Philadelphia is notoriously easy to navigate. The grid system is practically a utopian ideal, which makes giving directions easy (a shame, considering you just downloaded the Morgan Freeman voice on Waze). That is, of course, until you get to Fishtown.
The neighborhood is made up of roads slanting towards the river, thanks to it being a former fishing village. And though the population has shifted from anglers and fishmongers to artists and young families, the historical impact has left the neighborhood (literally) “off the grid.” The result is a diverse area full of restaurants, and while there seem to be new places popping up every week in Fishtown, these are our favorites.
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Between the coffee shop in the front and fresh pita constantly being baked in the back, Suraya smells exactly how you wish your house did. You can sit in the cafe and have a chai while you get some work done, or head to the dining room for lunch or dinner. Their evening menu is especially excellent for a date or girls’ night out, with plenty of lighter, shareable dishes like baba ganoush and stuffed grape leaves served with lemon yogurt.
While we love Fishtown for how many good, casual options there are everywhere, sometimes you just want to wear the one outfit that you mentally reserve for “special occasions.” Kensington Quarters is that place. They have a great burger, lengthy wine list, and a menu full of dishes that are nice enough to break up your week without making you worry too much about the bill. They also have a reasonably priced Happy Hour if you’re looking to try a few small bites before committing to the duck breast or mixed grill.
Due to a mix-up at the post office, you’ve suddenly received all twelve bottles from your “wine of the month club” at once. Bring the case and some friends to Ekta on Girard, where you can put a dent in your wine surplus (it’s BYOB here) and eat some good Indian food at the same time. Between the big portions and family-style option, this place works especially well for big groups. Go with the biryani and the spicy Goan shrimp curry, along with some extra naan to mop up the sauce.
Whether your fantasy football team is looking more like a nightmare, or your gym just replaced your weekly vinyasa hour with another Zumba class, sometimes you just need something warm and delicious that’ll never let you down. These are the times to go to Stock. Their khao poon, a Lao-style coconut curry soup, is a cure-all for everything from a bad review at work to mistakenly treating a Sunday like a Saturday. This BYOB on Girard is walk-in only, and if go with a friend, make sure to try the prahok katee (a spicy pork dip) and banh mi sprinkled with fried shallots, too.
Calling La Colombe in Fishtown a “coffee shop” is kind of like carrying a Swiss Army knife and only using the tiny saw - it’s not wrong, but it sort of misses the point. This place feels more like a brewery than wherever you normally go for your morning latte, with lots of space, plenty of seating, and a full food menu to go with all of the coffee you could ever want. Stop in for breakfast or to pick up a sandwich after work when you suddenly remember you were supposed to go grocery shopping three days ago.
Front Street Cafe is basically always open, so regardless of whether you need to grab a second dinner or a quick bite before work, this place is here for you. It’s the neighborhood spot that everyone wishes they had, with good cocktails, patio seating for when it’s nice out, and bar food that’s just a little better than it needs to be. Make sure to get the buffalo chicken cauliflower and a fried chicken sandwich.
One too many drinks in at your last party, you felt inspired, announcing “I’m going to open a bar one day, fill it with everything that we like, and the people will flock to it, deeming me lord of Fishtown and purveyor of all that is good.” And though no one took you too seriously, you’ll realize when you get to Martha that someone got the jump on you. The cocktails, wine, and beer are affordable (most costing less than $12), there’s a ton of outdoor seating, and the menu is full of your favorite things to eat after your third drink of the night, like hoagies, cheese, and pickles.
Cher and ABBA. Fast And Furious movies and long flights. Some combinations, while unexpected, just work, which is exactly how we’d describe Cheu Fishtown. Here you can eat dumplings and noodles alongside things like pastrami bing buns. You know, for balance. This former police stable is covered in crazy artwork, both on the stools and walls, and it’s a great place to stop by for a cocktail and some ramen.
If you were ever curious about alternative career paths for that art history degree, you should visit Pizza Brain. Part-restaurant, part-museum, the walls are covered with pizza memorabilia, which gives you plenty to look at while you wait for your pies. There’s limited indoor seating, but there are a few tables in the courtyard in the back, and their BYO policy lets you bring your favorite beer or wine along for the ride.
If you go to Pizza Brain, there’s a strong chance that you’ll come here afterwards since they’re connected. Flavors range from somewhat classic (like chocolate salt malt) to borderline ridiculous (Earl Grey sriracha and cucumber dill come to mind). Plus, if you’re feeling especially generous, pre-pay for a scoop on the Pay-It-Forward Board. You can specify the scoop’s recipient in any way you like, like “anyone named Jake” or “someone having a bad hair day.”
Frankford Hall feels like it’s been scientifically designed to keep you there for hours at a time, so don’t be surprised if you come to day drink and end up leaving at last call. With ping-pong, foosball tables, and board games available, you’ll have no trouble biding your time until your food arrives. You’ll probably see at least one head-sized Bavarian pretzel on most tables, but if you want something a little more substantial, go with the Wiener Schnitzel platter.
Cadence isn’t somewhere you’re going to go every week, unless you’re the heir to the Slinky fortune or the 13th man on the 76ers. This small BYOB on Girard has a $65 tasting menu and feels nice enough where you could dress up if you just bought something nice or you’re coming from work. You can go a la carte too, but whenever you eat here, the goal should be to try as many things as possible. Whatever else you order, make sure to get the roast duck, which will easily feed three people on its own.
Fette Sau serves everything from beef brisket to pulled pork to St. Louis-style ribs, so you can just get a bit of each instead of worrying about choosing the wrong thing. The cafeteria-style seating is first-come, first-served and there’s a spacious outdoor patio that’s ideal for drinking a whiskey flight while discussing the finer things in life, like which actor would play Gerald in a live-action revival of Hey Arnold.
Loco Pez brings together two of our favorite things: a neighborhood dive and Mexican food. If you happen to come here on one of their dollar-taco nights, you’ll be able to eat, grab a PBR, and leave a tip for under $10. Avoid Happy Hour if you’re trying to skip the crowds and make sure you have cash (they don’t take cards), but rest-assured that the prices will be reasonable and the nachos plentiful any time you go.
Maybe you’re having people over for the Eagles game, or maybe you’ve been craving wings since you smelled them at a bar the other night. Either way, Andy’s is the best place in the neighborhood to go for fried chicken. Their double-fried recipe results in an audible crunch, and the sweet chili sauce adds just the right amount of heat. Call ahead, and make sure you stock up on paper towels on the walk home.
Walking into Murph’s Bar, you might wonder why your friend suggested you try it for dinner. That is, until the aroma of garlic and tomato sauce hits you. This Irish pub serves some of the best Italian food in the city, and once you see platters of seafood manicotti and veal tortellaci being passed around the small dining room, you’ll be sold. Leave your expectations at the door and call ahead if you’ve got four or more in your party.
This cash-only diner on Girard feels stuck sometime in the 1970s and serves classic breakfast dishes without a Bloody Mary bar in sight. The chicken and waffles (topped with poached eggs and hollandaise) is worth splitting, regardless of whatever else you get. Just make sure to schedule time for a nap after you eat.
If you’re new to Fishtown and want to get a good feel for the neighborhood, have some friends meet you at Cedar Point. With one of the best (and biggest) deck spaces around, their location at a six-way intersection is the ultimate in people watching real estate. Feel free to set up shop for the day and continue ordering drinks and shared plates as your friends come and go. The buffalo wings served with fried Brussels sprouts and the pickle burger are both major crowd pleasers.
When your best friend is celebrating her dog’s birthday and you’re in charge of bringing the human treats, make a stop at Cake Life. It may be tough to choose from the display cases packed with things like pistachio kouign-amann and fruit tarts, but you can’t really go wrong. They’re open until 10pm on weekends, host BYOB cake tasting events the second Saturday of each month, and the sugar cookies will go faster than your interest in how old the dog is turning.