Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Philly... good food neighborhoods?


ohmyganache
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hello all! Where are all the good food neighborhoods in Philly? In every big city, there are always pockets of good food... restaurants, markets, etc...

My wife and I are probably moving to Philly in a few months, so...

Thanks in advance!

Edited by ohmyganache (log)

Stephen W.

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome to Philly!

I don't know if you followed that "NY, SF, LA..." thread over in General Food Topics a few months back, but IMO, and as I posted to that thread, you are moving to a city that is now the culinary equal of at least two of those three and is a more affordable alternative to the third. (I'll leave it to you to figure out which of those cities is which. Arguably, any one of the three could fill that last role. :smile: )

It definitely is one of the most underrated food cities in the country.

As far as "good food neighborhoods" are concerned, most Philly neighborhoods either have interesting restaurants or great places to shop for food, but not both. There are a number of exceptions to this blanket statement, though.

Probably the best known of these exceptions is the greater Italian Market area (6th to 13th streets, South to Tasker). In this area you can find outstanding Mexican, Italian, Vietnamese, Korean, Laotian and Middle Eastern eateries, most of them very reasonably priced. Some of the city's best hoagies--traditional and Vietnamese--can be found here as well, not to mention the iconic Cheesesteak Corner, 9th and Passyunk, where Pat's and Geno's--both very good, neither of them the best--battle it out for the hearts and minds of cholesterol lovers. And the street market along 9th Street that gives this area its name is at once a bargain hunter's paradise (but be sure to inspect the produce) and home to some of the best meat, cheese, and kitchenware retailers in the city.

Philly's very compact Chinatown also qualifies as an exception. Located just northeast of the Reading Terminal Market, one of America's oldest and finest fresh food emporia, this little enclave houses dozens of restaurants specializing in a number of Asian cuisines, including the local outpost of a hip Indonesian chain, a wonderful Burmese restaurant and two of the oldest and best Vietnamese restaurants in town, located right across 11th Street from each other. Interspersed among these are numerous Asian grocers, fishmongers and other food purveyors.

Other parts of town you shouldn't miss:

--"El Zona del Oro." The sprawling Hispanic neighborhood in West Kensington boasts several fine Central and Latin American restaurants, centered along North Fifth Street from about Girard Avenue on the south all the way up to Wyoming Avenue on the north. You should be able to locate several posts raving about Tierra Colombiana, which is in this area, on this board. You will probably encounter locals who will warn you away from this area, as it includes some of the city's rougher neighborhoods. Ignore them, but travel with friends when you go.

--The area around 47th Street and Baltimore Avenue in West Philadelphia. I'll bet you won't find anything like this in SF or LA. This intersection has become the commercial heart of the city's African immigrant communities, which include Ethiopians, Ivoirians, Senegalese and several other mainly West African nationalities. The intersection is home to the city's best Ethiopian restaurant, Dahlak, and a number of other intriguing African eateries. And if you're not up for African fare, there's a very good Laotian/Southeast Asian cafe on the same block and a good Italian/Mediterranean place right around the corner on Warrington Avenue. I suspect that a few grocers may now cater to the food needs of the community, but I can't say for sure that this is the case; it certainly wasn't when I last set foot in the area about three years ago.

I haven't mentioned Center City in general because I have no doubt that you will spend lots of time exploring the many excellent restaurants all over the heart of the city and sampling Old City's nightlife. (Old City is one of about eight distinct residential neighborhoods that together comprise Center City; the others are Society Hill, Washington Square West/the Gayborhood, Chinatown, Logan Circle, Rittenhouse/Fitler Square, Spring Garden and the "Art Museum Area", which comprises parts of Logan Circle and Fairmount. Others will also include the adjacent communities of Queen Village, Bella Vista, Hawthorne and "Southwest Center City," all below South Street.) The greatest concentrations of restaurants are in Old City and "Rittenhouse Row"--the area along Walnut west of Broad that extends to Rittenhouse Square--but there are good places to eat in just about every Center City neighborhood.

Be prepared to wear out your walking shoes exploring Center City--it's the best way to get to know us. SEPTA can get you where your own two feet can't. (Edited to add: Take a little time to learn the SEPTA system before you arrive; it'll pay off once you get here.)

Edited by MarketStEl (log)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While Sandy has covered all the bases and sent a hearty welcome I'm certain we'll all second, I want to put in a personal plug for my 'hood, Queen Village. There are so many restaurants within a six block radius of my house it's an embarassment of riches. If I walk out my front door and turn left there's everything from a Belgian bar, upscale Chinese, Middle Eastern, sushi and a diner (and that's just on the first block) to any of the hip Old City bars and restaurants and all of South Street. If I turn right there's all of the great places around the Italian Market (Villa di Roma, Ralph's, Meze) as well as Dmitri's, New Wave Cafe and Pif as well as all of the ethnic eateries on Washington Avenue that encompasses everything from Mexican and Vietnamese to Hoagies, Lebanese and Korean BBQ.

There's also a post office, dry cleaners, Wawa, pharmacy, bank and everything else you might need within two blocks. There's quick access to I-95 for travel north or south, I'm a 15 minute drive from the airport and New Jersey shopping is 6 minutes away over either the Benjamin Franklin or Walt Whitman bridges.

Queen Village rocks. I love where I live. It's residential and relatively quiet (except for about 15 minutes right when the bars close on Friday and Saturday nights) and everything you might need is right here handy. And there's plenty of good eats.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In terms of QPR, I think your best bet is South Philadelphia. While the area in the immediate vicinity of the Italian Market has crept up in cost in the last couple of years, you can find fairly affordable real estate by going a couple of blocks in any direction. Well, maybe not North, but you get the point.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with Katie. QV is not really a foodie neighborhood (though we do have Dimitri's), but it's central to so many other places that are. I can walk 5-10 minutes and get to so many great places: Southwark, Gayle, Pif, Sabrina's, Latest Dish, Overtures, the Italian Market, blah blah blah...

Of course, if you're looking to buy a house in the city, QV may not be the best place. Home prices around here are kind of inflated right now, though they seem to be coming down lately.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey thanks for the help so far! We're actually interested in food neighborhoods because we plan to open an artisan bakery in the Philly area, as well as moving there.

We're both ready to leave San Francisco and open up our own shop!

Thanks again...

Stephen W.

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey thanks for the help so far!  We're actually interested in food neighborhoods because we plan to open an artisan bakery in the Philly area, as well as moving there.

We're both ready to leave San Francisco and open up our own shop!

Thanks again...

Most folks would tell you that Rittenhouse Square or thereabouts would be the place to open an artisan bakery but there's already Miel and Metropolitan Bakery covering that ground. You need to come where there is no competition.

PLEASE move to Queen Village/South Street. I promise you there will be a line of PhilleGulleteers waiting for you that will line up right behind me. There's nothing close by that either isn't resting on it's laurels (Pink Rose Pastry) or keeps irregular hours (Sud Bakery) that could compare to having our very own bakery. And folks would come here from across town to purchase your wares, just as those of us that live on this side of town are now forced to do.

Did I mention that there's a wonderful Farmer's Market at 2nd and South Street every Saturday from May-November?? If you opened nearby you'd have built in business from the market goers.

Is any of this sounding appealing yet??

Moving from San Francisco you'll love the (comparative) affordability of housing in Philly. I considered moving to SF but realized I could only trade in my three bedroom house with parking for a refrigerator box under the Golden Gate I'd have to share with a roommate. :rolleyes:

Let us know when you come to town for your reconaissance mission. Perhaps we can show you around.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No, no...move to the Graduate Hospital/Fitler Square area! Still kind of affordable. I love my neighborhood, but I wouldn't consider it as a good foodie area compared to others. It's up and coming, prices for houses are steadily rising (at least in GH, prices in FS are already pretty high), and there are some but not a lot of good restaurants to around.

If you move to the area around South and 25th streets, where the old Naval Homes are being converted into high-end housing, and there are rumors of Whole Foods wanting to build around there, a bakery such as yours will be welcome with open arms. There's also a Farmer's Market around 23rd St & Pine (I can never remember the exact location) that's open Saturdays from about May-November.

Sure, Miel and Metropolitan Bakery are great, but open a bakery closer to me (she says selfishily--it's all about ME :biggrin:)!!

Sorry Katie. I heard bakery and I got excited.

Karen C.

"Oh, suddenly life’s fun, suddenly there’s a reason to get up in the morning – it’s called bacon!" - Sookie St. James

Travelogue: Ten days in Tuscany

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey thanks for the help so far!  We're actually interested in food neighborhoods because we plan to open an artisan bakery in the Philly area, as well as moving there.

We're both ready to leave San Francisco and open up our own shop!

Thanks again...

Stick with Katie's QV location for your bakery and your housing. It's great because I can come visit the shop from the northern suburbs without having to drive across town and find parking in and around rittenhouse which can be difficult.

So, it's all about me and my convenience you see. But seriously, we welcome you to Philadelphia and I think that you will be amazed at how wonderful this city is. Fortunately, you have come across this forum which is populated by some of the city's most culinary informed souls that geniunely want to help.

Let me be one of the first to wish you luck with your move (from one of my favorite cities) and your bakery.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey thanks for the help so far!  We're actually interested in food neighborhoods because we plan to open an artisan bakery in the Philly area, as well as moving there.

We're both ready to leave San Francisco and open up our own shop!

Thanks again...

You've already gotten several suggestions about where to open from others on this forum, but I will also add another "where not to open" tip:

Don't look to open your shop in the immediate vicinity of the Italian Market. Sarcone's has the trade all but locked up, and there are a few other traditional Italian bread bakeries in operation in the area.

However: Given that gay men--the shock troops of gentrification--are settling in South Philly east of Broad in increasing (though still relatively small) numbers, you might want to explore some of the territory just a few blocks further away from 9th Street.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey thanks for the help so far!  We're actually interested in food neighborhoods because we plan to open an artisan bakery in the Philly area, as well as moving there.

We're both ready to leave San Francisco and open up our own shop!

Thanks again...

With the full disclosure that I am a bread snob, I will say that if you are a great baker, you will hopefully succeed wherever you choose. The most popular bakery is Metropolitan but its not "great bread". Same with the other giant, Le bus, although it's better. Having said that, if your customers don't know the difference, then it would certainly be wise to plan location accordingly. Still, it's good to know that from a quality standpoint, you have great potential if you are truly a talented baker.

The best bread in the city, in my view, is the sourdough baguette found at Artisan Boulanger Patisserie. That is a lesson in what artisan baking truly is. Sarcone's is very good too. They stick to the basics, and other than maybe a biga here and there, are straightforward straight dough good tasting loaves.

Please keep us posted. I wish you all the best and warmly welcome more great bread bakers to our wonderful city!

Evan

EDITED TO ADD: Not to shoo anyone away from the city but there is a general lack of great bread in South Jersey and I have always wondered why the big Philly retail shops don't branch out. Maybe it is the geography (strip malls and generally poor foot traffic) or perhaps because people on both sides sometimes see the bridge as an object not to cross? Not the folks in here, mind you. Many of us would pole vault across the frozen deleware on news of a good piece of stinky cheese. Seems like a great market and if you wind up being successful in PA, keep it in mind.

Edited by shacke (log)

Dough can sense fear.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Let's count out the bakeries in the city.

Already mentioned: Miel, Metropolitan, Pink Rose, Sud.

Sugar Hill (I think it's still there just off Baltimore Ave), Brown Betty (is that the one in Northern Liberties?), Petit 4 (3rd and Race), the Vietnamese-French one on 12th right around Tasker (I think this is the one Shacke refers to as Artisan Boulanger Patisserie), the tiny shop I never remember on Arch between 2nd and 3rd, and the one that went in where Oasis was on Walnut.

Any others?

Assuming you don't want to do artisan breads (relatively low margins, Metropolitan, Le Bus and a few others including Artisan Boulanger Patisserie already doing it very well), I'd probably suggest the Art Museum area.

You can sort of assert that Katie's area is well-served, between Whole Foods and the Italian South Philly bakeries.

And the Graduate Hospital area is reasonably walkable from Miel and Rittenhouse Metropolitan.

But there isn't any bakery I know of in the Art Museum area, which has a high percentage of 21-35 year olds that is likely to go even higher when the Brewerytown development is filled. I'm not sure why that matters, I'm thinking it does for some reason.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting recommendation of Herb for the Art Museum area (especially since I've lived there, a.k.a. 'Fairmount', for all of my 26 years in Philadelphia (I'm a North Jersey transplant).

The recommendation is interesting because a restaurant food culture exists in the neighborhood. Two standouts would be London Grill and Jack's Firehouse. London is just about the perfect neighorhood restaurant and has branched out with a small takeout storefront adjacent to the restaurant. (Good Illy coffee.) Jack's is one of those places which you either love or hate; I'm in the former camp. Other neighborhood restaurants of note include Rembrandts (inconsistent but still pretty good, and a great bar), the relatively new Illuminare (good food, better decor, great dining al fresco in warm weather on the patio), and a Greek, Zorba's.

Of more direct interest are the small number of food stores. Garden Fresh at 22nd and Fairmount offers good prepared foods and deli as well as bread items from Metropolitan; Klein's, the mini-supermarket on the first floor of the Philadelphian condominium, has good Jewish deli and "appy" delicacies (one of the few places in town where you can obtain "salty" belly lox, not just nova), and prepared foods.

All of the food stores and restaurant are on or just off Fairmount Avenue, which also now boasts a coffee shop (Mugshots). There's a lot of new and redevelopment along Fairmount Avenue, and it's nudging eastward toward Broad street. Real estate and rental prices fall the closer you get to Broad, rise the closer you get to the Art Museum. Residential real estate values in Fairmount/Art Museum area have soared like the rest of Center City, but there are still relative bargains. Although I have no direct knowledge of the commercial sector, my guess is it's the same. There do seem to be plenty of storefront opportunities along Fairmount Avenue, particularly in the stretch between 17th and 21st streets.

As Herb said, a market exists here. The main competition for the Fairmount Avenue food merchants is the Whole Foods store near the Free Public Library, a 10-15 minute walk away. But Whole Foods doesn't seem to have harmed the business of the other merchants. The Reading Terminal Market, though more distant, also attracts neighborhood residents. Trader Joe's, too.

The only serious bakery in the Art Museum neighborhood was Zachs, which concentrated on cakes, cookies, pastries and sweets rather than breads. Although some baking was done on premises, most items were prepped and baked at the main store in the Northeast (a distant section of Philadelphia). After about five years or so Zachs closed shop in the neighborhood to concentrate on their single store. (Likewise, they earlier tried an expansion at the Reading Terminal Market, but that failed; perhaps as much through a personality conflict with the former market manager and Zach's as anything else). Another factor in Zach's closing may well have been rent. The owner of the property, who has long been active as a food purveyor and caterer in the area, probably jacked up the rent; the landlord, when he operated a gourmet grocery at that location, once remarked to a local food writer about the pricing of sweet red bell peppers, paraphrasing Mencken: "One will never go broke overcharging the American public."

Unlike some of the other commentators in this topic, I think what Center City needs least is a high quality artisinal baker. What I miss are the old fashioned general purpose neighborhood bakers of my youth. You could get a good rye or pumpernickel (or "corn rye"), a fresh, crackly-crusted kaiser, basic but real white bread, salt sticks, as well as birthday cakes, marble cakes, sweet buns, danish, pies. Perhaps this type of operation in today's market is too wide-ranging and not profitable, but it's what I miss.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hmm, there is an extent to which artisan implies bread.

Perhaps that was a wrong assumption on my part.

I vaguely remember a bakery type place on one of the corners above Fairmount on 24th or 25th, but it wasn't there the last time I passed it.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hmm, there is an extent to which artisan implies bread.

Perhaps that was a wrong assumption on my part.

I vaguely remember a bakery type place on one of the corners above Fairmount on 24th or 25th, but it wasn't there the last time I passed it.

I've lived in Fairmount since 1982 and don't recall any bakery. Zachs was it in the Fairmount/Art Museum area, to the best of my recollection.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The only serious bakery in the Art Museum neighborhood was Zachs, which concentrated on cakes, cookies, pastries and sweets rather than breads. Although some baking was done on premises, most items were prepped and baked at the main store in the Northeast (a distant section of Philadelphia). After about five years or so Zachs closed shop in the neighborhood to concentrate on their single store. (Likewise, they earlier tried an expansion at the Reading Terminal Market, but that failed; perhaps as much through a personality conflict with the former market manager and Zach's as anything else). Another factor in Zach's closing may well have been rent. The owner of the property, who has long been active as a food purveyor and caterer in the area, probably jacked up the rent; the landlord, when he operated a gourmet grocery at that location, once remarked to a local food writer about the pricing of sweet red bell peppers, paraphrasing Mencken: "One will never go broke overcharging the American public."

FYI--the original Zach's on Rising Sun Avenue also closed a few months ago. Maybe they've retired.

"Fat is money." (Per a cracklings maker shown on Dirty Jobs.)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A quick definition for ohmyganache of a word Katie used upthread that is probably unfamiliar to him or her:

Wawa (wah' wah), n. Lenni-Lenape word meaning "the place where we get the essentials that fuel our busy lives."

Seriously, it's the Lenape word for the bird we call the Canada goose, which is why you'll find one on the chain's logo. But the convenience-store chain is an integral part of everyday life for just about everyone who lives in the Philadelphia area. Unlike most convenience-store chains, Wawa is also known for the quality of its deli counter and prepared foods, especially their hoagies. (Oh, darn. Now I have to define another Philly-ism. A hoagie is a sandwich of the type variously known elsewhere as a hero or submarine. But like the New Orleans po' boy, another member of this family, the Philadelphia hoagie is a breed unto itself. The word allegedly comes from the sandwiches workers at the old Hog Island shipyards carried with them for lunch. Philadelphia International Airport now occupies most of the World War I shipyard site.)

Edited by MarketStEl (log)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A quick definition for ohmyganache of a word Katie used upthread that is probably unfamiliar to him or her:

Wawa (wah' wah), n. Lenni-Lenape word meaning "the place where we get the essentials that fuel our busy lives."

Seriously, it's the Lenape word for the bird we call the Canada goose, which is why you'll find one on the chain's logo. But the convenience-store chain is an integral part of everyday life for just about everyone who lives in the Philadelphia area.  Unlike most convenience-store chains, Wawa is also known for the quality of its deli counter and prepared foods, especially their hoagies.  (Oh, darn.  Now I have to define another Philly-ism.  A hoagie is a sandwich of the type variously known elsewhere as a hero or submarine.  But like the New Orleans po' boy, another member of this family, the Philadelphia hoagie is a breed unto itself. The word allegedly comes from the sandwiches workers at the old Hog Island shipyards carried with them for lunch. Philadelphia International Airport now occupies most of the World War I shipyard site.)

What do people think of their coffee?

At least one DC-er thinks it's too weak.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello again! Haha, I'm very glad Wawa got mentioned, I actually love wawa and I do like thier coffee (I use a wawa coffee cup at work everyday).

I should have been more specific about our plans! We are planning on doing both breads and pastry, but will more than likely start with pastry only. Cakes, cookies, tarts, breakfast pastries, etc...

Being in San Francisco has been a lot of fun, but it's time to wow philly!

Thanks again for all of the wonderful info. It's very very useful...

Stephen W.

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you want to dive right in and throw down with a couple other bakeries, I am pretty sure there is retail space available right now on the northeast corner of 4th and Bainbridge, which is one block south of South St., right near tons and tons of foot traffic, especially hungry foot traffic (Jim's Steaks is at 4th and South). That's across the street from the aforementioned Pink Rose pastry shop, and catecorner from the Famous 4th Street Deli, known far and wide for their chocolate chip cookies and their carrot cake. It's also across the street from Southwark, one of the two best restaurants in that area. It would be a veritable mecca for baked goods!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wawa coffee is very good. I drink it with some frequency myself.

If the retail space Buckethead suggested is the former hoochie mama boutique that was on the corner of 4th & Bainbridge, I'm not sure that it's outfitted for a bakery/restaurant. Might be costly to get vents and hoods and all that stuff installed. Perhaps a retail space that was already a restaurant or bakery in a past life would be better. There's a little space on Passyunk Ave. just below Bainbridge that says "Hip Hop Cafe" or some such nonsense on it that I don't recall ever having actually opened after their renovations. That seems to have been lying fallow for quite some time and is also still in the 'hood.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

faragalli bakes amazing "italian" loaves at 13th and reed, @11am they'll be ready and warm, awesome bread...

carangi is more of a "accesssible sarcones" as they deliver, the baker I believe used to be a baker for sarcones and started his own biz, there in south philly somewhere not sure where,

but outside of C.C and south philly there is a shortage of fresh bakeries/pastries,

south jersey has hudson bread out of cherry hill, not sure if they have a retail spot or just bakery/distro. space

a side note...

what pastry shops sell petit fours?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's a vote for Northern Liberties. We have lots of restaurants, but the only bakery is Kaplan's which has been here for 100 years, I think, seriously!

It's a kosher bakery, lots of great black bread, rye, and Challah rolls, but the pastry is old fashioned and frozen, I'm pretty sure.

We could use a really good bakery in this area!!!

Philly Francophiles

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...