Restaurant index
Flickr via Jason Paris, Krista and Doug Kerr and Wikimedia Commons

The Philly neighborhood restaurant index: How we dine, mapped

Food is a big deal in Philly. The city regularly ranks among the best in the country for restaurants, and staples like cheesesteaks and roast pork sandwiches are world famous.

But are there patterns to how we eat? To what kind of restaurants have survived, and where they’re concentrated? Billy Penn wanted to combine neighborhoods and food to answer this question. Using data from Yelp and neighborhood organizations, we looked at 11 areas that feature large numbers of places to buy your next meal.

The citywide breakdown

Before we can compare how neighborhoods stack up, we must first see what types of restaurants are most common in Philadelphia as a whole. Yelp breaks down types of restaurants into several categories, such as Chinese, brunch/breakfast, American, pizza and much, much more. Restaurants can sometimes fit into more than one category. So an Italian restaurant could count as both an Italian place and a pizza place. Here’s how Philadelphia looks, when it comes to 16 of the most common categories (Pubs includes gastropubs and wine bars, as well).

And in list form:

Restaurant type Total Percentage of whole
Pizza 1452 21%
Sandwiches/Delis 1416 20%
American 1014 14%
Chinese 816 12%
Italian 535 8%
Breakfast/Brunch 368 5%
Mexican 283 4%
Japanese/Sushi 216 3%
Seafood 236 3%
Pubs 225 3%
Mediterranean 98 1%
Vietnamese 98 1%
Thai 90 1%
Indian 86 1%
Vegan 56 1%
French 43 1%

Though the city’s palate has grown significantly more diverse the last 25 years, pizza and sandwiches still dominate. Perhaps surprisingly, there are more Chinese restaurants than Italian.

The neighborhood breakdown

While every neighborhood in Philadelphia is packed with sandwich and pizza joints and American restaurants, they usually won’t count as distinctive for a given neighborhood because they’re so common in Philadelphia. The distinctive cuisines highlighted for each neighborhood feature a significantly greater share of a certain type of restaurant within its boundaries than the share for that type in all of Philly.

Bella Vista

(Note: Because Yelp considers the Washington Avenue restaurants part of Bella Vista we’re doing it, too. Apologies to the neighborhood boundary purists.)

Italian Market Bella Vista
Flickr via Doug Kerr

Number of restaurants

93

Distinctive restaurant types

  • Mexican: 21 (23%)
  • Italian: 16 (17%)
  • Vietnamese: 10 (11%)

The neighborhood synonymous with Philadelphia’s Italian population — and with the Italian Market — now features more Mexican restaurants than Italian restaurants, according to Yelp, and many Vietnamese restaurants between it and East Passyunk on Washington Avenue. It’s the place to be for casual ethnic cuisine. Go to restaurants within two blocks of each other here, and you could have a tamale appetizer (Los Amigos Food Market), Pho main course (Pho 75) and cannoli dessert (Isgro), all of which would be among the best offerings of their class in Philadelphia.

In Philly, Mexican restaurants make up about 4 percent of the whole, Italian restaurants about 8 percent and Vietnamese not even 1 percent. So Bella Vista greatly exceeds these shares.

Standout distinctive restaurants

Cedar Park/Spruce Hill

Cedar Park main

Number of restaurants

92

Distinctive restaurant types

  • Middle Eastern/Mediterranean: 11 (12%)
  • Ethiopian: 6 (7%)

Philadelphia isn’t exactly brimming with Ethiopian restaurants. It’s home to about only 10 of them, and six are in Cedar Park or adjacent Spruce Hill, which have a tradition of embracing diversity thanks to their immigrant populations. The same goes for Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. While Philly has plenty more of them, the concentration in this area of West Philadelphia is particularly high.

Standout distinctive restaurants

Chinatown

'I don't even know how to pronounce that name,' Lee says. 'Everyone calls it Choo Choo.'

'I don't even know how to pronounce that name,' Lee says. 'Everyone calls it Choo Choo.'

Danya Henninger

Number of restaurants

94

Distinctive restaurant types

  • Chinese: 60 (64%)
  • Vietnamese: 7 (7%)

No surprise Chinatown would be stocked with Chinese restaurants (it also has Japanese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Burmese and Taiwanese eateries), and every block of Chinatown features several of them, from BYO’s to late-night spots to karaoke bars with full menus. This is how a native Chinatown resident navigates through the multitude of restaurants.  

Standout distinctive restaurants

East Passyunk

East Passyunk

East Passyunk

Number of restaurants

50

Distinctive restaurant type

Italian: 13 (26%)

East Passyunk has turned into one of the top areas for restaurants in Philadelphia, and Italian restaurants continue to define the Avenue the way they have for decades. There’s Marra’s, Mamma Maria, Ristorante Tre Scalini, Brigantessa and others. Of course, they’re not the only ones. Several Mexican restaurants have popped up in recent years, as well as some true fine-dining, like Laurel. And East Passyunk will always be home to Geno’s and Pat’s, Philly’s best-known cheesesteak restaurants.  

Standout distinctive restaurants

Fishtown

Frankford Avenue in Fishtown
Anna Orso/Billy Penn

Number of restaurants

72

Distinctive restaurant type

  • Pub, Gastropub, Wine Bar: 9 (13%)

Fishtown’s population growth and changes over the years have been accompanied by a booming restaurant and bar scene. The standard Fishtown joint has essentially become a 21st century pub, a place with craft beers, wines or liquors and quality American foods to match. The pizza joints, from old school Fishtown Pizza to Pizza Brain to Pizzeria Beddia, are no slouch either, though they are not as prevalent in Fishtown as in Philly as a whole.

Standout distinctive restaurants

Northern Liberties

Northern Liberties EveryBlock

Number of restaurants

60

Distinctive restaurant type

  • American: 19 (32%)
  • Breakfast/Brunch: 9 (15%)

Walk down 2nd Street or Spring Garden on a Saturday or Sunday morning, and you’ll find a common sight at nearly every restaurant: people going to brunch. Yelp turned up nine “breakfast/brunch” places and that number is almost certainly small.  Nothern Liberties is the neighborhood where it seems like Jerry’s, Silk City and Bar Ferdinand all morph from bars into dining spots a few hours after the night ends, and Northern Liberties has its own Green Eggs Cafe (the line is usually not as long as the one in the Gayborhood).

Standout distinctive restaurants

Old City

Continental Old City
Flickr via Jason Paris

Number of restaurants

107

Distinctive restaurant types

  • American: 28 (26%)
  • Pub, Gastropub, Wine Bar: 11 (10%)

Old City turns into a rager once the sun falls. Before that happens many of the drinking establishments are restaurants, some of which have food that goes well beyond what you’d expect for a bar. Old City has a fine dining scene that has picked up in recent years, too, with places like High Street on Market and Farmicia. For all of it, Old City has Stephen Starr to thank. His first restaurant, Continental, helped revive the neighborhood. 

Standout distinctive restaurants

Rittenhouse Square

parc

Number of restaurants

371

Distinctive restaurant type

None

Rittenhouse Square is distinctive in nothing because it has so much of everything. In seafood, Japanese, Italian and even pubs, gastropubs and wine bars the share of those types of restaurants in Rittenhouse are a near even match with what you’d find on average in the rest of the city. American restaurants are the closest Rittenhouse comes to having a distinctive type, but even they account for about 19 percent of Rittenhouse’s restaurants — not much above the 15 percent city average.

Roxborough/Manayunk

Dalessandro Roxborough
Flickr via Krista

Number of restaurants

113

Distinctive Restaurant Type

None

This was one neighborhood where it felt like delis and sandwich places could exceed the Philadelphia average. That wasn’t the case. It checked in at about 21 percent, almost exactly on average. Maybe the singular Dalessandro’s just makes it seem like Roxborough has more sandwich restaurants.

Society Hill/Queen Village

(Note: Because of the many restaurants on South Street falling between these two neighborhoods, we’re combining them together.)

Zahav-food

Number of restaurants

139

Distinctive restaurant type

  • Middle Eastern/Mediterranean: 12 (9%)

Society Hill encompasses one of the richest, quietest parts of Philadelphia, as well as the north side of South Street, lending the food scene a mix of fancy and funky. Queen Village has an eclectic environment, too. In this environment, some one-of-a-kind restaurants dominate, from Zahav to Marrakesh.

Washington Square West

vday-talulas1-credit-danyahenninger
Danya Henninger

Number of restaurants

93

Distinctive restaurant type

  • American: 16 (18%)
  • Japanese/sushi: 10 (11%)

Washington Square West is a lot like Rittenhouse Square in that it has tons of good restaurants spread across a variety of types. But it does have a larger percentage of Japanese and sushi joints and American restaurants than the rest of the city. Some of these restaurants are among the best in Philadelphia.

Ethnic cuisine maps

Some of the more common ethnic restaurants in Philadelphia are Chinese, Mexican, Indian and Italian. Where are they? Using geocoded locations of the top 50 restaurants on Yelp in each of these categories, these maps illustrate the parts of Philly where the restaurants are most concentrated.

Italian

Italian Restaurant Map

Bella Vista and South Philly have the highest concentrations, but Italian is still pretty widespread.

Chinese

Chinese Restaurant heat map

As that big red blob just south of the Vine Expressway shows, yep, they’re mostly in Chinatown.

Mexican

Mexican Food Heat Map

South Philly has the most, with Center City just behind.

Indian

Indian Restaurant heat map

Easily the most spread out of these categories. The map had to be zoomed out to encompass the area in which they’re located. There aren’t many Indian restaurants in Philadelphia, 86 according to Yelp, and no part of Philly appears to have significantly more than any other.

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