Deep South Philly is home to some of the city’s best dishes, according to Inquirer critic Craig LaBan, including contenders for best octopus, best tacos al pastor, and best clams casino.
This weekend the Flower Show returns to South Philadelphia, setting up on the sprawling grounds of FDR Park for a second year. And while patrons can find plenty of dining options inside the show, this section of town is home to one of the most vibrant food scenes in the city: You may as well explore a little while you’re down there.
» READ MORE: Our complete guide to the 2022 PHS Flower Show
Where does South Philly begin? Some will argue it’s anything south of South Street, others will say it’s south of Washington Avenue; some die-hards lobby for an even lower boundary. For hungry Flower Show-goers, we’ve rounded up some of the Inquirer’s favorite eateries along and south of Snyder Avenue — nearly a mile and a half north of FDR Park — and close to the Broad Street Line.
This brunch spot fills up fast on weekend mornings, but it’s worth any wait. Order a Oaxacan hot chocolate and the huevos revueltos migas — fluffy scrambled eggs over crispy tortilla chips, topped with chopped ham, onion, and serrano pepper and served with a side of creamy black beans. Ask for red and green salsa. 1532 Snyder Ave., 267-639-4506, cafeychocolate.com
The pandemic pared back the once-sweeping menu at the Melrose, but the breakfast essentials remain, as does the always efficient service. Get a side of pork roll. 1501 Snyder Ave., 215-467-6644, melrosediner.com
Grab a handheld breakfast at this Oregon Avenue spot, which specializes in Hong Kong-style pastries, steamed buns, and bubble teas. Start savory with char siu puffs, pork floss rolls, and pizza buns, then go sweet with an egg tart, red bean twist, or almond butter milk cake. 2653 S. 11th St., 215-820-9804, dodobakery.co
This brunch/lunch spot with Port Richmond roots recently reopened in the Navy Yard, another rambling South Philly space to explore. Challah french toast, grilled cheese and soup, and chicken salad sandwiches are on the menu. 4920 S. 15th St., 267-457-5585, facebook.com/Mercercafenavyyard
Voters in The Inquirer’s hoagie bracket named this deli’s Italian hoagie third overall and best in this pocket of the city, beating out nearby Pastificio Deli, P&S Ravioli Co., and Lil’ Nick’s Deli. Craig likes the Italian Inferno (layered with long hots) and the cutlet hoagies. 2300 S. 16th St., 215-271-5545, mipalsdeli.com
The centerpiece of this family-run shop’s menu might be the bún bò Huế (spicy noodle soup from central Vietnam), but other hits include banh mi with house-cured pork belly, fish sauce-brined chicken wings, and lemongrass-braised chicken. Craving Vietnamese for dinner instead? Head to Pho Cyclo Cafe — open till 9:30 p.m. — around the corner near Broad and Snyder. 1606 W. Passyunk Ave., 215-551-2407, cafenhanphilly.com
This corner cantina has colorful scratch cocktails, a deep mezcal selection, and a small but stellar menu of authentic Mexican dishes, including aguachile verde and Oaxacan tlayudas. The al pastor tacos are some of Craig’s favorites. 1551 W. Passyunk Ave., 215-515-3276, lalloronaphilly.com
One of the friendliest neighborhood bars in South Philly, this spot from two Temple grads is home to darts tournaments, Quizzo nights, and karaoke. Daily specials include $5 tater tots on Thursdays and a four-hour (4-8 p.m.) happy hour on Friday. 2535 S. 13th St., 267-314-5937, southhousephilly.com
This corner bar with an artsy flair (one of the co-owners is a Moore College of Art grad who used to curate the shows at Dirty Franks) just celebrated its sixth anniversary. Toast to it with a hickory-smoked sazerac and a plate of house-made pierogi. 2654 S. 12th St., 267-519-3574, blackcattavernphilly.com
This family-owned BYOB went viral in early 2020, shortly after opening. It’s weathered the pandemic thanks to a menu that merges crowdpleasers (quesadillas, burritos, birria nachos) with more traditional fare (blue corn tlacoyos, huitlacoche-stuffed chicken, lengua tacos). 1429 Jackson St., 215-645-9392, taqueriamorales.com
When it first opened in 2019, this compact BYOB made a splash with its perfectly succulent octopus — declared by Craig to be the city’s best. The octopus is still there, but chef Bobby Saritsoglou has kept riffing on his Mediterranean inspiration, adding fried smelts, soujouk sausage, and falafel to his menu, which is rounded out with wood-fired pizza and Turkish pides. Reservations are a good idea. 1705 Snyder Ave., 215-337-3455; stinapizzeria.com
For an old-school South Philly Italian dinner, you can’t go wrong with this corner BYOB. Family recipes are still the origins for preparations including sausage and figs, stuffed artichokes, gnocchi gorgonzola, and maybe the best clams casino in town, according to Craig. 2500 S. Broad St., 215-468-3900, scannicchio.online
A favorite of Craig LaBan’s, this 90-year-old institution started during the Great Depression, when Filippo “Pop” Italiano started wheeling a cart around Marconi Plaza selling shaved ice flavored with fruit. Today’s menu features classics (black cherry, lemon, mango) and new-school flavors you’d expect (root beer, mint chocolate chip). There’s hand-dipped and soft-serve ice cream, too. 1337 W. Oregon Ave., 215-551-7677, popsice.com
These seasonally flavored gluten-free doughnuts are found at many bakeries and cafes citywide, but they’re baked up in this Snyder Avenue shop, which opened a retail window in late 2020. June’s flavors include sweet honey corn, chocolate blueberry, and peach matcha. 1439 Snyder Ave., 267-237-3786, okiedokiedonuts.com
The Packer Avenue outpost of the Italian bakery has you covered on cannoli, biscotti, and cookies to snack on over coffee if you need an afternoon pick-me-up. Stop in at Celebre’s next door to experience another slice of the neighborhood: You can’t get more authentically South Philly than pizzaz pizza. 1538 Packuer Ave., 215-336-1001, termini.com