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September 12, 2013

Philadelphia Neighborhoods: Our Guide To The Restaurants, Bars And Markets In The Spruce Hill And Cedar Park Neighborhoods Of Philadelphia

Come for the Dollar Stroll, stay for the neighborhood. Cedar Park and Spruce Hill are filled with great restaurants, bars, markets, cafes and more, so be sure to plan a return trip not long after tonight's big event. (Photos by J. Fusco for GPTMC)

[This spring, Visit Philly launched an effort to promote 14 different neighborhoods surrounding Center City Philadelphia. With our 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.]

With an amazing event — the Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll — as a draw, thousands of hungry urbanites from all corners of the city will descend on the West Philadelphia neighborhoods of Cedar Park and Spruce Hill to experience not only the fine food at the festive event, but also the charms of the ever-developing district.

Spruce Hill sits to the west of the universities and is loosely bounded by 38th and 46th streets and Market Street and Woodland Avenue. Grand, historic homes populate the residential neighborhood, and Baltimore Avenue lends a longstanding funky flair to the area. Clark Park is the district’s main recreation hub, with a playground and seasonal events such as music festivals, a farmers’ market, flea markets and Shakespeare performances.

A bit further west, Cedar Park stretches between 46th and 52nd Streets and Larchwood Street and Kingsessing Avenue. Here, the boho sentiment reigns, and it’s not a put-on trend. The heart of Cedar Park sits at 50th Street and Baltimore Avenue, in the small yet well-appointed park that gives the neighborhood its name.

Below, we look beyond the historic residences and verdant parks, to take a look at some of the many excellent eating and drinking options in Spruce Hill and Cedar Park, many of which are centrally located along Baltimore Avenue.

To explore more about these West Philly neighborhoods, and to view these places on a interactive map, check out the full Spruce Hill and Cedar Park guides in the Philadelphia Neighborhoods section on visitphilly.com.

Restaurants and Bars

Abyssinia Restaurant & Bar: Abyssinia cooks up savory and authentic Ethiopian cuisine in a neighborhood packed with African dining destinations. The native Tusker Lager beer complements tasty vegetarian and meat-based entrees served on traditional injera bread. 229 S. 45th Street, 215-387-2424

Allegro Pizza: Gourmet pizzas — from Neapolitan to Sicilian — may be their specialty, but Allegro also takes pride in its hearty breakfast sandwiches, pancakes and egg dishes. On nice days, the terrace makes for a pleasant place to enjoy one of the 150 different bottles of local and imported beer.

Atyia Ola’s Spirit First Foods: This cozy cafe entices people with nutritional goodness, including fresh juices, sandwiches and raw vegan and vegetarian options. For those who’d like sit and sip, there’s free wireless Internet access. 4505 Baltimore Avenue, 215-939-3298

Blarney Stone: This local sports pub, boasting a pool table and nightly events such as Quizzo, has perfected the art of bar food. 3929 Sansom Street, 215-222-5340

Bobby’s Burger Palace: With toppings like watercress and fresh goat cheese, chef/restaurateur Bobby Flay’s signature burgers — not to mention his savory sides and more than 10 milkshake flavors, a few of which are spiked — are undeniably delicious. All beef at Bobby’s is certified Angus and cooked to order.

Capogiro Gelato Artisans: Philly’s most famous gelato spot serves inventive, handmade flavors from fresh, seasonal ingredients and milk culled from grass-fed, hormone-free cows. The West Philadelphia location of Capogiro plays to its audience by adding coffee and alcohol to the mix.

Cavanaugh’s Restaurant: This college bar fits perfectly in the neighborhood thanks to plenty of televisions and great wings and burgers—not to mention 24 beers on tap and more than 100 in bottles.

City Tap House: Reclaimed wood, slate and tile create a handsome space for this beer lovers’ haven, boasting 60 taps and 120 seats, plus outside seating. Classic American fare at City Tap House includes brick-oven pizzas, free-range chicken, mussels and plenty of vegetarian-friendly options.

Copabanana: Margaritas, burgers, Spanish fries and Tex-Mex dinners served by friendly waiters make this a popular happy hour spot. The plentiful outside seating at Copabanana makes this a happening place in warm weather months.

Dahlak: Ethnic food enthusiasts enjoy authentic, family-style Ethiopian and Eritrean food in a cozy atmosphere inside or on the patio at Dahlak.

Desi Chaat House: Fried dough, spices and fillings make up the basis for chaat, a popular Indian snack and the foundation for this casual restaurant. The 10 different variations at Desi include ingredients like cashews, melon seeds, yogurt, green curry and noodles.

Desi Village: Spices—and lots of them—define this cozy Indian spot, dishing out traditional cuisine with tons of flavor. Regulars at Desi Village swear by the restaurant’s signature dish, the chicken tikka masala.

Mood Cafe on 46th and Baltimore Avenue draws locals with its chaat and shaved ice. (Photo bu J. Fusco for GPTMC)

Distrito: This bi-level stunner from chef Jose Garces features funky décor, creative drinks and modern Mexican fare. Try the carnitas tacos, complete with pulled pork and pineapple salsa for a true taste-bud fiesta. For the best seat in the house at Distrito, call ahead to reserve the table in the VW Bug.

Dock Street Brewery and Restaurant: This long-standing brewery and gastropub serves up salads, sandwiches, pizzas and a half-dozen unfiltered selections on tap, brewed just steps from the bar. Beer lovers know to come to Dock Street for some select takeout specialty bottles, such as La Biere des Amis, one of the first collaborations between a French and American craft brewer.

Drinker’s West: With sister locations catering to the college and post-college crowd in the Old City and Rittenhouse Square neighborhoods, a West Philly branch of Drinker’s finally brings the brand directly to the college area. Ping pong, pool, bubble hockey tables, DJs on the weekends and ultra-cheap food during sporting events mean there’s something to do at all hours of the day and night.

Fu Wah: This Vietnamese shop stocks its shelves with standards, healthy snacks and international ingredients, but it is most popular for its takeout tofu hoagie, done in the style on banh mi. For at-home cooks, the shop is a go-to for hard-to-find ingredients. 810 S. 47th Street, 215-729-2993

The Gold Standard Café: Fresh, locally bought ingredients make up the soups, salads and sandwiches at this cozy cafe. Neighbors come to the Gold Standard for the all-day breakfast, which definitely gets a gold star.

Many more picks, below.

Gojjo Restaurant: Those seeking traditional cuisine can savor Ethiopian food and a cocktail, while the truly adventurous sample Ethiopian (Philly-style) cheesesteaks. Even more surprising: live country and bluegrass acts. 4540 Baltimore Avenue, 215-386-1444

Greek Lady: With heaping gyros, salads and desserts, Greek Lady fills hungry bellies without emptying wallets. Outdoor tables fill up fast when it’s warm outside.

Grill Fish Café: Seafood lovers flock to Vietnam Café’s next-door younger sibling, which dishes out fusion fare. A round of lemongrass martinis start the meal off right at Grill Fish Cafe.

Honest Tom’s Taco Shop: What started as a popular food truck evolved into a bricks-and-mortar restaurant that serves Mexican fare in a casual eat-in cafe. Breakfast tacos overflowing with bacon, potatoes, tomatoes and fresh guacamole draw crowds from all over the city.
261 S. 44th Street, 215-620-1851

Hummus: A number of toppings, from olives to tahini, add even more flavor to the homemade Mediterranean delights at this healthy hotspot, where the staff is friendly and the prices are reasonable. The combo platter at Hummus comes with a taste of everything, including lamb kabob and falafel.

Jolly’s Dueling Pianos and American Beer Bar: Owner Jolly Weldon, one of Philadelphia’s most charismatic fixtures on the bar scene, provides almost as much entertainment to his patrons as do the dueling pianists. The musicians humorously compete for applause and laughs on two Baby Grands as they belt out everything from Elvis to Eminem. A full dinner menu and wide-ranging craft beer list accompany the entertainment at Jolly’s, too.

Kabobeesh: This carnivore’s dream dishes out inexpensive and spicy beef skewers and quail in a restaurant that observes all Muslim dietary laws. The cooks at Kabobeesh, the oldest halal eatery in the city, authentically prepare the meat over a charcoal grill.

Kilimanjaro: West African cuisine fills the menu at this intimate spot, where unusual spices flavor lamb and beef and where fried plantains are a favorite. It’s the only restaurant in the city to specialize in the foods of Senegal. 4317 Chestnut Street, 215-387-1970

Koch’s Deli: After tasting the fresh-baked goods, hoagies packed with meats and cheeses, milkshakes, cheesesteaks and sandwiches named for University City heavy-hitters, it’s easy to see why Koch’s has been a neighborhood favorite since 1966. The motto alone draws patrons: “More Food for Less Bread.”

Local 44: Craft beer flows from the taps at this University City bar, where crowds pump quarters into a killer jukebox and enjoy savory bar food (plus vegan and seafood options) along with their draughts. The owners of Local 44 opened a bottle shop next door, expanding the sudsy offerings with 500 bottles and a cask that pumps out beers to drink while shopping.

Manakeesh Bakery: Serving hummus, baklava and several varieties of the Middle Eastern breakfast flatbread that gives the restaurant its name, this Lebanese bakery and cafe is helping to transform a corner of West Philly into somewhat of a “Little Lebanon.” Vegan and gluten-free platters pack the evening menu, and crepes, fresh fruit juice and smoothies turn morning at Manakeesh into a delicious trip to Beirut.

Find dinner or drinks via foot. Both Spruce Hill and Cedar Park are walkable, urban neighborhoods. (Photo by J. Fusco for GPTMC)

Marigold Kitchen: Marigold enjoys its 70-plus-year-old roots as a neighborhood gathering place. At the bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) restaurant with a daily chalkboard menu, diners guests indulge in upscale comfort food such as big eye tuna tartare with jellied lemongrass and heirloom tomato salad with watermelon, mozzarella, basil, lavender and quinoa-pine nut praline powder.

Mizu Sushi Bar: Trained sushi chefs use only the freshest ingredients to make their high-quality maki, nigiri, salads and soups at Mizu. Vegetarians can find plenty on the menu to keep satiated, too.

Mood Café: Locals swear by the chaat — of which there are 15 variations — and the friendly service at Mood Café. The shaved ice is another popular pick at this mostly to-go favorite.

New Delhi: For a relaxing yet international lunch or dinner, guests at this casual restaurant can pair an Indian beer or a cocktail (fan favorite: mango mojito) with tandoori meats, veggies and breads from the popular buffet. Established in 1988, New Delhi is the oldest Indian restaurant in the city.

Pattaya Grill: In the colorful bar and the sunroom adorned with trees, French-Thai specialties shine at this University of Pennsylvania destination. The discounted, three-course early-bird dinner at Pattaya draws the budget-conscious before regular supper hours.

The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College: Four distinct restaurants at The Restaurant School of Walnut Hill (International Bistro, Italian Trattoria, American Heartland, The Great Chefs of Philadelphia) feature student chefs, creative concepts and deeply discounted checks. The Pastry Shop and the College Store sell fresh-baked pastries and kitchen supplies.

Satellite Cafe: Satellite Cafe provides an eclectic respite for bike messengers and local punk rockers. Vegan kale smoothies, spicy black bean wraps and strong double espressos round out the experience. 701 S. 50th Street, 215-729-1211

Sitar India Restaurant: Sitar has something for every palate on its all-you-can-eat buffet, filled with plenty of healthy and vegetarian options. The free salad bar is reason enough to stop in.

Smokey Joe’s: The walls are covered with sports photos of great Penn athletes, and the beer taps are programmed for students on a budget. These attributes, plus its longevity as a 60-year-old landmark in University City, has earned Smokey Joe’s the nickname “The Pennstitution.” 210 S. 40th Street, (215) 222-0770,

Tampopo: The second Philadelphia location of this Asian fast-casual haunt brings West Philadelphia diners a range of Japanese and Korean cuisine, including sushi, bento boxes, soups and noodle and rice dishes, all at reasonable prices.

Tandoor India: This casual Indian restaurant with an all-you-can-eat buffet also has an à-la-carte menu that includes all the traditional favorites at very reasonable prices. Tandoori chicken is the kitchen’s specialty, made nightly in a tandoor oven.

Vientiane Café: Prices are reasonable and portions are generous at this family-run BYOB that features Thai and Lao cuisine. Owners claim vegetarians “go nuts” for the naam salad, consisting of crispy rice with coconut flakes, herbs and lemongrass, all wrapped in lettuce.
4728 Baltimore Avenue, 215-726-1095

Vietnam Café: Owner Benny Lai introduced a smaller version of Chinatown’s Vietnam Restaurant to West Philadelphia. The inviting café features sleek décor, Vietnamese fare, a warm atmosphere and friendly service. Those waiting for a table can migrate to the glossy wooden bar to watch mixologists craft tropical-style cocktails.

Cafes and Markets

Clark Park Farmers’ Market: Amish pastries, heirloom vegetables, fresh-cut flowers and dried herbs are just a few of the goodies available at the popular Clark Park Farmers’ Market in West Philadelphia. The farmers market welcomes guests from 3-7 p.m. on Thursdays (June-October), and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays year-round.

Green Line Cafe: Owned by an artist and her brother-in-law, all the Green Line locations serve only organic, free trade-certified coffee and locally sourced sodas and food. Plus, the artwork on the walls changes frequently and is always for sale.

Kaffa Crossing: Ethiopian-American entrepreneur Habtamu Kassa took over this African coffee shop in part to promote fair trade and awareness about Ethiopia’s blessings and challenges. As such, he prepares light East African fare to go along with his Ethiopian roasts.

Metropolitan Bakery: In addition to selling more than 30 varieties of homemade breads, the retail shop offers freshly roasted coffees, fine loose teas, English and local jams and American artisan cheeses. Cafe-goers can take their seats at indoor and outdoor tables and communal benches at the West Philly location of this Philadelphia baker.

Milk & Honey Market: Truly a convenience store for the 21st century, Milk & Honey focuses on locally produced foods, farm-fresh produce, sustainably raised meats and imported cheeses and charcuterie. Artisanal baked goods and essential groceries round out the shelves.

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M says:

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nikolaj christensen says:

On our anniversary, I was out of town and away from my wife who had a long night ahead of work ahead of her. I decided to surprise her with delivery from her favorite Philly restaurant (that should be enough of a recommendation for Vientiane right there) so I called but they don’t do delivery. However, after asking about maybe having them drop the food in a cab, their wonderful manager, Sunny, offered to drive dinner over to Center City herself. That was so thoughtful and kind, but what was even more over the top was that they also are cash only and I only had a credit card being in another state. So not only did they make a fantastic dinner for my wife, but Sunny took time out of her day to personally deliver it and with the good faith that I would pay at a future point! Lovely people. Great food. Truly a fantastic place.