Phila University City - (Drexel) cheap eats
Okay, I've been at Penn's School of Design for a year + struggling a bit with food options near campus. Yes - good carts on Spruce and at HUP, and one decent Indian place on Chestnut, and there's Rx, White Dog, and a few other places here and there.
Need a few more options though (CHEAP & GOOD), and since I'm now going to Penn from Center City in the evenings, I thought I'd expand my scope to include area between 30th street station and Penn - mostly around Drexel since I've got to be near campus for a 6.30p class. Alright - too much info - what youse all got for me around Drexel? - $5 to $15 price range. At that range, carts are okay too.
This is a bit of a walk (or short trolley ride) away, but Dock Street Brewing Company at 50th and Baltimore is pretty cheap and quite good. We were there last night, and really enjoyed it. Great beer, and excellent pizza. Their 10" pizzas run you about $10, and are delicious. Lots of options...most of their sandwiches/calzones/etc. will run you less than $8.
A warning: it's very, VERY loud.
I live around the corner from dock street and have been there a few times. Definitely would NOT recommend it as cheap. The beer's overpriced but high in alcohol, so I guess it evens out. The pizza is pretty expensive and very weak compared to real italian places around philly. I remember one pizza I got there was, and I kid you not, all ketchup for sauce. Yikes! Inedible. I think they get you nice and drunk so when the food comes out it's tastes OK. I will admit their crust is awesome, since they use a wood fire grill.
My son is a Drexel student and he suggests the "Magic Carpet", a cart at 36th and Walnut in a parking lot across from Starbucks...he is starting his 4th year in that neighborhood and seems to find this "cart" one of his favorite places for affordable, good food. I will see if he has any other ideas.
Penn Design School around 36th & Walnut, right? Near that, on 38th, right above Walnut, are Koja & the Mexican food truck next to it. Koja is Korean-Japanese; it's good food but can sometimes take a while. As for the other, there was a thread about this Mexican truck not too long ago since it's new-ish - the food is good, sufficient spicy and well seasoned; I like the al pastor & tamarind drink, personally.
Magic Carpet isn't bad, and it's pretty good for lighter vegetarian stuff, but I rarely go considering the lines can sometimes be terrible.
Two of the soul food trucks near 30th St. Station have recently been spotted near Penn. I know one is Gigi's or something like that and is on 38th below Spruce, but I can't recall where I saw the other one. Perhaps someone else has spotted them and can pinpoint them for you.
The trucks right next to Pottruck is also a pretty decent place for food. I remember liking Kim's pretty well but haven't been in a year. And strangely enough, sushi from the sushi truck was not nearly as terrible as it sounds.
Craig LaBan reviewed and liked Yue Kee on 38th, below Walnut, if that means anything to you. The food here is pretty decent and will do in a pinch, but I've never been as fond of this one as others (say, Koja).
As for the restaurants, you've pretty much covered all the close ones, and while I admit I am fond of the Pataya Grill (Chestnut, past 40th), I think I'm in a pretty small group on this one.
Can't remember the name, but the other soul food truck is on 38th above Spruce. Don't know why Gigi's moved in so close by but it seems to be doing good business--the portions are too large for me so I haven't tried it yet.
Yue Kee's ma po dou fu is an abomination, and their noodles are so salty, but their eggplant is passable.
If you want great cheap food, go to a lunch truck. There's tons of lunch trucks on and around Penn's campus. I recommend Ali baba's magic food on 37th and walnut next to the gym there. For restaurants I'd recommend dahlak eritrean food (47th and baltimore), marathon grill on 40th and walnut (a bit pricey, but they give you a LOT of food) and one mexican place on 39th and walnut that's just great. DON'T go to Qdobo, distrito, dock street, or the gold standard. Very expensive food with very small portions.
I;m another fan of Pattaya Grille: corner of 40th & Walnut. They used to have bargain lunch specials; they might still have bargain early bird dinner specials, and that might be perfect for you. Try popping in to check that out. If you give them your time parameters and go early enough, I'll bet you enjoy it.
Soups are great, food on those specials usually have 3 good choices for a main dish, veggies are cooked just right: very tasty Thai.