The study pulled together the count of Philly’s dine-in options via restaurant inspections and online searches, per spokesperson Jim Garrow. Anything that’s characterized as “primarily on-premise consumption” and within the city limits is included.
How many restaurants is too many?
Ever since the city’s food boom really started gaining steam a decade ago, there’s been debate about whether the scene was getting too crowded for its own good.
Some restaurant owners embrace the “rising tide lifts all boats” philosophy, that says clusters of dining destinations bring more people out. Others say there’s only so many customers to go around, so more places to choose from means each one gets a smaller slice of the pie.
Luca Sena, who opened the Northern Liberties Italian restaurant Panorama in 1990, thinks Philly’s food scene is a little too crowded.
“The reality is there are really a lot of restaurants,” Sena told the Inquirer in 2015. “I know how hard it is to stay in business. I don’t want anybody to close.”
But Blue Duck on Broad owner Kris Serviss thinks there’s plenty to go around: “I don’t think there’s too many restaurants opening. There will always be closings, and obviously some places do certain things way better than others, but some days I want authentic cuisine, some days I want an interpretation of it. The landscape is still evolving.”
How does Philly’s scene stack up versus other cities? The 6,000 restaurants puts us in the middle of the pack in total numbers. There are approximately:
- More than 24,000 restaurants in New York
- More than 7,000 restaurants in Chicago
- Roughly 3,000 restaurants in Boston
- More than 2,000 restaurants in Washington, D.C.
But when you look at things on a per capita basis, Philly is definitely flush with eating options.
When you crunch the numbers, Philly’s got 3.8 restaurants for every 1,000 people in the city. Our city’s beat out by Boston, which boasts a whopping 4.3 restaurants for the same number of people. Still, it’s an awfully high rate — New York City’s got just 2.8 eateries for the same number of people, Chicago has 2.5 and D.C. has 2.8.
Food has turned into a big tourism driver for Philadelphia, however, so it’s not necessarily just city residents who’ll be patronizing all these restaurants.
Most densely packed neighborhoods: Center City and University City
The city’s report confirms what was already pretty obvious: Most of Philadelphia’s commercial dining rooms are concentrated in Center City and University City.
Between Vine and Walnut streets around City Hall, the map reveals major clusters — up to 164 restaurants exist in a single Center City “block group,” which is roughly 0.1 square miles.
That towers over the citywide average of 5 restaurants per block group.
Since the block groups are broken up by Census data, the map doesn’t really offer an easy way to count restaurants by neighborhood. But you can get a rough idea by adding the individual groups together. It appears there are roughly 70 restaurants in Fishtown, and about 90 along East Passyunk.
Small pockets of the city don’t have dine-out options
On the map, there’s also a feature to display just the block groups where there are no restaurants at all. None. Zero.
They’re scattered all around the city, touching almost every Philadelphia neighborhood — aside from Center City and University City.
There are big clusters of restaurant negative space in industrial areas, like Southwest Philly, and highly residential areas like the Northeast and Northwest.
Does poverty impact restaurant quantity?
On the Health Dept. map, you can overlay restaurant quantity with other city data. While mapping the concentration of eateries, you can overlay, for example, Council districts, rates of high poverty or car ownership, and see how all the factors correlate.
No info on how healthy the restaurants are
Though the dataset provides a lot of new info, it’s missing some context. All we know is that the restaurants identified are primarily dine-in establishments. There’s no further explanation — whether in certain neighborhoods they eateries are more expensive or affordable, healthy or unhealthy, etc.