Travel Responsibly: As the region recovers from COVID-19, safety guidelines have evolved at attractions, restaurants, shops and hotels. Advance tickets or reservations remain recommended or necessary at many spots. Your best bet: Check online or call ahead.
Philadelphia’s diverse neighborhoods and fantastic restaurants top the list of reasons the city is one the must-visit travel destinations in the world for 2021.
To experience both, check out the city’s Asian-owned restaurants, where family-operated businesses serve incredible food, preserve cultures and support communities.
From South Philly, through Center City and all the way north, these establishments satisfy hungry customers with traditional and innovative dishes that offer tastes of China, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, Burma, Sumatra, Taiwan and more. Beyond flavors of Asian origin, too, Asian American entrepreneurs are behind some of the region’s most excellent destinations for fine dining, fine wine and fine donuts.
It’s an especially important time to support businesses in Asian American and Pacific Islander communities as they work toward recovery from the lasting effects of COVID-19 and its impact on the restaurant industry.
The list of restaurants below is curated with help from SEAMAAC, VietLead, Modero, North 5th Street Revitalization Project and the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia. Because Philly’s Asian and Asian American communities are so varied and diverse, we’ve created an additional restaurant guide focused on Chinatown, one of the city’s most dynamic neighborhoods.
Of course, dining in Philadelphia is different right now, and many of the restaurants on this list have limited indoor capacity. While the food is always delicious, the experience can be different with each visit. Some spots are takeout-only, while others have outdoor seating or indoor tables. Your best bet: Plan ahead. Call or check a restaurant’s website before visiting, and read more about COVID-19 and Greater Philadelphia here.
Find tastes of Hong Kong, Cantonese, Fujianese, Sichuan and Taiwanese, Korean, Thai, Malaysian and Burmese cultures — to name a few — in Chinatown, where food is at the heart of the community. The neighborhood cropped up in the mid-19th century and family cooks and acclaimed chefs have been piling on the flavor ever since. Check out our guide to Chinatown restaurants for even more ways to support Asian business owners in Philadelphia.
Where: Various locations including EMei Restaurant, 915 Arch Street
Owner Judy Ni and husband Andy showcase Taiwanese cuisine at their Logan Square spot (pronounced BOW-low-gee), which gets its name from the Chinese word bao and translates to “bun,” “package” or “bag.” Two menu items to put on your must-try list: gwa baos, a Taiwanese street food typically consisting of slow-braised pork belly; and potstickers, dumplings filled with meat or vegetables that are steamed on top and crispy on the bottom.
Where: bāo • logy, 1829 John F. Kennedy Boulevard
Bleu Sushi became buzzy in 2020 when owner Hendra Yong introduced Bleu Bot, its contactless pickup robot, but the Midtown Village restaurant has long been delighting customers with its Japanese fare and casual, friendly service. In addition to traditional sushi offerings, Bleu Sushi gets creative with Philly-themed menu items like the shrimp tempura-based Broad Street Roll and the rice-less Ten Street Roll made with deep-fried tuna, salmon, yellowtail and whitefish. Bonus: Bleu Sushi is BYOB.
Where: Bleu Sushi, 262 S. 10th Street
David Backhus’ culinary portfolio in Chester County runs the gamut. What started with and espresso bar at Morgantown Coffee House has grown to include a group of roasters working on the Collective Coffee Project, two restaurant concepts and more in the works. Backhus opened Korean barbecue spot oori in 2020 with chef Michael Falcone and, in 2021,introduced the buzzy Bloom Southern Kitchen with chef Tim Cone.
Where: Bloom Southern Kitchen, 123 Pottstown Pike, Chester Springs
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Morgantown Coffee House, 4997 N. Twin Valley Road, Elverson
oori, 2228 Pottstown Pike, Pottstown
There’s nothing pretentious about this tiny Fishtown spot under the El. Owner/chef Joseph Kim and his wife Ellie run the show at the 16-seat sushi and ramen restaurant and keep the vibe casual, though the food is anything but. Bao buns, tuna guac and miso soup lead to carefully crafted sushi, sashimi and maki alongside a handful of ramen bowls and dishes from the kitchen. The reservation-only omakase is the real standout, with 22 courses at $125.
Where: Dawa, 1204 N. Front Street
Daniel Anggrianto has made a business out of brunch. The pancakes, omelets, skillets, wraps and bowls at Eggcellent and Café Square One in Old City can fuel you up for the rest of the day. Be sure to save room for drinks, though. Both spots, and Anggianto’s Kopi Latte in Fishtown, serve up smoothies, coffees, cappuccinos and specialty drinks that will have you rearranging the table for that just-right Instagram photo.
Where: Eggcellent, 113 Chestnut Street
Café Square One, 50 S. 3rd Street
Kopi Latte, 530 E. Girard Avenue
Vanessa Wong’s tiny Fishtown wine bar (currently operating exclusively as a to-go shop) has become a neighborhood staple since opening in 2016. Customers can buy sustainable, biodynamic natural wines sourced from small producers and interesting wine regions around the world. Wong’s business extends beyond her brick and mortar; Fishtown Social often participates in charitable neighborhood events, and Wong recently began selling bottles filled from draft wine kegs and donating the proceeds to local organizations, including Asian Americans United.
Where: Fishtown Social, 1525 Frankford Avenue
This unassuming Indonesian restaurant in South Philly earned Ena, Maylia and Diana Widjojo a James Beard Award semifinalist nod and national attention in 2018. But their family-run spot, now led by Ena’s daughters Maylia and Diana, has been a local favorite for Indonesian food since it opened in 2001. The family has made it a point to introduce Americans to their culture through flavors of Sumatra, Java and Bali. Heading there for the first time? Try the tempe, a soybean-based dish in a cake-like structure that many people don’t realize is an Indonesian staple.
Where: Hardena, 1754 S. Hicks Street
Accomplished restaurateur and multi-year James Beard Award nominee (ahem, the Oscars of the food world) Ellen Yin opened Fork in Old City more than 20 years ago, and it’s still going strong today. Her High Street Hospitality group includes a.kitchen + a.bar at AKA Rittenhouse hotel and High Street restaurants in both Philadelphia and New York.
Where: High Street Philly, 101 S. 9th Street
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Fork, 306 Market Street
a.kitchen, 135 S. 18th Street
a.bar+bottles, 1737 Walnut Street
High Street Provisions, 3401 Walnut Street
Flavors of the West Java region take center stage at Jembatan 5, which owner Nadia Laksana and her chef/mother-in-law Jun have been operating since May 2019 in the tight-knit Bella Vista neighborhood that’s helped support the restaurant through the COVID-19 pandemic. The menu includes dumplings, satay and a dessert of drunken ice (mixed fruit with shaved ice, condensed milk and syrup), but Laksana recommends the beef rendang, which delivers that familiar coconut milk taste found in many Indonesian dishes.
Where: Jembatan 5, 932 S. 10th Street
What started out as chef-owner Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon’s search for a catering kitchen quickly morphed into a critically acclaimed BYOB sensation in Bella Vista. A 2020 James Beard Award semifinalist for Best New Restaurant and Esquire’s 2020 Restaurant of the Year, Kalaya showcases the authentic southern Thai recipes Suntaranon learned from her mother, for whom the restaurant is named. Suntaranon appeared on Season 1, Episode 25 of Visit Philly’s Love + Grit podcast to discuss how her business has changed during COVID-19.
Where: Kalaya Thai Kitchen, 764 S. 9th Street
West Philly’s popsicle hub has been serving all-natural frozen treats since 2012, where owner Jeanne Chang also satisfies sweet teeth with pies. No simple cherry, orange and grape here: Customers can choose from gourmet popsicles like blackberry vanilla, Vietnamese iced coffee and chocolate salted caramel brownie. Yum!
Where: Lil Pop Shop, 265 S. 44th Street
Indonesian street food is the highlight at Martabak OK and D’Jakarta, owned by husband and wife Beddy Sonnie and Alfitri Ho. Southeast Asian flavors star in familiar dishes like the meatball soup and egg noodle bowls at D’Jakarta and the top menu item is easy to remember at Martabak — the restaurant is named after the wildly popular pancake-like fare that comes stuffed with sweet or savory fillings like cream cheese, peanut butter or spicy geprek (fried chicken).
Where: Martabak OK, 1801 Washington Avenue
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D'jakarta Cafe, 1540 W. Ritner Street
Carol Ha’s donut business was a side project for seven years before going full-time in 2019, much to the delight of customers around the city. Okie Dokie’s “kitchen shop” retail store in South Philly serves up seasonal varieties like cherry lemonade, mango chili and Vietnamese coffee suitable for gluten-free and vegan donut lovers. Plus, Ha’s wholesale operation means her donuts are available at select markets, restaurants and pop-up events throughout Philly.
Where: Okie Dokie Donuts, 1439 Snyder Avenue
Modern Filippino food satisfies guests at Lou Boquila’s restaurants in the trendy East Passyunk and Fishtown neighborhoods. The former is home to Perla, named after Bolquila’s mom and opened in 2016. Sarvida followed in 2018 and both BYOBs stay true to flavors Boquila recalls from a childhood in the Philippines. Look for lumpia, sigsig fried rice, pinakbet, kamayan platters and more.
Where: Perla, 1535 S. 11th Street
Sarvida, 300 E. Girard Avenue
The exterior of Royal Sushi & Izakaya is unassuming, though the food is anything but. Jesse Ito’s delicious Japanese menu made him a James Beard Award Rising Star Chef of the Year semifinalist for four years in a row (2017-2020), and even earned him a coveted spot on the nominee list in 2019. The extensive menu has been hailed by local critics for its inventiveness, offering rarely served fish, traditional sushi rolls and numerous hot-food options. Guests at the Queen Village restaurant can opt for the reservations-only, 18-piece $130 omakase menu at Royal Sushi or the more casual first-come-first-served a-la-carte experience at Royal Izakaya.
Where: Royal Sushi & Izakaya, 780 S. 2nd Street
Malaysian street food shines at Saté Kampar, known for grilling skewered meats in both classic and Hainanese styles. Herbaceous salads, stir-fried noodles and braised coconut chicken, as well as tea, canned Milo and fresh Malaysian coconuts helped this East Passyunk spot get on the semifinalist list for Best New Restaurant during the 2017 James Beard Awards. Owner Ange Branca made big changes in mid-2020 by shifting from a restaurant model to a pop-up concept (follow the Instagram account for details) and starting Kampar Kitchen, a community culinary space where chefs can work on new and favorite dishes.
Where: Pop ups around Philadelphia
One of Center City’s top Korean restaurants got its start in North Philadelphia. Owner Chris Cho still operates both Seorabol locations, serving sushi, sashimi, bibimbap and Korean barbecue daily. Both locations serve the signature SRB Galbi, though the original spot in Olney delivers it via tabletop barbecue and the Old City restaurant offers it on a sizzling stone plate.
Where: Seorabol Restaurant, 5734 Old 2nd Street
Seorabol Center City, 1326 Spruce Street
Authentic dishes from Sumatra, Indonesia, have been on the menu since Mutia Aji opened Seulanga Cafe in 2011, but don’t be surprised to also find street food like basko (meatball soup). This centrally located South Philly restaurant is a short walk from the bustling Synder and Passyunk avenue corridors, and though the nondescript spot is easy to miss, the food is unforgettable. If you can limit yourself to just one dish, make it nasi campur — a mixed rice that customers can order with chicken, rendang, fish or vegetables in coconut milk and sambal.
Where: Seulanga Cafe, 1838 S. 18th Street
Sophie’s Kitchen is a family affair through and through. Husband and wife Danny Duk and chef Sophia Neth run the show with their four adult sons. On the menu: all things Cambodian. Dishes like lemongrass beef stew and coconut curried mussels delight customers and food critics alike, and the family recently added outdoor seating to accommodate more customers and prioritize safety.
Where: Sophie's Kitchen, 522 Washington Avenue
Gado gado (salad), pempek (fishcake), coconut rice-based dishes and other Indonesian plates occupy the extensive menu at Sky Cafe, which has called South Philly home since day one, though owner Betty Yu relocated to the current spot after a fire in 2015. The beloved restaurant serves customers indoors and out (with takeout available) six days a week.
Where: Sky Cafe, 1122 Washington Avenue
Phan and Dung Tran have been serving delicious Vietnamese foods to Philadelphians since the 1980s — first from a Center City lunch truck and then a Kensington karaoke bar before opening the noodle-centric operations customers enjoy today. Their fresh ingredients and slow-cooked broth elevate the signature pho and banh mi dishes diners love and both Thang Long and Pho House.
Where: Thang Long Noodle, 2534-36 Kensington Avenue
Pho House, 177 W. Girard Avenue
The menu at chef Kenneth Sze’s Old City raw bar is fresh, locally sourced and family-influenced. Sze has described his Japanese dishes as a timeline of his life and that’s especially true of the Mai fried rice made with Asian sausage, shrimp, onion and peas like the recipe Sze’s dad used to make for him.
Where: Tuna Bar, 205 Race Street
Chef Benny Lai continues the legacy his family established at Vietnam Café — opened in 2008 as a companion to Fu-Wah Mini Market next door and Vietnam Restaurant in Chinatown. The Lai family came to Philadelphia after escaping Stalinist Vietnam after the war and spending time in a refugee camp. The first opened the market in the 1980s to serve fellow Vietnamese families craving familiar flavors, then came the restaurant and the cafe. Try the “shaking beef” dish, which has been passed down through the family.
Where: Vietnam Café, 816 S. 47th Street
Vietnam Restaurant, 221 N. 11th Street
Fu-Wah Mini Market, 810 S. 47th Street
Restaurant power couple Win and Sutida Somboonsong have served Asian and Asian-fusion dishes to Philadelphia’s Countryside since the early ‘90s, starting with Mikado Thai Pepper in Ardmore. Since then, WIN Signature Restaurants has opened Azie in Media, Azie on Main in Villanova, Teikoku in Newtown Square and, most recently, The Blue Elephant in Pottstown, where daughter Pearl is also involved.
Where: Azie on Main, 789 E. Lancaster Avenue, Villanova
Azie Media, 217 W. State Street, Media
The Blue Elephant, 152 E. High Street, Pottstown
Mikado Thai Pepper, 64 Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore
Teikoku, 5492 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square
Book the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package for a rewarding getaway in one of 2021’s top destinations, per Condé Nast Traveler, Fodor’s, Frommer’s, Esquire and more.
The exclusive deal — booked more than 175,000 times since 2001 — includes buy-one-get-one-free attraction tickets purchased at the Independence Visitor Center to 33 of Philly’s iconic museums and attractions and free hotel parking (worth up to $100 in Center City Philadelphia).
Tastes of Cantonese, Sichuan, Burmese, Taiwanese and more Asian cultures...