Where to Eat in West Philly – Philadelphia magazine

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If you’re hungry for … pretty much anything, West Philly has it. And your meal will be excellent.
You could feasibly never leave West Philly and eat well for life. Let us explain… / Photograph by Amanda DiDio.
West Philadelphia offers some of Philly’s best food, all thanks to the restaurants (and the people behind them) reflecting this sprawling, racially diverse wing of the city. You want falafel platters, bánh mì, and jerk chicken? West has got it. What about paneer tikka, thiéboudienne, and ice cream? Yup, that too. Some of the places on this guide have been neighborhood staples for over 30 years, and some are brand new to the area. In their own respective ways — as immigrant-run community hubs, city-wide destinations, or consistently good places to visit on a Thursday night — they each add to the multicultural patchwork that makes West Philly feel unlike any other area of the city.
When considering this huge section of Philadelphia, we did our best to focus on a slightly smaller group of connected neighborhoods. (If you live by Malcolm X Park, are you really walking to 30th Street for dinner? Probably not, especially when there are great options nearby.) For the purposes of this guide, we’re covering the restaurants located roughly within the bounds of 43rd Street by Clark Park to Cobbs Creek Parkway, and Baltimore to Lancaster Avenues. Want more recommendations west of the Schuylkill? Stay tuned for upcoming guides to University City and Upper Darby (and beyond). Until then, check out these reliable and exciting West Philly restaurants.
Buna Cafe
Buna Cafe draws folks in the minute they step through the door with warm, earth-tone walls and friendly staff. The restaurant (one of the newer options in the neighborhood) prides itself on Ethiopian classics, like ful with its mashed fava beans in a spicy tomato-based stew and slow-cooked vegetable platters served over injera. Diners looking for a meat option should order the tibs for a fragrant stir-fry with onions, garlic, rosemary, and Ethiopian butter with chunks of well-seasoned goat. Order it “juicy”-style for extra sauce. Then cap off your meal with their “Gold is The Cure” tea and enjoy a strong ginger, turmeric and garlic mix that’s smoothed over by honey and milk. 5121 Baltimore Avenue.
Quality Taste Jamaican
Come with cash in hand and your order rehearsed for this busy takeout shop along Lancaster Avenue. If you need some help with that order, we’ve got you: you want Quality Taste’s grilled, smoky jerk chicken with a side of rice and peas and steamed cabbage. If you like your rice smothered, make sure to ask for extra gravy. In case you’re not a jerk fan, swap for curry chicken that’s been cooked low and slow. Whether you grab a chicken or sweet chili snapper; the portions are big enough for dinner and lunch the next day. This place can accumulate long waits, so try to make it over to Quality Taste before the dinner rush if you’re short on time. 4002 Lancaster Avenue.
Vientiane Cafe
Vientiane is one of those long-standing businesses — along with Dahlak and Fu-Wah — that has shaped the restaurant landscape of Baltimore Avenue over the past fews decades. You could come here for dinner and go heavy on Thai dishes, like the drunken noodles slick with spicy basil and garlic sauce, but we recommend trying at least a few of the Lao specialties, too. The king soup lives loudly in our brain all winter: a huge bowl of vermicelli noodles, veggies, and your choice of protein in a red-curry-coconut broth. And no meal at Vientiane would be truly right without lime-inflected sai gawk sausage for the table. 4728 Baltimore Avenue.
Brown Sugar Bakery
Platters fly out of the family-owned Brown Sugar Bakery on 52nd Street, which happens to be covered with posters of Soca artists and old, framed newspaper clippings. Make it over to this Trini hotspot around 2 p.m. for curried chickpea-stuffed fried flatbread doubles (they don’t offer the full menu until the afternoon). While you’re at it, try the slow-cooked stewed chicken over rice with extra gravy, cabbage and macaroni and cheese. Brown Sugar only has a couple booths for seating, but nearby Malcolm X Park is always an option for lighter snacks like their sweet bread. 219 South 52nd Street.
A mural inside Booker’s / Photograph by Katie Briggs
Booker’s
Booker’s runs on comfort, brunch, and happy hour — and you want to be a part of it, especially thanks to Southern favorites like creamy deviled eggs and chicken-and-waffles covered with strawberry butter. This spot’s lively weekend brunches are perfect for catching up with friends. On weekdays, take advantage of their outdoor seating along Baltimore Avenue for happy hour bar bites and cocktails, where there are always house plants and seasonal decorations under the restaurant’s pergola. Bring a date for happy hour and opt for the Booker’s $7 city-wide special that comes with fried pickle chips. 5021 Baltimore Avenue.
Saad’s
Dig into a platter at Saad’s and you’ll quickly understand why owner Saad Alrayes prides himself on his restaurant’s story. Alrayes, who moved to the U.S. from Lebanon, started a lunch truck in University City out of concern when he saw the limited halal options for Muslims here in Philadelphia. That special lunch truck grew into a casual restaurant where he and his team have been serving halal food for over two decades now. Bright flavors practically dance off the plate here with tender, marinated grilled chicken, sauteed onions and creamy garlic sauce in the chicken shish tawook platter. Halal versions of American fast food favorites like crunchy fried chicken wings and loaded cheesesteaks round out the menu, too. 4500 Walnut Street.
Jezabel’s
After moving her business from Fitler Square to West Philly in 2019, Jezabel Careaga now serves her beloved Argentinian alfajores, custard-filled facturas, and empanadas on 45th Street. The food here — available for takeout, in the cafe, or on the sidewalk — is inspired by her grandmother Julia’s cooking in Northwestern Argentina. Go for the empanadas, which are baked to perfection, with a crisp, sheen outer layer and a core full of beef, cheese and vegan fillings (like spicy lentils). 206 South 45th Street.
Dahlak
This family-owned Eritrean/Ethiopian restaurant has been holding it down on Baltimore Avenue since the mid-’80s, acting as a gathering spot for the city’s African immigrant communities, Penn people, and pretty much every West Philadelphian in between. In addition to serving a menu of slow-braised stews, the Dahlak team makes all of their spongey-sour injera from scratch (a labor-intensive process that’s somewhat rare for restaurants, who often use wholesale distribution). Stop by for a sit-down meal or hang out in the bar and backyard. Dahlak stays open until 2 a.m., and there’s often live music, poetry readings, or at least a jukebox playing. For more from the Dahlak Cinematic Universe, check out their weekend-only, seasonal beer garden called Pentridge Station. 4708 Baltimore Avenue.
Vietnam Cafe
In the late ‘70s, the Lai family fled Vietnam, spent nine months in a Malaysian refugee camp, and finally arrived in Philly where they opened a grocery store and eventually a small Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown. Now their son, Benny, has taken over operations at this huge corner restaurant on 47th Street. It’s a great place for groups or accommodating gluten-free diners. Order the beef-stuffed grape leaves and the house special vermicelli or a steaming bowl of beef pho, plus a lemongrass martini that’s sweet, acidic, and ice cold. 816 South 47th Street.
Fish mofa at Hadramout / Photograph courtesy of Hadramout
Hadramout
Hadramout is one of Philly’s few Yemeni restaurants, a fact that makes the restaurant worth visiting in itself. But Hadramout’s food — fish mofa blackened with dried chilis, braised lamb stew, fahsah with hulba, chicken mandi rubbed with cumin and coriander — would also stand out in a city full of Yemeni cuisine. Whatever you do, make sure to order khobz with your meal, a soft-but-charred flatbread baked on the clay walls on a tanoor. 136 South 45th Street.
Don Barriga
Don Barriga does big, bold Mexican flavors but always manages to keep their balance. Take the crema de elote soup, for example, which pairs spicy cayenne pepper with corn and onion in a creamy chowder. Elsewhere on the menu, salty fries meet rice, refried beans, pico de gallo, sour cream and cotija cheese in the California burrito. Specialty plates like the Alambre Hawaiian offer a heaping portion of chicken breast with bacon, ham, diced pineapples and grilled vegetables covered in melted mozzarella cheese. (If you’re looking for something straightforward and consistently delicious, their gringas with chicken will overshadow most of the quesadillas of your past). Hunker down at one of their small dining room tables or get some air in their shaded outdoor area while you enjoy a multi-course feast with friends or family. 4443 Spruce Street.
Alif Brew & Mini Mart
This bright Baltimore Avenue cafe with outdoor seating offers Ethiopian coffee, tea and savory pastries — plus a grocery section where you can stock up on spices and bags of injera chips. When we come here, we usually crunch on Alif’s fried sambusas filled with jalapeno and black-pepper seasoned lentils or shredded beef. (At four for $5, the sambusas make for a great, affordable snack.) For a more filling option, take your pick of mild or spicy lentils, shredded chicken or beef cubes in an injera wrap with fresh vegetables, or one of the malawah wraps with hard-boiled eggs, pickled radish, and labneh. 4501 Baltimore Avenue.
Abyssinia
At Abyssinia, you can get a plate of gored gored swimming in berbere sauce and clarified butter, or a kitfo sandwich with rare, spiced beef, plus freshly made cottage cheese and stewed collards. This is one of those Ethiopian restaurants we think every Philadelphian and tourist should visit at least once — if only because it’s been around for decades, the combo platters always hit, and there’s a legendary cocktail bar hiding up a flight of carpeted stairs. Head’s up: the upstairs bar, Fiume, is cash-only, and it can get pretty crowded. 229 South 45th Street
Kilimandjaro
Kilimandjaro was one of the first restaurants in Philly to serve Senegalese food to the masses. And, during the pandemic, owner Youma Aisse Ba moved the business from Chestnut Street to Baltimore Avenue (where her other business, Youma, is located.) Come for dibi lamb chops topped with punchy marinated onions or tomato-heavy thieboudienne and plantains on the side — all in a space sporting bright yellow walls and comfy chairs. Another upside of Kilimandjaro’s new spot: It’s right next door to a well-stocked African grocer where you can buy spices, huge bags of rice, and dried, smoked fish while two friendly kittens try to distract you from shopping. 4519 Baltimore Avenue.
Hayashi
Meet what’s essentially West Philly’s only option for raw fish. Alright, now memorize the name of this restaurant, since Hayashi serves sushi that’s so much better than it needs to be. Sure, you could try some of their cartoonishly named rolls or fusion-y entrees, but our advice is to stick to the well-sourced basics here. Confidently try a few different pieces of nigiri without any trace of fishiness (the red snapper and salmon belly are always good) or get three maki rolls for $20. People don’t talk about this place enough. You’re welcome. (Hayashi is currently operating for takeout and delivery only, and they offer their own delivery service within two miles of the restaurant.) 814 South 47th Street.
Baklava heaven at Manakeesh / Photograph courtesy of Manakeesh
Manakeesh
Manakeesh can be whatever you need it to be: a breakfast spot where you can eat the namesake Lebanese flatbreads with a yolky egg on a day off, a coffee meetup destination with a date, or a reliable takeout option whenever you’re craving shawarma platters with baba ghannouj. The family who owns Manakeesh has been in the neighborhood for years and they bake all of their manakeesh in an oven imported from Lebanon. Get some syrupy baklava on your way out. 4420 Walnut Street.
Wah Gi Wah
Might we interest you in some Pakistani fried chicken? If so, Wah-Gi-Wah is the place for you. Sure, the kitchen here does other stuff, too (like keema naan, curries, and barbecued meats). But did you not hear us when we said Pakistani fried chicken? Come for fast service for lunch and dinner every day of the week. 4447 Chestnut Street.
48th Street Grille
After working in corporate kitchens and upscale restaurants, chef Carl Lewis opened this casual Jamaican spot with a BYOB policy back in 2014. They’re open from Tuesday to Saturday starting at 11 a.m., with brunchy things available on weekends until 3 p.m. If you’re coming for dinner, get the jerk chicken with red beans, rice, and braised cabbage (48th Street Grille offers a dark-meat-only option, in case that’s as exciting to you as it is to us), plus bread pudding with rum sauce for dessert. 310 South 48th Street.
Amari’s
If you’re ever trying to eat a waffle at 2 p.m. on a Wednesday, Amari’s is your spot. This BYOB specializes in Soul Food and brunch all day. They have free jazz shows every other Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and you can call 215-921-9552 if you want to ensure a spot. 5037 Baltimore Avenue.
Daleng
Daleng serves up Southeast Asian favorites with Chinese and American influences sprinkled throughout the menu. The full-service dining room is still closed since being shuttered at the beginning of the pandemic, but customers can order takeout, or grab a high-top table and a beer in the restaurant’s side room. Their Vietnamese crispy vegetable spring rolls — full of bean sprouts, noodles, cabbage, carrots and taro root — are served with a sweet chili dipping sauce that will leave you physically scraping the bottom of the serving cup. Another option: the tang tang chicken wings are a signature with equal parts spice, sweetness, tanginess and just enough lemon flavor on the back end. But don’t ignore Daleng’s buttery vegetable fried rice, either. 4653 Walnut Street.
In addition to their famous tofu hoagie, Fu-Wah makes a bunch of meaty sandwich options (like this bánh mí with roasted pork). / Photograph courtesy of Fu-Wah Mini Mart.
Fu-Wah Mini Mart
If you’re ever in a rush for some paper towels, a chocolate bar, some chili oil, and an excellent sandwich, run to Fu-Wah. This Vietnamese deli has been open since 1982, and claims to have invented the tofu bánh mì hoagie (which uses an Italian-style hoagie roll instead of French bread like most bánh mì). We can’t confirm its origin story timeline, but we can confirm that you want to eat it for lunch: the tofu is shallow-fried then sopped with lemongrass and garlic, the roll is soft inside but slightly crusty on the outside, and the pickled daikon and carrots are just acidic enough to tie it all together. 810 South 47th Street.
Kusina Philly
Filipino restaurants in Philly are unfortunately few and far between. But, as of a few years ago, there’s now a casual corner spot on Woodland Avenue where you can get crispy lumpia shanghai as thin as your pointer finger and a silog platter neatly packed with a mound of garlic rice, a fried egg, and strips of grilled beef that taste like black pepper and soy sauce moved in together. There are a couple of tables set up at Kusina, though the business operates mostly like a takeout joint. 4612 Woodland Avenue.
Aksum
Aksum has been deconstructing and reconstructing Mediterranean cuisine for years — hedging closer to or further from Italy, diving more deeply into or pulling back from the flavors of the Middle East and North Africa. The result is a uniquely balanced blend where a curried cauliflower bisque, Roman-style artichokes, Turkish eggplant with goat cheese, Lebanese lemon chicken, and spicy Tunisian shrimp can all share turf on the same menu without any of it seeming out of place. 4630 Baltimore Avenue.
TacoTacoMexican
TacoTaco, formerly Honest Tom’s, makes basic-but-satisfying tacos in a little counter space next to Lil Pop Shop. Most notably, we think, is that it’s one of the few neighborhood places to serve breakfast burritos and breakfast tacos. Stop by for quick takeout or snag a spot at one of the outdoor tables set up in the parking space on 44th Street. Get some tacos before a round of chocolate fudge brownie ice cream popsicles and you’re in for a good night. 261 South 44th Street.
Gojjo stays open until 2 a.m., complete with Ethiopian chicken cheesesteaks, beer, and a big backyard. / Photograph courtesy of Gojjo.
Gojjo
Ethiopian chicken cheesesteaks spiked with berbere, a backyard, late-night hangs — this is what Gojjo is all about. This bar and restaurant stays open until 2 a.m. every day, but the kitchen closes around 11 p.m. 4540 Baltimore Avenue.
Loco Pez
The West Philly location of this Mexican mini-chain is more of a utility play than it is a neighborhood dining destination. Looking for happy hour margaritas with the rest of your grad seminar? Want some nachos and a Tecate by yourself at the bar after a long work day? Planning a low-stakes date with someone you probably won’t end up with? Loco Pez works for all of the above. Plus, they still have those little sheds set up on the sidewalk, which means you can opt for outdoor dining regardless of the weather’s plans. 4631 Baltimore Avenue.
Clarkville
Longtime Clark Park-adjacent neighbors will remember when Wurst House turned into Best House, and when Best House subsequently turned into Clarkville. This pizza place is a consistently solid option when you’re in the mood for thin-crust pizza, a Caesar salad, and a beer. 4301 Baltimore Avenue.
Local 44
Local 44 is really more of a place to meet up for a drink than it is to get a full meal — but they do serve a menu of bar food with half-a-dozen options for vegan and vegetarian eaters. They have a bunch of outdoor seating on the sidewalk, and it’s usually fairly busy on weekends. 4333 Spruce Street.
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