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Main Line or NW Philly?

We're moving to Philly soon and are torn between renting on the main line or in NW Philly. Insider tips on the food scene might help us decide one way or another.

We love going out to eat, especially for Asian/Indian food. We have a preschooler who joins us at many restaurants, but we also regularly get a sitter and check out nicer places without her. We know we can travel into Philly for great food, but also definitely want to live in a walkable neighborhood that has non-chain restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, etc.

Any neighborhood suggestions for this chowish family?

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  1. Not commenting on the food scene but if your preschooler is getting close to school age and you plan to rent for awhile, the public schools on the Main Line are in general more highly rated than those in Philadelphia. In this case talking about Lower Merion, Radnor, and T/E School Districts. I don't care for Indian Food so I can't comment on that. There are some good Chinese restaurants.

    2 Replies
    1. re: FayeD

      Oh yes, definitely. This would be a short-term living option until kindergarten when we'll buy and pay more attention to school districts. That's why it would be especially nice to live in a neighborhood walkable to many restaurants and other attractions for the year or so we're renting.

      1. re: katebauer

        I agree with rocknroll52, if you "want to live in a walkable neighborhood that has non-chain restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, etc.", you should live in the city. The main line is car-centric, and the restaurants aren't nearly as good.

    2. there are not too many neighborhoods on the main line with walkable restaurants. Main Line is a car culture. If you want walkable, then you would be better off in Center City IMO. Better restaurants too!

      1. While Chestnut Hill is very nice, l lived in Wynnewood for 25 years before coming an ex-pat. Seeing you are coming from the midwest, the Main Line area is IMHO better in two significant ways. first to get to CC from the Ardmore-Wynnewood area is far faster and easier whether by car or train than from NW Philadelphia. If one is living in Philadelphia, they pay Phila taxes even if work outside the city, this is about 3-4%. Have found food stores and resto ok in both areas with a nod to the Main Line due to more options. While there are food walks in both, neither comes close to NY, for example, this takes a lot of planning.

        1. like others have said, you can't beat center city for walkability.
          BUT I live in NW Philly (mt. airy); while it's not easy to live here car-free, it is doable, and it's easy to be a 1-car couple and only use the car once a week or so.
          We were living in C-Hill before. Although much of it is filled w/mansions, living near Germantown Ave there are a lot of small houses (it's far easier to find a place to rent in c-hill than mt. airy), and you'd be walking distance to good eating and drinking options. Limited, and don't expect to stay out late on streets filled with people, but there are good options. Good cafes and bakeries as well.
          Mt. Airy is a bit more limited, and less commercial, but again, there are a few decent options and two very good places to drink.
          Both neighborhoods are relatively chain-free. as for Asian and Indian - 2 good sushi places in c-hill, and a good indian place inMt. Airy (don't let the haters fool you - everyone here gets food from tiffin regularly and enjoys it). we're not that into the chinese food up around here, but we're kind of picky for chinese food. for bringing a pre-schooler to a restaurant, Earth Bread and Brewery can't be beat.
          my sister lives in villanova; she's walking *distance* from the train station but can't walk there because the roads have no sidewalks and much traffic. but perhaps toward narberth it's more walkable?

          1. If you were to go the main line route, I'd look into ardmore since there are alot of houses that are walkable distance to some good food. Again, the main line definitely is a commuting town to get to desired areas (alot of major roads to walk/cross). If I had a choice of NW philly and ardmore, i'd go with ardmore. better surroundings, better school district, and the food quality is pretty neck and neck.