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Where to Eat and Drink in Washington Square West, the Gayborhood and Midtown Village

June 23, 2021

Washington Square West, the Gayborhood and Midtown Village are home to one of Philadelphia’s strongest and most diverse collections of eateries, with many featuring outdoor dining along sidewalks or on patios, rooftops, or in gardens. The neighborhood is also just steps from the historic Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia’s Chinatown, and other dining options near the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

For breakfast, the fluffy egg sandwiches at Middle Child are an absolute must-try. If you’re off to a slightly later start, seek out a menu of brunch favorites at Green Eggs Café, but be sure to get there early – lines tend to form shortly after the restaurant opens and reservations are not accepted.

The downstairs sushi bar at Double Knot. Photo courtesy of Double Knot / Schulson Collective.

Pick up a cup of coffee and a freshly prepared pastry from Double Knot, a restaurant and café concept from the Schulson Collective. Return in the evening and head downstairs to enjoy the restaurant’s underground izakaya, with a menu including robatayaki meats, sushi, dumplings, and more. Double Knot is flanked by two other Schulson Collective eateries – Sampan, a Pan-Asian restaurant, and Alpen Rose, a steakhouse with a refined, library-esque dining room. TIP: Enter the narrow alley beside Sampan to access Graffiti Bar – a popular happy hour hangout among locals that, true to its name, has walls adorned with a colorful collection of street art by local artists.

Midtown Village features a collection of restaurants owned by local restaurateurs Marcie Blaine Turney and Valerie Safran – most of which are found along 13th Street – including: Lolita; presenting modern Mexican cuisine in a small yet chic setting; Barbuzzo, which serves wood oven pizza and other Mediterranean-inspired dishes; Jamonera, a Spanish tapas and wine bar; and Bud & Marilyn’s, specializing in traditional American comfort food. Just around the corner on Locust Street is Turney and Safran’s cozy Italian restaurant, Little Nonna’s, featuring an open kitchen and a 40-seat outdoor garden.

Morimoto's futuristic, color-changing dining room. Photo by M. Grudzinski.

Even more international flavors are found throughout Washington Square West, such as the modern and traditional Indian cuisine served at Indeblue. Starr Restaurant’s El Vez serves contemporary Mexican dishes – including five variations of guacamole – in a trendy taqueria setting. Take a bite out of an Israeli pita sandwich at Merkaz or head across the street to feast on sushi in the open-air garden at 1225 Sushi and Raw Bar. Find more omakase and other Japanese dishes from Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto in a breathtaking, color-changing dining room at Morimoto.

For plant-based eats, consider visiting Vedge. Owned and operated by James Beard-nominated Chefs Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, Vedge’s menu changes with the seasons and consists of items made with fresh, locally sourced vegetables. Charlie was a sinner. also specializes in vegan offerings, pairing their small, plant-based plates with an exceptional lineup of creative cocktails, all served in a well-appointed space along 13th Street.

The beautiful main dining room at Vetri Cucina. Photo by S. Legato.

One of Philadelphia’s essential dining experiences, Vetri Cucina, is found within Washington Square West. Enjoy a gourmet, four-course meal inside an intimate dining room along Spruce Street helmed by James Beard Award-winning Chef Marc Vetri. The menu combines authentic Italian offerings – including fresh, handmade pasta – with other global influences to create one unforgettable dining experience. TIP: Reservations fill up quickly, so plan your visit well in advance and while there, don’t forget to pair your meal with one of the many vintage wines available on-site.

Have a historic happy hour at McGillin’s Olde Ale House – Philadelphia’s oldest continuously operating tavern – which has been pouring pints at the same location along Drury Street since 1860. The storied pub serves more than just beer, with a food menu that includes an inventive Irish take on the traditional Philadelphia cheesesteak. Head to Bru Craft & Wurst for German-inspired eats and a lengthy beer list consisting of imported and domestic brews. Next to Bru is Tradesman’s, which serves BBQ dishes in a lively sports bar setting, complete with outdoor bar seating along Chestnut Street. Beneath Bru and Tradesman’s is U-Bahn, an underground bar inspired by Berlin’s underground where you can find live music late into the evening. TIP: Don’t miss Fergie’s Pub – a beloved, no-frills neighborhood bar that regularly hosts live music, quizzo events, karaoke, and open mic comedy shows upstairs.

A number of LGBTQ+ bars, restaurants, and clubs can also be found throughout the Gayborhood. Housed in a centuries-old building along a narrow street, Tavern on Camac features a piano bar with nightly performances on their main floor, a 40-seat tavern restaurant in the basement, and the Ascend dancing and entertainment space on the top floor. On 12th Street, Tabu Sports Lounge & Bar welcomes everyone to their downstairs sports bar, second level dance floor, third floor performance space and rooftop, and presents weekly drag, burlesque, variety, comedy, and other shows. Woody’s nightclub is one of the area’s top late-night destinations, with a regular rotation of local DJs, theme nights, cabaret and drag shows and other events.

Tinsel activates around Halloween and Christmas, creating an immersive bar experience with holiday decorations and themed cocktails. Photo by Society Hill Films.

Other nearby options include the craft beer bar Strangelove’s, the Italian BYOB Mercato, the classic Irish pub Moriarity’s (known for their wings), and Milkboy, featuring live music on the second floor. If visiting around Halloween or Christmas, don’t miss Tinsel – a seasonal pop-up bar decked out in elaborate decorations for each respective holiday, with creative cocktails to match. On Sansom Street, between 13th and Broad, you’ll find pool tables and beer at BAR, over 200 whiskeys and live jazz at Time, and burgers, craft beer, cocktails, and wine at Drury Beer Garden.

Cover image: Merkaz. Photo by Michael Persico.

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