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Choosing an apartment based on food

Hi, I'm a Tokyo chowsquirrel moving to Philadelphia in August and I need to pick a neighborhood.

I'm heading to law school at Temple after 4 years in Tokyo and I want a location with good grocery stores and local restaurants.

Is there a section of city most conducive to food shopping? or will anywhere work?

If anyone knows of a Japanese market, that'd be great as well as I'm going to have some severe cravings.

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  1. I wish I could help you re neighborhoods and apartments, but for a taste of home, there is only one restaurant that won't disappoint: Matt Ito's Fuji in Haddonfield, N. J. Not commuting distance--save for when you want to impress friends, one of whom has a car.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Bashful3

      Actually, you can take Patco from Center City to very nearly their doorstep, and I think the ride is actually quicker than the drive, if my memory serves. If I consider time spent trying to find parking, it may be quicker than the drive to many Philly neighborhoods (possibly smallish exaggeration there).

    2. My suggestion: someplace between the Italian market (9th and Washington area) and the Superfresh and Whole Paycheck at 10th and south.
      There might not be much right in that area, but you're btwn those two for shopping (including, IIRC, an Asian (but not necessarily Japanese) market down on Washington, near the restaurants at Passyunk, not too far from Queens Village, and walking distance from anything in center city (if you don't mind walking). Meanwhile, you're not too far from the Broad St. Line, which will take you right to Temple.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Bob Loblaw

        Second this, I think it's exactly right, and I think that is a great neighborhood for getting to know the city.

        1. re: barryg

          It's worth mentioning that the name of this neighborhood is Bella Vista. Will probably help when you're looking for apartments! Lots of 20- and 30-somethings in this hood, too.

        2. re: Bob Loblaw

          I agree, you'll want to be located close-ish to the area around 10th and South St. That's near the north end of the Italian Market, and the most convenient and best variety of grocery shopping can be found within a few blocks: the two grocery stores Bob mentioned at 10th and South, and the Italian Market to the south. The Reading Terminal Market (RTM) is 7 blocks north and 1 block west of the Whole Foods, just under a mile on foot. Between those three locations you can get just about anything. I can't speak on Japanese markets but our Chinatown is just east of the RTM.

          Access to the Broad Street subway line is more important for restaurants and getting to Temple, grocery shopping via subway is a pain because most of the subway stops involve lots of stairs. You could get a granny cart though. But again, if you're around 10th and South, you can walk to most of the city's best restaurants.

        3. Maido (in Narberth, which is a suburb) is the only Japanese grocery I know of in the Philly area. There's a free shuttle bus on weekends that leaves from center city.

          1 Reply
          1. re: anago

            Good call on Maido! I just checked their website and it looks great.

          2. Living in Loft District, three blocks from Chinatown and 4 blocks from Reading Terminal Market. North of Vine by a block or so, The loft district is in that area from Broad east to 9th or so. You get great bang for your buck there. Also 2-3 miles closer to Temple, either by car or nearby subway stop.

            1. For Japanese ingredients, there is the aforementioned Maido in Narberth, which is conveniently close to the train if you don't have a car. But I find myself at one of our area H-Marts for Japanese ingredients most of the time. They have a pretty wide array of Korean stuff and a good bit of Japanese stuff as well. Because I live in West Philadelphia, I frequent the Upper Darby location, which is within walking distance of the Market St El.

              I moved from the Kansai area of Japan to Philadelphia 12 years ago. Welcome back!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Boognish

                Thanks Boognish, I'll make sure to check them out. M
                y girlfriend wants to make sure she can get mentaiko and natto, I assured her that it was possible. --I hope I'm wrong about the natto part!

                Just checked: Tons of Natto! shouganai-ne

              2. Heh, chowsquirrel. I like that. Welcome to our area of the world!

                1. Thanks for all the good advice, it's very helpful.
                  I'm really looking forward to some good 'american' food, and that includes dim sum in Chinatown!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: lost squirrel

                    Ooooh. You may be a smidge disappointed there. Though I'd love to be wrong on that.

                    1. re: Capaneus

                      I grew up eating dim sum at the Imperial and Joy Tsin Lau so they hold a special place in my heart.
                      The chinatowns here and in Yokohama just don't compare.

                      1. re: barryg

                        I love sandwiches like I love my family. Probably one of my favorite foods of all time.

                    2. can i just say i absolutely love the idea of picking a neighborhood based on delicious food. :)

                      i would heartily agree with bella vista (close to the taquerias, italian market, all those queen village BYOBs, and washington ave pho) and i'd also throw west philly into the mix for its range of ethnic eats, dock st brewery, and all those indian and middle eastern markets. lately i've found myself taking long commutes over there for grocery shopping; i've become a huge fan of the 24-hour makkah market. i don't know much about japanese cuisine; sorry i can't help ya there. happy moving!!

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: rabidog

                        Thanks. I did the same thing when I picked my most recent Tokyo apartment.
                        The selection of stores and restaurants in a 5min walk can really make or break an apartment.
                        I'm really looking forward to the next three years (well the food-related parts at least!)

                        1. re: lost squirrel

                          Law school, especially the first year and any free time for anything but sleeping and a shower just don't mix, so don;t go nuts trying to find great shopping and food near where you will sleep! Also make sure (especially if you will not have a car) that you can get home late at night relatively safely. Luckily there is a bus that follows the same route as the BSS (orange line) and that would be the much safer choice when you are kicked out of the library at midnight. <g>
                          Good luck to you in school and welcome to a wonderful city!

                          1. re: Prettypoodle

                            The subway runs just about all night right?

                            I will have a car anyway though.

                            1. re: lost squirrel

                              NO, our subways stop running at about midnight and don't start again until 5 AM. As Prettypoodle implied, it's replaced by bus service in between. You will quickly learn to hate SEPTA (the transit authority).

                              1. re: Buckethead

                                Ah well, that's what I'm used to here in Tokyo anyway.

                        2. re: rabidog

                          I'd like to put in another recommendation for West Philly. It's inexpensive and has a huge range of places to eat and buy ethnic foods. There's also a lot of energy for local and sustainable eating in the West Philly community. For fancier eating, Center City is a 15 min trolley ride away.

                        3. Or Northern Liberties. There's a ton of good food here, including a big Asian supermarket on at Spring Garden and 4th St. There's a good sushi place, Koi, a bunch of gastropubs with good food (Silk City, Standard Tap), and there's Paesano's and Modo Mio for cheaper and more expensive Italian deliciousness. There are a lot of Temple students and professors in the neighborhood, along with all kinds of other people, and it's a very short drive or bike to Temple. The one thing the neighborhood lacks, food-wise, is a regular supermarket -- although there are plenty within a 10 minute drive.

                          9 Replies
                            1. re: lost squirrel

                              I'd say ten minutes by bike to regular supermarkets. There is a large Asian Supermarket in No Libs though.

                              1. re: Bigley9

                                BUT!! there will soon be a new huge super pathmark at 2nd and girard and it is supposed to be super nice. and there is way more good food in nolibs too, koo zee doo, a full plate, swift half, hopefully the forthcoming speck will be everything it is supposed to be.

                                1. re: mazza3

                                  By the way, I just overheard someone saying yesterday that a nice big new Fresh Grocer (I think that's the name, there's one in West Philly) just opened near the Temple U campus.

                                  1. re: Hansel

                                    Yup. It's just south of the main campus,. maybe 2 blocks south of Cecil B. Moore? Btwn Broad and 13th.

                                    1. re: Bob Loblaw

                                      what?! a fresh grocer just up the street?! man am i ever late to the party.
                                      i love our tiny markets (almanac primarily), and the piazza farmers market is an absolute dream (the multi-colored eggs i bought there were such a work of art i had to get out my camera and photograph them!) but i'm starting to think i wouldn't mind a grocery store open late at night for when i get unexplained junky food cravings. happens to the best of us :)

                                      1. re: rabidog

                                        That's great news, it could be a easy stop on the way home from class/library!

                                    2. re: Hansel

                                      The Fresh Grocer in West Philly (by Penn) is a terrible grocery store. I think the only redeeming quality is that it is a good place to buy subway tokens.

                                      1. re: barryg

                                        Re Fresh Grocer, the couple I overhead talking about the new one (and I accosted them to ask further), said the Temple one was nice, or maybe they even said, "still" nice, with the clear implication being that it was nicer than the one in West Philly in that it was new and pleasant. But perhaps it's just a matter of time... In any event, I would imagine it's at least a convenience to have a grocery store in the Temple vicinity.

                            2. P.S. Re an earlier post, my favorite leisure activity in law school (well, really just about my only regular leisure activity) was my weekly food shopping expedition. But then, I went to law school in San Francisco (sigh).

                              1. Zombie thread.

                                Thanks for all the recommendations everyone, I ended up in South Philly by the Italian Market. It's wonderful having that for weekly shopping. Also, the proximity to cheap mexican and vietnamese is a godsend for when I'm too tired to cook. A 5min walk provides TONS of options from pho/banh mi to tacos to Cosmi's deli. It's wonderful.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: lost squirrel

                                  Congrats! Good area for all kinds of great eats.

                                2. Apologies for resurrecting this zombie of a thread.

                                  It's time for me to return to Phila after almost 9 months. Does anyone have any new suggestions? It seems like the prices near Washington and the Italian market have gone up.

                                  I'm intrigued by fishtown. Will living there be a wonderful sausage and pierogie bonanza?

                                  11 Replies
                                  1. re: lost squirrel

                                    Port Richmond is more pierogie territory...

                                    A comment on rents. They have gone up everywhere. It seems as if now, both in commercial and residential landlords are now willing to raise rents when three or four years ago they were not.

                                    Johnny Brendas, Frankford Hall, Pickled Heron, Ekta, Sketch are some of the stand out restaurants in Fishtown. It is getting developed a bit, though perhaps not as much as Northern Liberties. Starr is working on another project next to Frankford Hall (bbq?). Where you will suffer the most will be in food shopping. Superfresh in Northern Liberties and Whole Foods in Fairmount will be your closest large groceries.

                                    1. re: cwdonald

                                      My daughter was just at a festival in No Liberties this past weekend and really liked the area. She said there were a lot of interesting looking restaurants. Altho a longtime Philly area resident, I've never been to that part of the city. Is NoLiberties a fairly safe place to live?

                                      1. re: cook262

                                        Yes, it is pretty densely populated at this point and the large number of restaurants and bars keep the streets active until late even on weekdays. There have been several "high profile" situations in NoLibs but they they have been mostly very late at night (post-2am) or based on the "business" of the participants. That said, you need to be smart about how you carry yourself everywhere

                                      2. re: cwdonald

                                        The Superfresh in N Liberties is relatively good no? Compared to the Acme near 11th and Passyunk at least - man that place is beyond terrible.

                                        1. re: lost squirrel

                                          People have complained about pricing... but relative to an old acme you are better off.

                                      3. re: lost squirrel

                                        I live in Fishtown. I wouldn't consider it a strong-hold within the city in terms of food (never, ever order pizza)...but there are some solid, gastro-pub-ish options (particularly if you include nearby NoLibs in the mix).

                                        Johnny Brenda's and Standard Tap are usually solid, and I've always loved the food (and drink) at Kraftwork. Interstate Draft House has some interesting food - again, probably not destination-quality strictly for the food, but it's good. Tiffin & Ekta are solid Indian take-out, and the burgers at Sketch are fantastic.

                                        Paesano's (best sandwiches in the city) is on the border w/ NoLibs, and their sister restaurant across the street, Modo Mio, (an Italian BYO) always gets raves.

                                        It's convenient enough to the rest of the city that I think you'd have plenty of opportunities to eat elsewhere as well.

                                        1. re: PhillyA

                                          Silly question, but wouldnt you consider Standard Tap to be in No Libs?

                                          1. re: cwdonald

                                            Yes, I would. I was including NoLibs.

                                        2. re: lost squirrel

                                          Did you look at rents around the East Passyunk area? They might be a little cheaper than north of Washington and the food is awesome. If you look closer to 8th St it will (should) be cheaper than closer to Broad. NoLib/Fishtown has some good places but East Passyunk has many more.

                                          You could also look west of Broad in the Newbold area, bounded by roughly Broad, 18th St, Morris and Snyder. That puts you right at South Philly Tap Room (A class gastropub), Ultimo coffee (A class coffee), and Hardena (A class Indonesian food), and walking distance to East Passyunk Ave eats. It's definitely cheaper than east of Broad but also definitely a bit sketchier.

                                          Either side of Broad getting to Center City is very easy either by subway or several reliable and easy bus routes.

                                          1. re: barryg

                                            I actually lived at 8th and Passyunk before - I'd love to get back in the area but I'm looking for places from abroad now and nothing's available (except for a 6th and Washington spot).

                                            I like SPTR, but I don't like the area. We've been using the philly safety map and Mrs. Squirrel wants to be 100% in a green zone.

                                            Food related, washington/passyunk is great for vietnamese and tacos and the italian market. As a student, it's nice to be able to walk 5min and get many cheap great things. I really can't think of a better place than that, except maybe within walking distance of RTM?

                                            1. re: lost squirrel

                                              I was actually thinking farther south of Washinton, to be closer to the restaurants and shops on E Passyunk down that way. True you aren't quite as close to the very cheapest eats. The area below Snyder and east of Broad is also very safe and affordable. The eats are a bit lacking though you can still walk to the E Passyunk strip and getting downtown is very easy.

                                              The safety map is roughly correct but needs to be taken with a grain a salt. 15th & Mifflin is not any less safe than anywhere in Fishtown (go a few blocks west though and it's a different story). At 6th & Washington you are still only a couple blocks away from a large public housingĀ development and the scene of several shootings over the past couple years.