We are grateful to our friends at the Philadelphia Council of the AFL-CIO, Workers United Local 80 and Philadelphia based labour journalist Kim Kelly, as well as UNI staff, who have shared with us some of their recommendations on what to see, do, eat and drink while you are in Philadelphia – the City of Brotherly Love!
Food and Drink
Philadelphia has a plethora of restaurants, bars, and cafés to choose from featuring food from around the world as well as local specialties such as the world-famous Philly cheesesteak.
Liquor licenses for restaurants in Philadelphia are extremely expensive, so it is not unusual for many of them to remain as “Bring Your Own Bottle” establishments, so check before you go. This also means that wine served in bars and restaurants can be particularly expensive as compared to beer or cocktails. There are some good local artisanal breweries, and you may find that much better value, as compared to wine! Many places have ‘Happy Hours’ with great deals you can also take advantage of.
The convention centre is situated in the heart of the city, which means you’ll have easy access to tons of great food if you’re willing to walk a few blocks. If you have time, there are even more delicious places to discover in neighbourhoods like South Philly, West Philly, Fishtown, Old City, and more.
These are just a few places that have been recommended by our friends and staff in Philadelphia.
A note about safety
Philadelphia has its problems like any other city, but the city centre is generally a very safe area, as are all the other neighbourhoods mentioned in this guide. Philadelphians are generally friendly and will help you out if you need directions or get turned around.
Philadelphians are proud of their city, and this is their home. If you happen to see one of their ‘neighbours’ who is experiencing homelessness or appears to be having a difficult moment, please be kind to them.
We would recommend staying with a group if you are going out at night and taking a cab home if you’re out late.
Lunch Recommendations near the convention centre
- Reading Terminal Market – This will be a great lunch spot during the convention. It’s one of oldest indoor farmers’ markets in the U.S. and has an incredible amount to offer, from restaurants to butchers to bakeries to local artisans and souvenirs. Whether you’re looking for some quick falafel, a vegan Reuben sandwich, a slice of Amish-baked pie, a bottle of local honey, fresh oysters, or one of the city’s famous cheesesteaks, you’ll find all that and more.
- Chinatown – Philly’s historic Chinatown neighbourhood is right around the corner from the Convention Centre and is chock full of restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores, and tea shops. A few that have been recommended include Ho Sai Gai, EMei, Spicy C, Happy Lamb Hot Pot, Sang Kee Peking Duck House and Far East Descendent.
This historic neighbourhood is home to cobblestoned streets, colonial buildings, and lots of great places to eat and drink. There you’ll find art galleries, bookstores, restaurants, bars, museums and river views. Prices are generally more moderate than in the area around Rittenhouse Square, although it also does have some very good, high-end restaurants.
- The Khyber Pass – Southern cuisine.
- Han Dynasty – Spicy Sichuan fare.
- Riverwards – Local produce and custom smoothie
- Cuba Libre – Cuban cuisine with vintage décor.
- Lucha Cartel – Good value Mexican restaurant.
- Fork – Sophisticated New American cuisine that includes a popular brunch.
- The Olde Bar – a contemporary oyster bar and cocktail lounge located in Philadelphia’s landmark Old Original Bookbinder’s.
- Amada – Spanish cuisine since 2005.
- Buddakan – Upscale Asian restaurant.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, grab a treat at the Franklin Fountain, Shane’s Confectionery, ICI Macaron, or Tarte.
Many of the hotels that delegates will be staying in are in this area. Rittenhouse Square has long been one of the most prestigious addresses in the city with the first house facing the square erected in 1840 and other grand mansions following. There are a wealth of cafés, bars and restaurants in the area, including many of the more high-end restaurants in the city.
- Parc – Traditional French bistro fare in one of the most well-known restaurants in Philly.
- The Dandelion – British style gastro pub.
- Pub & Kitchen – Wood-lined bar & restaurant specializing in burgers & Euro-American food.
- Harp & Crown – Gastropub serving new American style food.
- Estia – Stylish multi-room Greek restaurant.
- Di Bruno Brothers – gourmet deli with many pre prepared meals.
- Barclay Prime – High end steakhouse on Rittenhouse Square.
- Gran Caffe L’Aquila – Italian restaurant, coffee, gelato and market.
- The Love – Refined neighbourhood destination from featuring seasonal American fare.
South Philadelphia has some of the city’s most dynamic neighborhoods, along with some of the longest lasting restaurants in the city. This is also where two of the most famous, if not the best, Philly cheesesteak shops are located.
- Ralph’s – Classic Italian founded in 1900.
- The Saloon – Italian food in what they describe as a “sumptuous setting”.
- Villa di Roma – No reservation, cash only classic Philly Italian.
- Dante & Luigi’s – A Philadelphia landmark for over 110 years.
- Pietro’s South Street – Coal fired pizzas.
- Pats King of Steaks – Philly cheesesteak.
- Geno’s Steaks – Philly cheesesteak.
Other Areas of the City
There are many other neighborhoods further afield in Philadelphia that, if you have time, are well worth exploring. Some suggestions include:
- A La Mousse – A Japanese bakery offering various treats as well as a large selection of tea-based drink.
- Prince Tea House – A super cute, modern tea house with a full menu of lunch dishes and snacks as well as teas and baked goods.
- Federal Donuts (multiple locations) – You really can’t go wrong with fried chicken, donuts, and coffee, and that’s exactly what these local favourites serve. Their fried chicken sandwich is legendary, and their rotating selection of fancy donuts is always delicious.
- Silk City Diner – A fun, kitschy diner with a great menu, plenty of vegan/veggie/gluten-free options, non-alcoholic beer, and a full bar.
- La Chinesca – Trendy Mexican/Chinese cuisine with great cocktails.
- Prohibition Taproom – Solid nearby brewery for burgers and beer.
- Van Leeuwen Ice Cream – A hip artisan ice cream shop with high-quality ice cream.
Vegan and Vegetarian
Philadelphia has a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan restaurants. A few suggestions include:
- Hip City Veg – Multiple locations in downtown.
- Vedge – One of Philadelphia’s most renowned vegetarian restaurants.
- Pure Sweets – 100% organic, plant based, gluten-free restaurant near Rittenhouse square.
- 20th St Pizza – Vegan pizzeria.
There are a lot of great bars in Philly, with these being just a small selection of those recommended.
Old City and Near the Convention Centre
- Yakitori Boy – This trendy karaoke spot has great food and cocktails but is a little pricey, so make sure to bring some friends to split the bill!
- MilkBoy Philadelphia – Laid-back bar and cafe with an upstairs bar that hosts live music at night.
- McGillin’s Olde Ale House – The oldest continually operating bar in the cit
- Bank & Bourbon – This one’s for the whiskey lovers, with a large selection of bourbons and ryes.
- Fergie’s Pub – TV free Irish pub.
- Independence Beer Garden – A popular beer garden overlooking the Liberty Bell and Independence National Historic Park.
- Vintage – An airy wine bar with small plates and a relaxed
- Graffiti Bar – Semi-hidden outdoor bar with pan-Asian small plates.
- Franklin Mortgage and Trust – Boutique hotel bar.
- Monk’s Café – Belgian bar in downtown Philly.
- Hop Sing Laundromat – Chic Chinatown cocktail bar with an international reputation and a strict reservation policy (it’s worth a try!).
- Tattooed Mom’s – Head down to South Street to one of the city’s best dive bars with cheap drinks, a hearty menu of bar classics (plus tons of vegan options) and rock’n’roll décor.
- Moriarty’s Pub – Classic Irish pub. You will find a lot of Irish and British-inspired bars in Philadelphia!
- Second District Brewing – Philadelphia has a growing number of craft breweries. This one is in South Philadelphia and has a tap room open all week.
Trade Union Organized coffee shops and more!
As in many cities across the USA, there have been significant recent wins in organizing coffee shops and other establishments. Workers United Local 80 is leading this in Philadelphia, and they have kindly shared this current list of unionized locations where you can show support for local unions as well as get good coffee and more.
There are eight union Starbucks shops in the city:
- 10th & Market St, located at 901 Market St. (This is the closest unionized Starbucks to the Convention Centre)
- 20th & Market St, located at 1900 Market St
- 34th & Walnut St, 3401 Walnut St.
- Penn Medicine, located at 3400 Civic Center Blvd.
- 9th & South St, located at 600 9th St
- 22nd & South St, located at 2201 South St.
- 12th & Walnut St, located at 1128 Walnut St.
- Broad & Spring Garden, located at 490 North Broad St.
Local 80’s advice for interacting with Starbucks workers at unionized or not-yet-union locations is ordering drinks using the name “Union Strong” and trying to talk union with them!
Other unionized coffee chains in Philadelphia are:
- ReAnimator Coffee
- Ultimo Coffee
- Elixr Roasters: Elixr has 2 locations that are quite close to the convention center, 315 N 12th St and 1600 Market St.
- Good Karma Cafe
There is also a union bagel shop, Korshak Bagels, and we have been told that they’re the best bagels in Philly.
And there is even an organized Pizzeria, Eeva Pizza!