Some neighborhood hot spots draw attention from all over the city while others remain known and beloved only to neighborhood residents.
Fishtown is home to both buzzed-about restaurants and under-the-radar spots that seriously deliver in the food and drink departments.
In case you haven’t heard — which is pretty unlikely — Fishtown is one of the coolest sections of Philly thanks to an influx of quality restaurants, inventive bars, impressive music venues and forward-thinking art galleries. Fishtown’s Frankford Avenue corridor serves as home base for neighborhood explorers and residents alike, but the area around Frankford, Girard and as far north as York deserves notice, too, especially during dinner hour.
Debate neighborhood borders all you like, but when we find ourselves in Fishtown here are the spots where we’re excited to snag a table.
Kevin D'Egidio and Michael Griffiths, the hometown boys of Helm, have been delighting diners with their thoughtful, vegetable-driven plates since they opened last spring. Chalkboard menus, warm wooden tables and a record player spinning selections from their impressive vinyl collection adds atmosphere and relaxed confidence exemplifies their food. Expect super local sourcing, fermented vegetables and perfectly-cooked proteins, whether you opt for squid with leeks and salsa verde, or kale with duck and gouda.
Wm. Mulherin's Sons
Located in a historic building under the El at Front and Master, Wm. Mulherin's Sons is turning heads for its food, cocktails and its beautiful space. The menu boasts delicious wood-fired Italian fare and the restaurant and bar are located in a former whiskey bottling facility that has been meticulously restored. Pizzas like the Leslie Chow (nameke, trumpet mushroom, taleggio) and the Spicy Jawn (pepperoni, hot coppa, sharp provolone, long hots) come from the wood-fired oven while crudos, rustic homemade pastas and grilled meats balance out the appealing menu. And be sure to try one of Mulherin's signature cocktails – they're excellent.
Wm. Mulherin's Sons
Martha, the new bar in East Kensington, tops every beer lover’s “to visit” list at the moment and with good reason. Beloved beer expert and longtime Khyber Pass bartender Johnny Medlinsky is at the helm, so patrons can expect a brilliantly curated selection of beverages. The dinner menu, by comparison, is brief but thoughtful, featuring locally made cheeses and cured meats, a couple of smartly dressed hoagies and a few vegetable dishes that wouldn’t look out of place on far fancier menus. A beer, a hoagie and some pastrami beets? That’s a balanced dinner for sure.
Front Street Cafe
Fishtown does many things well, including smoked meat, beers and burgers. Balance out some of those other meals at Front Street Cafe. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, they focus on healthy eating, whether you’re dining there or grabbing a fresh juice or a smoothie to go. Don’t write it off as only a coffee shop though, Front Street also has a full bar and an ambitious dinner menu that gives as much consideration to vegetarian and gluten-free options as it does to meat-focused ones.
Front Street Cafe
Heffe delivers playful tacos by Chef Peter McAndrews at an unassuming walk-up window with red picnic tables. Though authentic tacos abound all over Philly, these are tacos with a sense of humor. The Kraken has fried octopus, chimichurri, tomato jam and queso fresco. The Mac Daddy is a beef cheek taco with plum mostarda. Then there's the Plain Jane, a throwback to the hard-shell ground beef tacos of many a childhood. If you can handle it, don’t miss the Tijuana poutine either.
Everyone should be so lucky as to have a casual neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant and for Fishtown, Street Side is where it's at. They offer addictive little nibbles like spring rolls, dumplings and rice paper wraps, along with a few pan-Asian additions like edamame with “Viet crack” (chili salt) and smashed cucumber salad with garlic vinaigrette. Go more substantial with a vermicelli bowl or a bahn mi, or choose between steak, brisket or both for a refreshingly simple set of options for big bowls of beef pho. Best of all? Pricing ranges from three to seven dollars per item, so you can try lots of options on one visit!
A neighborhood favorite, this pho shop is worth traveling for even if you live steps away from the hot pot hot spots on Washington Avenue. It’s BYOB, walk-in only, and the broth, made from either free-range Lancaster county chickens or mushrooms, packs slow-cooked umami punch. Bowls of steaming noodles brim with fresh herbs and thoughtful garnishes. Not feeling pho? Opt instead for cold Burmese noodles with chili oil and turmeric-pickled celery or the vegan khao poon curry.
Making its mark on Philadelphia with a butcher knife, Kensington Quarters is the only restaurant of its kind in the city. A fully integrated bar, butcher shop and restaurant, it’s setting the town standard for whole animal dining. You could absolutely pop in for a few pork chops and be on your way, or you could settle into the dining room for a meal from chef Damon Menapace’s menu. Go casual with the KQ pasture-raised beef burger, or more formal with delicate tagliatelle, duck ragu, and brandied pears.
Chicken-fried cauliflower with lemon hot sauce; charred green beans with spicy remoulade; or a Port Richmond platter of grilled kielbasy, pierogi, beer mustard and sauerkraut. Though you would be happy if you made a trip to Memphis Taproom for the menu alone, the beer selection, in a neighborhood of serious beer selections, is not to be missed. Draft beers and cask beers are great, but study Memphis Taproom's collaboration series hard before you make your choice. These limited run beers by some of Philly’s favorite breweries, including Yards, Victory, Tired Hands and Manayunk, are custom made for Memphis.