South Philadelphia: Five Places to Eat Ethnic Cuisine

Bun Dac Biet, which has spring rolls and grilled chicken on a bed of vermicelli noodles, is another popular dish at Nam Phuong.

Forget Pat’s and Geno’s. 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 schwarma 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.

Nam Phuong Restaurant 1100 Washington Avenue

Nam Phuong, from the outside, is rather unassuming – it’s located in a strip-mall amongst 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, which is quiet the draw for restaurant-goers. A popular choice at Nam Phuong is pho, a classic beef noodle soup that is the quintessential dish of Vietnam.

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

Las Gallos Taqueria 951 Wolf Street

In the midst of a quiet South Philadelphia neighborhood is Los Gallos – a well-known taqueria joint in the area. Eating at 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.

Kebab with rice is a popular dish at Leziz.
Kebab with rice is a popular dish at Leziz.

Leziz 611 East Passyunk Avenue

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. 

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

Alyan’s 603 S. 4th Street

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 schwarma 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.

South Philadelphia locals don't have to go far for Caribbean cuisine, as Reef is just off South Street.
South Philadelphia locals don’t have to go far for Caribbean jerk chicken, which is a specialty at Reef Lounge & Restaurant.

Reef Lounge & Restaurant 605 S. 3rd 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 in South Philadelphia. The menu mixes a plethora of Caribbean staples like fried plantains and stewed oxtails with other less conventionally “island” dishes, such as a pasta plate called “Rasta Pasta.”

– Text and images by Jennifer Nguyen and Taisha Zeigler

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