With the Democratic National Convention 2 weeks away, South Philly is likely to get a lot of tourists. So for the underpaid political people among you, I’ve done the no money, no kitchen thing. And by now I’m good at it.
And congrats on being sent to South Philly of all places! Here are all the best places to a good meal for less than 10 bucks, as far as I learned during my 2 years of storing building materials receipts in the oven. I’m not trying to rank these places so I’m presenting them in the order I found out about them. Broad Street Subway stations included for your reference. Also, Passyunk Avenue is pretty much lined with great expensive restaurants, so the deep pocketed among you would do well to check out the area too.
There are 2, one on the Italian Market and one at Front and Girard in Fishtown/No Libs. Great sorta-Italian sandwiches. Mostly hot but there are some cold hoagies on the menu too. Portion size is decidedly not European and sometimes I’d feel better only eating half. If it’s crowded, there are picnic tables at Bardascino Park a block away. They close early. Kinda far from the subway but about a 15 minute walk to Center City, and the Italian Market is fun to check out anyway. BYOB. The one on Girard is right next to the El (more formally the Market-Frankford Line).
My favorite Mexican restaurant in Philly, it was more a bodega than a restaurant when I went there the first time. The canned goods are gone and now it has actual décor and a full menu but don’t be fooled. The tacos and simpler items are as cheap and great as ever. BYOB. 6 blocks from Snyder, or a 20 minute walk from the stadiums.
Don’t be deterred by the bars on the windows. This is the oldest (I think) of many cheap and good Indonesian restaurants in the area, the bulk of their menu is stewy dishes that they’ll ladle out with rice. Also have good salad meals, soups, and satay (skewers). BYOB, 2 blocks from the Tasker-Morris. More here.
Nick’s Roast Beef
Basically a dive bar with a restaurant’s name. Old school vibe. Hand carved roast beef and other meats. Tasty gravy with lots of garlic. Good prices on beer. Vegetarian options are limited. 6 blocks from Snyder.
Gennaro’s Tomato Pie
Kinda fancy as pizzerias go but I’d do backflips for the thin, crunchy, slightly charred crust and non-excessive amount of cheese you’ll get here. The house salad is old school with a bity red wine vinaigrette. A salad and a pizza are just right for 2. Cash only, BYOB. 3 blocks from Tasker-Morris. Note: I haven’t been here since they moved and enlarged their menu. http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/the-insider/Gennaros-moves-to-Passyunk-Square.html
South Philadelphia Tap Room
The anchor of gentrification in my neighborhood, has a good selection of craft beers and great food. Happy hour is 4-6 on weekdays and gets you half off local drafts and appetizers. The appetizers tend to be greatly varied and include things from all 5 food groups, including the ones that aren’t fats oils and sweets. 2 usually make a good dinner. Scramble in with a big group group and order the whole appetizer list and 2 beers each at 5:55. It’s the classy way to do it. 3 blocks from Snyder or Tasker-Morris.
The couple that own this place were born in Cambodia, learned to bake in France, and then were kind enough to put the best French bakery in Philadelphia 3 blocks from my house. The banh mi (tofu, ham, or pork belly and vegetable sandwiches) are superb. Also great pastries and strong coffee. It’s popular with the French expat community. 4 blocks from Tasker-Morris or Snyder. Cash only, BYOB.
Tap Room on 19th
Similar place to the other tap room. Burger Mondays make them one of the best bargains in the city. All burgers are half off all day on Mondays, so get grass fed beef from a small farm in New Jersey or a solid homemade veggie burger for the price of a Big Mac. They have $2 tacos sold a la carte on Tuesdays also, which are pretty good but not as authentic as Los Gallos. 8 blocks from Snyder or Oregon, or a 20 minute walk from the stadiums.
Definitely my favorite bodega in the neighborhood, this place is tidy and as a participant in Philly’s Healthy Corner Stores initiative, it has actual produce and stuff. But you’re there for the deli. Mostly classic Italian-American style hoagies and panini. They have homemade pesto and roasted vegetables too. My favorite is the Mexican-Italian fusion enojado panini. Also tamales on the weekends. No seats here so take your sandwich a block south to the newly remodeled DiSilvestro Playground.
One of the best seafood stores in Philly now sells sandwiches and stuff too. The tuna sashimi tacos are awesome. Probably my top pick for cheapskates who are craving seafood. 2 blocks from Tasker-Morris. BYOB.
Of course the best English bakery in North America is in South Philly. London style meat pies (and good vegetarian options), stewed and jellied eels, mashed potatoes, sticky pudding, all you can drink tea. They also sell biscuits, Marmite, and other English dry goods. One time when I was there a British woman turned into a 6 year old girl screaming “I want this! I want this! I want this!” It was hilarious. Her husband wanted to eat his dinner. But they left happy and with grocery bags full of junk food. This place is better for lunch as they start to run out of things later. BYOB. 2 blocks from Tasker-Morris or Snyder.
I was in a different bar run out of the same space last year. This year’s food is Vietnamese and Filipino and fits in the price range of everything else. I can’t vouch for the quality of the food, but this Art Deco highrise school building towers over the neighborhood and gives you a million dollar view. (Image from the Passyunk Post.)
This feels incomplete – in other parts of Philly you can get Polish, Russian, Uzbek, Korean, African, Caribbean… but I probably wrote enough. I also never mentioned cheesesteaks. But, overrated. Anyways, if you’re coming down this way, enjoy (South) Philly!