Reader: Thank you for your big list of recommendations from Mexican South Philly! Where are there other ethnic food neighborhoods in Philadelphia?
Craig LaBan: So glad you enjoyed my deep dive into the Mexican wonders of Puebla-delphia that are now revitalizing much of South Philly. With nearly 40 places recommended in that package, almost all of them run by families cooking traditional flavors, it was one of the most inspiring assignments I’ve had in a while.
But Philadelphia, as it’s often been said, is a city of immigrants. It was built on the cuisines of people arriving from the Old World – Germans, Italians, Irish, and Jews, among others – whose later generations have prospered and largely dispersed from the homogeneous neighborhoods of their ancestors.
Our Chinatown was started by Cantonese immigrants in 1871, but that neighborhood, which I talk about frequently in this space, remains a vibrant destination for newcomers from other regions of China.
There are many other pockets of the city and region that have drawn clusters of international communities still rich with their cultural touchstones. Northeast Philadelphia, which I ate through extensively last year in this 60-restaurant piece, is the city’s true United Nations, with a patchwork of neighborhoods featuring Brazilian churrasco grills, South Indian restaurants serving food from the region of Kerala, Vietnamese pho halls, a mini-Chinatown on Bustleton Avenue, and a vast neighborhood showcase of foods of the former Soviet Union, with markets and restaurants from Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Transylvania, and Russia.
A large Korean community remains centered near Olney, where Inquirer legend Rick Nichols profiled the evolution of Koreatown a decade ago and where I’ve reviewed still-great favorites Every Day Good House, Jong Ka Jib, and Dubu, which sits just across the Cheltenham Avenue border in Elkins Park.
Want to discover the cuisine of South India? Head west to the Dosa Belt of restaurants that have sprouted around the tech companies in Chester County (where there’s also great Mexican food).
Follow my search for the city’s best Vietnamese pho along Washington Avenue and in Kensington (and check my Northeast package, too, for good spots along Adams Avenue).
Head to West Philly for Pakistani kebabs and Lebanese pastries, a budding Chinatown West near Drexel and Penn, and explore near Baltimore Avenue for some of our venerable Ethiopian restaurants.
Southwest Philly’s Woodland Avenue is the corridor to explore for the fufu and grilled dibi delights of West Africa.
Deep in South Philly, meanwhile, wrapped inside that growing presence of Mexican restaurants, don’t forget Cambodia Town that’s grown up around Seventh Street. Just a couple of weeks ago, I featured the Boba & Co. food truck and I Heart Cambodia, which feature a distinctive cuisine. So, yes, Philly is rich with international food neighborhoods! The appetite for adventure is up to you.
Email Craig here.