South Street was genuinely a trendy place in the ’80s and ’90s. It was a whole street filled with galleries, clubs, and live music cafes. While the city has changed, South Street has somehow stayed stuck in the past. And if you walk down the street now, you’ll still see what looks like ’90s-era vape shops and clothing stores lining the sidewalk. In the past few years, though, new restaurants have started popping up, and combined with the old standbys, there are now a ton of great places to eat and drink along South Street. These are the best 13.
Serpico doesn’t belong on South Street. We’re not exactly sure where it belongs, but it certainly doesn’t belong on the same block as Condom Kingdom or a bunch of vape stores. Still, Serpico is the best restaurant on South Street, and one of the best restaurants in the entire city. The menu is filled with Japanese plates with incredible dishes that look almost as good as they taste. You’ll see things like enoki mushrooms, Japanese eggplant, and raw diver scallops with buttermilk and yuzu that you absolutely need in front of you.
Tattooed Mom is your no-words-needed introduction to South Street. The walls, top to bottom, are covered in years of stickers, spray paint, and sharpie, and it would take an exhaustive “I Spy” search to find all of the different murals by both famous and local street artists. They make drinks with cotton candy and pop rocks, put on Sunday night craft nights, and have a sticker and marker-covered bumper car in the entrance. It’s the kind of place you’ll only find on South Street, and one that’ll impress your friends just for knowing it exists.
Maybe you’re having people over for the Eagles game, or maybe you’ve been craving wings since you smelled them at a bar the other night. Either way, Andy’s is the best place on South Street to go for fried chicken. Their double-fried Korean recipe results in an audible crunch, and the sweet chili sauce adds just the right amount of heat. If you’re taking it to go, make sure to call ahead to place your order. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to stock up on paper towels.
South Street is like a sliding scale. Near the Delaware, it looks like it’s stuck in the ’90s, and on the other side of the city - well, there’s a Whole Foods. Pumpkin, a small BYOB, is located somewhere in the middle. It’s been around for ages, and while the menu changes often, the food is still consistently great. If there’s a crudo on the menu, make sure it ends up in front of you - but otherwise, you could pretty much close your eyes and point to anything and it will be delicious. The other thing you should know is that it’s cash-only, so you’ll want to hit both the bottle shop and the ATM on your way over.
Jim’s is always in the conversation for where to get the best cheesesteak in Philly. It’s a retro, counter-service place on South Street that almost always has a line out the door. You have two options - you could suck it up and wait it out for this messy, cheesy sandwich or you could head across the street to Milkboy and order a Jim’s cheesesteak off the menu there. This way you can sit down in a coffee shop and eat your sandwich at a table. Plus, you’ll usually get your cheesesteak before you would have gotten to the front of the line at Jim’s anyway.
Jet Wine Bar is a newer bar on South Street, and it’s one of the first wine bars that opened after the city’s liquor laws loosened up. It looks like what we thought the future would look like in the 80’s - with lots of primary-colored lighting and mod furniture. They serve a long list of wines, with a focus on natural and local stuff. And you can get everything either by the glass or as a full bottle to take to a nearby BYOB like Pumpkin. They also have daily flights for $35, and their daily Happy Hour isn’t a bad deal either with $6 glasses of wine and an $8 cheese board.
On any given night, you’ll find that Bob & Barbara’s is absolutely packed. That’s for a few reasons. For one - it’s a classic. It’s been around since South Street’s prime, and it’s the birthplace of the Citywide. Plenty of other spots serve the famous shot-and-a-beer combo, but this place invented it in the ’90s and no one does it cheaper or better. They also have live music, with the same live band playing every weekend, who keep everyone dancing until the bar closes at 2am - and events like drag shows and trivia on weeknights.
There’s a Rita’s and a Haagen-Dazs on South Street, but our favorite place for frozen dessert is Big Gay. Sure it’s a NYC chain, but their soft serve is incredible, and we’re especially fans of the Salty Pimp. It’s caramel-filled vanilla swirl on a cone, covered with pretzel pieces and dipped into a chocolate shell. There are other great options as well, like ice cream sandwiches and sundaes, but the Salty Pimp is what you should get on your first trip here.
Just like the Fishtown location of Honey’s, this is an all-day breakfast place that has no regard for your post-breakfast plans, unless they include a nap. You should come here for their latkes, huevos rancheros, and signature “Honey Cristo,” made with challah French toast and ham. It’s cash-only and doesn’t take reservations, so expect to wait on the weekends. It’s worth it.
Ishkabibbles is Jim’s main cheesesteak competition on South Street. Kind of like Pat’s and Geno’s, these two places are often pitted against each other in “best of” cheesesteak competitions. They’re very similar, except instead of using straight whiz on their sandwiches, Ishkabibble’s uses a whiz-provolone mix that gives it an edge over Jim’s. They’re also known for their chicken cheesesteak, and a weird, purple lemonade drink called the “Gremlin” - but you should stick to a regular cheesesteak and a fountain soda.
Walking through the doors at Brauhaus Schmitz is like finding a portal to Germany. The all-wood space is covered in German flags and photos of their soccer teams, and the waitstaff looks like they’ve been teleported from Oktoberfest. There aren’t many great sports bars on South Street, and this is by far the most enjoyable place to watch a game. The prices are reasonable, from pretzels to pilsners, but when you really want to impress, order the suckling pig. You have to order it two weeks in advance, and have 12 people in your party to be able to get it, but it’s worth the hassle.
Tio Flores is a Mexican place on the part of South Street that’s in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood, and it’s one of our favorite spots for a big group dinner before a night out. On top of having solid (and cheap) tacos, they also have a special every day of the week. So if you’re looking for a fun night out and have a good excuse for ditching work the following morning, book your group dinner for a Monday night and take advantage of their $1 tacos and $5 margaritas.