Where to Eat and Drink in Old City and Society Hill

September 8, 2022

Start the day with fresh cup of coffee at Old City Coffee, roasting coffee beans on-site. Menagerie Coffee is another local roaster with a café along 3rd Street and a location inside The Bourse Food Hall. The historic building, which is just steps from Independence Hall, was once home to the nation’s first commodities exchange and now houses a dozen food and drink vendors serving a variety of cuisines including Korean- and Mexican-inspired tacos, pasta, dumplings, and cheesesteaks. The climate-controlled Bourse also has a spacious seating area, perfect for those looking to relax and recharge after walking around Independence National Historical Park or for groups looking to dine together.

Hummus, laffa, and salatim at Zahav. Photo by A. Hawkins.

One of Philadelphia’s most celebrated restaurants and essential dining experiences, Zahav – previous James Beard Award-winner for Outstanding Restaurant – is found just off of Dock Street in Society Hill. Chef Michael Solomonov – a James Beard Award-winner himself – presents an Israeli menu of small plates, grilled vegetables and meat, and freshly whipped humus served with warm, housemade pitas. Reservations for Zahav fill up quickly, so it is best to make plans several months in advance.

Photo courtesy of Cuba Libre.

Old City is filled with other international flavors, such as the mojitos, empanadas, ropa viego and other Cuban favorites that fill the menu of Cuba Libre. The restaurant has an open-air vibe modeled after a Havana streetscape. Family-owned Las Bugambilias is a popular spot serving authentic Mexican food from its new location on South Third Street. Known for Italian crudo and airy Mediterranean vibe, Positano Coast also offers an extensive wine list and seasonal Italian dishes. Stephen Starr’s Buddakan serves Asian fusion dishes and cocktails in a hip dining room, complete with a giant golden Buddha. Jose Garces’ Amada specializes in Spanish tapas, while Han Dynasty features a menu of spicy Sichuan dishes.

Elevated new American cuisine awaits at Fork Restaurant, which has been a staple on Market Street for over two decades. Helmed by Restaurateur Ellen Yin and Executive Chef Eli Kulp, Fork’s brunch and dinner menus feature fresh seasonal ingredients sourced from the surrounding region. On 2nd Street, Top Chef Nicholas Elmi’s Royal Boucherie features a French-inspired menu including charcuterie, fresh seafood, burgers and signature cocktails, all enjoyed within an American brasserie setting that includes a lush outdoor patio on the second floor. At 2nd and Chestnut, Chef Christopher Kearse presents a menu of modern French cuisine in a stylish dining room at Forsythia. For more seafood, seek out Jose Garces’ The Olde Bar, an oyster bar which continues the celebrated seafood legacy of the landmark building it is set within – the former home of Old Original Bookbinders seafood restaurant and steakhouse.

A Philadelphia cheesesteak from Campo's is in the center of a light beige wicker basket lined with white paper
A traditional cheesesteak from Campo's. Photo by K. Huff for PHLCVB.

Philadelphia is known for its history and its cheesesteaks, and there are number of shops serving up the iconic sandwich throughout Old City. Campo’s Philly Cheesesteaks is a family-owned shop that has been serving cheesesteaks, hoagies, and other regional favorites since 1947. A few storefronts away, Sonny’s Famous Steaks serves their take on the cheesesteak, along with a variety of burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches. Other nearby cheesesteak shops along Market Street include Oh Brother and Philly’s Gourmet Steaks.

2nd Story Brewing on Chestnut Street pairs a menu of sandwiches, burgers, and more with craft beer brewed on-site. Po’ boys, gumbo, jambalaya, and other Cajun and creole flavors can be found at Khyber Pass Pub, also boasting a rotating tap list of 22 craft beers. Just across 2nd Street from Khyber Pass Pub, the Plough and the Stars is a spacious Irish pub serving brunch, lunch, and dinner across two floors, each with its own bar. Just across from the Liberty Bell Center at 6th and Market streets, Independence Beer Garden serves a menu of sandwiches and snacks in the open air alongside a robust draft, can and cocktail drink list.

Pizzeria Stella. Photo courtesy of Starr Restaurants.

Stationed beside the historic Headhouse in Society Hill, Pizzeria Stella is known for authentic Neapolitan pizza, cooked in a wood-burning oven with elevated toppings such as black truffle and herbed goat cheese. Nearby, The Twisted Tail serves Southern American comfort food and barbecue cooked on an authentic charcoal-fired grill alongside a tremendous collection of whiskey and bourbon, with live music five nights a week. Amina on Chestnut Street offers a creative American Southern menu from Felicia Wilson and Chef Darryl Harmon, formerly of Water Works Restaurant and The Lure Group in New York City. Think fried catfish hush puppies and cheesesteak beignets. Xochitl features a modern Mexican menu with a well-rounded selection of tequila-centric cocktails.

Photo courtesy of Shane Confectionery.

For dessert, head to Franklin Fountain in Old City for several scoops of handmade ice cream served in a turn-of-the-century setting. Even more frozen treats sit just steps away at Franklin Ice Cream Bar. Further along Market Street, shop for chocolates and other confections from Shane Confectionery – the nation’s oldest continuously operating candy story. The shop uses traditional recipes and old-fashioned equipment for their treats, including traditional Pennsylvania Dutch Clear Toy candies.

Braised Pork Belly. Photo courtesy of Frame.

From dinner to late-night bites, Frame on Market Street in Old City features global fare in a loungey atmosphere. Chef Brianna Wellmon, a native Philadelphian, also offers a fun “way back menu” with reimagined childhood favorites. With its edgy food and drink options, Frame blends art, history, and culture through American fusion cuisine. On the menu, expect vegan and seasonal dishes centered around locally sourced ingredients that are inventive yet also nostalgic. Inside this social hub, guests will find an intimate venue and alluring dining space decked out with booth seating, velvet adorned brick walls, and a wrap-around bar.

Cover photo: Royal Boucherie. Photo by E. Ashleigh.

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