Come for a festival, stay for the neighborhood. Fishtown is filled with great restaurants, bars, markets, cafes and more, so be sure to plan a return trip not long after this weekend's RiverCity Festival.(Photo credits, top right by G. Widman for GPTMC, others by M. Kennedy for GPTMC )
[In the spring, Visit Philly launched an 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 let you know about all the awesome dining, shopping, arts, nightlife, events and more within Philly’s many exciting neighborhoods.]
This fall, the vibrant Fishtown neighborhood expects to draw thousands of urbanites from all corners of the city to experience the neighborhood thanks to the draw of the rad RiverCity Festival at historic Penn Treaty Park on Saturday, October 5.
In case you haven’t heard, Fishtown has quickly become one of the coolest sections of Philadelphia thanks to an influx of quality restaurants, inventive bars, impressive music venues and forward-thinking art galleries. Philadelphians have found new and innovative uses for the Fishtown section of the city ever since William Penn made peace with the Lenape Indians there in what’s now Penn Treaty Park.
It’s the only place in the city where, in the same evening, someone can buy a custom-made guitar, drink craft beer while playing Tetris, eat stellar Yugoslavian food and visit the world’s only pizza museum. Fishtown’s Frankford Avenue Arts Corridor serves as home base for many of the city’s rising artists, and both tourists and residents can take in new gallery offerings every First Friday along Trenton Avenue and its environs.
Folks in Center City looking to spend a day or evening in Fishtown should head northeast by snagging a cab, biking it or taking SEPTA’s Market-Frankford elevated rail line (a.k.a. “the El”) to the Girard Avenue stop. Those in the Fairmount/Art Museum section of the city can take the recently restored trolley system that runs on Girard Avenue.
Below, we look at some of the many excellent eating and drinking options in Fishtown, but to explore more about Fishtown, and to view these places on a interactive map, check out the full Fishtown guide in the Philadelphia Neighborhoods section on visitphilly.com.
Restaurants & Bars
• Barcade: Combine a sizable craft beer list with more than 40 25-cent classic arcade games, and the result is Barcade. Based on locations in Brooklyn and Jersey City, the bar-arcade combo also offers up a generous menu and outdoor space—for those who can tear themselves away from Tetris or Donkey Kong.
• Bottle Bar East: With an eight-tap bar, dartboard, foosball table and local art installations, this new craft beer haven entices both Fishtowners and visitors. Bottle Bar East doubles as a take-out retail shop, so patrons can fill up a growler or mix and match a six-pack and take the party home.
• Cedar Point Bar and Kitchen: Kale makes its way into veggie burgers and martinis at Fishtown Southern comfort foodery Cedar Point Bar & Kitchen. Food scene alums Shannon Dougherty and Liz Petersen came up with the relaxed brunch-through-late-night concept, where beet ravioli, red flannel hash, okra fritters and fried chicken and waffles star.
• Pizzeria Beddia: A couple of 16-inch pizzas of the day, both made with old-world methods and loyally local ingredients (think dinosaur kale and cream or homemade mozzarella and cremini mushrooms, pickled chiles or salami — all finished with aged Gouda) are what’s for lunch and dinner at Fishtown’s wee, bare-bones bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) spot Pizzeria Beddia.
On Frankford Avenue in Fishtown, Brooklyn import Fette Sau serves serious barbecue and bourbon in an indoor-outdoor space. (Photos by J. Varney)
• East Girard Gastropub: Dubbed “The Egg,” this 24-seat gastropub takes its acronym seriously, evidenced by its egg mural and menu items such as deviled eggs and The E.G.G. Burger, which comes with cheddar, onion jam, sunny egg, bacon and fries. No one-trick pony, East Girard Gastropub also features a raw bar, classic cocktails, a healthy craft beer roster and dishes including a house-made herb sausage grinder.
• Ekta Indian Cuisine: Vegetarians and meat eaters alike find a lot to love at this Indian bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) restaurant. Highlights, including Kadai chicken, lamb saagwala and homemade cottage cheese cubes with spinach, called saag aur paneer, dot an expansive menu. Naan lovers should take heart — Ekta serves 13 different types, all cooked in a charcoal-fired tandoor oven.
• The El Bar: Situated, as the name implies, under SEPTA’s Market-Frankford elevated rail line (or “The El”), this quasi-dive bar attracts a loyal following, thanks to inexpensive beer and snacks, a pool table and live music on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The enormous outdoor patio provides a perfect spot for enjoying a Kensington Happy Meal, the bar’s staple that includes two hot dogs, a bag of chips, a PBR and a toy for $5.
• Fette Sau: Brooklyn’s notable barbecue restaurant has added a second location in Philadelphia, replete with all the characteristics that made the New York outpost buzz-worthy—dry-rubbed, well-prepared meats from local farms that are smoked in-house; simple and elegant side dishes; and communal seating on wooden picnic tables. Fette Sau (German for “fat pig”) also boasts nine beers and a cider on tap, as well as a handful of North American bourbons and whiskeys to pair with the BBQ.
• Fishtown Tavern: Recently bought and renovated by the people behind Buffalo Billiards in Old City, this neighborhood pub has retained its local feel. Folks stop by Fishtown Tavern for the nice selection of canned beers and bar food, and the handful of bike racks out front bring in the area’s cycling population.
• Frankford Hall: If you build a modern German beer garden, they will come. This indoor/outdoor Stephen Starr hotspot keeps 12 beers on tap, most of which patrons can order in half- and full-liter helpings, and 10 more in bottles. Authentic German foods like pretzels to bratwurst, open-air picnic-table seating, a center campfire and ping-pong tables make for a memorable evening on the town at Frankford Hall.
• Ida Mae’s Bruncherie: Diners at this breakfast destination find a cozy atmosphere, friendly staff and a huge menu of delicious brunch goodies. The beans on toast, huevos rancheros and full Irish breakfast start the morning (or afternoon) off right.
• Interstate Draft House: At the bar, restaurant and outdoor patio of this Southwest-style locale, people chow down on alligator and beef chili, grilled seitan tips and burgers topped with applewood bacon and mac and cheese, and they wash it all down with refreshing brews. Tuesday nights rival the weekends at Interstate, thanks to $1 tacos and $3 select draught beers.
Many more places to eat and drink in Fishtown, below.
On the First Friday of the month, the bars, restaurants, shops and galleries along Frankford Avenue welcome crowds for a lively art crawl. (Photo by M. Kennedy for GPTMC)
• Jovan’s Place: A family-operated neighborhood hang that feels more like someone’s living room than a restaurant, Jovan’s Place showcases Yugoslavian cooking at its most authentic, right down to menu highlights including Mom’s chicken noodle soup. With ingredients picked up fresh daily, Jovan’s schnitzel, Mom’s hand-rolled stuffed cabbage and Dad’s bean soup always deliver.
• Kraftwork: This sleek restaurant/bar pours an astounding 25 draught beers from around the world, plus specialty cocktails and wines. Kraftwork keeps the food local, serving diverse selections that range from the dry-aged burger to Korean BBQ pork tacos. The soon-to-be-available beers listed on the menu keep suds lovers coming back again and again.
• Lloyd: Lloyd Coudriet, a retired science teacher from nearby Penn Treaty Middle School, heads up his namesake “whiskey-heavy” bar. Working with Lloyd are a couple people who know a thing or two about the brown liquor: his son and daughter-in-law, who ran Whiskey Ward in the Lower East Side in New York City.
• Loco Pez: Patrons at this Mexican gastropub swear by the 10 kinds of tacos (carne asada, seitan and spinach, chorizo and potato) offered as low-priced singles, encouraging eaters to try as many varieties as they can. Other stars at Loco Pez include the monster helping of nachos; the bacon-wrapped Street Dog, overflowing with refried beans, ketchup, mustard, mayo and jalapenos; and 36 sipping tequilas.
• Memphis Taproom: An epic bottled beer list is just one highlight of the vegan-friendly Memphis Taproom, which also boasts 10 craft beers on tap and extensive brunch, lunch and dinner menus. Those looking for something different should try the raved-about smoked coconut sandwich or the deep-fried pickles with horseradish. In the warmer months, the beer garden and its accompanying can-beer-and-dog truck draw outdoor (drinking) lovers.
• Mugshot Diner: A come-one, come-all diner that’s open 24 hours a day on the weekends right on York Avenue, Mugshot Diner serves an extensive menu (and all-day breakfast) of diner favorites like chicken parmesan, burgers, omelettes, french toast, salads, wraps and milkshakes. A late night menu even rears its heads during the wee hours.
Frankford Avenue and restaurants like Pizza Brain serve as a main hub of action, especially on First Friday, in the Fishtown neighborhood. (Photo by M. Kennedy for GPTMC)
• Murph’s Bar: The sign outside Murph’s Bar reads “A comfortable place to be,” and with $2 PBR draughts all day every day, along with a more expansive craft beer list, it’s tough to argue with that. Live entertainment and a solid menu, with dishes ranging from shrimp scampi pizza to baked eggplant patties, make Murph’s a go-to.
• Philadelphia Brewing Company: Housed in a restored 19th-century brewing facility—technically in neighboring Kensington, but a Fishtown favorite nonetheless — PBC has been supplying its year-round hand-crafted ales and limited-run microbrews to the city and beyond since 2001. Every Saturday from noon to 3:00 p.m., people pile in for guided tours and a generous amount of beer samples.
• The Pickled Heron: This 50-seat bistro serves French-inspired dishes with local and seasonal products, and it’s BYOB to boot. In-the-know diners make sure to leave room for dessert at The Pickled Heron, too — upside-down Meyer lemon cake, apple galette and chocolate caramel tart are among the sweet delights.
• Pizza Brain: According to Guinness World Records, Brian Dwyer possesses the world’s largest collection of pizza memorabilia at Pizza Brain. Lucky for all pizza fans, his restaurant doubles as the world’s first pizza museum, complete with pizza-related vinyl records and pizza-bearing action figures, from Homer Simpson to Spider-Man. The brick-oven pies are as quirky as their home, with names like Forbes Waggensense and Felix Huppert.
• Sketch Burger: People looking for huge, delicious hamburgers can count on Sketch Burger’s seven griddled variations, including the Cyclops Burger with bacon and a fried egg, as well as vegan options, skin-on fries and thick milkshakes. True to its name, diners can use paper and crayons to draw their odes to Sketch, which are taped on the wall throughout the restaurant.
• Yards Brewing Company: When Yards opened in 1994, it resuscitated the city’s brewing legacy by ending a decades-long period without any operational breweries. Now on Delaware Avenue, the 100% wind-powered brewery churns out signature ales, a few seasonals and the Ales of the Revolution line, based on recipes conceived by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. Yards offers free Saturday tours, and its tasting room give fans of the suds an onsite area to sit and sip.
Cafes & Markets
• Coffee House Too: Quality java is the priority at Coffee House Too, where coffee enthusiasts sip the brewed goodness that comes from fair-trade Dallis Brothers Coffee beans, grown 3,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level. The breakfast, lunch and dinner eats are just as impressive — and effective –if ordering the Famous Hangover Hoagie.
• Emerald Street Urban Farm Project: The owners of this neighborhood-run urban farm/garden turned five vacant lots into an impressive production. Emerald Street offers fresh, organic and affordable produce to local restaurants and at its pay-what-you-can weekly farm stand. In addition to events and fundraisers, Emerald Street holds workshops on composting, food preservation and nutrition.
• Greensgrow Farm: Nursery, market, community-supported agriculture (CSA) program—this nationally recognized urban farm has something for all local-food devotees. Residents sign up for the CSA to get loads of fruits and veggies, and visitors to the farm stand pick and choose what they want to sample at Greensgrow.
• Leotah’s Place Coffeehouse: The owners of Leotah’s set out to create a friendly environment and brew an affordable cup of coffee, and they’ve delivered. The comfy vibe inside the brick building provides the perfect atmosphere to do some work (on the free Wi-Fi) or grab a sandwich with a friend.
Stephen Starr's German-inspired beer garden attracts a fun-loving crowd to Frankford Avenue to raise steins indoors or out in the expansive courtyard. (Left photo by M. Kennedy for GPTMC, right photo courtesy Frankford Hall)
• Little Baby’s Ice Cream: Specializing in handmade, premium ice cream made from locally sourced ingredients, Little Baby’s quickly developed a major fan base in the city and beyond. The dazzling array of flavors, ranging from balsamic banana and cantaloupe creamsicle to non-dairy flavors such as earl gray siracha, taste as interesting and delicious as they sound.
• The Lola Bean: The Lola Bean exemplifies the friendly neighborhood cafe, from the uber-friendly staff to the collection of books patrons can thumb through. Pastries and a seasonally rotating cast of handmade sandwiches, salads and hummus platters keep people perched here all day, which works out—in-house guests enjoy a free refill of La Colombe coffee.
• Milkcrate Cafe: Combine a quality cafe with a record store — that’s Milkcrate Cafe. Guests peruse new and used vinyl while they sip local coffee favorite La Colombe, while diners indulge in Le Bus pastries or choose from the dozen menu options with musically inspired names, such as Bagella Fitzgerald and Ike & Tina Tuna.
• ReAnimator Coffee: The Third Wave coffee scene in Philadelphia continues to grow in Philadelphia, and fans of the craft coffee can visit ReAnimator’s Susquehanna Avenue cafe for a carefully tended pour-over, Japanese-style iced coffee or any number of espresso-bar beverages.
• Rocket Cat Cafe: What else could one want from a coffee shop besides delicious vegan and non-vegan foods, a cool atmosphere and, of course, locally roasted, fair trade, organic coffee? Food is made to order and enjoyed on the outdoor patio or on a comfy couch at Rocket Cat.
• Steap and Grind: Building on the loyal following and attention to detail developed at Premium Steap in Rittenhouse, Steap and Grind offers to-go coffee and tea in Fishtown, too, as well as table service, a thoughtful and reasonably priced menu of food, coffee and tea wares, plus loose tea.
Bars & Clubs
• The Barbary: This 200-person music venue presents the latest in rising local and touring indie music on the first floor and DJ dance parties upstairs. A recent renovation brought a new sound system and no-nonsense air conditioning, so both bands and dancers can maintain their stamina long into the night rocking out at The Barbary.
• Johnny Brenda’s: Show-goers can take in great views (and a bit of a break) on the balcony at Johnny Brenda’s, a 250-person venue that plays host to touring indie music acts year-round. The three bars—downstairs in the restaurant/bar area, upstairs on the concert floor and on the balcony—pour all-draught, all-local beers. The menu changes daily depending on what ingredients the kitchen is able to obtain from local farmers.
• Kung Fu Necktie: Think low lighting, inexpensive beer and one of the best-sounding small rooms in the city at Kung Fu Necktie. Concert early birds can shoot some pool in the game room upstairs.
• SugarHouse Casino: Located just off the Delaware River, Philadelphia’s first and only casino sports an array of live tables and slot machines. One of three restaurants, The Refinery serves up microbrews and casual meals, along with great views of the Delaware River waterfront and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
Young and old residents alike make Fishtown one of Philadelphia's unique and exciting neighborhoods. (Photo by M. Kennedy for GPTMC)