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Southern, Soul & Caribbean Food Satisfy Philly Diners
Caribbean Cuisine Week Celebrates Island Flavors This Spring
Nothing’s more satisfying than a plate of down-home eats, and thankfully, Philly’s dining scene is rich in all categories of authentic soul food. Whether it’s a gourmet spin on turkey wings, a zesty bowl of jambalaya or a slice of sweet-potato pie, hearty goodness abounds at the region’s soul, southern, Cajun, Cuban and Caribbean eateries. Caribbean Cuisine Week (April 25-28, 2017) celebrates island flavors while raising funds for more than 700 high school athletes from Jamaica, Grenada, St. Vincent, the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago participating in the Penn Relays.
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
- Butter’s Soul Food corners the market for gravy-slathered turkey wings and fried shrimp platters in Brewerytown. The takeaway joint also cooks up rice and gravy, corn and okra and a mean sweet potato cheesecake. 2730 W. Girard Avenue, (215) 235-4724, buttersoulfood.com
- A friendly little hideaway in Mt. Airy, Chef Ken’s Café serves both lunch and dinner. Hearty options here include barbecue chicken, fried whiting and the chef’s signature beef ribs, along with sides like dirty rice, mac and cheese and collard greens—all prepared with a light and fresh touch not always found in soul food kitchens. 7135 Germantown Avenue, (215) 713-8899
- 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, cornbread and collards. 30th & Market Streets, (215) 424-7022
- With a belly-warming mix of Caribbean, soul and southern cuisines, the GiGi’ and Big R food truck has spent years satisfying the University City lunchtime crowd. The hefty Styrofoam platters stuffed with 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). As a bonus, the hybrid restaurant/bar/lounge’s slick setting keeps the party going well after dinner’s finished. 1312 South Street, (215) 731-9045, kevenparker.net
- Fusing contemporary and traditional, Relish restaurant and jazz club ramps up classic soul dishes with ingenuity. Offerings at this West Oak Lane hotspot include Cajun deviled eggs with shrimp; a Southern Caesar with cornbread croutons; and turkey wings over apple-cornbread stuffing. Movers and shakers should also note that it’s a popular gathering place for local politicians. 7152 Ogontz Avenue, (215) 276-0170, relishphiladelphia.com
- Ms. Tootsie’s owner Keven Parker doubles down with his eponymous Soul Food Cafe in the bustling Reading Terminal Market. In addition to the spectacular chicken and waffles, the quick-serve 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 NOLA-style shrimp and cheddar grits, cornmeal-crusted catfish with spicy Creole sauce and slow-braised barbecue beef short ribs. 1400 Columbus Boulevard, (215) 462-2000, warmdaddys.com
- 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 bourbon pecan pie are revelatory. 443 Shurs Lane, 4901 Ridge Avenue, (215) 588-7427, dekesbar-b-que.com
- South Street’s Percy Street Barbecue showcases Texas Hill Country barbecue, along with a few surprises from throughout the south. The slow-smoked brisket, along with classic sides like collard greens and burnt-end beans, is a popular draw, but Percy packs hungry guests with a surprisingly wide selection of eats, from a Vietnamese bánh mì-inspired pork belly sandwich to an all-veggie chili. 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, a barbecue meat platter and plenty of clever cocktails to wash it all down. 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 blackened salmon with hoppin’ John, fried lobster with Anson Mills grits, and chocolate 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 an array of cocktails, from the classic Sazerac to a “vanilla sour” made with vanilla-flavored whiskey, lemon juice and egg whites. 8 E. First Avenue, Conshohocken, (484) 344-5668, southerncrosskitchen.com
- Smoked meats, fried chicken and fancy aged hams appear frequently on The Twisted Tail’s menus. The bourbon bar and live music venue also prepares sides like decadent mac and cheese with crawfish and Brussels sprouts with creamy bacon vinaigrette. 509 S. 2nd Street, (215) 558-2471, thetwistedtail.com
- The craft fried chicken at Wishbone, which has locations West Philly and Midtown Village, gives the Southern staple a decidedly new-school spin. In addition to the classic wings with signature pretzel crust, there are daily-changing flavors, plus honey buttermilk biscuits and cheddar-jalapeno cornbread. 210 S. 13th Street & 4034 Walnut Street, (215) 921-3204, wishbonephilly.com
New Orleans Noshes:
- Twin locations in Reading Terminal Market and 30th Street Station means it’s 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 in Boothwyn, Wednesday to Saturday in Wilmington. 1362 Neaman’s Creek Road, Boothwyn, (484) 947-8914; 722 Philadelphia Pike, Wilmington, DE, (302) 416-5108, cajunkates.com
- A neighborhood bar with Louisiana leanings, Catahoula dishes up rich and decadent flavors. The bounty includes bourbon-peppercorn burgers, duck confit jambalaya, shrimp and grits, gumbo and molasses pecan pie. 775 S. Front Street, (215) 271-9300, catahoulaphilly.com
- Ever since former glam metal rocker Donny Syracuse opened High Street Caffe, the West Chester institution has been known for hosting famous musicians. However, one need not wield a guitar to enjoy the etouffée, super-spicy “Vudu” shrimp or blackened red snapper. 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 a formidable craft beer list and 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 cheesesteak shares menu space with braised oxtail with butter beans, curried 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 rom-com In Her Shoes—does a brisk business in traditional delicacies like jerk chicken, curry goat and homemade ginger beer. 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) 476-2660
- Dinner comes with a taste of nightlife at Ibis Lounge. Reggae and dancehall music accompany platters of stew chicken, curry shrimp and Callaloo, 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, oxtail, barbecue chicken and turkey wings, plus two sides (mac and cheese; candied yams; cabbage) with each order. 40 N. 52nd Street, (215) 747-1460
- 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 pasteles 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
- Stephen Starr’s Alma De Cuba gives old-school Caribbean fare a modern makeover. Cobia ceviche comes topped with octopus, jalapeno, avocado and finger lime; the chivo al vino, or wine-cooked goat, is served with coffee-roasted carrots; the flan is served with pomegranate-hibiscus puree and coconut air. 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, Mamá Amelia’s empanadas, lechón asado and grilled seafood is rounded out wonderfully 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:
- Combining her Puerto Rican heritage and vegan lifestyle, HipCityVeg owner Nicole Marquis offers meat-, egg- and dairy-free versions of island tacos, sandwiches, nachos and margaritas at Bar Bombón just off Rittenhouse Square. 135 S. 18th Street, (267) 606-6612, barbombon.com
- 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
VISIT PHILADELPHIA® is our name and our mission. As the region’s official tourism marketing agency, we build Greater Philadelphia’s image, drive visitation and boost the economy.
On Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website and blog, visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com, visitors can explore things to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages. Compelling photography and videos, interactive maps and detailed visitor information make the sites effective trip-planning tools. Along with Visit Philly social media channels, the online platforms communicate directly with consumers. Travelers can also call and stop into the Independence Visitor Center for additional information and tickets.
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Gay & Lesbian Bars:
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Games For Grown-Ups:
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FAIRMOUNT (Center City, Art Museum Area)
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Here’s a traveler-tailored list of some of the city’s standout black-owned businesses.
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Old City & Washington Square West:
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