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Where to Eat and Drink in University City and West Philadelphia

July 23, 2021

Visitors to West Philadelphia and University City will discover a wide range of cuisines that represent many different cultures from around the globe, in addition to charming cafés, neighborhood bars and signature Philadelphia flavors.

Walnut Street Café serves breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner at the base of the FMC Tower, home to the AKA University City. Photo courtesy of Walnut Street Café.

Start at Walnut Street Café, a modern café at the base of the FMC Tower that serves up American plates breakfast through dinner. Don’t miss their black scrapple, a gourmet spin on a local delicacy. For more early-morning snacks, visit Federal Donuts’ University City outpost to enjoy fresh and fancy donuts and coffee. Return at lunchtime for fried chicken tossed in a variety of seasonings or take a bite out of their signature fried chicken sandwich.

Green Line Café serves coffee, breakfast sandwiches and pastries in a location across from Clark Park. Photo by JPG Photo & Video.

For more caffeine, visit the Garden Court location of Philadelphia-based roaster Reanimator Coffee (47th and Pine streets) or one of Saxby’s multiple University City and West Philadelphia locations. Grab a coffee, pastry or breakfast sandwich Green Life Café’s Baltimore Avenue location and enjoy it as you stroll through the adjacent Clark Park.

Nearby, Clarkville serves specialty pizzas, including several vegan options, in a bi-level space with wines and beer on tap. More pizza and beer can be found at Dock Street Brewing Company – Philadelphia’s first microbrewery. Stationed in a former firehouse, Dock Street’s menu includes hand-tossed, wood-fired pizza and pilsners, IPAs, stouts, and more, all brewed on-site. For more craft beer, seek out neighborhood beer bar Local 44, whose tap list is always pouring the latest ales from the region’s top breweries. Not to be missed are the vegan-friendly brunch and dinner menus or Local 44’s bottle shop, where you can grab only-in-Philadelphia beers and hard-to-find releases to-go.

University City also presents an eclectic collection of international flavors. POD – a Stephen Starr restaurant – serves Pan Asian dishes family-style in a trippy setting, with glowing cocoon-like pod seating and conveyor belt sushi. Iron Chef Jose Garces’ Distrito is a taqueria serving modern Mexican plates (and inventive cocktails) inside a funky dining room lined with Lucha Libre masks and featuring a vintage Volkswagen bug that now serves as a booth for dining.

Empanadas from Jezabel’s Argentine Bakery & BYO. Photo courtesy of Jezabel’s Argentine Bakery & BYO.

Enjoy tibs, wat and other Ethiopian and Eritrean dishes at Dahlak or Abyssinia, the latter of which also features an intimate second-floor dive bar, Fiume. Other global flavors in the neighborhood include Yemeni restaurant Hadramout, whose Middle Eastern menu includes slow-roasted lamb haneeth, chicken mandi, fish mofa and hot fahsah served in a clay bowl. At Kilimandjaro, savor Senegalese fare in a casual space adorned with African art. Don’t miss Argentinian café and bakery, Jezabel’s, owned by woman restaurateur Jezabel Careaga and known for their assortment of empanadas and alfajores.

Enjoy a farm-to-table meal at White Dog Café. This cozy restaurant fills three charming Victorian brownstones with plenty of dog-themed décor and presents a seasonal, modern American menu featuring ingredients sourced from farms and other purveyors within 50 miles of Philadelphia. Neighboring Louie Louie brings a European bistro experience to University City. This stylish space at the base of the Inn at Penn hotel features a menu of escargots, onion soup gratinée, pork belly croque monsieur, and other French favorites with subtle American flair.

Helmed by chef and activist Kurt Evans, the kitchen at Booker’s Restaurant and Bar on Baltimore Avenue prepares modern takes on traditional Southern-inspired dishes, including vegan jambalaya, blackened catfish, and an extra spicy Jamaican jerk oxtail. Not to be missed are Booker’s expansive drink and weekend brunch menus. Nearby is Aksum, a BYOB Mediterranean restaurant whose full menu rich in Lebanese and Moroccan flavors can be enjoyed all day.

Snack on summer favorites and sip on milkshakes from Sunset Social, a seasonal restaurant space found atop Cira Green. As you enjoy your burger, fries, or hot dog, admire the panoramic views offered by this unique rooftop space. On street level, The Post offers a traditional beer hall experience with local craft beer on tap and plenty of arcade games throughout. The 11 TVs in the space make it a prime location to view sporting events. TIP: Both The Post and Cira Green can also be booked for private events.

For something sweet, Lil Pop Shop offers popsicles and pies made using fresh, local ingredients. Reading Terminal Market staple Beiler’s also has a University City location serving their signature Pennsylvania Dutch donuts in a wide variety of creative toppings. More deep-fried doughy deliciousness can be found at Dottie’s Donuts, who offers 100% vegan donuts in inventive flavors such as cookie butter, chocolate pistachio, and Dunkaroos.

Cover photo: White Dog Café. Photo by C. Green.

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