by Nicha Jones
I’ve been living on the outskirts of Center City this past year and have found my experience to be delightful when it comes to culinary options. Prior to moving here, I was largely unaware of the offerings on this side of the East Coast, but discovered quickly enough that I could eat my way through the weekends. Here are the places that have my seal of approval.
The Franklin Bar (112 South 18th St.)
Whenever I have guests from out of town, I like bringing them to this speakeasy tucked away in the heart of the city center. The bar transports you to another time while you sit in the dimly-lit basement style room, sipping on one of many specialty cocktails. If you’re as big of a fan of whiskey as I am, then you’ll be into their various whiskey flight options. The ideal time to hit this place up would be during happy hour, since it can get crowded after and you’ll have to suffer standing in line and facing off with the door guy. This is largely because of their table seating service, which is a refreshing change of ambiance to be honest. If you have to wait for a table, there’s a bar upstairs where you can order a drink in the interim.
Mission Taqueria (1516 Sansom St.)
Nothing compares to Mexican food on the West Coast, as far as the US goes, but Mission Taqueria satisfies me when I’m looking for a taco fix. There’s a great taco menu, ranging from mahi mahi to lengua, but if you’re looking for a legit burrito, look elsewhere. The space gets rowdy after 6 PM, but if you can’t get a table right away, put your name on the wait list and grab a beer. The volume is pretty loud up in this joint, but you’ll be too busy stuffing your face with guac, that you probably won’t even notice. I would definitely recommend this place for a party of four or more since it exudes fun vibes.
Oyster Bar (1516 Sansom St.)
This place is conveniently next to Mission Taqueria and they offer a plethora of different oyster options if you’re in the mood for raw seafood. During happy hour, everything is discounted including select drinks.
Cinder (1500 Locust St.)
Real talk--this place is only good for its sour beer selection on tap. I would suggest grabbing a drink here before heading out to another place for food. They serve pizzas in addition to smaller plates, but considering all the options available in Center City, I’d just focus on what they do well, which are the sours.
Pizzaria Vetri (1615 Chancellor St.)
In my opinion, this place is the best pizza in Center City, however, I haven’t felt the need to venture off and try a bunch of other places since I’m always so satisfied here. They have family style tables, which isn’t as intrusive as it sounds, and a small bar that caters to your beer needs. My favorite pizzas are definitely The Rittenhouse, topped with lobster, and the Maurizio, which is white cheese topped with rosemary and sea salt.
Pub & Kitchen (1946 Lombard St.)
It’s really embarrassing how much I come to this place to eat and drink. It’s a few blocks from where I live and is my go-to when I can’t think of any other place. The cocktails are tasty and the frequently updated food menu is tasty af. They’re known for their burgers, but the rest of the menu is just as notable! They tend to create dishes that are based on what’s in season, but you won’t see them pitching the “farm to table” thing.
Lou Bird’s (2031 Lombard St.)
This place is on point when it comes to either brunch or dinner! They recently opened this past year and they’ve been building a solid reputation. The food definitely speaks for itself and is a play on American Gourmet. If you’re looking to eat here on a budget, then I’d suggest hitting up brunch since everything is under $15.
Tinto (114 S 20th St.)
When I want to treat myself to finer food, this is the spot for that. It’s Spanish food that specializes in small plates to share. It’s a great date spot if you’re looking for a sensual atmosphere with a touch of class. I recommend saving room at the end of your meal for a nice port or sherry since they have an impressive selection!
Green Eggs Café (719 North 2nd St.)
This place is most ideal for brunch on a weekday, so if you go on a weekend, be prepared to wait in line for up to 30 mins. They serve up a good traditional brunch, but my highlight is definitely the red velvet pancakes!
Charlie Was A Sinner (131 S 13th St.)
For the vegans out there, this is the place to go for all of your healthy indulgences! Even though I’m a carnivore, I’m always down to try out food that doesn’t include meat and this place is has the best vegan food in Philly by far. The ambiance itself is terribly charming and feels rather quaint with their dark décor and gothic touches.