When you think of Philadelphia—the rabid Eagles fans, greasy cheesesteaks and brick row houses with metal awnings—you’re actually thinking about South Philly. But while these aspects still characterize the area, the neighborhood has become one of the city’s most vibrant spots for food—especially along trendy East Passyunk Avenue, which is home to tons of amazing restaurants, such as fancy French bistro Laurel and homey Dutch eatery NOORD. There’s also the iconic Italian Market, with its pastries, butchers, cheese and, yes, even Mexican food, and the Dickinson Square farmers’ market on Sundays throughout summer.
Comfort food goes global at Saté Kampar, South Philly’s homage to southeast Asian cuisine, which, with its perfect mix of familiar and exotic, magically puts you in an atmosphere that simultaneously feels like your parent’s dining room and a hole-in-the-wall street-food vendor in Malaysia. That’s exactly what owners John and Angelina Branca aim for with their traditional satay meat skewers, fish souffle, pickled veggies and banana leaf rice, which all come in small plates perfect for exploring a variety of these spicy-sweet flavors. Saté Kampar is BYOB so hit Bottle Shop beforehand or keep it PG with one of their tasty pulled milk teas.
Barcelona Wine Bar
With the option for a three- or six-ounce pour of any of their (extensive) by-the-glass offerings, Barcelona’s eclectic wine list is tailor made for a quick, sophisticated pre-dinner drink that screams “evening in Spain." The bartenders are happy to offer suggestions and pairings for even the most vino-phobic, though we suggest exploring the sherry menu for something truly new. The space is self-consciously cool, with polished concrete floors, white subway tile and exposed-wood-beam ceilings, and it has a dreamy garden terrace for al fresco imbibing on warm summer nights.
Shop East Passyunk Avenue
Sporting that cute small-town feel with a decidedly urban backdrop, East Passyunk Avenue boasts blocks of independent, locally owned boutiques that are ripe for picking up souvenirs for your most discerning friends. Hit Jinxed for secondhand Mid-Century Modern furniture and knick knacks, Beautiful World Syndicate for a tightly curated vinyl selection (with the surly, cooler-than-you clerks to match), Occasionette for kitschy greeting cards and soy candles, Palo Santo Shop + Apothecary to grow your crystal collection and Doggie Style for a homemade treat for your pup.
Bella Vista Bed and Breakfast
Don’t get us wrong, we’re all about exploring South Philly’s gritty, edgy exterior all day, every day. But when it comes to where we lay our heads at night, we require peace and quiet. Bella Vista Bed and Breakfast sits just blocks off the Italian Market in a classic brick rowhouse, with dollhouse-inspired rooms outfitted in layers of toile and chintz, and quilts and antiques. It’s charming—not cheesy—and the in-room breakfast option is an introvert’s dream. Plus, the back deck offers awesome views of the city.
If you do just one thing…
Catch the sunset and incredible panoramic views of the city at Bok Bar, the vibe-y rooftop lounge set atop a former public school.
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Philly/J. Fusco