Philadelphia Neighborhoods: 5 places to eat great ethnic cuisine in South Philly

A version of this post was published in partnership with, a project of Temple University’s journalism program.

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Forget Pat’s and Geno’s. We all know that South Philadelphia’s food culture encompasses much more than just cheesesteaks.

The area is home to a vibrant mix of ethnic communities and it is only apropos that South Philadelphia’s gastronomical offerings reflect that. From homestyle Vietnamese dishes to Middle Eastern shawarma straight off a vertical spit, it’s pretty easy to get a taste of the world from the many ethnic (and authentic) restaurants in the area.

1) Nam Phuong Restaurant 1100 Washington Avenue

South Philadelphia: Five Places to Eat Ethnic Cuisine

Nam Phuong, from the outside, is rather unassuming – it’s in a strip-mall among other unassuming Vietnamese establishments on Washington Avenue. Despite its modest exterior, this restaurant is a well-known mecca for Vietnamese food in Philadelphia. Many of the main dishes (like the Bun Dac Biet, pictured above) are priced at less than $10. A popular choice at Nam Phuong is pho, a classic beef noodle soup that is the quintessential dish of Vietnam.

2) Los Gallos Taqueria 951 Wolf Street

Located on Tenth and Wolf streets, Los Gallos is a hot spot for inexpensive tacos in the city.

Amid a quiet are of Lower Moyamensing, Los Gallos is an easy way to fill up on a budget, since three generously-portioned tacos cost less than $10. The restaurant is small but welcoming, with colorful cut-out paper flags hanging throughout the interior, complementing the authentic Mexican cuisine’s festive spirit.

3) Leziz 611 East Passyunk Avenue

Kebab with rice is a popular dish at Leziz.

Tommy Sucuk, owner of Leziz, promises that the Lamb Aldana is no chef specialty. Leziz waiter Charles Cuttic tried the Turkish pizza, a thin and flaky bread with ground lamb, and he has not returned to American pizza since.

“There’s certain things that’s Turkish that I can’t eat the American version of anymore,” he says.

4) Alyan’s 603 S. 4th Street

The Moroccan-inspired ambiance nicely complements Alyan's classically Middle Eastern menu.

Just a few feet away from the hustle and bustle of South Street is Alyan’s, a modestly-size Middle Eastern restaurant that is home to fresh shawarma and falafel. Like the aforementioned eateries, Alyan’s is also easy on the wallet, with many of its sandwiches and platters priced at less than $10. The back sitting area of the restaurant is lit with ornate, Arab-inspired light fixtures, which enhance the Middle Eastern dining experience.

5) Reef Lounge & Restaurant 605 S. 3rd Street

South Philadelphia locals don't have to go far for Caribbean cuisine, as Reef is just off South Street.

Loyal customers at Reef Lounge usually order Reef Jerk Chicken, the restaurant’s signature dish. Compared to the other listed restaurants, Reef is slightly on the pricier side. However, it’s still a good place to get comforting Caribbean food. The menu mixes a plethora of Caribbean staples like fried plantains and stewed oxtail with other less conventionally “island” dishes, such as a pasta plate called “Rasta Pasta.”

Of course, these are all east of Broad. Have any suggestions for our installment about west of Broad?

– Text and images by Jennifer Nguyen and Taisha Zeigler

6 thoughts on “Philadelphia Neighborhoods: 5 places to eat great ethnic cuisine in South Philly

  • June 11, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    Hardena, Circles, Amalia’s & Cafe con Chocolate

    • June 12, 2014 at 9:01 am

      I second Cafe con Chocolate

  • June 11, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Also Sky Cafe, Khmer Kitchen, New Phnom Penh, Cafe Diem

  • June 12, 2014 at 10:00 am

    Two of these places are on the 6XX block? There’s a ton of places you could have mentioned that are not “South Street”.

    • June 12, 2014 at 11:23 am

      Sure, there are probably 100, but these are definitely worth mentioning. Have any suggestions?

  • July 2, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Khmer Kitchen seconded (6th and Morris).
    Quetzally for Mexican (1225 Fitzwater).
    Le Viet at 11th and Washington for Vietnamese (close call with Nam Phuong).

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