18 Under-the-Radar Philly Spots for a New Yorker’s Road Trip

Old, new, and off-the-grid

Philly is on the rise — you’ve probably been hearing that for, like, six years from friends who moved there for the affordable housing and food magazines touting its sandwich culture, indie restaurants and beer scene. At this point, Philly’s reputation is well established, especially when it comes to food. Chefs Michael Solomonov and Greg Vernick and restaurateur Stephen Starr all took home James Beard Awards last month, for example. You know their spots. Which is why none of them are on this list, a collection of under-the-radar places to check out in and around the city.

Nifty Fifty’s

Kids who grew up in Philly in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s wax poetic about the chicken nuggets (spicy, with cheese), cement-thick shakes and rainbow of customizable soda flavors at this local chain where every window is writ bright with neon and every word deserves a possessive apostrophe. Each booth has a tabletop jukebox, servers wear paper caps with their names on them, and those nuggets are truly delicious. Tempering the bubblegum nostalgia: Nifty Fifty’s not-so-nifty owners are serving prison sentences for tax evasion. 2491 Grant Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-676-1950

Mr. Joe’s Café

The Termini family is baking royalty in South Philly. Reigning patriarch, Vince, Sr., opened up Mr. Joe’s in 2004 across the street from the clan’s iconic pasticceria. Named for his father and decorated with heirlooms and artifacts, the sunny café serves frittatas, panini and pastas—hope the featherweight gnocchi are available—with crusty bread and crisp, complimentary house salads until 5 pm. The lunch ladies who run the place pull a hell of an espresso. 1514 South 8th Street, Philadelphia, 215-334-1414

Palizzi Social Club

Like Mr. Joe’s but open late, Thursday through Sunday, and with negroni milk punch and an impressive amaro list. Expect to be hearing a lot about this place from the New York glossy mill soon, but for now Palizzi is a total local secret run by chef Joey Baldino, an industry favorite for his Sicilian restaurant, Zeppoli (see #12), in Jersey. His late uncle ran this members-only social club since the 1950s, and now Baldino has upgraded the experience with a proper menu of his mom and grandmom’s family recipes (stuffed artichokes, spaghetti and crabs). Only downside: you’ve got to know a member to get in. Start calling your friends in Philly. 1408 South 12th Street, Philadelphia, No phone

El Compadre

You may have heard of Cristina Martinez and Ben Miller’s weekend-only taqueria, South Philly Barbacoa, a Bon Appetit Hot 10 restaurant last year and organic think-tank for social justice reform and undocumented workers’ rights. El Compadre, the restaurant launched by Martinez’s son, Isaias Berriozabal, who died unexpectedly earlier this year, is lesser known—but that’s about to change. Just last week Martinez and Miller announced the closure of SPB as they refocus their efforts on Compadre. The couple has brought in reinforcements in Martinez’s mom, Ines Guerrero, who’s making daily guisados (stews) like pork ribs in purslane salsa verde, and Martinez and Miller are still doing the luscious lamb barbacoa and consommé, still available weekends only. 1149 South 9th Street, Philadelphia, 267-746-7658


El Compadre

Celebre’s Pizza

Situated way down in South Philly by the stadiums in a neighborhood called Packer Park, Celebre’s is the purveyor of pizzazz pizza, a Philly original involving fresh sliced tomato, chopped pickled banana peppers and American cheese. Very little has changed at this pizzeria since it was founded in the 1950s, from the billiard green banquette to the circular marble tables to marquee sign typography nerds will lose their minds over. 1536 Packer Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-467-3255

Manakeesh Cafe

The ziggurats of baklava in the pastry case, the mint tea poured from swan-necked silver pots, the wood-fired, za’atar-dusted pizzas that give this airy Lebanese salon its name… These are just a few of the reasons Manakeesh in in West Philly’s Spruce Hill neighborhood is worth a visit, to say nothing of its diverse, fuck-intolerance fan base of students and staff of Drexel, U. Penn and the Islamic Education School across the street. Book ahead for baklava baking classes. 4420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-921-2135


Charlie’s Hamburgers

Charlie’s thin, flavorful, flattop-seared patties have been a staple of DelCo — that’s Delaware County, Philly’s OG suburbs stretching south and west of the city — since 1935 and owned by the McDonald family since 1984. The red, white-and-blue burger stand sits at the top of an asphalt hill overlooking the local swim club and a Wild West-themed saloon. Inside, the letterboard menu advertises burgers, hot dogs, sausage and milkshakes made with Bassetts ice cream and milk from WaWa, another source of DelCo pride. Do like the locals ringing the counter and order the burgers in multiples of two. 336 Kedron Avenue, Philadelphia, 610-461-4228

Sagami

When Shigeru Fukuyoshi, a New York sushi chef, and his wife, Chizuko, opened Sagami in the suburb of Collingswood, New Jersey in 1974, there was only one other Japanese restaurant in the area. The couple persevered and built a following over the decades that now includes legions of Philly chefs who regularly cross the bridge for umami-rich eel, super-crispy katsu and bouquets of chirashi overflowing in lacquerware bowls. 37 Crescent Boulevard, Collingswood, NJ, 856-854-9773

Ray’s Cafe & Tea House

Years before third-wave coffee hit Philly, Taiwanese immigrant Grace Chen and son, Randy Ray, were brewing beans to order in the Hario siphon systems at their cozy Chinatown café. There are usually a dozen different coffees available daily, sourced from Yemen, to Japan, to Jamaica’s Blue Mountains — the baller order here at over $10 a cup—definitely worth it. 141 North 9th Street, Philadelphia, 215-922-5122


Ray’s Cafe and Tea House

Wyebrook Farm

The story of the banker who quits Wall Street and starts a farm is so played-out, it’s a wonder Matt Damon hasn’t starred in a movie about it yet. But Dean Carlson did his due diligence before opening his 36-acre Wyebook Farm an hour west of the city in bucolic Chester County, and now produces some of the most flavorful, responsibly raised, grass-fed beef, heritage-breed pork and pastured chicken in the state. The majority of the meat winds up on the menu in the farm’s restaurant, housed in the converted stone barn, where chef Anthony Colontonio makes dishes like papparadelle with short rib ragu, confit of pork belly with kimchi and green garlic chimichurri, and sorrel panna cotta. 150 Wyebrook Road, Honey Brook, PA, 610-942-7481

Weber’s Drive In

An anachronistic delight on the side of Route 38 in Pennsauken, this is the last remaining location of a South Jersey-grown chain that dates back to the 1920s — and one of the only true drive-ins in this part of the state. Spring to fall, drivers pull into Weber’s lot, park under corrugated metal awnings, roll down their windows and wait for carhops (usually local high schoolers) to sprint over and take orders for burgers, cheesesteaks, pork roll sandwiches and piney, house-made draft root beer served in frosted mugs. It all comes on a thick Plexiglas tray that mounts to the driver’s side window, an Instagram story waiting to happen. 6019 Lexington Avenue, Pennsauken, NJ, 856-662-6632


Weber’s Drive In

Zeppoli

Philly’s best Italian restaurant is in New Jersey. Ten minutes over the bridge in Collingswood, Joey Baldino shines in a tiny dining room wrapped in oil-rubbed wainscoting and black-and-white photos of Sicily, the restaurant’s inspiration. Straightforward, ingredient-focused dishes drive the menu, which rarely changes: panzanella draped with white anchovies, lacy tagliatelle electric with lemon and bottarga, rabbit braised in woodsy oregano-scented tomato sauce and more. There’s only 35 seats, so make reservations. 618 West Collingswood Avenue, Collingswood, NJ, 856-854-2670

#zeppolirestaurant #collingswood

A post shared by @zeppolirestaurant on Oct 5, 2015 at 10:25am PDT

Mercer Cafe

Whether you call it cream chipped beef or SOS (shit on a shingle), the Philly breakfast classic of air-dried beef in a flow of white gravy over toast is best experienced at the Woltjen family’s luncheonette, where the delicious chipped beef downright shimmers with butter. They’ve got a slicker second location in the Navy Yard, but the original is the one to visit—a brick corner in the gentrifying Polish/Irish enclave of Port Richmond with big windows, a counter and friendly staff. 2916 East Westmoreland Street, Philadelphia, 215-426-2153

Roy-Pitz Barrel House

This brewpub, an offshoot of the Chambersburg, Pennsylvania brewery of the same name, is days old in its location in the affectionately known Eraserhead District, the neighborhood David Lynch lived in while making that seminal film. Co-founders Jesse Rotz and Ryan Richards refer to their crew as “liquid artists,” but don’t hold that against them. The salty gose brewed with sourdough pretzels and 13% Bourbon barrel-aged barleywine in particular are terrific. 990 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, 215-995-6792

Martha

Philly’s Fishtown neighborhood gets a ton of national attention, but adjacent Kensington and its neo-tavern, Martha, deserve your play. The bar is a tribute to all liquid things distilled, brewed and fermented nearby, from apple farmer Ben Wenk’s Pinot N’arlet cider (made from heirloom Arlet apples) and Va La Vineyards’ Barbera to the Nordic Old Fashioned starring Rowhouse Spirits’ aquavit. 2113 East York Street, Philadelphia, 215-867-8881

Tired Hands Fermentaria

Just outside the city in the Main Line railroad town of Ardmore, Jean Broillet IV brews some of the most compelling beers in the country. Housed in a former trolley repair shop, his light-filled Fermentaria kegs 12 of his constantly changing brews. Current roster includes the aromatic Alien Church oat IPA and fudgy Single Origin Coffee Only Void imperial stout. Cricket Terrace, Ardmore, 215-413-2983

Sweet Lucy’s

If you find yourself in Philly on a Monday, head to the Northeast neighborhood of Holmesburg for Jim and Brooke Higgins’ family-friendly smokehouse wedged between the train tracks and I-95. From 5 to 8:30 p.m. they stock a $21.99-per-person buffet with Texas-style brisket, baby backs, smoked salmon, pulled pork, smoked kielbasa (pronounced “kielbassy” in these parts) and all the sides you want. 7500 State Road, Philadelphia, 215-333-9663

Curiosity Doughnuts

Alex Talbot and Aki Kamozawa, authors of modernist chef companion Ideas in Food, fry up unparalleled doughnuts (shatter-crisp on the outside, like a croissant, with a hint of creaminess in the center) at their shop in the Stockton Market in Stockton, New Jersey. It’s a half-hour detour off I-95 you can do on your way into or out of Philly. Get there early and grab a dozen for the ride, like the buttermilk-butterscotch glazed and the cinnamon and cardamom sugar. (Open Saturdays and Sundays only) 19 Bridge Street, Stockton, NJ, 609-608-2824


Curiosity Doughnuts

Source: NYC eater
18 Under-the-Radar Philly Spots for a New Yorker’s Road Trip