A quick look at some notable recent additions
to the UCity dining scene.

Bubble House (2001)
3404 Sansom Street
One of the quirkier restaurants in a section of town long noted for the off-beat, Bubble House—which took over the space once occupied by Le Bus—is quite serious about its mostly Asian cuisine. It also has an impressive cocktail list (including seven variations on the martini) and an even more impressive selection of teas, bubble and otherwise.

Capogiro (2009*)
3925 Walnut Street
It’s not native to the west side of the Schuylkill, but this ultra-gourmet ice-creamery has put Philadelphia back on the map where frozen dairy is concerned. The flavor list runs from hazelnut to tahini to Lancaster County heirloom apple. And if you want something stronger than an espresso with your scoop, the University City location will mix you a Vieux Carre from its full bar.

Distrito (2008)
3945 Chestnut Street
(See main story for more on one of the hottest restaurants in the Philadelphia area.)

Dock Street Brewing Co. (2007*)
701 S. 50th Street
This popular microbrewery moved into the old firehouse at 50th and Baltimore three years ago, and has been getting raves for its wood-oven pizzas as well as its artisanal beers.

Gia Pronto (2004)
3736 Spruce Stree
This small chain of “fast casual” Italian food shops opened by Marco Lentini C’96 WG’02 is a bit of an anomaly in this roundup, but it’s providing high-quality salads, panini, pastries, and La Colombe coffee at several locations in the area (including a new one in the Center for Advanced Medicine), and its success gave Lentini the opportunity to meet—and introduce—President Obama at a small-business event at the White House last year.

Gold Standard Café (2009*)
4800 Baltimore Avenue
The latest and most attractive Gold Standard is both a gathering place for the community and a restaurant that offers breakfast until 4 p.m., along with good-quality salads, sandwiches, and daily specials. (See main story for more.)

Green Line Café (2003)
4239 Baltimore Avenue
Coffee, tea, and sandwiches for the Clark Park set; a low-key concert venue and art salon for local creative types. Named after the trolley line that runs past it on Baltimore Avenue, this community anchor has added two more locations in University City since its original 2003 debut.

Local 44 (2009)
4333 Spruce Street
Many is the Penn grad with memories—the hazier the better—of stumbling out of Kelliann’s, which got the kind of upgrade neighbors pray for last winter. Out went the cigarette vending machine, in came a “Baby/Mama happy hour” on Mondays. Beer is still the reason to come—but now there are 18 taps to choose from, not including the spout hooked up to a cask ale.  

Lovers & Madmen
Coffee Lounge (2009)

28 S. 40th Street
A sunny, welcoming café on a block that until recently could only be described as desolate. Terrific quiche and surprisingly good sandwiches complement the caffeine and are served by a friendly staff.

Marigold Kitchen (2009*)
501 S. 45th Street
Penn profs first began taking their repasts at this comfortable row house back in 1934, when it was the Marigold Tea Room. Resurrected from culinary death six years ago by Steven Cook W’95, it has blossomed into one of the city’s best BYOs and become something of a revolving door for up-and-coming chefs. Recently the kitchen passed from Erin O’Shea’s lauded new-Southern cooking to the molecular gastronomy of Robert Halpern.

MidAtlantic (2009)
3711 Market Street
Chef and owner Daniel Stern has been a key player in Philadelphia’s fine-dining scene for the last decade. At this unlikely Market Street address, he pays homage to Pennsylvania Dutch classics—with a twist. If you’ve always wondered what crab scrapple would taste like, or a sausage on a donut roll, this is the place to find out.

Rx (2001)
4443 Spruce Street
Rx has made a name for itself in this decidedly residential neighborhood with its brunches and its emphasis on seasonal, organic, locally grown food, not to mention the quirky, old-style drugstore paraphernalia.

Vientiane Café (2002)
4728 Baltimore Avenue
This Lao/Thai BYO is also a University City love story. After moving from Laos to Philadelphia in 1979, husband and wife Phoxay Sidara and Daovy Phanthavong began cooking for neighbors in their abundantly planted backyard. In 2000, the operation went from occasional cookout to Southeast Asian speakeasy—an unlicensed restaurant at 45th and Sansom streets known as the Blue Tent café. When the city inevitably enforced its permitting laws, University City District officials helped the couple beat through two years’ worth of bureaucratic underbrush to create a 26-seat spot that’s been going strong ever since.

Vietnam Cafe (2009*)
814 S. 47th Street
The Lai family’s stunningly decorated restaurant—in the building that until recently housed Abbraccio—offers correspondingly sumptuous South Vietnamese fare.

* Indicates current location
or ownership.



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The Omnivore’s New Dilemma (Which exotic University City restaurant should we try tonight?) By Samuel Hughes







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