NFT Philadelphia West Philly

West Philly

Essentials
West Philly's giant, gorgeous Victorian houses give this neighborhood a distinct feeling, and the tenants of the houses vary widely from squatting anarchists to African immigrants to college kids and more. Don't miss Clark Park--it's a hub of community activity.

Sundries/Entertainment
The West Philly melting pot is perhaps best demonstrated by the incredible variety in restaurants, from Ethiopian (Kaffa Crossing, Ethio) to Pakistani (Kabobeesh) to Thai (Vientiane Cafe) to fancy Mexican (Distrito). See more.

>Dock Street Brewing Co. features a slew of beers brewed on site, and Fiume and Local 44 both do the trick.




         


This Neighborhood Featured in...
The City of Brotherly Bargains

By Lisa Franklin
Philadelphia has the reputation of being a cheap city, but it’s still hard to find a bargain. Sure, we’re obese and wear long crewneck sweatshirts, but chi-chi restaurants and boutiques are rebranding our image and forcing out our ingrained frugality. Where to turn when we’re hankering for an inexpensive lunch or a used CD that’s rightfully cheaper than its shiny new twin sister? Gems, finds, and steals exist throughout our fair city. The destinations below will ensure that, at the end of the day, we can enjoy a soft pretzel and a 6-pack of Yuengling without a gaping hole in our collective pocket...
Read More...

On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Augustin Kendall
Photo:  Augustin Kendall

Rx
Rx has a reputation as a quality brunch spot; perhaps the only one west of the river. It's true that on weekends they do special brunch, and the food is good (not a great selection for non-meat eating folk, but a couple solid options). Three years ago I would eat here just for the french toast. I don't know how they make it, but it has a slightly crunchy coating of granola, or bread crumb, or ... whatever that is, it definitely stands out among french toast. However, though the food may still feel good, the service invariably will not. Over my periodic visits there in the past couple years, it ranges from simply neglectful to downright rude. I'm not one to bitch about service and harass the servers, but Rx bills itself as a cozy little place with good food and a good atmosphere. If you're selling service as part of your product, you better deliver it.



Posted By:  Augustin Kendall
Photo:  Augustin Kendall

Dock Street Brewing Co.
That's right -- Philadelphia, a city that celebrates beer year-round, a city voted one of the top five beer towns in the country by highly esteemed authorities, has only a few microbreweries like Triumph and Nodding Head. Fortunately for all of us, they're good like Dock Street. They also serve excellent pizza of the gourmet variety, along with some good appetizers and desserts, complete with vegan options. Beer-wise, Dock Street holds up pretty well in the ranks of local/regional brewing companies. I'm a stout enthusiast myself, and their Sexual Chocolate Stout is a favorite. They make a good porter, too. Other brews I've tried there don't have the full flavor a drinker of good beer will want, but don't take my word for it. The thing about microbreweries is they produce a small amount of beer; as a batch runs out, a new one will replace it. It's a given that batches vary, and overall quality tends to rise with time and experience. The other thing about microbreweries: They don't have everything available all the time, so when I'm really craving that chocolate stout, there's no guarantee I can get it. The good pizza, however, is always available.



Posted By:  Augustin Kendall
Photo:  Augustin Kendall

Bindlestiff Books
Bindlestiff Books is a purveyor of fine literature for the young and the old. In this case, fine literature = books that are new and exciting and off-kilter. And purveyor is an appropriate term--just look at their quaint sign. Anyone who frequents bookstores regularly probably can't avoid the big box ones anymore, and has hopefully noticed the woefully low selection of quality books compared to the disturbingly high selection of mediocre (or worse) new releases. Not at Bindlestiff. Whenever I walk by, something in their window display inevitably catches my eye. If you're shopping for children, this is definitely the place to go. Sometimes it seems that nearly half their selection is for readers under the age of 12. And that's just fine. They may be small, but this bookstore has packed in enough good reads to keep me browsing for as long as I might spend in one of the multiple floor, big box places (which, oddly, both start with Bs), if not longer. In the era of dying bookstores, I implore you, support the ones we have left.



Posted By:  Laura Amann
Photo:  Laura Amann

Gold Standard Cafe
Gold Standard Cafe in West Philly reminds me of the used bike that I bought off of Craigslist a few years back. It was a shiny blue cruiser, and it looked great in the pictures. I jumped on the $150 deal, making the transaction without ever riding said bicycle. Well, one broken pedal, faulty gear-shifts and an over-priced tune-up later, the bike still ran pretty poorly. Still, something about it being a shiny blue cruiser made me want to love it, delaying its inevitable sale for a few months. Well, with Gold Standard's new exterior paint job, interior renovations and proximity to other legit. West Philly eateries, I thought it would be a done deal. However, I walked into a cafe whose refrigerated display case held little else but cans of soda and bottled water. Despite its sign's good advertising, there was not a vegetable in site. Did I have a delicious Rueben sandwich that only cost me $7.50, and did the $6.50 Turkey Waldorf sound delish? Yes. But with such a supposedly extensive catering menu you'd think they'd have a little more in stock. So, I was disappointed. But will I go back to at least try the outdoor brunch? Probably. And I'll probably be a little let down.



Posted By:  Augustin Kendall
Photo:  Augustin Kendall

Davis Pharmacy
The windows are sprinkled with so many "good neighbor pharmacy" signs, it took me a while to realize that the name of this place is, in fact, Davis Pharmacy. It's quaint in a New England small town way; the kind of place that those of us under 40 might be nostalgic for without ever having experienced. The man behind the counter is friendly enough to engage even me. I'll say hi and ask him how he's doing, and I don't chat with anyone, even my best friends. Davis has the same limitations of many small businesses--limited stock, mildly inconvenient hours (don't go on Sunday)--and the city-wide problem of different closing times on different days (wtf, Philadelphia?). However, they don't have the markup that small businesses do; they're often cheaper than CVS. Where I might usually avoid a neighborhood place like this, so as to avoid the social interaction that accompanies it, I make it a point to go to Davis first.



Posted By:  Augustin Kendall
Photo:  Augustin Kendall

Milk & Honey Market
Market is neither totally acceptable, nor bad. After first spotting the posters in empty windows on this corner, I waited, hopefully but not patiently, for months. This market was to fill the New-York-bodega-shaped hole in my life. Perhaps it was inevitable that I'd be let down, given the lofty goals I imposed on it. But this is not about only personal disappointment. For a place posing as a local market and eatery, it is certainly not in touch with its local consumer base. If you need an eight-ounce bottle of maple syrup or a small bag of some high quality grain or other (foods I appreciatively consume regularly) for $10, you’re set. You want a (typically overpriced) deli sandwich or a hunk of shockingly expensive cheese? Check. But, most of us can find better deals on such things at Whole Foods, belong to the coop, make a point to get to the farmer’s market regularly, or even (gasp) shop at Supreme. Milk and Honey is more of the same, with an even higher price tag. I'd like to say, kudos for the try, but that would be hollow.



Posted By:  Meg Favreau
Photo:  Meg Favreau

Local 44
Local 44 receives accolades where accolades are due: their beer list runneth over with gorgeous, frequently changing draft beers. Want a Belgian saison? Got it. A framboise? Awesome. Hoppy beer, local beer, gluten-free beer? It's all there in this comfortable bar that added a much-needed injection of drinking to West Philly. But, be warned: Local 44's food knows that beer is the focus, and it behaves accordingly. The veggie burger, while featuring a beautiful bun and coupled with great fries, was made elsewhere (or else Local 44 took great pains to form their veggie burgers into a dense, Morningstar-like patties). Similarly, the tofu tacos had brilliant elements, but didn't quite come together like they could have (and, actually, were quite adept at falling apart). Go forth and drink at Local 44, drink plenty and often. But if your stomach is grumbling for a dinner-full of pub food, consider going elsewhere.



Posted By:  Jamie Papoutsis
Photo:  Jamie Papoutsis

Supreme Shop-n-Bag Supermarket
West Philly is supposedly on the up and up, except in the department of grocery stores. What appears sketchy on the outside just gets dodgier on the inside. The other day I watched a roach crawl across the bananas. Instead of hightailing it to the Whole Foods like the rest of the neighborhood, I decided I'd have blueberries on my Cheerios instead. Soft rock permeates the stale air as stock clerks rock out on their ipods to Spanish hip hop, which anyone within two aisles is privy to hearing. When you check out, some of the belts are broken so be prepared to slide everything down to the irritated cashier that hates her life and wants you to know it. The store manager is friendly enough, and I felt a twinge of guilt in complaining about the extra 50 cents I was incorrectly charged for my hummus dip. If you buy a lot, don't think about rolling your cart to your car as they are gated in the store. I guess these are the sacrifices to be made for a dirt (no pun intended) cheap grocery store.



Posted By:  Jamie Papoutsis
Photo:  Jamie Papoutsis

Greek Lady
This is single-handedly the best thing University City has going for it. True, the line is usually wrapped around the front door, and you will be guaranteed to dine next to a clan of collegiate girls gossiping about how one of their roommates didn't make it home last night. If you can overlook such matters you will be mightily rewarded with Greek goodness! I recommend the Greek Lady salad, which is so large a cow could graze on it for a week. As you wait for your food, you can watch the lamb rotate on the spindle or the brood of chickens sizzling on the grill. Oh yes, and if you have a sweet tooth, you can even purchase a slice of birthday cake even if it's nowhere near your zodiac sign.




Posted By:  Meg Favreau
Photo:  Meg Favreau

Distrito
Congratulations, Philadelphia! You're Mexico! Wait... you're not Mexico? Then why is every third restaurant currently opening in this city a new Mexican place? There's the second Cantina in Northern Liberties, and just up the road from that, the people who own Bar Ferdinand are putting in a Mexican spot too. This isn't to mention the new Adobe Cafe location in South Philly and whatever else is opening up soon... but the biggest, most expensive badass of the recent Mexican wave is Distrito. This West Philly joint opened by celebrity chef Jose Garces is big enough to seat everyone who went to my high school (okay: there were only about 200 kids), and features a wall full of Mexican wrestler masks. The food is delicious (sushi-style tuna taco? Yes please!), but the prices make it pretty prohibitive to go there regularly. In the end, Distrito is like the Disney World of dining: expensive, huge, and just a little campy, but fun.



Posted By:  Jamie Papoutsis
Photo:  Jamie Papoutsis

Nan
Despite the ominous outside, I decided to give this place a shot. The linen tablecloths and single cut flower on each table gave me hope that my dining experience would be enjoyable. I did not realize this place was a BYO so I thought I would detox and asked to see the tea selection. I was shocked to be offered Celestial Seasons and Lipton. It was like walking into a fine French restaurant and being offered Velveeta. I politely passed and stuck with my Skuykill punch. I ordered chicken satays to begin, but was disappointed when they were smothered in peanut sauce. 'Not good' would be an enormous understatement. I felt like I was at the dentist scrapping it away like tarter. I gave up after eating one. My Pad Thai entree was generously filled with shrimp and tofu. It was not the best I've ever eaten, but it was the most expensive at $16.95. It's just noodles, people! I don't think I'll be going back here, especially since there's two other Thai places within arms reach to fulfill my next curry craving.



Posted By:  Jamie Papoutsis
Photo:  Jamie Papoutsis

Sam's Place
It's just easy here. On a nice day you can grab a shaded outdoor seat and catch up on reading or chat with a friend you haven't seen since Hyper-color t-shirts. There is no waiting in a long line to order, worrying that you are sporting your Sunday frumpies and someone is going to notice, being bombarded with an obnoxious side conversation or some sad do-gooder pestering you to register to vote. This place just doesn't give a rat's ass and that is what makes it such a perfect escape. Your pet will probably think so too, since there is even a designated canine area. Aside from a myriad of coffee blends, which can be sipped without grimacing, you can munch on muffins, bagels, etc. NPR is a refreshing change from the typical dismal, slit-your-wrists music that drones in the background of most coffee shops. If you are lucky, you'll experience the owner's sense of Southern hospitality, as occasionally you'll be offered a free refill for the road.



Posted By:  Jamie Papoutsis
Photo:  Jamie Papoutsis

Marigold Kitchen
Let's be honest; when you think West Philly, four-star dining does not immediately come to mind. But with Marigold Kitchen, located in a stately Victorian home, diners can't help but be impressed, until they walk in the front door and think for a hot second that they've mistakenly entered a sauna. How could a properly functioning central air system have been overlooked? Suddenly all veneration of the majestic digs dissipates and you're found begging for the modern creature comforts of an Applebee's. If you are going to be dining in the dead of summer, I recommend going naked. This is a BYOB, so come prepared with a few chilled bottles because the food is delicious and I suggest staying for at least three courses. The portions are minuscule so most likely you'll need to anyway, in order to feel satisfied. Although the wait staff is attentive, our waitress must have been practicing for the role of Blair Waldorf, and smiling could only lead to premature wrinkles. On Sundays the restaurant offers a $30 prix fixe, which is a perfect excuse to trek across the Schuylkill. Feeling adventurous? Take the 34 trolley.



Posted By:  Rebecca Troutman
Photo:  Rebecca Troutman

Green Line Cafe
Although this is not news to anyone who lives in West Philly, Green Line's taking over. I'm not talking about the trolley. Known for its strong neighborhood communities (and sub-cultures), West Phillyites rightfully mope about the lack of restaurants and other establishments in their 'hood. Although Vietnamese hoagies and pastries aren't a huge leap for mankind, the new Green Line on Locust has a larger meeting place that is out of its other shops' usual orbit. All the sun streaming in the large windows and reflecting back from flawless hardwood floors still can't combat the somewhat "industrial" vibe this new shop carries. But the space is larger and has potential to be a future venue for art shows and other events that the smaller, older Green Line babies can't accommodate. We are excited.



Posted By:  Virginia Blond
Photo:  Virginia Blond

Toviah Thrift Shop
As thrift stores go, this one isn’t gigantic; so you’ll probably have to make a few visits to find something you want. On the other hand, there’s new stuff all the time and you can learn all kinds of stuff about the neighborhood from Rev. Larry Falcon, the guy who runs the place. And when you do find something you like, it’s a steal. Aldo shoes for $6.50 for example. Makes you almost want to buy the wrong size. Oh, and if the bargains aren’t enough to bring you in, Toviah is actually a way to help Larry provide services for kids in the neighborhood. So you can get good shoes cheap, and feel good about it. Speaking of which, don’t get any size 10 brown dress or dress casual shoes. I need them.



Posted By:  Virginia Blond
Photo:  Virginia Blond

Eak Chuong Grocery
Well, of course, you can buy soy sauce anywhere. But what about soy sauce from China, black bean sauce, rice wine and rice noodles? Not to mention rice flour. Sure, I’ve never had to use rice flour, and neither have you most likely. But you never know. So, ok, forget the rice flour. If you’re looking to buy local, and do actually use hard-to-find ingredients, check out Eak Chuong’s. Some things may have a heavy coating of dust, but hey, that’s just the outside of the packaging. I’ve eaten their stuff and, so far, no problems. I mean, it’s not like you’re buying toys from Matell. And if you want some adventure, buy something with only Chinese writing. What’s in it? Find out. Of course if you read Chinese, you’re missing out on the fun. For others, invite your friends over and enjoy.



Posted By:  Virginia Blond
Photo:  Virginia Blond

Supreme Shop-n-Bag Supermarket
What can you say about a supermarket like Supreme Shop-n-Bag? Actually, I can say two important things: 1) it’s open until 12:00 a.m. 2) you have to check out the international food aisle. It’s not your ordinary tacos-made-in-America supermarket, it actually has food from, you know, other nations (mostly South and Central America). And it has a whole aisle of international food. And excepting a pharmacy, it’s got everything else you’d expect. True, it’s got long lines at busy times and checkers who may scowl at you one day and smile at you the next. But let’s face it, for a supermarket, it’s pretty kick ass.



Posted By:  Virginia Blond
Photo:  Virginia Blond

International Foods and Spices
You know the Indian and Pakastani grocery, Rice and Spice on Chestnut and 42nd next to Kabobobeesh? Well, this one is different. It’s on Walnut and 42nd. OK, it’s a little bigger too. In any case, you’ll find food here you can’t find anywhere else in the city (besides Chestnut and 42nd)—paneer, gram flour, pickled mangos. I’m not completely ignorant when it comes to Indian food, but I could fill a good size bag with stuff from this place and not have the slightest idea what it is. Now that’s a good grocery. Plus, I know you’ve been looking to add to your Bollywood DVD collection. Not to mention clothes, (saris and such), incense, and other odds and ends including fresh samosas. Oh, and in case you’ve ever wanted to buy your rice in 50 lb. bags, they’ve got you covered. I’m thinking of making a couch out of a bunch of those things. The perfect place to eat my samosas.



Posted By:  Virginia Blond
Photo:  none

Take The Lead Dance Studio
You need to learn how to dance. Seriously, I’ve seen you dance. OK, maybe it wasn’t you, but that’s not really the point. I mean, if you want to dance with someone, as opposed to dancing near someone, you need lessons. Once someone tried to teach me Latin Dance by saying “first, you have to feel the music in your soul.” What? Really? Cool, because I swear to God I feel it in my soul. I dance around my apartment listening to Davit Ortiz on WRTI; but it turns out you don’t just pick up salsa or meringue. Like me, you’ll need friendly instructors who’ll make you feel comfortable learning to dance. You can’t do better than Take the Lead. Plus, you’ll not only meet new people, you can make new friends. Take the Lead is more than a dance studio; it’s becoming a community arts center. Check out their Friday night dance parties and if you still don’t think you need to learn to dance, you’ll want to learn. Unless you want to admit you don’t feel the music in your soul, but that’s just embarrassing.



Posted By:  Virginia Blond
Photo:  Virginia Blond

If you live in West Philly, there’s really only one bar to know about and that’s Fiume. This is one of those places you won’t know is there unless you know it’s there. It’s located on the floor above Abyssinia. You can go in from the Ethiopian bar on the first floor, or you can go in the unmarked side door on Locust. Upstairs you’ll find a small bar and less than a dozen tables in a large-apartment sized room. There’s an excellent choice of bottled beers and the bartenders make killer drinks. I read a review in one of the weeklies that boasted of the diversity of the crowd—they aren’t just anarchist students from Penn, the crowd also has anarchist students from Drexel! It’s actually slightly better than that, but you get the idea. In any case, the music is usually great, and it’s more diverse than the crowd. You can’t beat the private ambiance, and you’ll look about as hip as can be when you lead your friends in to this place. If you’re not sure what to wear, go with, ummmmm, black.




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