Trazee In-Depth: South Philadelphia Style

by Angelique Platas

Aug 18, 2019

Pat’s and Geno’s in South Philly © Yuri Long | Flickr

North America

South Philadelphia is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods — with attitude to boot. The foodie, Italian neighborhood continues to rise through the ranks as one of the city’s longest-lasting, cuisine-centric locales, but with a lot of new blood moving in.


A word of advice to travelers: Come hungry and keep heading south.


For history buffs looking for a quintessential South Philly experience, start at the Italian Market, then head to the Latin section. With a long line of authentic eateries, the now famous Mexican restaurant South Philly Barbacoa, featured on Netflix’s documentary series Chef’s Table, is a short walk to Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks. For anyone with the slightest interest in the Philly food scene, chances are they know about the famous cheesesteak rivalry turned obligatory tourist visit. Bring cash, choose a cheese steak and keep it moving — there are bigger fish to fry in this city.


The established, but somehow,still growing, foodie scene along Passyunk Avenue represents the neighborhood well. It’s impossible to ignore, as it cuts through the city’s parallel line grid diagonally.


Stay hungry and walk south along East Passyunk Avenue, exploring the upwards of 20 restaurants consistently making Philadelphia Magazine’s Best Restaurants lists. Between pop-ins to an array of options, make time to visit local, unique shops like Occasionette and Jinxed Passyunk. Expect some seasonal festivities, events and fun activities on the avenue, any time of year.


Dozens of local boutiques and quirky shops line the avenue, including The Singing Fountain surrounded by fresh produce during farmers markets in the summer, and Christmas carolers in the winter.


Moving south a bit further, travelers will see mom-and-pop shops, eateries, vintage stores and dive bars along the way. The fun part of the local shops and restaurants, even Manatawny Still Works, is guests are almost always shopping small. Get in some history with a visit to The History of Italian Immigration Museum and have a quick taste of limoncello at Pollyodd.


Finding something uniquely South Philadelphia, yet modern and swanky, is easily done in this neighborhood — especially at the famous Bok building.


Built in 1936, Edward W. Bok Technical High School welcomed students across a plethora of studies, from welding and auto mechanics to culinary arts. In 2013, the historic building went up for public auction and now boasts some of the most exciting restaurants, event spaces, home-made boutiques and rooftop bars in the area.


A local favorite gaining city-wide popularity, Bok Bar is a seasonal rooftop bar, boasting one of the best views in the city. The once high school, now community space is located in a residential area offering an unobstructed city view and far less street noise than Center City’s rooftop locales. A newer resident in the building, Irwin’s was affectionately named for the building’s architect and boasts Mediterranean-inspired small plates with a twist, cocktails and sweeping views from the terrace. The stunning interior décor contrasts well with the rough, graffiti-clad walls and is a fun play on the space. Irwin’s recently won a Best of Philadelphia award, Best Rooftop Bar, 2019 from Philadelphia Magazine.


For travelers coming through for more than a day or two, make time to attend seasonal fitness classes on the rooftop or in the high school gym and tenant studios. Between the endless opportunity to eat, drink and be merry in the city, finding something active could be a fun new twist on the trip. Keep an eye out for local events like movie nights and tours through the local businesses housed in the building.


The South Philadelphia streets are lined with homes and residents, making it a far quieter stay than Center City. The region’s strong Italian heritage is palpable, but the neighborhood is definitely diverse. With so many old, new and up-and-coming local businesses and community events, there’s a blend of thriving cultures.


There’s always something going on in this city. Even on a slow day without a street festival or some organized fun n, there’s always food, drinks, rooftop views, city shopping, lots of history, a thriving nightlife in nearly every neighborhood and, did we mention, food?


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