From an extraordinary Thai restaurant to some of the city's most sought-after pizza, these are the Fishtown places to memorize like you'll be quizzed on them later.
By Maddy Sweitzer-Lammé and Hannah Albertine·
Devoted foodies and restaurant newbies love Foobooz. Sign up now for our twice weekly newsletter.
A spread of dips and salads at Suraya in Fishtown / Photograph courtesy of Suraya.
Fishtown is not unlike a mermaid. It has some truly enviable qualities (Mermaid-wise, we’re talking about swimming skills. Fishtown-wise, there’s no denying that the neighborhood is full of great dining options). But it can sometimes feel totally separate from the rest of the human experience of living in Philadelphia. If you head to the right spots, though, you’ll find that there are corners of Fishtown that feel in line with Philly’s best charms, restaurants that are indeed special and serve excellent food. From extraordinary Thai food and Lebanese spreads to some of the city’s most sought-after pizza, that’s what this list is all about. (To be clear, it’s not about mermaids. Was that clear?)
“Isn’t Kalaya so much bigger now?” we can feel you wondering, “How could its charm possibly translate to a Fishtown warehouse that looks more like an L.A. restaurant than a Philly one?” Consider this: Kalaya 2.0’s food is as remarkable as ever. You’ll still find that same “holy-shit-I-can’t-stop-eating-this” feeling from chef Nok’s menu of Thai curries, noodles, veggie sides and dumplings — each dish playing off each other with varying levels of slightly sweet oyster sauce, creeping bird’s-eye-chili heat, briny fish-sauce funk, and sour lime. What Kalaya lost in small-scale coziness, it gained in Thai beer slushies, deluxe large-format dishes like a freshwater river prawn and some grilled skirt steak, and so many more tables for you and your pals. Of course, this new Kalaya is not going to be the exact same as its former self. How could it be? There are 145 seats. But the restaurant’s original spirit lives on in a surprisingly warm room with a soundtrack of funk, Motown, and Thai hits. This is a glow-up situation, not a sell-out situation. By the way, get the marinated shrimp with seafood nam jim if you like spice. It’s fabulous and punishing. 4 West Palmer Street.
This slice shop is dedicated to the notion that just because you’re picking up a quick slice to-go doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be an excellent slice. Opt for pepperoni or whatever seasonal special they’re running, and expect the pizza’s surface area to cover almost the entirety of your face. Shackamaxon’s thin-crust style intentionally crisps up the edges so that they look a little burnt. Roll with it. It’s delicious. There are few places in Fishtown where you can get a quality meal this quickly — all for about $5. 115 East Girard Avenue.
Suraya is so massive, you could throw two rival bat mitzvahs in here and no one would notice. This Lebanese market and all-day cafe has one of the nicer gardens for outdoor dining in the city, which you can reserve for weekend brunch or a special-occasion dinner. At either meal, opt for the set menu (priced at $37 and $70 respectively) so you can try a whole array of their dips, mezza, and mashawi platters. And if you live in the area, stop by for coffee and a brioche sticky bun during the day on a break from work. The pastries, well … simply put … they fuck. 1528 Frankford Avenue.
Castellino’s Italian Market
This Italian market and deli prioritizes the best-of-the-best ingredients. So much so that they can turn a simple turkey sandwich into something deluxe by oil-braising the turkey to keep it moist, then stacking it with bacon jam, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, onion, mayo and arugula. If the turkey is that good, you can be sure the other sandwiches will also be exceptional. (We usually go for the Italian hoagie, which comes with noticeably peppery arugula.) They also have a well-stocked grocery with lots of Italian specialties that are hard to find elsewhere, not to mention lemon-shaped string lights. 1255 East Palmer Street.
Kensington Quarters has gone through different iterations in the past, and the most recent reinvention has situated it as a seafood restaurant. We find the most success here by ordering food that’s as close to the ocean as possible. Go for crispy-plump fried shrimp, high-quality East Coast oysters on the half shell, or pretty much anything from the well-sourced raw bar. As a bonus, Kensington Quarters stays open on Mondays and Tuesdays, and there’s a sunny (partially covered) back patio, as well as plenty of seating in the dining room. 1310 Frankford Avenue.
Seafood options at Kensington Quarters / Photograph by Jason Varney
Primary Plant Based
Primary self-identifies as a “health-forward” restaurant. The translation here is that they serve a broad menu of vegan food, with dishes that range from potato gnocchi to a jackfruit medianoche sandwich and kung pao Brussels sprouts. It’s one of the better options for anyone looking to eat inventive vegetables in Philly, regardless of whether you identify as vegan or not. Keep Primary Plant Based in mind for a solo meal, a casual weeknight dinner, or weekend brunch with friends. 161 West Girard Avenue.
After operating as a roving food truck for several years, La Chingonita put down roots on Girard Avenue serving excellent burritos, as well as very good birria tacos, and classic sides like elote and beans and rice. They’re mostly doing takeaway, but there are a few tables inside for diners. 413 East Girard Avenue.
Middle Child Clubhouse
Dining at Middle Child’s all-day hangout isn’t so dissimilar to hurling yourself into a millennial ball pit designed by someone who took an edible a couple hours prior. Except instead of plastic orbs, the MCCH ball pit is filled with cheeseburgers cascading with Russian dressing and okonomiyaki-esque latkes we’d like to build a house out of. The restaurant has perpetual birthday-party energy (People play pool in the middle of the dining room and the cocktails by Brandon Thrash are always well-made). Gather a crew of eight to 17 people and reserve Middle Child’s private burger club — called the 1000 Island Lounge — for $30 per person, or just stop by for a sandwich at lunch or sit at the bar and drink a glass of wine with your latke. 1232 North Front Street.
Meet the dependable neighborhood diner. Sulimay’s rocks with pancakes, breakfast sandwiches on long rolls, lots of scrapple and chipped beef, and a good selection of lunch sandwiches. 632 East Girard Avenue.
Dandelion greens and roasted red pepper pizza at Pizzeria Beddia / Photograph by Ian Shiver
In its original spot (where Shackamaxon is now) Pizzeria Beddia accumulated long lines of dough fanatics waiting for 40 whole pies. The Pizzeria Beddia of our current day and age has things that the O.G. Beddia didn’t — like a reservation system, salads and wine, and, you know, tables. Thankfully, the pizza here is just as remarkable as it was back when it was annoying to procure, with a slice of tepid tomato pie that might just be one of our top-five favorite things to eat in the whole city and soft serve you can and should top with amaro. Bring a bunch of friends for a casual group dinner and check out their monthly Wine Camp events if you’re interested in learning about wine without feeling like you’re about to take a booze SAT test. 1313 North Lee Street.
This Fishtown deli and market has many talents: one is the everyday hoagies that rival all the old favorites. Another is the tomato pie, which Liberty Kitchen makes with Jersey tomatoes and, if it’s your thing, hand-stretched mozzarella. Go often and pick us up some 1244 North Front Street.
You’re never going to find better gnocchi or tagliolini served in a half-secret dining room in the back of an Irish bar. The unusual arrangement has Italian chef Francesco Bellastelli renting kitchen space from Murph’s owners, Greg and Theresa Walton, and cooking incredible cash-only Italian food for a crowd that often waits up to 90 minutes for a table. Head’s up: the kitchen doesn’t serve food on Tuesdays. 202 East Girard Avenue.
Cheu and Nunu combined forces during the pandemic: You can now order all of Cheu’s ramen and udon bowls at the same time as Nunu’s perfect highballs, sushi and furikake cheese fries. They also have a great happy hour that even runs on Saturday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. 1414 Frankford Avenue.
Kismet Bagels opened their own storefront on Frankford Avenue in the spring of 2022 with bagel sandwiches, house-made cream cheese (the pickle flavor in collaboration with Fishtown Pickle Project remains our favorite), and bagels by the dozen. On weekend mornings, you can count on this place having a line. Even if you’re not yet a bialy believer, order the daily-changing bialy. 113 East Girard Avenue.
Chef Adam Diltz’s BYOB celebrates his Pennsylvania upbringing and his grandmother’s cooking with dishes like handmade scrapple speared on a deer antler and a very good ham potpie. There aren’t a ton of other restaurants in Philly that stay so true to the Commonwealth’s regional, traditional cuisine. And the room (with its backyard garden and grandmotherly silver) follows suit. They also do afternoon tea on the weekends, in case that sounds hot to you. 1007 Frankford Avenue.
Isaki at Da-Wa / Photograph by Alexandra Jones
Da-Wa serves an $125 sushi omakase using fish flown in from Japan. But you can always opt for an a la carte approach here, too. Go for some killer ramen, or poke bowls that are so colorful and bright, we’d like someone to paint us a portrait of them. 1204 North Front Street.
Dan’s Fresh Meats
Every neighborhood in Philly has a random-looking corner deli that slices meats to order and serves world-class sandwiches. This is Fishtown’s.2000 Frankford Avenue.
Wm. Mulherin’s Sons
This Italian restaurant was exciting from the minute it opened — lovely and casual and so perfectly wedded to the neighborhood. The bar bangs out some great classic cocktails, and the kitchen does pastas that rival anyone’s — along with a full spread of wood-fired pizzas and snacks that are good for sharing with a date. Get a table in their garden during the warmer months of the year. For reasons we can’t explain, the food just tastes better out here. 1355 North Front Street.
If you want to see Fishtown’s energy bottled into one space, visit La Colombe’s flagship cafe, roastery and distillery on Frankford Avenue at 2 p.m. on a Wednesday and start talking to someone about HBO or vintage furniture stores. The place works well for a coffee date or a quick lunch meeting. It’s giant. 1335 Frankford Avenue.
This place has been around since the 1940s, serving some of the best cheesesteaks in town. Current owner Joe Groh started his career there, working in the kitchen, then bought it when the previous owner died in 1999. It’s got a retro feel and plenty of cheesesteaks, handcut fries, milkshakes and egg creams. 1 West Girard Avenue.
The city wasn’t necessarily waiting for Stephen Starr to open a coastal Mexican restaurant, club and music venue, but now plenty of people are waiting to get in here. The drinks are strong, the seafood is fresh, and there’s always a crowd. 1739-1749 North Front Street.
You Might Also Like