Much like a taking out a mortgage or an animal cruelty PSA featuring Sarah McLachlan, a Philly winter is a very serious thing. This city gets so cold, in fact, that sometimes the best restaurant is the one that’s easiest to get to. With that in mind, here are places we like that are extremely close to the SEPTA. (As in, two blocks or less from a SEPTA stop.) We’ll even tell you which train is closest.
Stop: Girard (Market-Frankford Line)
There are 10 really good restaurants within 3 blocks of the Girard stop on the Market Frankford Line. But Da-Wa is approximately 25 steps from the entrance to the station - which means the liquid in your eyeballs won’t have time to freeze before you duck back out of the cold. In addition to its proximity to the train, Da-Wa has one of the better omakase sushi options in Fishtown - it’s $59 for 15 courses where you get everything from miso soup to mackerel with soy and wasabi to fatty tuna handrolls. This place isn’t as elaborate as the omakase experience at Hiroki down the street, but it’s ideal for a casual dinner when it’s incredibly cold out.
Stop: 30th Street Station (Market-Frankford Line)
30th Street Station can be obnoxious to navigate, especially at rush hour. But once you find your way out of the 29th Street exit, you’ll only need to walk a block and a half before you’re at Walnut Street Cafe. The all-day cafe has floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides, so you can watch all the bundled-up pedestrians outside while you sip on a cup of coffee or a hot toddy. Their menu ranges from small plates like mussels escabeche to plates of pasta, and during Happy Hour they offer discounts on all of their appetizers - which might convince you to stay in the cafe’s warm cocoon of happiness for a little longer.
Stop: Fairmount (Broad Street Line)
You’ve had dinner plans with a friend for weeks, but you’re thinking about postponing since it just snowed over a foot. Instead of pushing it back and risking the chance that it never actually happens, go to Cicala and sit at the bar. The front door is two ski-lengths away from the SEPTA station entrance, and because it’s in a hotel lobby, it almost never closes because of weather. It doesn’t hurt that the pasta dishes (get the fazzoletti with braised lamb shoulder ragu) are excellent and the drinks are strong - which is exactly why your friend will agree to brave the snow and meet you.
Stop: Baltimore Ave. & 48th St (34 Trolley)
It’s probably unwise to go for a run outside when the temperature is so low that breathing nearly gives you a brain freeze. But we suggest you make a dash from the trolley stop at 48th and Baltimore to the front door of Vietnam Cafe about half a block away. This casual West Philly spot serves great food, from lemongrass pork chops to beef noodle soup that’ll temporarily make you forget something called a “bomb cyclone” exists. In addition to the long menu of hot dishes, they also do Polynesian cocktails - like the on-fire “Flaming Volcano” that you can either drink or use as a small bonfire to thaw your hands.
Stop: Snyder Station (Broad Street Line)
Pho is always good - we’d eat it on a street corner in the middle of summer while wrapped in a heated blanket. But it feels especially appropriate when it’s cold outside, and Pho Cyclo is a great place to get a solid bowl of it. For around $11, you can get a huge serving of soup, and the service is so fast that you’ll be full and back on the train in under 20 minutes.
Stop: 2nd Street Station (Market-Frankford Line)
During the summer, or on a day when the temperature isn’t lower than your dog’s age, walking is necessary for your general wellbeing. But during the winter, walking is the enemy. Continental, a diner and martini bar in Old City, is so close to the 2nd Street station that a child could hit it with a snowball, and it’s perfect for a fun, casual dinner with a few friends. Get a few orders of shoestring fries and a skillet cookie, and thank the powers that be that you don’t live in Alaska or Greenland.
Stop: Jefferson Station (Market-Frankford Line)
We’d normally suggest going to Dim Sum Garden for the best soup dumplings in the city, but the ones at Tom’s Dim Sum are a whole block and a half closer and almost just as good. This spot in Chinatown serves classic dim sum dishes, like scallion pancakes, pork buns, and shrimp shumai, and the food comes out so fast that you’ll start warming up immediately.
Stop: Walnut-Locust (Broad Street Line)
In an old movie, where the snow looks glamorous, we imagine that a place like Butcher & Singer is where the main characters would meet in the middle of a snowstorm. The Rittenhouse Square steakhouse is located in what used to be an old bank, and the massive space has chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and waiters who look like they’re at a black-tie wedding. The steak here is good, as it should be considering you can drop $100 on a single piece of meat, Make sure you add in a few classic sides as well - like creamed spinach and mashed potatoes. Of all the places on this guide, Butcher & Singer is the furthest away from its corresponding SEPTA station (a whole 2 blocks) - which means you should save it for when it’s a balmy just-below-freezing.
Stop: Chinatown (Broad Street Line)
Chinatown has not one but two SEPTA stops, so no matter where you are in the neighborhood you’ll never have to spend much time outdoors. If you’re on the Broad Street Line, the train will stop about a block away from Terakawa, which happens to have some of the best ramen in the city. The broths are all made in-house, and come filled with things like roast pork belly, mushrooms, and soy egg. There are also spicy curry platters if you’d rather leave feeling like you just hung out in a sauna for a while.
Stop: 40th St. Station (Market-Frankford Line)
If you don’t live in West Philly, taking a trip over the river can seem like a voyage similar to the one Chance, Sassy, and Shadow take in Homeward Bound. But when you’re hanging out inside a heated SEPTA car, it doesn’t seem all that far. And if you’re going to Dim Sum House, the train essentially brings you right to their front door. We especially like this place because you can get a full, sit-down dinner here until 1am with things like soup dumplings and beef-stuffed scallion pancakes. They also have a full bar with a pool table, so you can turn this into a night out and delay your inevitable journey back home through the frozen tundra.