A taste of the south: Our top 7 places for soul food in Philadelphia

GiGi's and Big R (Photo: Facebook)

By Lena Pothier

June 27, 2023

While institutions like Ms. Tootsie’s have closed in recent years, you’ll still find great soul food in Philadelphia, both in traditional brick and mortar restaurants, and on the city’s thriving food truck scene.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of comfort food, and no comfort food can quite compare to soul food. The simple yet delicious art of this cooking gives a feeling of home and warmth that leaves both your heart and your belly full.

Philadelphia has a long tradition of great soul food restaurants, serving up staples like fried chicken, fried catfish, collard greens, peach cobbler, sweet potato pie, and more.

While revered institutions in the city like Ms. Tootsie’s and Relish have closed in recent years, you’ll still find great soul food in Philadelphia, both in traditional brick and mortar restaurants, and on the city’s thriving food truck scene. We hope you will try out some of our favorite places for soul food in the City of Brotherly Love.

Butter’s Soul Food

This small restaurant is the perfect place for some soul food takeout on those days where you need a little extra comfort. With menu items like candied yams, macaroni and cheese, and smothered turkey chops, Butter’s Soul Food gives you familiar and delectable food that feels like a warm hug. This local business is owned and operated by Kevin Bell, who has been in the soul food business for more than 20 years. Butter’s Soul Food is the ideal place to get some classic, Southern soul food dishes.

GiGi’s and Big R

If you’re looking for fast, casual dining, GiGi’s and Big R food truck is the spot for you. Serving Caribbean and classic American soul food, this establishment was the winner of the first ever Philly Vendy Awards. Boasting the largest platters in the city at an affordable price, GiGi and Big R’s food truck is a West Philly favorite for good reason.

Rex at the Royal

Located near Rittenhouse Square, Rex at the Royal serves up southern inspired cuisine with coastal influences. They are known for their crab fondue, which was voted Best of Philly 2022 in Philadelphia Magazine, but other menu items such as the braised oxtail and fried green tomatoes are sure to make your mouth water. Rex at the Royal’s cocktails are expressions of “locality through migration,” using international and local ingredients to craft outstanding drinks. The space has a dark and moody ambience, and with live music each week, it gives the restaurant an upscale jazz lounge feel.

Sheba’s Soul Plate

Just off of Chestnut Street in University City is Sheba’s Soul Plate, a family business and a relative newcomer to the Philadelphia culinary scene. Opened by the Watts family in 2019, Sheba’s Soul Plate was inspired by the family’s restaurant, Garden of Sheba, in Charlottesville, Va. Their flavors come from American southern, Caribbean, and African roots, making for an authentic and delicious experience. They are known for their hearty portions of curry fish and a jerk chicken cheesesteak, as well as their vegetarian options of jerk tofu and veggie curry.

SOUTH Jazz Kitchen

SOUTH Jazz Kitchen is a premier jazz club on Broad Street with live performances Thursday to Sunday. With a dressy-casual dress code, SOUTH serves up elevated comfort food rooted in southern cooking. From buttermilk fried chicken with hot honey, to catfish and gulf shrimp, SOUTH’s menu is made up of soul food favorites. The dessert menu features a bourbon vanilla creme brulee and pineapple brown sugar pudding, complete with Jamaican rum sauce and ice cream. This spot is excellent for a date night, or simply as an excuse to get dressed up.


With a restaurant in West Philly and a take-out spot (Tasties 215) in North Philly, Tasties is a longtime Philly favorite. Their soul food plates come with a dinner roll and choice of 2 sides, and with options like chicken and waffles, fried lobster, macaroni and cheese, and greens with turkey, the combinations are endless. You can finish off your meal with one of their signature milkshakes for dessert, and leave feeling truly satisfied. If you just can’t get enough of Tasties, owner Barbara Devan sells her own line of seasonings and sauces.

Tyemeka’s Soul Food

Established in 2011, Tyemeka’s Soul Food started out as a food truck and has since grown into a brick and mortar restaurant. The friendly and attentive service makes for a cozy atmosphere, and the food will surely leave you satisfied. Their crispy whiting platter or sandwich is rave-worthy, and paired with baked macaroni and cheese or collard greens, it makes for the absolute perfect plate.



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