The 15 Best Neighborhood Restaurants in Philly and New Jersey That Locals Frequent

Credit: Bud & Marilyn's

The food scene in Philadelphia and New Jersey reflects the agricultural bounty that surrounds it and the diverse population of diners who live there. And nowhere do you see this better than at the many neighborhood restaurants where chefs showcase their personal culinary vision. All over the region, inspired chefs are working with the ingredients they’re most passionate about, whether they are grown on the property or imported from around the world.

These local favorites provide a taste of what the food culture of New Jersey and Philadelphia is all about. After all that the industry has been through during the past year, it’s more important than ever to support them to ensure this part of local food culture continues to thrive.

Philly

Booker’s Restaurant and Bar (Cedar Park)

Booker’s owner Saba Tedla says she opened her West Philadelphia restaurant in 2017 in part because there just weren’t enough options for dining out in the neighborhood, particularly the kind of eclectic American food she found her community wanted. That means you’ll find dishes like fried calamari, fish and chips, and black bean burgers. There’s a Southern-inspired side of the menu, too, with options such as fried chicken and blackened catfish. Booker’s is a great place to meet for drinks with a creative cocktail and mocktail list and plenty of craft beers. 

Dining at the restaurant: Booker’s Restaurant & Bar is serving brunch and dinner indoors and outdoors in covered, heated seating areas with partitions.

Takeout: Booker’s Restaurant & Bar offers takeout.

Thanal Indian Tavern (Logan Square)

A boom in tech brought thousands of new workers and residents to the Logan Square section in Center City. Thanal co-owner Hariharan Karmegam helps meet this demand with an expansive menu of Indian dishes and a bustling lunch buffet. Indian railway peppers (battered and fried chiles) and the Thanal special goat curry are a couple of menu standouts. Equipped with a full bar, Thanal is also a busy happy hour hangout.

Dining at the restaurant: Thanal Indian Tavern is offering indoor and outdoor seating.

Takeout: Thanal Indian Tavern offers takeout and delivery.

EMei (Chinatown)

For a true, tongue-tingling taste of Sichuan, Philadelphians seek out EMei, a restaurant known for accurately replicating the spicy flavors of the Chinese province. A favorite of Philadelphia Inquirer critic Craig LaBan, the restaurant renovated its dining room in late 2019. Must-orders include the mapo tofu, Chongqing spicy chicken, and an order of cold sesame noodles to counter some of the heat.

Dining at the restaurant: EMei is serving lunch and dinner in its dining room.

Takeout: EMei offers takeout and delivery.

Bar Bombón (Center City)

The vibrant green building that houses Bar Bombón is fitting. Known for its plant-based, Latin-inspired menu, the restaurant is a favorite for its wide variety of flavorful vegan options. Owner and veteran vegan chef Nicole Marquis draws on her Latin American heritage to create an eclectic, vegetable-forward menu that includes favorites such as buffalo cauliflower tacos, nachos with homemade “cheese” sauce, and Philly “steak” empanadas.

Dining at the restaurant: Open for brunch, lunch, and dinner, Bar Bombón offers indoor dining. 

Takeout: Bar Bombón offers take out and delivery.

Fond (East Passyunk)

Right next to the East Passyunk singing fountain in South Philly, you’ll find Fond, a new American restaurant from Le Bec-Fin alums (and husband-and-wife team) Lee Styer and Jessie Prawlucki. Regulars clamor for the French-inspired new American food, such as pork belly with kimchi fried rice and skate wing with corn risotto. The exceptional homemade desserts like the warm apple vol-au-vent are another thing that keeps people coming back. The warm, cozy bar — with a particularly thoughtful wine list — and lively sidewalk seating draw in new fans and passers-by.

Dining at the restaurant: Fond is open for dinner with indoor seating along with limited outdoor cafe-style seating.

Takeout: Fond offers takeout through direct calls to the restaurant.

Bistro La Baia (Center City)

This 22-year-old Italian restaurant epitomizes what Philadelphias love about their BYOBs. The dining room is intimate and cozy (though currently with tables spaced safely apart for COVID safety). Menu favorites — such as the PEI mussels in red or white sauce, gnocchi pesto, and lobster ravioli — persist year after year. And Bistro La Baia offers great hospitality at an affordable price point, with all the generously sized entrees priced less than $30. At lunch time, look for the chicken cutlet sandwich with spinach and parmigiano cheese for a hearty Philly classic.

Dining at the restaurant: Bistro La Baia is currently serving lunch and dinner.

Takeout: Bistro La Baia is currently offering takeout and delivery. 

Bud & Marylin’s (Midtown Village)

Bud & Marilyn's Smoked Beet Reuben

Credit: Bud & Marilyn’s

Named for chef and co-owner Marcie Turney’s grandparents, Bud & Marylin’s pays tribute to Turney’s Midwestern upbringing in Ripon, Wisconsin. Located in Midtown Village, the American restaurant attracts its fair share of visitors, but happy hour is packed with regulars who live and work nearby. Expect generous portions of comforting dishes such as short rib stroganoff and fontina-stuffed meatloaf. The whimsical, retro dining room is a welcoming place to linger over classic cocktails, craft beer, and a thick wedge of funfetti cake. 

Dining at the restaurant: Bud & Marylin’s is serving dinner and weekend brunch indoors or outdoors in tented, heated, and partitioned sidewalk seating.

Takeout: Bud & Marylin’s offers takeout and delivery.

South Jersey

Corinne’s Place (Camden)

For three decades, Corinne Bradley-Powers has served soul food in Camden, her hometown. In all those years, the menu has hardly changed. People come for the famous fried chicken, smothered pork chops, and mac and cheese. Vegetable dishes such as collard greens, candied yams, string beans, and cabbage are all made from scratch with fresh and often local ingredients. But Corinne’s Place is more than the food — it’s a local tradition that offers warm hospitality and community, too.

Dining at the restaurant: Corinne’s Place is serving lunch, brunch, and dinner in its dining room and a new outdoor dining area.  

Takeout: Corinne’s Place offers takeout and delivery.

Yokohama Sushi and Hibachi Restaurant (Maple Shade)

Serving Japanese dishes to South Jersey since 2002, Yokohama is a family affair, co-owned by mother-son duo, Cindy Chan-Sze and Kenneth Sze. Sourcing top-quality and maximally fresh ingredients is the kitchen’s top priority. The sizeable menu features the namesake sushi and hibachi sections, but you’ll also find a wealth of other options including soups, salads, and hot Japanese entrees like teriyaki, tempora, noodles, and bento boxes.

Dining at the restaurant: Yokohama is serving lunch and dinner with options for indoor and outdoor seating. There is no hibachi service at this time.

Takeout: Yokohama offers takeout.

  

Jersey Shore

Semolina Restaurant (Red Bank)

Inspired by the local and seasonal foods of the Garden State, the menu by chef Chuck Lesbirel changes seasonally. There’s a focus on New Jersey seafood as well as homemade fresh pasta. Look for bucatini served with anchovies, shallots, and homemade tomato paste or cavatelli with Kennet Farms mushrooms. A grilled pork chop, accompanied by ever-changing, farmers-market-inspired elements, is among the most popular dishes on the menu.

Dining at the restaurant: Semolina Restaurant is serving dinner indoors and outdoors. 

Takeout: Semolina Restaurant offers curbside pickup.

North Jersey

Samba (Montclair)

Samba is known not only for its homestyle Southern Brazilian dishes from owner Ilson Goncalves, but also the fact that the entire menu is certified gluten-free. The warm, inviting dining room is bathed in gold tones alongside rustic wood, lush potted plants, and a central hand-painted mural that lends a pop of color to the space. Open for brunch, lunch, and dinner, diners love the many salad options, seafood with seasonal vegetables, and feijoada, a black bean stew slow-cooked for 24 hours.

Dining at the restaurant: Indoor dining and outdoor seating are both available by reservation only.

Takeout: Call the restaurant directly for takeout.

Limani Seafood Grill (Westfield)

This unassuming restaurant has delighted regulars with its Greek specialities for almost 15 years. A classic raw bar sets the tone for a menu of fresh ingredients minimally fussed with. Flavorful raw salads, including the classic Greek salad, and seafood dominate. The fish is sourced from local fishermen or imported from Greece. Try a whole fish grilled over charcoal and dressed simply with olive oil, lemon, garlic and oregano. The galaktoboureko, a creamy baked semolina custard wrapped in phyllo, is a popular way to close out the meal. 

Dining at the restaurant: Limani Seafood Grill is offering lunch and dinner with indoor and outdoor seating.

Takeout: Limani Seafood Grill is offering takeout specials that include family dinners in half pan servings.

Marjan Fine Persian Grill (Morristown)

Known both for its outstanding kabobs and gracious service, Marjan Fine Persian Grill is a local treasure. Start with the kuku, a persian frittata stuffed with fresh mixed herbs. Kabobs are grilled over an open flame for the ideal tenderness and char. Persian cuisine is justifiably famous for its luxurious rice dishes, and there are no fewer than five here, all topped with nuts and fruit for a sweet/savory combination that complements the grilled meat.

Dining at the restaurant: Marjan Fine Persian Grill is serving lunch and dinner indoors.

Takeout: Marjan Fine Persian Grill offers takeout and delivery.

Central Jersey 

Canal House Station (Milford)

Shrimp remoulade

Shrimp remoulade | Credit: Canal House Station

Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer were known as cookbook authors before they became restaurateurs. At Canal House Station, they’re making the same homey, but elegant food that fans know from their books. The warm wood-clad dining room and open kitchen make it feel like a meal in a friend’s home. The seasonal menus — and the prix fixe dinner options — change frequently, but breakfast includes dishes such as fluffy buttermilk pancakes and expertly made omelets, while lunch might be a well-crafted BLT or shrimp remoulade on avocado. 

Dining at the restaurant: Canal House Station is open for indoor and outdoor dining. 

Takeout: Call the restaurant directly for takeout options.

Brick Farm Tavern Restaurant (Hopewell)

Many restaurants boast a farm-to-table philosophy, but Brick Farm Tavern is one of the few truly walking the walk. The restaurant’s farm partner, Double Brook Farm, shapes the menu based on what ingredients it can provide from its stable of pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks, and goats. Vegetables are brought in from a network of nearby farms. Brick Farm Tavern’s beverage menu features local wines and craft beers, and some brews and spirits are actually made on-site at the restaurant’s on-premise brewery (Troon Brewing) or distillery (Sourland Mountain Spirits).

Dining at the restaurant: Brick Farm Tavern Restaurant is offering lunch and dinner with indoor and enclosed outdoor seating.

Takeout: Brick Farm Tavern Restaurant is offering curbside pickup.

Tried them all? Check out other options here.

Lauren McDowell contributed reporting to this guide.