[This spring, Visit Philly launched a new effort to promote 14 different neighborhoods surrounding Center City Philadelphia. With our new complementary “Philadelphia Neighborhoods” post series, Uwishunu is teaming up with Visit Philly to promote all the awesome dining, shopping, arts, nightlife, events and more within Philly’s many exciting neighborhoods.]
This weekend, the annual Odunde Festival is set to bring thousands and thousands of festival goers from all corners of the city — and the world — to experience the vibrant culture of the Graduate Hospital neighborhood.
Spanning Lombard Street to Washington Avenue and Broad Street to Gray’s Ferry Avenue, Graduate Hospital goes by many names (Center City South, South of South, G-Ho) and houses a fine mix of young transplants, born-and-raised neighbors and hip professionals.
The recent influx of urban development has brought with it a healthy dose of restaurants, bars, cafes, shops and markets that reflect the area’s residential and cool vibe.
Head out to the festival this weekend, then stick around or make a return visit to experience the eclectic dining and shopping offered up in our Graduate Hospital neighborhood guide, below.
Restaurants and Bars
• Balkan Express Restaurant: A family-run bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) spot, Balkan Express serves up Mediterranean fare that’s both wallet-friendly and healthy. In fact, many dishes, including the Balkan’s salads and stews, use ingredients from the restaurant’s own garden. Also not to be missed: the acclaimed stuffed cabbage rolls.
• Betty’s Speakeasy: The staff at Betty’s prides itself on personally knowing many of the people who grow food for their menu, which lists local, organic and fair-trade options. From fudge made with an old family recipe and award-winning cupcakes to cheese, specialty drinks and sandwiches, Betty’s satisfies any craving.
• Bistro La Baia: The familial service and the lobster ravioli at Bistro La Baia are just two of the many reasons this cozy Italian BYOB has been a neighborhood mainstay for nearly 15 years.
• Bob & Barbara’s Lounge: The Philly Special — a shot of Jim Beam and a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon for $3.50 — may have originated at Bob & Barbara’s, but it’s only a part of what makes the place so fun. Tuesdays feature ping-pong happy hour, Thursdays bring the drag show and Friday and Saturday nights are all about jazz.
• The Cambridge: This gastropub showcases an impressive menu, from the charred octopus and gouda mac and cheese to the 24-hour brined hand-ground Porker Burger. Nearly 25 craft beers on tap, Fleet Street wines and original cocktails mean there’s something to quench everyone’s thirst at The Cambridge.
• Doobies: Many Philly bars and restaurants have great beer selections, but Doobie’s sets itself apart with its killer jukebox, vegan food and board games.
• Govinda’s Vegetarian Restaurant: For a different take on Philly’s signature food, patrons order Govinda’s raved-about vegetarian Philly chicken cheesesteak, complete with soy chicken and rainbow peppers grilled in olive oil. An after-meal treat without all the guilt, vegan desserts include the brownie cheesecake and butter pecan ice cream.
• Grace Tavern: Beer lovers rave about Grace, founded by the minds behind brew havens Monk’s Cafe and Nodding Head Brewery & Restaurant, but patrons who don’t sample the venue’s varied food selection—the fresh oyster po-boy, the spinach and feta sausage sandwich and the blackened green beans—are missing out.
• Honey’s Sit ’N Eat: The corner of 21st and South Streets draws a large, hungry crowd Saturdays and Sundays at brunch. Honey’s diner-esque menu sports mouthwatering items such as country-fried steak and gravy and challah French toast sandwiching Lancaster County double-smoked ham and Swiss cheese and topped with two sunny eggs. Any day of the week, people can tote their own alcohol for a BYOB brunch, lunch or dinner.
• The Igloo: This sweet spot offers up some seriously interesting (and healthy) takes on yogurts, sorbets and gelatos. The yogurts at Igloo (flavors such as Tahitian vanilla and raspberry and pomegranate) are homemade, as is the non-fat strawberry sorbet. And what isn’t made right here in Philly comes straight from Italy—including the delectable salted caramel gelato.
• Indian Restaurant: This BYOB delivers what its name promises. The staff is attentive; the menu is fresh, healthy and vegetarian-friendly; and the portions are perfect for leftovers.
• Jamaican Jerk Hut: With its spicy jerk chicken, generous portion sizes and picnic-like outdoor seating in the warmer months, this small Caribbean BYOB has become a classic Philly establishment. Alfresco diners often enjoy a side of music with their evening meals.
• Jet Wine Bar: Wine connoisseurs feel right at home at Jet Wine Bar, which features vino from around the globe along with a revolving menu of small plates of meats, cheeses and sandwiches. On Tuesdays, patrons can build their own flights of wine for just $10, or a sip half glasses for half-price.
• Lazaro’s Pizzeria & Grill: Dishing out monstrous single slices and pizza pies that range from 14 to 26 inches, Lazaro’s does thin-crust pizza right. But the other menu options, including 18-inch cheesesteaks, are worth a taste, too.
• L2 Restaurant & Bar: Friendly service, interesting décor and menu items ranging from comfort food to grilled filet mignon and roasted crispy duck create a fun dining and drinking experience. Diners can purchase the local art that hangs on the walls.
• Meritage: Meritage features a fusion menu dotted with signature dishes, small plates and gluten-free and vegan selections. An intimate bar and a wine list praised by both Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast round out the scene.
Many more Graduate Hospital neighborhood spots below.
• Miles Table: Michael Lynch, a graduate of The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College and a Graduate Hospital resident, named his casual eatery after his son. Simple and flavorful dishes (omlets with homefries and toast, avocado BLT and burgers of the beef, turkey and falafel variety) use local ingredients. People can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner in one of the 30 seats at Miles Table, perched at the countertop or at home when they take it to go.
• Moe’s Hot Dog House: A self-proclaimed mini-diner, Moe’s has expanded its menu from 14 hot dog and sausage options to sandwiches, fish, salads and breakfast fare. Regulars need not worry—they still serve the original treats, many topped with homemade condiments.
• My Thai: This lovingly decorated eatery has everything people expect of a Thai restaurant: big portions, budget-friendly prices, friendly service and—be careful—very spicy dishes.
• Nam Son: Founded by the former owners of nearby Nam Phuong, Nam Son entices Vietnamese lovers with its banh mi sandwich, quality pho and a very popular Sunday brunch.
• Novita Bistro: A romantic, 40-seat dining spot with exposed brick walls, the snug Novita Bistro BYOB serves Italian dishes with Moroccan and Mediterranean hints.
• Philly Cupcake: Taking the miniature cakes to a new level, Philly Cupcake offers a near-endless selection of tasty treats, and the fun names such as The Coma, Twix Dream and The Massacre make it even harder to pick just one (or six). The shop bakes a number of vegan and gluten-free varieties as well.
• Phoebe’s Bar-B-Q: BBQ lovers can indulge in Oklahoma-style barbecue food without hopping on a plane. For almost 20 years, Graduate Hospital residents have flocked to the South Street outpost of Phoebe’s for its ribs, sandwiches, candied yams and mac and cheese.
• Pub & Kitchen: Dishing out restaurant-quality fare, Pub & Kitchen has established itself as a must-visit for gastropub enthusiasts thanks to raved-about burgers and a must-try brunch. A short but discerning draft list and two TVs—one one hidden behind the bar that comes out for big games—bring in a loyal bar crowd.
• Pumpkin: Local and seasonal ingredients play a major role in Pumpkin’s cuisine, so it’s no surprise that the menu of this small, relaxed New American establishment changes constantly—all without compromising value.
• Randazzo’s Pizzeria: A dozen thin-crust gourmet pizzas are just the beginning at this neighborhood pizzeria, which serves cheesesteaks, burgers, wings, wraps, salads, pasta and even milkshakes.
• Resurrection Ale House: People come to this traditional American craft beer bar and restaurant for its nationally known twice-fried chicken, but they stay at Resurrection for the impressive selection of 13 beers on tap and a menu that focuses on fresh, seasonal ingredients.
• Rex 1516: Jambalaya, crawfish pot pie, pan-fried grouper and fried chicken. It’s clear that Rex 1516 draws inspiration from the South. Open every day for dinner and for brunch on the weekends (shrimp and grits, cornmeal waffles), the 35-seater welcomes the hungry crowd, along with those thirsty for a craft beer or cocktail.
• Robert’s Twi-Lite Lounge: With friendly service, friendlier clientele, soul food, a stocked jukebox and occasional live jazz, the Twi-Lite Lounge challenges the neighborhood bar stereotype. No phone number or website keeps it an area secret.
• Roberto Cafe: This tasteful BYOB on South Street receives praise for its authentic Italian cuisine, friendly service and befitting atmosphere (including a patio that’s open in the summer).
• Sawatdee: The neon green interior may be the first thing people notice about this cozy Thai BYOB, but it’s not the last. They come back to taste the mix of dishes and take advantage of the $10 three-course lunches.
• SoWe Bar & Kitchen: Named for its location in Southwest Center City, this spot serves up bistro fare—burgers, macaroni and cheese, pork belly—with a modern slant. Thirsty bar-goers have no shortage of drink options at SoWe, with an extensive craft beer and wine list and a selection of inventive cocktails, including a chocolate bacon martini.
• The Sidecar Bar & Grille: The bartenders at this two-floor gastropub pour from a large and constantly evolving beer list. On the weekends, brunch at Sidecar means burritos and Bloody Marys. Warm weather brings a handful of coveted outdoor tables.
• Tangier: Founded in 1982, Tangier has stood the test of decades thanks to a friendly vibe, a lengthy bar food menu and 85 beers in stock. (Plus, talk about Philly pride: Tangier only serves locals on draft.) Adventurous drinkers can order the Mystery Beer: Will it be a cheap bottle or a rare imported craft?
• Ten Stone: Resembling an English pub, Ten Stone bar and restaurant serves light fare that pairs perfectly with imported beers and domestic microbrews. After eating, diners can stick around to watch a game or play pool or darts.
Shops and Markets
• Bicycle Therapy: If bikes needed therapy, the staff here would be serviceable shrinks. After more than 20 years in the neighborhood, the store and repair shop has built an impeccable reputation among cycling enthusiasts and casual peddlers.
• Doggie Style: One of several locations in the city and surrounding area, Doggie Style packs its shelves with pet basics and pampering indulgences, and it offers store-to-door delivery. Bonus: That dog in the window is a rescue, and it’s free.
• Loop: A one-stop shop for all-things yarn, Loop began as an online store before expanding to a South Street retail shop. Patrons looking to hone their hand-knitting craft can join a group class or sign up for a private lesson.
• Mushmina: Shoppers seeking gorgeous global goods need look no further than Mushmina, a fair-trade boutique dealing in handmade items from Morocco. Through the sale of its products, Mushmina not only supplies its patrons with custom-designed jewelry and accessories, but it also creates employment opportunities for women and men in developing countries.
• The Philly Pack: Dog owners in need of advice can turn to The Philly Pack. Not only does the staff bring years of experience to its leash-training and social-conditioning sessions, but the store also offers high-quality food and treats.
• Ants Pants Cafe: This Australian-inspired cafe dishes out sumptuous breakfast options, and from Wednesday to Saturday, dinner service means there’s even more time to enjoy the collection of Aussie drinks and sweet potato fries.
• Beauty Shop Cafe: Patrons head to Beauty Shop, a cozy neighborhood cafe, for the tasty pastries, a wide selection of teas and coffees and free Wi-Fi, all in a laid-back atmosphere.
• Café Lutecia: Cafe-goers choose Lutecia, a quaint, French-inspired nook, for its substantial soup-and-sandwich combo, pleasant staff and sizable cups of coffee.
• La.Va Cafe : Coffee shop by day, BYOB by night, La.Va is a comfortable venue serving Israeli-style treats along with pastries and coffees. Regulars rely on the La Colombe coffee and the burekas, which look a lot like Amish soft pretzels Philadelphians know so well.
• OCF Coffee House: This community-centric coffee shop, owned and operated by neighborhood real estate agency OCF Realty, strives to use the best and highest-quality ingredients. Some of its star menu items: Anodyne Coffee from an independent roaster in Milwaukee, Premium Steap loose leaf teas and seasonal lunch options prepared daily at its flagship location in the Fairmount neighborhood.
• Pumpkin Market: Down the street from its restaurant counterpart, Pumpkin Market offers an assortment of sandwiches, smoothies and soups and sources much of its meat, produce and dairy from local farms and families.
• Tastebuds Market & Catering : Tastebuds prides itself on personal service while dishing out coffee and bagels for breakfast or made-to-order sandwiches for lunch. Neighbors know they shouldn’t forget dessert: The triple fudge brownie is heaven on Lombard Street.
• Ultimo: True coffee drinkers know there’s coffee, and then there’s coffee. Ultimo specializes in the latter. Pouring Counter Culture (after all, it’s located just underneath Counter Culture’s Philadelphia Training Center) and occasional guest roasters, the shop satisfies with drip coffee and espresso drinks prepared in the highest quality machines with milk from nearby Lancaster County. The free Wi-Fi is a bonus.