Too often people think of Philadelphia as the city between two rivers. But West Philadelphia, which is nearly 15 square miles of the city, is a large neighborhood west of Schuylkill that deserves as much attention as the more central places. West Philly is an abundantly creative area full of new ventures, as well as decades-old pillars that make it feel like it’s entrenched even as it evolves. To get to know West Philly, we’re letting three savvy Philadelphians guide us through their favorite local pockets in the first installment of our new series. Ask a local.
Neal Santos, photographer
Chances are you’ve seen Neal Santos’ photographs in some of your favorite local publications. He is one of the city’s most beloved food photographers (he photographed the Laurel cookbook) and his work captures the intimate corners of the city. He also runs Farm 51, a community garden, with her husband, Andrew Olson. Santos and Olson have lived in the Kingsessing neighborhood – home to Bartram’s Garden and below Cedar Park – for over a decade.
Why he loves West Philly
“There is a great and vibrant sense of community here. We are directly across from the Kingsessing Recreation Center. The neighborhood has changed a lot because of gentrification, but what has kept us there is the commitment to be stewards of the land and to be responsible neighbors.
His neighborhood favorites
5110-5120 Pentridge Street
“Pentridge Station is owned by Ephraim Seyoum, who also owns Dahlak. It’s that ephemeral outdoor cafe space, where they also have the ability to sell food, so there’s a rotating group of people cooking and making pop-ups. Sometimes food trucks come in. Tabachoy – the Filipino food truck run by Chance Anies – sometimes parks there.
Lil Pop Shop / Weckerly’s
265 S. 44th Street
“Lil Pop Shop and Weckerly’s have a shared space right off 44th place, and it was so wonderful to see the Weckerly’s team come back to West Philly where they started. It’s really cute to see their store. I love the Vietnamese iced coffee popsicle and literally all of Weckerly’s seasonal flavors. I can’t pick a favorite, but I like their ice cream on a cone better than the sandwiches.
Saad’s halal restaurant
4500, rue des Noyers
“I like Saad for the cheesesteaks and the sandwiches. I get the cheesesteak and the fries, that’s all you need to know.
4317, rue des Châtaignes
“Kilimanjaro is an African restaurant with very good food – I’ve always loved them. At lunch, they serve thieboudienne, a fish and tomato stew accompanied by rice and vegetables.
Sankofa Community Farm at Bartram Garden
5400, boulevard Lindbergh
“We’re connected through the Philadelphia Horticultural Society to Sankofa Farm, and I think Chris Bolden-Newsome, who runs this place, is amazing. They do the job every day and every season. They hire young people every year and they reconnect a lot of black young people to their ancestral cultural vegetables. They connect young people to the earth. I see them as comrades of urban agriculture, kind of soul mates of queer green space creators. The work they do is really cool.
206-208 S. 45th Street
“I love Jezebel. She is really talented and multifaceted, a real Renaissance woman in my opinion. His empanadas are great and his alfajores … I love them. The store is a beautiful space: there are three contiguous spaces that come in and out of each other.
Jezabel Careaga, chef and cabinetmaker
Jezabel Careaga runs Jezabel’s, a bakery, restaurant and market on South 45th Street in West Philadelphia. The shop itself is a testament to her many talents: she built most of the furniture in her carpentry job, and her Argentinian baked goods, especially empanadas and alfajores, are absolutely delicious. She lived in West Philly when she first moved to town, but now lives across the river. Because her business is in the neighborhood, she still spends a ton of time there. And, she says, she loves what Moving Neighborhoods have done for her business.
Why she loves West Philly
“The biggest thing West Philly has is diversity,” she says. The welcoming and tolerant nature is a big reason why she keeps her business there. “I haven’t seen this in any other neighborhood,” she said. “It allows me to be my true and authentic self, and then to represent it in the company. I don’t think there is another place like West Philly.
His neighborhood favorites
Alrayyan Food Market
121 S. 43rd Street
“I eat there once or twice a week for lunch from fall to spring, because it’s warmer, comforting food. They have a nice ready meals section – you can get rice, protein, and veg. They have really good okra and a yellow lentil soup which is also very good. And you can buy some really good spices there.
Supremo Food Market
4301, rue des Noyers
“Supremo is one of the first places [where] I found Argentinian products. They have a very good selection of Puerto Rican specialties, Mexican grocery stores, they have Uruguayan products. You can buy dulce de leche, membrillo, yerba mate. If we need something fast for the restaurant, we usually run to that supermarket.
4728 Baltimore Ave
“I like it a lot here. If I have a friend who comes to town, I take people for a walk and end with an early lunch or dinner at the Vientiane Café. It’s cool, it’s consistent – their menu doesn’t change but it’s still great. They have this coconut rice – it’s like fried coconut rice that is served with lettuce. They also have beef jerky which is really good and I love their peanut curry.
Clark Park Farmers Market
4300-4398 Baltimore Ave
“It’s such a beautiful thing to do on Saturday. It brings so many people from all over because West Philly is quite big – it’s not just a few blocks. It’s a place that I love to visit, just to buy a few things for my house and then hang out in the park.
4333, rue de l’Épinette
“When I lived in West Philly I would go to Local 44 once a week for a meal, a drink and just hang out at the bar. I am delighted that they survived the pandemic because they are the neighborhood bar.
Sonam Parikh, co-owner of Mina’s World café
Sonam Parikh runs Mina’s World, a caring-oriented cafe where you can eat pakoras and samosas, have iced coffee, and shop for ceramics, jewelry, and all other locally made delicacies. moment. They grew up in Brooklyn but have lived in Philly for six years.
Why they love West Philly
“I love living in West Philadelphia because it’s such a community driven neighborhood. It reminds me of my hometown of Brooklyn before there was a massive wave of gentrification and change, which I try to accommodate, ”they say. “I am so happy, lucky and grateful to live and work here, and that in itself is a huge privilege. The food in my neighborhood is so good, and one thing that sets it apart is that there are a lot of places that have been around for a long time, but there are also new places that are popping up all the time that I’m still so excited to try. “
Their favorite neighborhoods
Alif Brew & Mini Mart
4501 Baltimore Ave
“They roast their own coffee very casually and don’t make a big deal out of it. They have a very good selection of foods. Love that you can get a roll up really quickly and have a mini meal if you are new to Ethiopian cuisine. They have international dishes that are above and beyond selection, and their food is so fresh and irresistible. They are so nice to all the customers and they have always been so welcoming.
The people’s refrigerator
511 S. 52nd Street
“We run the People’s Fridge alongside Mina’s World, and it’s an option for anyone who needs a free, no-questions-asked meal. It might seem like an unlikely destination when looking at restaurants, but we’ve just launched a new program where everyday cooks drop in 20-40 meals, and it allows people to try home cooking of all skill levels. All food is really beautiful, nutritious dishes that you can tell the person who cooked it did so with loving intention. You can support People’s Fridge via Venmo @ thepeoplesfridge215.
4626 Baltimore Ave
“Chili Garden is the best Sichuan food in Philadelphia, hands down! It is managed by this family with whom I have developed a deep friendship. For the past three or four years, I have been there at least once a week. I cannot recommend their Dry Pepper Tofu highly enough – it’s magic. Whenever I’m sick and need comfort and food I always get poached fish and tofu with chili oil and it’s enough for three people to share and that’s the one of the most soothing and delicious foods I have ever had. “
Amir’s halal truck
50th Street and Cedar Street
“Amir is out there in his food truck every day, rain or shine at 50th and Cedar. The menu is really simple – it’s chicken or mixed meat or falafel on rice, or you can get a roll-up. We eventually got him to raise his prices to $ 6. It’s my constant mission to get him to set up a tip pot, so everyone please know that he accepts tips, he just won’t set up a tip pot. It makes some of the most fragrant, delicious and well cooked rice. Chicken over rice with salad is my favorite lunchtime dish. I always get a little extra hot sauce. It’s perfect.”
219 S. 52nd Street
“This place is an institution in West Philadelphia. I love it because it’s a very low key space where you are sort of inside and out. You have to know what you want, and you have to have a second option as well, because they are always busy and they are always selling. Love that they have roti, and for vegans they have a really good soy rib platter. The small size is a huge portion. The bounty of food illustrates what it is to share and what it is to want to feed people.