Dock Street Brewery
If you haven’t walked up Baltimore Avenue to Dock Street yet, you’re missing out on what I’d be willing to call the best pizza and beer in Philadelphia. On the way, you pass Clark Park, The A–Space (an anarchist art gallery) and Bindlestiff Books (a community–run bookshop) among various other sights.
Just as you aren’t afraid to venture out into the unchartered world of West Philadelphia, this hipster haunt isn’t afraid to put sour cream (Potato Pie Pizza, $9.75), fig jam (Fig Jam Pizza, $9.75), or even mustard (Cheeburger Cheeburger Pizza, $9.75) on a pizza. But they have more conventional kinds too, like the Americana Pizza ($7.50), the Pepperoni Pizza ($8.25) and the Margherita Pizza ($8.95). They also serve sandwiches wrapped in pizza dough ($10.25), burgers ($10.50) and Trio Fries ($6.75), a blend of white potato fries, sweet potato fries and leeks.
My criteria for determining the quality of a pizza are similar to that of Oscar on The Office; you need to evaluate both the quality of the ingredients and the overall taste. The mozzarella at Dock Street is juicy, the sauce is flavorful and the vegetables taste like they actually came from the ground (but like, without the dirt). But, most importantly for me, the crust has that wood–fired taste and texture.
And then there’s the beer. Dock Street has six beers on tap and one in cask at any given moment. I’m not a professional beer describer, so I’ll leave it to the experts at Dock Street. On the menu, they describe drinking the No Exit IPA as “like getting punched in the mouth with hops.” They also call it “dank,” but I think that might mean something different in the beer world.
Where: 701 South 50th Street
When to go: When you have a pizza craving that you just can’t fill.
TL;DR: Get off your ass and walk a few blocks west for some insane pizza and beer.
If you’ve never tried injera, a spongy sourdough from East Africa with a consistency that resembles a large crepe, then you need to get up and go to 45th and Locust, you uncultured swine! This Ethiopian restaurant and bar doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside is one of the best meals you will ever have. It’s the definition of a great hole–in–the–wall.
Spring for a Combination Platter ($8.95–13.95), which is enough food for two and will allow you to try around four different dishes. I especially recommend the Ye'Gomen Wot ($7.95), collard greens sautéed with onions, fresh tomatoes, garlic and olive oil and the Kitfo ($10.85), spiced minced beef with a side of cottage cheese and collard greens. Injera covers the plate like a warm, loving blanket and is topped with different meats and vegetables served in a manner resembling curry. You eat with your hands, using the injera to soak up sauce and pick up chunks of food. Every bite contains so many flavors and textures that it’s almost overstimulating.The one negative thing I will say about this place is that the service is slow. But, in my experience, poor service is a hallmark of authenticity when it comes to food. Just ask anyone who’s spent time in Paris.And if you still have room when you’re finished (you won’t), head to Manakeesh at 44th & Walnut for some Lebanese baked goods such as crepes, baklava, macarons and other less pronounceable (but still delicious) things.
Where: 229 South 45th Street
Who to bring: Someone you want to catch up with and possibly impress
TL;DR: If you’re still eating with a fork, you’re missing out.
This restaurant is one of my favorites because, despite being only a few blocks from campus, it feels like a whole other world; its typical clientele is large families from West Philadelphia, many of whom dress in traditional muslim attire. That said, the atmosphere is casual. They’re even on GrubHub.
The cuisine here is called Kashmiri, which comes from the Northernmost region of South Asia, comprised of areas of Pakistan, India and China. Everything is spicy and textured and served with rice and naan bread in huge portions, which, to me, pretty much means you can’t go wrong. That said, a few things stood out.
The Lamb Kabob, which you can get as a platter ($12) or wrapped in naan ($9) is tender and far more delicious than you might guess from the price. The Chana, a chickpea–based curry available a la carte ($5.50) or as a meal ($10.50) has surpassed grilled cheese as my favorite cold–weather comfort food. Most of the time, I’d say a samosa isn’t worth eating when you’re already getting a huge meal of this quality, but here, you have to go for it. Stuffed with chicken ($1.50) or vegetables ($0.99), they are to Kabobeesh meals as garlic bread is to pizza.
There's an added perk: if you show your student ID, they’ll give you a free mango juice, which is a perfect salve for your burning tongue after you ambitiously claim you want your food “spicy.” Which is, by the way, the most dangerous thing that’s happened to me in West Philly so far.
Where: 4201 Chestnut Street
When to go: When you don’t want to walk far but you need to get away. And also you’re hungry.
TL;DR: An entirely different atmosphere and cuisine just a few blocks away.