Now when I say Latino I am talking strictly Caribbean Latino. There are some fantastic Central and South American restaurants in the area that we will give a nod to in due time, but this one is strictly for my islanders. Luckily for us Philly has an abundant Latino community with a plethora of eateries to choose from. However, after surveying and sampling spots throughout the city we arrived at a Top 10 list. Doing so was a tough decision but many of these spots have not only maintained longevity but a loyal following as well. Forewarning for those that that do not venture far from trendy neighborhoods several of these spots are off the beaten path. However, if you want to experience authentic cuisine they are all worth the trip. So if you’re looking for a plate of great tasting Caribbean cuisine, you can’t go wrong with any of these 10 spots.
El Coqui Panderia
3538 I St. |
If you want to experience Puerto Rican cuisine and pastries this is the spot you need to check out. This place place serves up classic rice and bean dishes with traditional meats such as pernil (roasted pork shoulder) as well as steak, & chicken all seasoned to perfection. Their platters are very generous for their prices so be prepared to have leftovers. However, when will you have time when you have to tackle their great pastries? You will find traditional Puerto Rican pastries such as tornillo that gives you a slice of PR right here in Philly. A great place for a quick bite so don’t expect 5 star accommodations just fantastic food.
707 Chestnut St. |
This isn’t an around the way spot but Jose Garces knows what he’s doing when it comes to creating dishes with great taste. Although Garces is known for pushing the envelope with food pairings, this spot is a very traditional Cuban restaurant that feels like it was plucked out of South Beach and planted in Center City. The atmosphere is inviting and the booths are pretty private for the size of this place. The portions aren’t as generous as places you’d visit in North Philly but the quality is primo. The rice & beans are superb and the churrasco is out of this world. For appetizers I recommend the empanadas they were some of the best I’ve had. The place is a little on the pricey side but you have to expect that from a Garces restaurant, but if you’re looking for a nice date or taking quintessences out to dinner this is a perfect spot.
Freddy & Tony’s II
3001 N. Front St. | 215.426.0920 | Puerto Rican Cuisine
Some odd years ago Freddy & Tony’s on Allegheny changed ownerships and Freddy & Tony’s II was spawned. Although they still share the same name the tastes are very distinguishable. This spot is not as aesthetically pleasing as it’s counterpart but the true value is in the food. I personally frequent this spot pretty often as their platters are generous and the food is awesome. One of the major differences you will see is in the seasoning and quality of the meat. F&T II’s bistec (steak) is definitely higher quality. Warning you may want to call ahead when ordering steak however as it does seem to take long to prepare. For those without time to spare their roasted chicken is always juicy and flavorful. Dining in is also an option as well. This is a great place to get food on the go or to sit in with a friend and enjoy great food.
115 W Lehigh Ave. | 215.634.9053 | Dominican Cuisine
This North Philly hole in the wall is well known throughout the Latin community. In an area dominated by Puerto Rican spots, this Dominican hot spot stands tall and more than holds its own. For non-Spanish speakers, fair warning as you might want to brush up on your Spanish since this place seldom has workers at the counter speaking fluent English. The portions here are very generous and the price is very affordable as $10 can feed you for two days. Although some things are made to order the food is generally on heated trays but continuously refreshed so no worries there. This is not a dining in spot so don’t expect to come in and wow a date. It’s more of a great place to grab something on-the go.
Alma De Cuba
1623 Walnut St. | 215.988.1799 | Cuban Cuisine
This is the Juggernaut of all Latino spots in Philly. But hey when your creator is Philly’s top restauranteur Stephen Starr, you better be top notch. Although, you won’t get the true authentic feel as say spots in North Philly, the atmosphere is great here. If gracious service and proper platting is just as important to you as the meal, this is your stop. More of a touristy/date spot Alma dishes out a wide variety of Cuban cuisines. There is literally nothing that isn’t good here. My only qualm is this Alma is a tad bit Americanized with the seasoning but great tasting nevertheless. A plus for this joint is the drinks as they make some of the best mojitos in town. This is a perfect all around place for dates, work functions, as well as family/group dinners.
4460 Whitaker Ave. | 215.329.2251 | Classic Latino Sandwicheria
Switching gears a bit we go back uptown to a spot that pumps out the best Latin influenced sandwiches in town. If you ever visited a Latin American country in the carribbean or a classic Cuban spot on South Beach you know exactly what I am talking about. If not you have to visit to experience. Choose from steak & eggs, steak & shrimp, chicken, pork, and a variety of other choice sandwiches and enjoy them straight off the sandwich presser. Along with their impressive sandwich selections this place doubles as a pastry shop where you can enjoy an array of classic Latino sweets after you finish your delicious sandwich. This is a great place for on the go as well as casual dining as they do have several tables available. If you are in the area late night this place stays open pretty late usually until 3 am.
1700 N 3rd St. | 215.278.2482 | Caribbean Breakfast/Sandwicheria
Sticking with the unique variety of Latino cuisine we move south towards Northern Liberties where you’ll find a quaint Cafe serving up Latino style breakfast and sandwiches. A gem among locals, this place is all the rave for its very relaxed and inviting atmosphere. It’s almost as if a Starbucks was made-over by your abuelo (grandfather). There is plenty of art and Latino decor to give it a very cozy feel. Although this place has a heavy Puerto Rican influence it encompasses many of the traditional breakfast dishes that neighboring countries are known for as well. This is a great place for solo trips to study/read as well as casual dates.
1141 Pine St. | 215.592.0363 | Latin Caribbean Cuisine
A fusion of basically every Latino country in the Caribbean with a touch of Argentinean flair for good measure, Mixto, pulls off their dishes beautifully. I liken this place to the popular NYC hotspot Sofrito. With traditional merengue and salsa filling the air this hot spot has won over locals and newcomers alike. Mixto is actually the offspring of poplular Tierra Colombiana in North Philly, so the authenticity is definitely there. The dishes range from classics such as monfongo (mashed green plantains) and arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) to more liberal dishes such as Mediterranean sea bass and seared tuna. Overall this place is trendy and happening. Perfect for any occasion including solo meals, dates, and gatherings.
6620 Castor Ave. |
We find ourselves now in the North East where Latino restaurants are not that common. However, El Provocon is a classic Puerto Rican spot that serves native dishes the right way. The selection is pretty standard but the taste factor is anything but. Rice & beans, steak, roasted chicken, and pernil, are prevalent here along with the tradition Puerto Rican finger foods. As you would expect the portions are generous especially during the lunchtime hours where platters are a budget friendly $5. Warning for non-spanish speakers the English here is spotty so brush up on the menu items before hand. This is a great spot for take-out and dining with friends. Not particularly a date spot unless you’re looking for ultra casual.
Isla Verde Cafe
2725 N American St. | 215.426.3600 | Puerto Rican Cuisine
Another Puerto Rican spot makes the list, and it comes as no surprise. Isla Verde has been a staple in the North Philadelphia community since 2005. Known for it’s nightlife among the Salsa community it is also recognized for its dishes among the foodie community as well. Among the best Latino spots in North Philly this one has the best atmosphere. It’s almost like a mini oasis in North Philly that has a very tropical feel to it. The food is platted and presented as if it were a Center City joint. Enjoy a wide arrange of tapas & appetizers as well as classic dishes such as churrasco & paella ( assorted seafood over rice). This is a great spot for dates as well as gathering with friends and family.