Lunchtime in Philadelphia: Quick and Easy Spots for a Midday Meal

The best local restaurants serving up lunches that are as quick as they are delicious.

Who says breakfast is the most important meal of the day? These great Philly lunch spots beg to differ.

Dizengoff

Chef Michael Solomonov kicked off America’s obsession with Israeli cooking when he opened Zahav with partner Steve Cook in 2008. The hummus at Zahav is so popular, so revered, it’s spawned this offshoot restaurant named for a street in Solo’s native Tel Aviv. At Dizengoff, the chickpea dip is the focus of the counter-service menu, paired with pillows of pita baked daily in house. It’s a fast, efficient operation with a ton of swagger overseen by chef Emily Seaman, who rotates through creative hummus toppings like slow poached eggs, crispy chicken skin and everything-spiced onions. If you go on a Sunday, you might get the chance at a limited bowl of shakshuka. 1625 Sansom St., 215.867.8181

Go-to order: hummus with cinnamon-spiced lamb, washed down with a frosty frozen lemon verbena julep.

 Dizengoff

Plenty Café

What started as one café on East Passyunk has grown into a family of three restaurants with locations in Rittenhouse and Queen Village. Owner and executive chef Anthony Mascieri’s original Plenty emerged from months-long renovations earlier this year with a new look, table service, dinner menu and bar specializing in cult vermouths and esoteric amari, but the place remains exceedingly popular for lunch. The menu’s foundation is sandwiches inspired by different locales around the world, from Nice (tuna with olive tapenade) to Peru (smoked brisket with aji aioli), alongside a full coffee menu. 1602 Spruce St., 215.560.8684

Go-to order: The New Orleans sandwich is a dynamo—unapologetically spicy house-made Tasso ham, tart apple, sweet fig jam and nutty gruyere on a crispy pressed baguette. 

Honeygrow

Honeygrow injected the tired salad bar with locavore swagger when it debuted in Center City in 2013. Now, there are more than a dozen locations in the mid-Atlantic, and the flagship just reopened after a refresh. The menu, overseen by corporate chef Dave Katz and executed by an unflappably friendly staff, takes a sustainable approach to sourcing fruits, vegetables and proteins for its build-your-own salads and stir-fries. For a healthy dessert, the Honeybar takes the same custom approach with your choice of fresh fruits drizzled with one of three local honeys. Trust us and add shaved coconut, dark chocolate chips and whipped cream. 110 S. 16th St., 215.279.7724

Go-to Order: The move at the salad bar involves, spinach, arugula, candied cashews, grapes, gorgonzola, chicken, bacon and the strawberry miso dressing. 

Honeygrow

Hungry Pigeon

Scott Schroeder and Pat O’Malley, owners and chef/pastry chef of this modern love letter to the American diner, is a fine place to eat any meal of the day, but the sunny dining room is particularly welcoming in the off hours between breakfast and dinner. Count on familiar plates like chicken soup, tuna sandwiches, grilled cheese and chicken salad—but done according to the chefs strict sourcing standards. Anything on O’Malley’s fresh bread is worth your attention. 743 S. 4th St., 215.278.2736

Go-to order: The cheeseburger has serious pedigree, thanks to a patty made from flavorful grass-fed beef raised by Schroeder’s longtime purveyor, Rineer Farm. 

Stock

Thanks to a robust Vietnamese population, Philly is practically drowning in pho. But pho made with high quality ingredients? You’ll have to head to Stock restaurant in Fishtown for that. It’ll take some planning since this monastic storefront with 18 seats and a row of induction burners is only open for lunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Before you call that brunch, know that you won’t find Southeast Asian riffs on French toast and frittatas. Instead, chef Tyler Akin weaves arresting noodle soups, herbaceous salads and dynamic banh mi with sustainably raised meats, house-grown lime leaves and chilies from New York’s cult spice merchant, La Boîte. 308 E. Girard Ave.

Go-to Order: The pork banh mi gets its deep flavor from Berkshire hog sausage. 

Manakeesh Cafe

Ensconced in a former bank building in the Spruce Hill area of West Philly, Manakeesh specializes in the Lebanese flatbread of the same name. Served warm from the oven, the puffy, round loaves come with both traditional toppings (za’atar, kafta) and unorthodox ones (bacon, egg-and-cheese, cheesesteak), which speak to the diverse crowds that fill the lounge-y, tapestry-lined space. Encased behind glass along the front counter, pistachio baklava cut in a dozen different shapes glitter like jewelry. A box makes an excellent souvenir. 4420 Walnut St., 215.921.2135

Go-to Order: The half-and-half za’atar/labneh manakeesh looks like a giant black-and-white cookie and tastes like magic.

John’s Roast Pork

Housed in a cinderblock bunker along a derelict railroad crossing, the Bucci family’s luncheonette is the quintessential purveyor of roast pork sandwiches in Philly. Newbies and lifers line up in a zigzag along the counter and grab seats at the picnic tables outside. The signature pork is juicy, garlicky and herbaceous; sharp provolone and sautéed spinach—no broccoli rabe here—are de rigueur. John’s incidentally makes one of the city’s best cheesesteaks, too, and the breakfast sandwiches lined with fluffy eggs and deep-fried pucks of scrapple are equally as good in the afternoon. 14 E. Snyder Ave., 215.463.1951

Go-to Order: You can’t come here and not get the roast pork sandwich. 

 John's Roast Pork

Adam Erace
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