University City spans from the Schuylkill River to the east and 52nd Street to the west, as well as from Spring Garden Street, Powelton Avenue and Market Street to the north, to Woodland Avenue, University Avenue and Civic Center Boulevard to the south. University City residents adopt the 19104, 19143 and 19139 zip codes.
At the doorstep of University City is 30th Street Station, which, while a hub for travelers, is a treasure trove for residents as well. The Porch at 30th Street is an outdoor lounge but also a seasonal food truck pad; Bridgewater’s is a pub ripe for burgers and casual bar banter; and a variety of international food options dot the mid-section of the station.
Elsewhere in the neighborhood, Spread Bagelry is a Montreal-style hotspot for bagel sandwiches, La Colombe Coffee and even a full bar for evening indulgences. Joe Coffee is an extension of the New York City original with plentiful two-floor seating and lovingly crafted espresso; Saxbys on Drexel University’s campus is ideal for sweet lattes and people-watching; and Green Line Cafe, with organic coffees, features a home-recipe chai latte that pairs well with the sweet potato burrito.
Sabrina’s Cafe at Powelton makes for a hearty breakfast, meanwhile, as does Lebanese bakery Manakeesh Cafe. For a light bite, head to Dottie’s Donuts for a vegan donut or Federal Donuts’ University City location at 34th and Sansom streets.
The Farmacy at 45th and Spruce streets is the place to be for brunch, boasting everything from s’mores French toast to shrimp ‘n’ grits mixed with maple syrup. Honest Tom’s Taco Shop is beloved in the neighborhood, with simple but well-executed tacos and burritos – and a seasonal parklet outside its doors in the springtime.
White Dog Cafe offers a spicy lamb bolognese for lunch, plus a mushroom cheesesteak for vegetarians. Among international offerings: Sang Kee Noodle House for slightly more upscale Chinese food, plus Hummus Grill, which is perfect for a quick bite. Allegro Pizza is a favorite for affordable Neapolitan pizza takeout. And, patrons can’t go wrong with Walnut Street Cafe for breakfast, lunch, dinner or drinks, though the fried porgy is a particular delight for lunch.
Dinner is served at Jose Garces’ Distrito, where ceviche and other Mexican specials are on the menu. Culinary darling Stephen Starr, too, has a restaurant in the neighborhood with POD, a stylish and sumptuous sushi and dim sum eatery. Other dinner options include the small plates and wine pairings of Zavino, the spice of Han Dynasty, Abyssinia Ethiopian dishes and, for ribs and other comfort foods, Baby Blues BBQ.
City Tap House is a central meeting ground for brews, housed out of a cavernous space with a rooftop patio lined with fire pits. Copabanana is the spot for margaritas, while Local 44 is a craft-beer bar staple with an accompanying bottle shop.
For dessert, Little Baby’s is a premium ice cream shop with creative flavors – see: cucumber dill and balsamic banana – that also serves vegan ice creams. Metropolitan Bakery is an optimal choice for picking up pies and sweet breads.
University City is a destination for museums and galleries. Prime among the museum offerings: Penn Museum, with everything from a gigantic Egyptian sphynx to Southeast Asian art; Drexel Academy of Natural Sciences, with dinosaur fossils and an immense library; and the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, showcasing the best in art and design through its spacious rotating exhibit space. On a smaller scale, the Paul Robeson House celebrates the life of Paul Robeson, a civil rights leader and baritone singer.
Live music happens at World Cafe Live, which hosts paid concerts as well as a famous Free at Noon series – which has seen performers like Ingrid Michaelson and, long before hitting critical mass, Adele. Mainstream movies are screened at Cinemark.
Sights to take in in the neighborhood: The Furness Fine Arts Library, an iconic architectural wonder that consists of a Venetian Gothic building designed by Frank Furness; and The Woodlands, a Victorian rural cemetery with an arboretum, featuring a longstanding Georgian mansion and carriage house.
Penn Park is a gorgeous expanse of green with recreational facilities open to the public for free. The Summer Winter Community Garden is a bucolic break from urban scenery and provides both food and flowers. Franklin Field, meanwhile, is a U-shaped stadium once home to the Philadelphia Eagles, and now host to the annual Penn Relays – the oldest track & field competition in the country. Saunders Park, Lee Park and Malcolm X Park are more small-scale parks where community events are sometimes held.
Students in the 19104 zip code may attend Samuel Powel Elementary School at 36th Street and Powelton Avenue for kindergarten through fourth grade, Morton McMichael School or Penn Alexander for elementary and middle grades, Science Leadership Academy Middle School, as well as, for high school, Philadelphia Learning Academy South, citywide Paul Robeson High School or special admission school Science Leadership Academy.
In the 19143 zip code, students may attend the B.B. Comegys Elementary School in the immediate neighborhood,as well as S. Weir Mitchell Elementary School and W. C. Longstreth School and Avery D. Harrington School for elementary and middle grades. West Philadelphia High School Promise Academy is a local public high school, in addition Motivation High School as a special admission public high school – with Boys’ Latin as a public-charter option.
In the 19139 zip code, students may, for elementary school, attend the Henry C. Lea Elementary School, Alain Locke Elementary School and, for elementary and middle grades, the Andrew Hamilton School or Middle Years’ Alternative. The Workshop School is a public citywide high school in the neighborhood, while the William L. Sayre High School serves as a local public school. Parkway West High School is a special admission public high school.
These, in addition to a variety of private and Catholic schools, ranging from The City School at Spruce Hill to St. Barnabas Catholic School.
The Fresh Grocer at 40th and Walnut Street is a full-sized grocer that also has an expansive set of casual ready-made eats; Trader Joe’s, meanwhile, is just over the bridge on Market Street with fresh produce and its well-known quirky selection of grocery items.
Among smaller markets, Makkah Market is notably open 24 hours and has produce plus Halal meats. Gourmet Grocer maintains a selection of organic and locally sourced produce, while Mariposa operates as a neighborhood food co-op. International Foods and Spices is a go-to for Pakistani spices.
For retail and boutique shopping, Urban Outfitters and Ann Taylor LOFT operate locations. Smak Parlour is a kitschy local vintage shop for women with an abundance of dress options; Hello World is a lifestyle shop filled with decor; United by Blue is partly known for its coffee, but doubles as a thrift shop; Piper Boutique is an all-natural women’s clothing boutique.
University of Pennsylvania Bookstore is a sprawling location for readers that hosts nationally touring authors like David Sedaris.
The neighborhood’s liquor store is located at 43rd and Chestnut street, with another location nearby at 20th and Market street that hosts special events.
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