen also serves a mean jerk, along with rice and peas, cabbage and curry goat. 41 N. 52nd Street, (215) 476-26
  • Dinner comes with a taste of nightlife at Ibis Lounge. Reggae and dancehall music accompany platters of stew chicken, curry shrimp and Callao, plus fresh juices like passion fruit and mauby. 5420 Lancaster Avenue, (215) 878-8420
  • Top Taste turns out top-notch Jamaican specialties in Mill Creek. On the menu: pepper steak, snapper, sour chicken and turkey wings, plus two sides (mac and cheese; candied yams; cabbage) with each order. 40 N. 52nd Street, (215) 747-1460

Dominican Deliciousness:

  • The kitchen at Spring Garden eatery Parada Maimon dishes out Dominican food and lots of it. The beef patty, yellow rice with black beans, tostones and pastelitos earn high marks among local ex-pats. 345 N. 12th Street, (215) 925-2000, paradamaimon.net
  • Kensington’s Cibao Dominican Restaurant offers huge plates of goodness for a small price tag. The traditional fare includes rice and beans with chicken or pork, tostones and stewed eggplant. 3382 Frankford Avenue, (215) 426-1480

Cuban Cuisine:

  • The Caribbean and Cuban cooking at Stephen Starr’s Alma De Cuba gets a modern makeover. Yellowtail ceviche with razor clams is served with puffed quinoa; the ropa vieja is made from duck; and the flan is served with candied cherry-hibiscus puree and almond praline.1623 Walnut Street, (215) 988-1799, almadecubarestaurant.com
  • The appealingly breezy atmosphere at Old City’s Cuba Libre sets the stage for festive eating. A meal of ceviche, empanadas, lechón asada and grilled seafood can be rounded out with mojitos and tres leches. 10 S. 2nd Street, (215) 627-0666, cubalibrerestaurant.com

Flavors Of Puerto Rico:

  • Largely a bakery, El Coqui Panaderia also serves savory dishes such as mofongo, empanadas and arroz con pulpo. Yet the sweet allure of flan and stuffed tornillo pastries is undeniable. 3528 I Street, (215) 634-5508
  • For a full spread of Puerto Rican favorites, Freddy & Tony’s can’t be beat. The North Philly institution offers pastelillos, bistec, habichuelas, stuffed plantains and plenty of combo plates containing all the variations therein. 201 W. Allegheny Avenue, (215) 634-3889

Pan-Latin & Caribbean Eats:

  • No need to choose between the overlapping cuisines at Center City’s Mixto. Cuban vaca frita (fried beef) meets Argentine churrasco meets Dominican kibbeh at this fun and always-bustling restaurant. 1141 Pine Street, (215) 592-0363, mixtorestaurante.com
  • A long-running favorite in El Centro de Oro, Tierra Colombiana serves a delicious bounty of regional foods. Colombian arepas, Dominican mashed plantains with shrimp and Cuban sausage sautéed in a white wine sauce are just a few of the many options. 4535 N. 5th Street, (215) 324-0303, tierracolombianarestaurant.com

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